Any new mum will understand the challenges when it comes to finding the time for things such as self-care and wellbeing. In this blog I share a few tips on how to look after yourself whilst also finding time to do the things important for you and your baby.
I’ve sat down so many times to write this and inevitably end up being distracted, it’s funny how priorities change when you have a baby. It goes without saying they are your world, your No.1 and nothing else really matters in comparison. However I’ve wanted to write this blog for about two weeks now but for one reason or another I’m yet to finish it. So here goes...
Now 8 weeks postpartum I’ve had some time to reflect on motherhood and the transition from being pregnant to becoming a mum. You go from being an independent woman (said with sass), with the freedom to do all the things you want to do when you want to do them to suddenly being thrown into a whirlwind of keeping another tiny human alive while you try to slot your needs in between your baby’s. By needs I’m talking about the simple things like going for a wee, brushing your teeth, eating a meal. Sometimes it takes me the whole day to realize I’ve needed a wee since the morning and by 5pm I’ve still not been. It’s the same with eating, and I’m sure any other mums reading this can relate. My diet has been awful since Bodhi was born, I may be able to fit in a bowl of veg at some point in the day but I usually grab whatever I can whenever I can and that usually means the closest thing to me and the quickest to prepare… I’m talking toast, biscuits, chocolate, maybe a piece of fruit if I have been organised enough to buy some.
I decided enough was enough and that I owed it to my son to take better care of myself. Now I feel I am in a bit more of a “routine” or on a roll (if you will) I have decided to try and incorporate some healthier habits back into my life, which include diet and exercise. So with that in mind I wanted to share some tips and advice I've learned along the way of my new journey through motherhood.
When it comes to eating healthy we all have the best intentions but sometimes (especially with us mums!) things don't go to plan.
So below are a few simple life hacks I wanted to share.
Make a smoothie first thing in the morning so you can be sure your body bags some of the good stuff before the day runs away with you.
A few smoothie ingredient suggestions:
Chia seeds - full of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fibre
Linseed (Flaxseed) - also full of omega-3 fatty acids and fibre (fantastic for your encouraging healthy bowels!).
Red fruit - full of Lycopene which include antioxidants and anti-caner properties as well as packed with vitamins A&C.
Bananas - these add a great texture to any smoothie and provide our bodies with energy as well as potassium, calcium and magnesium all contributing to a healthy heart and overall metabolism.
- Nuts - these taste great, add a creamy texture to your smoothie, packed full of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and slow releasing energy.
- Any dairy milk alternative such as coconut, almond or oat milk is a great addition to a smoothie.
I've started to write a list of all the healthy meals I like the look of (found in books and online/Instagram).
Then when I get a chance, I make them.
Buy the base ingredients for a few select meals and then when you get a minute (whether you’re hungry or not) cook them and store for when you’re hungry.
A few accounts on Instagram I follow for food and health inspo:
Aches and pains
This is something I'm all too familiar with unfortunately. Having suffered from lower back pain for years now, being pregnant and then carrying around a big fat baby (said with love and admiration!) it's all taken it's toll on my back.
I’ve spoken to a few specialists about my back pain and I have now established I have a weak lower back (the diagnoses was I quote "chronic lower back pain" - well derrr!), along with very little movement in the middle part of my back. Having suffered from this pain for years I have tried all sorts, I've included some tips below I found to be effective.
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I spoke with a good friend of mine and a body-conditioning expert (@YogaTherapyLondon) who suggested I incorporate some simple stretches into my day. Here's a GIF to illustrate the stretch I do including the knees up stretch, which I do on each leg at the end.
This actually really helps relieve some of my back tension and I've noticed over the last few weeks it has improved with a few minutes of stretching each morning.
Try to do this first thing in the morning while the baby sleeps or is playing on their play mat etc.
Breastfeeding and posture
I wanted to touch on posture whilst breastfeeding as I feel this is a huge factor when considering lower back pain.
I have found simple things like putting cushions underneath your arms when you're breastfeeding in bed or on the sofa, allows you to completely relax. This will help you avoid any tension building up in your arms and shoulders while you're feeding. If you have a pregnancy pillow this makes for a great BF support.
