The Role of Self-Care in Achieving Breastfeeding Goals
Those first few months of your baby’s life can be exhausting no matter how you choose to feed your baby.
You’re physically healing from childbirth, your hormones are shifting, you’re probably sleep deprived, you’re caring for your new baby around the clock, and you’re adjusting to the new role of motherhood (or adjusting to adding another child to your family).
Breastfeeding a newborn can feel like a full-time job, since you’re responsible for meeting your baby’s needs day and night.
The good news is that it won’t always feel this exhausting!
In the meantime, here are 7 tips for self-care while breastfeeding a newborn to improve your quality of life so that you can enjoy this special time with your newborn baby and achieve your breastfeeding goals.
1. Prepare for breastfeeding while you’re still pregnant.
One of the best ways to decrease stress and anxiety related to feeding your baby is to learn what to expect before your baby arrives.
Having realistic and appropriate expectations and knowing when to reach out for help can be immensely beneficial and can make the adjustment to motherhood less overwhelming.
Taking a breastfeeding class while you’re still pregnant can help you prevent and overcome common challenges, and it’s a great way to set yourself up for success to meet your goals with confidence.
2. Lean into your support and ask for help often.
If you are used to being self-sufficient, you may be surprised to find out just how much help you will need from others during the postpartum period.
Even previously simple tasks like getting up to use the bathroom can be unexpectedly difficult in the early days.
It’s encouraged to accept help and support from others as much as possible so that you can focus on healing, recovering, and feeding your baby.
For example, you could have others prepare and cook meals, complete household chores, hold your baby so you can rest between feedings, or care for your baby in other ways like giving baths and changing diapers.
If you live far from family or don’t have a deep support system, it may be worth hiring a postpartum doula, housekeepers, and/or a meal delivery service for this time while you adjust to motherhood.
It can be a tough and exhausting transition, but having support can make all the difference! And thankfully, it’s a short season and won’t always feel so hard.
Everyone heals at a different pace, but soon you will start to feel like yourself again.
Hegen bottles are able to help provide support for your breastfeeding goals! The bottles are designed to minimize nipple confusion and can help you with latching & bottle feeding.
3. Seek friends or family members who have had positive breastfeeding experiences.
Talk to your friends and family members who have had positive breastfeeding experiences.
If things get tough, these people can encourage you and support you in your decision to breastfeed your baby.
You can also seek out breastfeeding support groups in your local community to meet and connect with other moms who may be able to relate to your experiences.
4. Lower expectations of yourself.
After 9 months of pregnancy, it can be tempting to want to bounce back to your pre-pregnant self.
But the postpartum period requires rest so that your body can heal from pregnancy and childbirth.
Even if you feel okay physically, it’s easy to overdo it.
Your organs, ligaments and muscles are going through major changes postpartum.
Trying to do too much too soon can prohibit and delay the healing process.
Your body also goes through a big hormonal shift after delivery, which can cause some physical and mental changes.
You will also likely be sleep-deprived at least for the first couple of months of your baby’s life.
So, remember to be kind to yourself, mama! Invest in some comfy lounge wear, try to rest as much as possible, and ask for help often.
5. Nourish your body.
First, it’s important to note that your diet will not determine whether you are successful breastfeeding.
However, a well-balanced diet during the postpartum period can replenish nutrient stores that have been depleted to grow your baby during pregnancy and lactation.
This can have added benefits for your baby as well since some components of human milk do vary based upon maternal intake.
Fueling your body with the right nutrients can also improve energy, boost mood, prevent digestive issues like constipation, enhance the healing of your tissues, among other benefits.
You can talk to a registered dietitian nutritionist to get individualized recommendations based on your medical history, nutrient stores, and diet.
In the early months, breastfeeding burns about 500 calories per day, which is even more than you burn during pregnancy!
So, you may find that you are super hungry while breastfeeding. It can be hard to find time to prepare well-balanced meals so this is where you can lean into your support system to make sure you’re taking care of your body.
You can also keep nutrient-dense snacks on hand like yogurt and fruit, mixed nuts, energy bites, apple slices with cheese, nut butter bagels, and smoothies.
You may be extra thirsty while breastfeeding because your fluid needs increase during lactation as well.
You can stay hydrated by sipping water throughout the day and keeping a large water bottle near you when feeding your baby.
6. Prioritize things that you enjoy.
It can be tough to find time for yourself as a new mom, but it’s important to take time between feedings to do things you enjoy.
Whether that means sitting outside and reading a book, going for a walk, taking a nap, listening to your favorite music, or meeting a friend for lunch, try to prioritize the things that fill your soul and bring you joy.
7. Talk to your provider if you’re not coping well.
While “baby blues” in the early days/weeks following birth can be a normal result of hormonal shifts, mood changes that persist beyond a couple of weeks or become more serious may require an intervention.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are quite common, and it’s estimated that postpartum depression can occur in up to 10% of births.
If you’re not coping well with mood changes or they persist beyond 2-3 weeks postpartum, it’s important to tell your healthcare provider how you’re feeling and find a solution that will work for you.
Some signs and symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders include feeling depressed, crying often, intense anxiety, obsessive thoughts, sleep disturbances, loss of interest in activities, fatigue, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, or thoughts of harming yourself or others.
Remember to seek help quickly if you’re having concerning symptoms. If medication is suggested, there are many medications that are safe to take while breastfeeding so your provider can recommend a prescription that would be best for you.
In summary, it’s normal if the postpartum period feels tough and exhausting, but it won’t last forever.
By taking care of yourself, you can ease the strain and enjoy this special time bonding with your baby. You are amazing, strong, and capable, and you’re doing a great job!
REBECCA ELLISON, MS, MPH, RDN, LDN, CLC
Rebecca is the author of this post and is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), certified lactation counselor (CLC), wife and a mama to three littles in Knoxville, Tennessee.
You can visit her website to view her breastfeeding course 'Ready, Set, Latch!'