Loving Reminders for the New Mom

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I am back in that new mom stage of life again. I had my second son three months ago, and I’ve been lost in that beautiful, tireless, indescribable postnatal time. A time when a shower is a luxury and a spa day is a pipe dream. A time when you shed tears of gratitude and tears of frustration. A time when you wake up with an ambitious to-do list and then lay down at night wondering how you never managed to brush your teeth.

This post is for me as much as it is for any other new mom out there. A love letter to myself. I hope if you’re in this season of life too, that you find these reminders helpful and uplifting.

This Too Shall Pass

When my first son was a newborn, and I was all new to this mom stuff, it could feel like the sleepless nights were never-ending. Seasoned moms would say to me, “oh, I miss that baby phase, it goes by too fast.” I wondered what the heck they were talking about! But lo and behold, it does pass. As the Buddha said, “Everything changes, nothing remains without change.” Remind yourself of that when you feel overwhelmed.

Be Patient with Your Body

You’ve heard it before, and you know it to be intellectually true: it took nine months to put on the weight, so it will take a while to get it off again! If you find yourself judging your post-baby body in the mirror as I did last weekend in Lululemon as the 20-year-old sales staff squawked about their AMAAAAZING weekend plans, stop and reframe. That body in the mirror created an entire human! And then birthed that human! That belly is an amazing vessel. Your body is to be celebrated. I read some quotes from celebrity moms and particularly loved this one from Olivia Wilde, “I believe in a world where mothers are not expected to shed any physical evidence of their child-bearing experience.”

Feed Yourself Well

You’re no longer pregnant, but now it is important more than ever to feed yourself a nourishing, well-balanced diet. This is especially true if you are breastfeeding! A breastfeeding mother needs between 300 and 500 extra calories above what was needed to maintain her pre-pregnancy weight. Most healthy nursing mamas need between 1800 to 2200 calories. If calorie intake drops below 1500 to 1800 calories, this can negatively affect milk supply. Do not restrict calories or use an external source to track them such as a fitness app. Rely on your internal hunger and satiety cues to eat the right amounts. Center most of your food choices on nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, but give yourself permission to enjoy dessert now and again!

Engage in Gentle Exercise

When it comes to exercise, go slow and gentle. Make sure you are cleared by your doctor or midwife to engage in exercise after birth (usually this occurs around six weeks). Be sure you are not exercising for the sake of losing weight, or pushing your body too much too fast. Move for the love of movement. Go for walks with the baby. Do some postnatal yoga. Your body is working hard to recover and care for your baby (especially if you’re nursing). Sometimes it’s better to take a nap versus working out when you have the opportunity! You want to feel great on the inside. Don’t worry about the outside.

Be Present

Let’s face it, sometimes taking care of a baby can feel mundane. There’s lots of feeding, soothing, washing, changing, sleeping (at least on their part!), and cleaning. The mind can easily drift off into the past or future… or your Facebook newsfeed. The practice of yoga teaches us to be present in our actions. This same practice can be applied to motherhood, and I find that when I really tune into the moment at hand and connect with my baby, I can meet his needs. Just remember, practice makes progress (not perfect!). Let’s face it, there are going to be moments when you check out. If you find that happening, don’t be hard or judgmental with yourself. Simply bring your attention back to the present moment and tune in again. As John Kabat-Zinn states in his book, Wherever You Go There You Are, “It is in the coming back to mindfulness that the seeing lies.”

Make Time for You

During those first weeks of motherhood, you are attached to your baby. They are constantly needing you. But even then, it is important to make a little bit of time for yourself to do the things you enjoy. Maybe this happens while the baby naps, or while a partner or grandparent helps out. As the baby gets older and you can leave the baby for a short time, do it without guilt. I have a friend who explained that since she didn’t “work” outside of the home, she felt guilty going to the gym to workout while someone else cared for her children. I believe this thinking is flawed. You absolutely deserve a little time to yourself when you can take it. Maybe it’s not the gym and instead you go get a pedicure. Do whatever it is that fills your cup, so you can be a better, more patient partner and mother for your family.

Leave the Mess

Those messes are never-ending, especially if you have other children. I walk around my house sometimes and my brain becomes overwhelmed with all the neglected chores I see… laundry, dishes, piles of toys, unread mail, projects, etc. Give yourself some grace. After all, someday you’ll have all the time in the world to clean house. And I guarantee you’ll miss those tiny hand-prints on the windows more than the desire to see it clean.

Ask for Help

I am lucky to have family living close by to help with my children. There are times when I “should” on myself by thinking I should do more on my own. After all, I have friends who manage more children than I, largely on their own. But “shoulding” on yourself is counterproductive and unhelpful. What am I trying to prove? The saying “it takes a village” when it comes to raising babies and children is absolutely true. Reach out to your support network, whether it be family, friends, or a babysitter. As my mom once said to me, “the more people who love your children, the better.” Don’t be an island – seek out others who are willing to lend their support. It might feel awkward to ask, but you’ll be glad you did!

What other advice do you have for new mothers? What worked well for you? If your children are grown now, what would you go back and say to yourself in those early days? I welcome your comments!

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