How New Mothers Can Prioritize Self-Care While Breastfeeding

In spite of all the benefits of breastfeeding, it can be overwhelming for new mothers who are already exhausted and sleep-deprived. However, there are things you can do to make

the process more rewarding for you and your baby. The first step is to take proper care of
yourself. Janice Clarke, Certified Lactation Counselor and owner of JC Lactation Counseling
provides some suggestions for how to care for your needs while you are caring for your
new little one.

Designate a Space Free From Clutter

Whether you recognize its effects on you or not, clutter creates an atmosphere of chaos that can make it difficult to relax or get comfortable. The longer you allow clutter to build, the more difficult it is to get rid of it. Therefore, take the time to address it before it becomes too overwhelming. 

The best way to declutter is to get organized. Put a rolling cart next to your favorite spot in the living room or baby room. Wherever you spend the most time with your baby, you should have a nearby cart stocked with all the necessities, including diapers, wipes, pacifiers, water, snacks, burp cloths, a change of clothes, and whatever else you use regularly. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to create a healthy, positive, and healing atmosphere in the home. 

Get Plenty of Food and Water

Healthline explains that breastfeeding moms burn as much as 500 more calories per day than they would without breastfeeding. Also, remember to stay hydrated and get plenty of food to eat, but try not to focus too much on what you eat. A well-balanced daily diet is important, but it is also not always realistic when you are juggling the demands of being a breastfeeding mother, especially if you are pumping as well.  “There is also no need to restrict your diet just because you are breastfeeding” According to Janice. “Eat what keeps you full and energized. And yes! you can absolutely eat spicy foods.”

Also, take opportunities to get out with your baby. Being stuck in the house all of the time can amplify depression and feelings of isolation. Plus, being in nature is great for mental and physical health. If you live in a walkable neighborhood, take advantage of that fact and go on strolls. The baby will likely nap, which will give you some quiet time to relax, breathe, and take in the beautiful surroundings. Plus, it will help you to get a little exercise, which is good for the body and mind.

Have No Expectations

A common mistake for new mothers is overplanning. Creating goals and setting expectations for yourself as a mother can be beneficial but also detrimental. Guilt is a sentiment nearly every new mother experiences regularly, explains Parenting for Brain. The feeling that you have let yourself or your baby down in some way is understandable but is often unwarranted. “Black moms especially need to take special care of themselves” explains Janice Clarke. “It is going to be hard anticipating breastfeeding help from your family, where due to certain barriers, no one has breastfed in a few generations.” More often than not, this feeling comes from unmet expectations. Instead, appreciate yourself and your body for what it has achieved. Be kind to yourself. “And practice self-care everyday.”

Hire Outside Help if You Can

If you have access to outside experts, take advantage of it. There is no shame in asking for help. If the clutter in your home is bothering you, but you cannot find the time to clean, hire a cleaning service. Send your laundry out for cleaning and have someone deliver your groceries. 

Also, take advantage of baby-related specialists, too. Reach out to a trusted doula service about hiring a newborn care specialist to get you through those scary first months as you get used to the process. Lactation specialists are also great resources for breastfeeding, which may be new to you. Let the expert at JC Lactation Counseling help you and your little one bond and create a strong nursing routine. “This is the time to identify lactation professionals that look like you and understand your cultural needs. Racial concordant care (where provider and patient have the same racial background) has been shown to improve health outcomes,” according to Janice. “Don’t wait until you feel like you’re at the end of your rope before considering getting the help of a lactation consultant or counselor.” 

Address Work-Related Concerns

If you must work while breastfeeding, find a comfortable place and set aside time for pumping. Consider your storage options, talk to coworkers about your situation and solicit their support, and be sure to have all of your supplies before you begin your shift. “For many mothers and lactating people, the above recommendations are just not possible due to the type of work environment. Hands free pumps like the Willow or Elvie can be a great asset when there isn’t a room available for pumping or where your job requires you to be on the go.”

If you’re the business owner, you still have options that can relieve your mind and body. Authorizing an agent to handle contracts and otherwise act on your behalf is a great way to ensure you can step away from some of your responsibilities without worry that critical matters will fall through the cracks. 

Buy Comfortable Clothing

Creating an environment of comfort starts with what you put on your body. Treat yourself to comfortable clothing. If you hate the idea of wearing a nursing bra all the time, consider a nursing tank or even just a nursing gown. Your body will change frequently and sometimes drastically in the first several months following birth. It is meant to, and you should feel comfortable along the way. Get in your sweats and favorite slippers and enjoy a cuddle with your new baby. Janice explains that ”when going outside with your baby, consider the two shirt method or your favorite nursing top. Feeding your baby in public adds a new level of challenges so you want to make it as fuss free as possible.”

Be Kind to Yourself and Enjoy the Journey

Being a new mother is exciting and overwhelming. Don’t be too hard on yourself as you navigate this path. Declutter, tap into outside services, and ensure that you can set aside business-matters when you need to. A happy, healthy mother handles the inevitable stress better. You also get to spend more time enjoying those precious moments when your baby is bonding with you.