After giving birth to my third baby after a big gap, it was a massive reminder of how important it was to take care of myself first, so I could be the best, healthiest mother I could be. After all, we were entering new territory with the birth of my third… the kids now outnumbered the parents! So I decided to put together some tips for new mothers to remind myself too!
As a brand new mother, it’s one of the most important times in your life to put guilt aside, otherwise there are many health and emotional consequences that won’t make the foggy, sleep deprived days any easier. Running yourself ragged doesn’t make for an enjoyable, magical mummy experience that we all dream of.
So here are 5 top tips that I wish someone could have told me as a mother for the first time… and second and third time! Because being the expert at ‘doing’ and not so expert at ‘chilling’ person that I am, I needed it drilled into me! I now regret not being kinder to myself – and I can’t do it over again.
If you know someone about to give birth, please send them this article!
1. Fibre, Fibre, Fibre!
After giving birth you are prone to constipation. If you thought that was uncomfortable enough, constipation can also leave you with haemorrhoids or anal fissures… or both if you are super unlucky. If you're fortunate enough not to know what an anal fissure is, it’s a tear in the mucous membrane of the anus. Once you’ve got one, they usually take a while to heal, since they tend to re-open with each bowel movement. It can hurt like the worst paper cut you’ve ever had in your life! This is the last thing you want to be dealing with when trying to get into the swing of breastfeeding and motherhood.
Usually (and oh so fortunately!) the first bowel movement wont occur until after a few days post birth. Many new mothers have a fear of going to the toilet for the first time after birth, but it’s important that you don’t try to hold it in. Fearing the first bowel movement is nothing like the fear of needing to go to the toilet knowing you have a nasty fissure or haemorrhoid.
If you are yet to give birth, pop a good quality fibre supplement like psyllium into your labour bag and start boosting your fibre intake as soon as you can. People usually resort to cereals and processed products for a fibre boost, but this can make things worse. Opt for naturally occurring fibre from fruits and veggies. Many women swear by prune juice.
You can purchase constipation relieving products from your local pharmacy if you prefer. Metamucil is effective, but please be aware it contains aspartame, which is an artificial sweetener that has many side effects and links to health complications. Other products are much better for you. Cut out wheat from your diet where you can and consider using coconut flour for baking – it’s gluten free and high in dietary fibre.
Extra virgin coconut oil is brilliant and can help too – it contains anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-parasitical properties and is great to use as an alternative to cooking oil. It can help with tissue healing and repair and can be applied topically (anywhere on your body, not just for its health properties but as a scrumptious moisturiser – it will also give you super soft, yummy smelling skin!). It relieves pain and irritation caused by haemorrhoids and can even be used on bub for many issues including cradle cap. Its a great staple to keep in the home for all sorts of things – it’s great for your heart, boosting your immune system, and weight loss.
For loads of info on coconut oil/flour check out the Coconut Research Center website.
2. Water – It's More Important Than You Think
Drinking plenty of good quality water is a must, especially when you’re a new mother. It not only helps to hydrate you and provide your body with water needed for breastfeeding, but it also helps to prevent constipation, memory loss, fatigue and a host of other unpleasantries. If you’ve had stitches, drinking more water can help with stinging when you pee.
Water is also reabsorbed in your intestines, so if you’re not drinking enough water, this is how you can end up with hard bowel movements, leaving you constipated, with a fissure or haemorrhoids. If you’re drinking caffeine you need to consider this also – the caffeine in a cup of coffee can dehydrate you more than the amount of water you're consuming. You can imagine how easily and quickly it is to become constipated (or worse), when you’re a) not drinking enough water, b) drinking caffeinated drinks and c) your diet isn’t up to scratch. Things that can easily happen when you’re a time poor, new mother.
Water is the most potent formula to great health – after all, your body is around 70% water and every function in your body depends on it. You might find it hard getting through the recommended amount of water to drink each day. Especially if the water you are drinking doesn’t taste good, bloats you or leaves an icky taste in your mouth. There is actually a reason for it – most bottled and tap waters are so processed and full of chemicals that they are biologically damaged or dead.
A good water solution can turn metallic, heavy tasting tasting tap water into an easy to drink, fresh tasting water that doesn’t leave you feeling bloated or with an icky after taste. Check out Easy Water Solutions and speak to Jody about getting a quality water filter, so the water you drink tastes better. That way, you'll drink more and be more hydrated and healthy.
The beneficial effect of drinking enough of the right type water shouldn’t be under estimated, and the whole family can benefit from it.