Tip: The koala position
For any brand new mummas (while your baby is still dinky) the Koala BF position is a great one especially if you're struggling to breastfeed. This ensures a decent latch, with the baby's head back and the nipple towards the back of their mouth. This was my fave for at least the first month until the little guy wasn't so little anymore and it became increasingly difficult to find the right angle where he could still fit sitting on my leg sat upright.
Lying down is another great position, especially if you want to give your arms a break. Have a look on youtube if you'd like some tips on how to do it, there are loads of videos! I put a pillow between my legs, lie on my side with my arm under my head supporting my neck and have Bodhi lie on his side facing me.
If you don't have a beanbag, invest in one! This is a very easy and comfortable way to breastfeed. I find that by sitting on the floor against a beanbag with my knees up means Bodhi can rest on my lap, completely supported by my legs without needing to use my arms to hold him up. By relaxing your arms, this allows you to release any tension you're holding in your shoulders.
However you choose to feed your baby, always consider your posture and whether or not you are holding any tension in your shoulders or back. If you feel tight or notice you start to feel pain, stop and address the way you are sat so you are supported ensuring you're not putting any unnecessary strain on your body.
CORE and pelvic floor
Whether you had a straight forward pregnancy, a complicated one, a natural vaginal birth or a C-section; carrying a baby around for almost 10 months will have had an effect on your pelvic floor. Personally I had a pretty straight forward pregnancy and birth but I tore quite badly so for me, focusing on my pelvic floor has been key for recovery.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
This is key for recovery.
To strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, sit comfortably and squeeze the muscles 10-15 times in a row.
Don't hold your breath or tighten your stomach, buttock or thigh muscles at the same time.
When you get used to doing pelvic floor exercises, you can try holding each squeeze for a few seconds.
Every week, you can add more squeezes, but be careful not to overdo it and always have a rest between sets of squeezes.
I spoke with Emily Williams (@EarnYourRoast) who offered some sound advice on how to strengthen your back when suffering from pain.
"Pre and post natal back pain is very common unfortunately. And it is not comfortable or convenient to say the least!
Due to postural changes during pregnancy and the inevitable weaker core throughout our post natal journey, our backs take a lot of the pressure from simple daily tasks like standing, walking, feeding or holding baby, pushing a pushchair, having baby in a carrier or the strange positions we find ourselves in when co sleeping!
Do not ignore it and assume your core will strengthen itself, do not head to the gym to strengthen your back muscles and do not assume it's ok to pee yourself every-time you stand up, laugh, jump, have sex or sit up. You don't have to live with back pain or DR forever.
What you need is slow and steady exercise to help re-build your trunk. ( I say ‘trunk’ because it’s the best way to describe all the critical postural muscles we need to get working TOGETHER. It’s not just the core we need to focus on but the chest, shoulders, glutes, pelvic floor and back).
Don’t let this overwhelm you though... it is much simpler that you think.
Connect with your muscles through your breath. Get outside and power walk. Find a hill and get that ticker pumping!
Depending on your postpartum stage...(you MUST get approval from your doctor before you do any exercise. All our births are different and you don’t want to interrupt important R&R)
Really think about your posture and how you are holding yourself. This should be with your core & back muscles holding your spine. Don’t let your lower back do the work and your belly give up. Hold your shoulders back and be proud of those big milk stained chesticles!
A strong 20 min walk everyday is a great start. Always think about your posture and bringing in your core. This will help to connect all the muscle fibres that separate when our bellies were gigantathon.
When you are ready to add in some more exercise, here are some examples of trunk strengthening movements. Just remember... your core and back work together not separately."
You can follow Emily and her fitness advice on any of the following platforms…
So, there you have it. Hopefully some useful advice to go by. Time is so precious, especially when you have children so if you can squeeze some time in each day to do the things you need to do for you, then you'll immediately be a happier and healthier individual. Happy mum, happy children!
Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this! If you have any questions about any of the above let me know!