We’ve all heard stories of how a woman’s life changed after giving birth – the joy and challenges of motherhood, while unfamiliar, are full of rewarding moments and precious memories. This time can also be stressful – many women find that they’re unable to take proper care of themselves while raising a baby – but luckily, new moms can learn how to achieve a healthy balance between looking after their newborn – and themselves.
“Parenthood inspires a whole host of changes to family dynamics, to sleep and work schedules, to the way that we live every day,” explains Gillian Flower, a naturopathic doctor (ND). “Establishing self-care in that new routine is very important, but many parents operate on a day-to-day (or hour-to-hour) basis through the first few months. #Being a new mom myself, I understand!”
Gillian practices at the Oakville Naturopathic Clinic and is a research associate at the #Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. She’s also an author on a wide range of health issues and more recently, Gillian welcomed the birth of daughter Stella in August.
As an ND, Gillian has seen all of the common side effects associated with giving birth, including recovering from delivery, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue. But Gillian says that emotional stress from a woman’s changing role as a parent is another concern that shouldn’t be overlooked. Sometimes, new moms tend to reach for convenient, overly-processed foods when they’re feeling overwhelmed with new roles and responsibilities, but nutrition plays a vital role in the health of new moms and newborns.
“I encourage quick and nutritious food ideas, and staying away from the quick sugar fixes that we use to stimulate ourselves when energy is low,” says Gillian. “When you do cook, opt for healthy meals that you can make in large quantities and freeze. For example, high-protein and high-fibre stews and soups are great choices for the winter months. Having good food on hand will help you eat well.”
When it comes to supplements and botanicals, it’s best to seek the assistance of an ND who can implement a safe and effective plan for new moms. Gillian cautions against self-treatment of plant-based supplements during breastfeeding; however, fish oil supplements can support healthy brain building during pregnancy (look out for a formula which contains absolutely no heavy metals).
Gillian also suggests bodywork (such as massage therapy) and acupuncture to help relieve muscular tension from carrying a newborn, reaching, or sitting for long periods in the same position. Sleeping when the newborn sleeps is an excellent way to keep immunity levels up, and lifestyle counseling may help new moms manage stress more effectively.
“Try not to isolate yourself,” she adds. “If you don’t know any other new parents, look for a local group – Movies for Mommies is a good one – where you can meet some. Stay socially active – take advantage of communication methods that aren’t time-dependent, such as Facebook and email. Remember to have fun with your baby everyday! Take walks together or go to the library. Just plan a little extra time for unexpected stops along the way for feeding and diaper changes.”
What are some other tips for new moms who are still adjusting to midnight feedings and irregular sleeping patterns? “Say no to extra obligations,” says Gillian. “Focus on you and your baby and live in the present moment – babies are excellent teachers of this principle. Say yes when neighbours and friends offer to bring food over, do your dishes or laundry, or provide childcare (when you’re ready).
“It’s expected that even simple activities, such as leaving the house or cleaning up, will take longer. To avoid feeling stress about these situations, try letting go of the things that are out of your control. It’s only natural that your home will show signs of a newborn living there!”
In order to be the best mom you can be for your baby, you have to nurture yourself, too. “It’s okay to take some time away from the baby each day to reconnect with who you are outside of parenthood. Take a walk, have a long shower or bath, or see a friend. Enlist the help of friends and family to get some free time for yourself, even while at home. Feel good, not guilty, about this stage of your life!”
The pediatrics shift at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic, the teaching clinic of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, offers quality naturopathic care for newborns to 16-year-olds. Visit www.rsnc.ca to find out more.