3. Stay In Your Pj’s All Day – I Mean it!
Yes! I wish I would have listened to my own advice, especially this time around. I was lucky having a baby at home, while my older two were at school.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to ‘get on with it’ as new mothers, leading to feelings of inadequacy, failure and guilt. The best thing to do is to stay in your pyjamas all day, and agree that you’re going to give yourself at least a month of it. If you’re pregnant, then pre-warn your friends, family and partner that you’re going to have this ‘lie-in’ period. If they expect you to be in your pyjamas, they'll be prepared and won’t bat an eyelid. It’s something we should get used to seeing in society!
Here's the thing — when people see you with a newborn and you’re in your pyjamas, they think differently than if you were dressed and ready to go. While you're still in your pyjamas after the birth, they think that you're still settling in and recovering after the birth, so it is part of this new mother business.
But get all dressed up, clean the house and do the super mum thing, and they think you’re getting on with life, and may have more expectations. Be kind to yourself – many cultures have 4-6 weeks lie-in post birth, where they nurture and take care of mum.
So who cares if the place is a mess. Make yourself a cosy nest somewhere, enjoy your baby, laze around in your pyjamas, snuggle with your bubba and take in every single moment you can. Because in a heartbeat, it’s all gone and you’ll wish you slowed down. Soon enough, you'll be chasing a crawling, then walking, then running little person! There's no rest then!
If you’re the kind of mamma who feels better showered and in some nice clothes, then do that! Just make sure you grab the opportunity to have your own shower and get dressed before your partner goes to work. Don't do it because you think you have to or should look a certain way. When you give yourself permission to be in your pyjamas, it can really help you to relax into new motherhood.
When we’re distracted with other things, we forget the important things. Slow down and make some memories you’ll cherish, mamma.
4. Join The ABA!
I am a huge fan of the Australian Breastfeeding Association (La Leche League in the US). By becoming a member, you’ll get a great book on breastfeeding, access to support, a local mothers group and more.
Motherhood can be an isolating time for far too many of us. It's a time when friends in different life stages move on or become more distant. Many have to work and don’t have time for us like they used to. Even family can sometimes seem so busy that they don’t get to see you as much as you would have hoped. However, motherhood also poses a great opportunity to make some great new friends! Friends who are going through what you are and understand. They'll likely be around for a while, as your children end up in the same childcare, kindergarten or schools. Mothers who are just as excited to be getting out for a cuppa and talking babies as you are!
Breastfeeding support is invaluable. Even someone like myself who has been around birthing and breastfeeding mothers for over a decade can start to doubt or double-guess themselves during their own breastfeeding journey. But having resources at your fingertips at any moment, over the phone or in person offers a massive benefit.
Having heard women’s stories with breastfeeding for the last 12 years, the biggest complaint post-natal mothers have had is conflicting advice on breastfeeding in hospitals. Midwives are not lactation consultants and the breastfeeding training they have is minimal, so it’s hard to get consistent advice. The Australian Breastfeeding Association provides up-to-date, evidence based, researched information – breastfeeding is what they do. Find out about joining the ABA here.
5. Ask For Help. Yes, REALLY.
This can be a big thing for new mothers. But it’s massively important for your well being.
Women were not designed to raise babies in isolation, on their own. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. It truly does. Try to do it all on your own and you could be headed for difficult times, anxiety or post natal depression.
As soon as you can, reach out to family and friends. Reach out to your partner. They may be very excited to help you, but if not, there are other alternatives. Don’t give up, because your baby needs you to be supported and well — oxygen mask mamma! Let your support circle know what you need, because they can’t read your mind and we all seek help in different ways. You may love for them to help with cleaning, cooking nourishing meals, or even holding the baby so you can shower.
If this isn’t an option, there are post-natal doulas who are worth their weight in gold. Post-natal doulas are trained in supporting new mothers. Some have training in other areas, for example lactation or massage. They are trained to nurture you, to listen, reassure you and have wise advice on coping and motherhood.
If cleaning is the biggest issue for you, consider finding a cleaner once a week to help take the load off your mind. I was able to find a great cleaner twice over the years through a website – it would cost me $50-$60 for 2 hours of cleaning and I loved knowing the house had been cleaned thoroughly. All the floors, benches, toilet, bathroom – sparking and smelling nice. It was worth more than a months worth of therapy!
Finally, if you feel that you’re not coping with the demands of motherhood and cannot find support, please contact an organisation like PANDA (post and ante-natal depression association) who are a great resource. Don’t feel silly calling – for many years PANDA have listened to pregnant and new mothers with their stresses and issues. They can quickly help you to get back on track again.