Written by Dayna M. Kurtz
Ever wonder why we say “she’s having a baby,” as opposed to “she’s becoming a mother?” While there is much attention paid to prenatal care, there is little if any focus on what happens to mom after baby comes. For all the joy and privilege of motherhood, this profound life-transition can also bring anxiety and worry even among mothers with every resource at their disposal. “Child care” and “elder care” are a common part of the vernacular, but what about “mother care”? Ideally, there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when women will receive the support to which they are entitled as a matter of standard practice. Maternal “well visits” will be as commonplace as pediatric ones (not limited to a one-time, six-week postpartum checkup.) In the meantime, here are five tips a new mom can use to cradle herself with love.
EAT YOUR WAY TO A SOUND SLEEP
Sleep deprivation is a rite of passage in new motherhood, as most people know. What they may not know, however, is that a new mom’s meal choices can make a big difference in how tired she feels. Nutritional consultant Patricia Daly says that one of the best ways to stave off physical and emotional fatigue is to keep blood sugar levels even throughout the day. Complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, beans and whole grains are preferable to white bread and rice, which can lead to a rapid spike and drop in blood sugar level. Drink a tall glass of water, too. Doing so will keep bodily systems running smoothly and reduce the risk of constipation — a common cause of fatigue.
CREATE A STRONG HEART
The American Heart Association cites cardiovascular disease (which includes heart disease and stroke) as the number one killer of women around the world. A 2015 study in BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth reported that a group of postnatal women engaged in an exercise program demonstrated improvements in haemodynamic function (the flow of blood) and a reduction in blood pressure, both of which can reduce the risk of heart disease. A little bit can go a long way. A brisk 30-minute walk most days of the week can make a difference.
REACH OUT FOR A HEALING HAND
A gift certificate for a prenatal massage may be a common baby shower gift, but this healing art can be equally if not more therapeutic in the postpartum stage by decreasing pain and enabling more rapid recovery from labor and delivery. As opposed to the more traditional deep tissue massage, postpartum techniques are gentler and offer the added benefit of stimulating tissue regeneration, improving elasticity and helping organs to shift back into place.
FIND YOUR INNER FLIRT
Sex is often the last thing on a new mama’s mind, understandably. Between all-night feedings, hormonal shifts and physical healing, the only thing most moms want to do between the sheets is sleep. Which is why the postpartum stage can be an excellent chance to hone foreplay and keep the co-parent relationship strong through an otherwise stressful time. Consider sending a flirty text-message or slipping a sexy note into the diaper bag or briefcase. A little effort to make each other feel special can ease the stress and help a couple remember how and why they fell in love in the first place.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a particular form of meditation that incorporates elements of mindfulness and yoga. A recent study published in Archives of Women’s Mental Health highlights the effectiveness of meditation on a group of mothers of infants. After taking part in the study, moms reported significantly more self-compassion and confidence in their ability to mother as well as lower stress and anxiety levels than they had before the meditation. It is worth noting that each individual meditation session was short — 10 minutes — and that they were all conducted with babies present.
Maria Shriver said, “Having kids — the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings — is the biggest job anyone can embark on.” Make mother care part of the job.
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