How To Stress Less About Your Baby And Sleep More
The Delicate Balancing Act of the Breastfeeding Mom
The first few months of breastfeeding an infant is exhilarating, mind expanding, a time of personal growth and it can be a time of insufficient sleep and increased stress, worry, anxiety, loss of executive function. Call it what you will, good quality sleep is critical for optimal health and brain performance. Time for your brain to process information, build new neurons and repair the old. Your brain needs to rid itself of toxins, sweeping away the stresses accumulated during your day of mothering, allowing you to wake up feeling rested and sensible.
Melatonin, one of the hormones that regulates your sleep, starts creeping into your system about 2 hours before your usual bedtime...you start to yawn, you’re getting sleepy.... Here’s the delicate balance part...
Your body also manufactures a hormone called Cortisol during the day; your stress hormone. Your daily stresses can affect your blood sugar levels, increase inflammation and mess with your circadian rhythm, your internal clock. With perfectly balanced lives, as our melatonin goes up, our cortisol goes down - and we sleep. Then as melatonin naturally goes down in the morning and cortisol goes up - we awaken.
If you have too much stress, too much cortisol will be produced by your body in response. Now your circadian rhythm and melatonin are going to be out of whack leading you to poor sleep, trouble losing fat, less energy...you know the rest.
Here’s what you can do....
Eat Foods that decrease your cortisol levels:
Dark Chocolate...at least 70% dark chocolate, a square or two, also aids in gut health, improves digestion and your mood, significantly.
Probiotics and prebiotics: Probiotics are friendly bacteria in foods such as Greek yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi. Prebiotics, such as soluble fiber, provide food for these bacteria. Both probiotics and prebiotics help restore gut health and digestive balance.
Halo Top Ice Cream is low calorie, loaded with protein and prebiotic fiber. A win-win.
Avoid Foods that increase your cortisol levels:
Trans fat s... always to be avoided. Bad for every level of everything in your body. Especially inflammation.
Alcohol...has been shown to increase wakefulness during the second half of sleep, the REM part, the most important part.
Too little Water: Dehydration increases cortisol. Plain and simple...drink lots of water.
De-stress naturally throughout your day
...before too many worrisome thoughts accumulate and seem insurmountable.
Be mindful, increase awareness of incoming stressful thoughts and signs of body tension.
Relaxation techniques are proven to lower cortisol. Examples include deep breathing; Try a few deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, slowly. Fill your belly with air. Then let it out even more slowly through your mouth. Some experts recommend breathing in for four counts, holding for 7, and exhaling for 8 to maximize the relaxation response. Do that 4-8 times per day or whenever you feel a stress reaction sneaking in.
Regular exercise such as yoga and tai chi will relax your mind and lower your cortisol levels.
Relationships with friends and family can lead to happiness, a great stress reducer. Spend time with those you love for better emotional and physical health.
Performing acts of kindness will improve your karma and your cortisol levels.
Got lots of breastmilk? Consider a gift of your precious, life-saving milk to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
From their website:
We promote the health of babies and mothers through the provision of safe pasteurized donor milk and support of breastfeeding.
Over the past 30 years, nonprofit milk banks have opened in cities across the United States and Canada.
Our milk banks receive surplus milk and dispense it after the donated milk is pasteurized and tested. Most of our recipients are infants in neo-natal intensive care units (NICUs).