5 tips for surviving your first 12 months of mothering
I have three children. And each time I got a little better, a little bolder, a little stronger. With each child I felt a little more in control. But for each child, the first 12 months were the hardest, emotionally and physically.
Pregnancy, birth and recovery take an immense amount of energy. They are energy suckers. They are nutrient sappers. Being a new mother is inevitably stressful. New learning curve, new expectations, new sleep patterns…. all new. Even if it’s your second or third time.
What I teach in my Mamaboost course (that’s my on-line course on postpartum adjustment and recovery) is that, while it’s great to take time for yourself, meditate, and do yoga, you also have to learn how to support your body through this inevitably stressful time of life.
Here are 5 things I want all new mothers to know. 5 ways you can support your body through the stressful first year of mothering.
1. Don’t Exercise… until….
Best thing you can do to get yourself back “in shape” during your first 12 months of parenting is sleep. Gentle weight bearing, stretching and yoga are fine. But don’t try high intensity stuff that raises your heart rate until you are sleeping at least 5 hours in a row most nights. Doing so will increase your cortisol level, worsen your overall hormone imbalance, increase the stress on your already stressed-out body, and make you feel even worse (and maybe even gain weight!).
2. Banish Guilt
When you were pregnant you made all sorts of promises about what you would and wouldn’t do or be as a parent, right? You had a vision. But things might not be stacking up the way you wanted. Truth is, you didn’t know what you didn’t know. None of us did. You were in mama-bliss la-la land. You had no idea what your challenges would be. You will continue to be surprised. Never say “never” and forgive yourself. You are on a steep learning curve.
3. Establish Your Filter
In the age of too-much-information and never-enough-time, when a Google search will tell you you’re doing it all wrong and then a Facebook post will assure you you’re actually on the right track, it’s a wonder we don’t all go insane from all the advice! On the flip side, you can reach out across the globe and find your community. You can find support no matter where you are. There is no one right way to parent. You will need to find your way. Go back to that vision you had of yourself as a parent, go back to your values and your goals and find a community that resonates with you. Filter out all the rest.
4. Replenish Yourself
Sure, life is busy, but nutritional deficits and dehydration brought about by your pregnancy can be contributing to your moodiness, insomnia, baby blues and fatigue. Given how darn busy and stressed you are, supplements can also be useful to fill the gaps. My top 4 recommendations:
- a probiotic to rebalance your gut bacteria and reduce the chance of atopic conditions like eczema and allergy in your baby.
- a purified fish oil with at least 2400mg of DHA if you are breastfeeding, 1200mg if you are not. Yes, that’s a lot! It’s enough to replenish your own stores and fortify your breastmilk
- a good prenatal – continue for 6 months postpartum. If the prenatal includes probiotics and DHA, it likely does not contain enough. Take #1 and #2 anyhow.
- a B-stress complex. This will help your adrenal recovery – a process that can take about two years. You are in a stressful time of life… no getting around it! Choose one without adaptogen herbs for now, as few have been studied for safety while breastfeeding.
5. Learn To Ask For And Accept Help
You are strong. You are capable. You can do this. But it really does take a village. The social support around childbirth and parenting used to be much stronger (and in some cultures it still is!). Find communities to support you – whether that is family, partners, neighbours, friends, on-line, mommy groups, or social services. Be specific in what you need and feel good about asking to get those needs met. Accepting help with grace can be difficult. But it is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.