by: Sherry Duson, M.A., Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Item number 1 on the Well Mom Checklist is “Have I Had Enough Nutritious Food Today?” It is a purposefully vague statement, because the answer is different for everyone. And I am not a nutritionist, so I don’t want to pretend to be one in my practice or in my blog. The principle is this: are you nurturing yourself nutritionally by paying attention to your body cues and making the time in all of your care-taking of others, to attend to your own food and eating habits?
One of the common traps a new mom fall into is putting all of her concentration and focus on her baby’s well-being, while neglecting her own. Often we are carrying a unspoken image in our head that a good mother is one that is all-sacrificing for her child, and willing to put her own needs last. Many of us also find it difficult to notice hunger cues or to respond to them when we are stressed or sleep deprived. Not having an appetite is a common symptom of postpartum depression, but not eating can also exacerbate feelings of depression. So, as you can see, it can become a vicious cycle: not feeling like eating can lead to more feelings of depression which can lead to more not eating.
Taking care of yourself nutritionally is essential to staying on track to being a Well Mom. Breastfeeding a new baby takes a lot of calories and fluid intake, and should be as important as making sure your baby is getting enough milk. It will obviously also contribute positively to your nursing experience if you eat and drink to keep up your supply, feel energized and strong, and have the stamina to succeed at this very rigorous task.
Even if you are not breastfeeding, the overall task of caring for a newborn requires a certain level of emotional and physical well-being. Often a new mother is recovering from their childbirth experience and need good nutritional practices to help them heal quickly and recover strength needed for the early postpartum months. Another reason to make your own nutrition a priority.
Finally, making a plan and taking the time to feed yourself is an act of self-care which reinforces the notion that your well-being is essential, and worthy of time and effort in the development of your new family. So, ask for help with the baby so that you can eat, make time to plan for healthy and enjoyable meals, and follow through with your own feeding just as you would feed your own baby. You would never let your baby miss a meal just because you didn’t have time to arrange it! So it should be for yourself: a priority which demonstrates respect and care for yourself, and an example of healthy love directed towards yourself and your new family.
Be Well Moms!