“I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it.” — Alice in Wonderland
It’s often much easier to know what we should do to take care of ourselves during the holidays than to actually do it. Self-care needs to be simple and fun or it’s just too hard to do. Mothers of breastfeeding babies are particularly vulnerable to losing themselves in all the extra holiday demands because everyday life with a young child can be overwhelming — even without the extras. As a constant care-giver it can be easy to slip into overwhelmed guilt trying to meet everyone else’s needs while neglecting your own health.
So I’m suggesting just four things for mamas to focus on for a happy, healthy holiday season (Keeping it simple!). Dr. Tieraona Low Dog (holistic health specialist) listed these during her recent interview on The People’s Pharmacy radio show (great public radio show promoting evidence-based healthy living). I’m adding my own ideas for to making it easy and fun to do these things as a nursing mother. I’d love to hear your ideas as well.
1. Eat well. As a nursing mama, you’re often thinking about providing the most nutritious food for your baby, breastmilk, so it’s easy to expand to thinking about your own nutrition. Knowing that you’re giving your baby the best by feeding yourself well can be a great motivator. To make it simple you can put nutritious but tasty treats by your favorite nursing location — dried fruit, nuts, fruit (how about some juicy Clementines?), dark chocolate, water. Breastfeeding can be a time to read and cookbooks can be great reading material. It’s a chance to check out some new ideas for simple but good meal ideas. I love Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It’s helped me learn how to make veggies taste really yummy. If you surf the web while you’re nursing, the Oldways website talks about using traditional foods to eat well.
2. Exercise. Mamas need exercise but it can seem unattainable in the winter. Breastfed babies are really portable, though. Putting baby in a soft carrier inside an extra big coat, pulling on no-slip boots and going for a walk can keep everyone happy. There are exercise groups that welcome babies with their mamas — yoga, group walks, swim class. Making exercise a priority (must exercise first!) makes it happen. Signing up for a class or telling your friends that you’re going to do it (and then asking them to check up on you) can be a motivator.
3. Meditate. There are lots of ways to find little bits of quiet time for focusing on being peaceful and present. One mother that I talked to told me that she used some of the times that she was nursing her little one to just focus on being there in the moment with her baby, experiencing this time together. While women should be free to nurse wherever they want, sometimes nursing is a socially acceptable excuse to retreat from the craziness of a holiday household for a while.
4. Stay connected to people. Holidays can be great for this but they can also be stressful if it means too much connection to friends and family that don’t support your mothering choices. Rather than just withdrawing, nursing mamas can find supportive interactions at new mother groups. There are tons in Madison (my favs are at Happy Bambino and La Leche League). At the Nursing Mamas’ Resource Station (our drop-in breastfeeding clinic) mamas will often stay just to talk with each other.
I think the most important motivation that mamas can have to take care of themselves is knowing that they need to do this for their babies. On airplanes they always say to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. It’s the same thing for mothers in every day life. It’s really hard to take care of our children if we aren’t physically and mentally healthy ourselves.
Wishing you a joyful December with lots of hugs and happy babies! — Adria
To read more about taking care of ourselves during the holicays on the December Carnival of Breastfeeding visit these sites: