Pregnancy is such a physically rigorous marathon that when it ends many of us are shocked to realize that recovery and life with a new baby is like beginning a triathlon right on the marathon’s heels! We read book after book about caring for ourselves and our baby while we are expecting, but we often overlook the importance of taking care of ourselves while breastfeeding.
They Say Mamas Babies Sleep a Lot
Most new moms have a difficult time sleeping in the hospital with the unfamiliar surroundings and intermittent vital checks. If your baby is born at home you may be faced with the regular night routines with your other children right away. And in any case, new babies usually nurse frequently throughout the night and it may take a while for your body to get used to an interrupted sleep pattern.
It’s true that the first few months with a new baby are tiring, but it’s nonetheless true that one of the biggest needs of a new mom is rest! If you have support (please find support!) during the early days, make a point to accept offers of help even if you are feeling well. Allow others to cook and clean if you can, and make sure to get to bed early.
Camels are Mammals
Remember how thirsty you were while you were pregnant? Especially if you were pregnant during the Summer, or live in a dry climate. The only thing that curbs a pregnant mama’s quest to quench her thirst is the fact that she knows her bladder can handle about 1/4 of what her toddler’s can sometimes.
You still get to say that you feel like you “drink like a camel” while you are nursing! In fact, you might find that you are even MORE thirsty as your body works to produce a continuous supply of liquid gold for your baby. Can you imagine how thirsty a nursing camel must be?! My kids have a book that says camels can drink a bathtub full of water in one sitting! Your goal should just be to keep a glass of water handy at all times and drink when you feel the need (whew!).
Unlike camels, you don’t have a hump to store water in (nope, breasts don’t count!), so you can’t go weeks without drinking! Even though you don’t need to force yourself to drink when you aren’t thirsty, me mindful of the fact that you will become easily fatigued without food and water as your body recovers from birth and adjusts to life with baby. Stress and fatigue are the arch enemies of a good supply for some women.
Supply and Demand, Demand… DEMAND!
The postpartum period is an emotional time. Your birth experience, babys’ health, breastfeeding challenges, and getting to know the little one you’ve been blessed with, can all contribute to a feeling of being overwhelmed and unprepared. It probably feels like you are working overtime and on-call 24/7, because well… you are!
This time of life is one of the most intense times you’ll ever go through. If you choose to breastfeed your baby, you are taking on the responsibility of creating your baby’s source of nourishment on top of all of the other things you do for him. It’s completely understandable to feel a little bit of pressure to perform! And even if all is going well, you may feel that anxiety and resentment are lurking just around the corner out of sight.
During my three postpartum and early breastfeeding experiences, my biggest need was surprisingly something that no one else could help me with. Even when my physical needs are being met, there is another need just as pressing that effects my emotional health, and even my milk supply!
Caring for an infant requires a complete mind-shift. The first few months with baby are all-consuming; all-encompassing! In my experience, the most important action you can take is to be intentional about not fighting your new role. Instead, embrace this time as an opportunity to bless someone like you’ve never been able to before.
Telling yourself your role is good is not the same as saying it is easy. It’s completely normal to feel like you are in over your head! I’ve just found that in order to allow myself to relax and enjoy new motherhood, I first have to concede my personal convenience and expectations for a little while in favor of my baby’s.
Your baby will not be nursing forever. You will eventually get a full night’s rest again. And your individuality will still be intact when the postpartum fog clears. For right now, breathe and allow yourself and your baby slow and steady days that nurture your bodies and souls.