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ON BONDING: Eat, Sleep and Be Kinder to Yourself

EAT, SLEEP AND BE KINDER TO YOURSELF GET SUPPORT

‘cause you deserve to be happy!

Your gut is telling you...It’s too much, I’m not strong enough...

Your brain is telling you...Decide! Now! So many opinions…

Your heart is telling you...I am drained from it all, just let me rest, in my own bed, with my sleeping baby.

My gut tells me that you are being too hard on yourself... 

My brain tells me that you are overwhelmed with advice... 

My heart tells me that you need to value yourself more.

You deserve healthy food, rest, comfort and time to heal. You NEED SUPPORT!

Here’s a tale of two new mothers. Both have asked for a home support visit.

Elise: The first thing I notice is a tidy home and something that’s cooking on the stove smells fabulous. Mom is in her street clothes, has make-up on and looks really, really tired.

Kate: First impressions... Super quiet home, all the curtains are closed. There is laundry - both clean and dirty in different baskets around the apartment, and the garbage needs to be taken out. Mom greets me wearing her bathrobe. She looks really, really tired.

Both need to take better care of themselves ‘cause they deserve to be happy.

Let’s get to the heart of the issue... SLEEP

When I ask Elise if she feels she is getting enough sleep she responds with a tearful half laugh/half sigh,  “Sleep? I have laundry to do, meals to prepare, and I have to feed the baby every 2 hours.  Then there’s the pumping... when do I get to enjoy all of this?”

Kate whispers, “I am all alone here, I can’t keep up, I can’t even take a shower. I’m so glad the baby is finally quiet. I just want him to stay asleep all day ”

Now they’re both crying. They need more sleep.

When I Googled sleep deprivation, the first thing that came up, biggest on the screen, was this: the situation or condition of suffering from a lack of sleep.

"The biggest challenge she faced as a new mother was something most parents can relate to — sleep deprivation"

Interesting choice for – “use sleep deprivation in a sentence,” right? 

Seems the whole country knows about this problem, scientists have studied it and written research papers on the resulting impaired decision-making, altered thinking and depression. And yet here’s a tale of two educated, well-read women who aren’t sleeping enough.

 

What's the fix for both of these moms?

I would say to them... “You need more support. Today, with my support, you can go take a long shower, pamper yourself... Then after that, you’re getting into a clean bed with your baby and you have permission to lie there for the next 8 hours.

"Cause you deserve to be happy.”

Resting with your newborn is the natural way to connect. A time for comforting words, a time for studying your baby’s face as he studies yours, a time for singing.  Focus your attention on your child, without distractions... realize a continuation of the connection you had with him before he was born. Not only does this deepen the attachment between the two of you, you are helping to develop your baby’s early verbal, emotional and social learning during this unique time. This is bonding

Touch him, change his diapers, massage him, hold him close. This closeness, this care taking, forms the attachment – the emotional bond between you and your baby. This non-verbal communication between you - meeting his needs, having his hunger sated and his discomfort eased by you - builds a secure, trusting bond of love.      

Enjoy the moment!

Bonding is a process, give yourself time to heal, time to learn this new mother-baby language. Love and bonding are feelings that will grow within you during your first weeks together, beginning moments after giving birth and then taking time to develop fully. Know that caring for your baby’s basic needs is showing love and you are adapting, accommodating and incorporating a new being into your everyday life. Wise people know how hard this is.

To get more sleep, get support.

Speak up for yourself  cause you deserve to be happy. Ask family members and friends for their help during your first month with a new baby or hire a postpartum doula. Folks can drop off high protein meals/fresh fruits and vegetables or come and bake a batch of fragrant Mommy Knows Best oatmeal cookies (just for you and your milk supply). Allow them to do some laundry, run an errand or three... Anything that will free up several hours for you to get into your bed... not the couch and not in your street clothes... really get into bed.

There are, of course, many other factors that will influence how you feel about yourself and your baby, a difficult pregnancy or traumatic birth, breastfeeding challenges, emotional stress over money or relationships or a history of depression or anxiety. Some of this healing takes time, processing new feelings, recognizing hormonal fluctuations.

However... when a new mom tells me that she “expected more” closeness to her newborn, or “can’t stop crying”, I am careful to define the line between feeling a bit disconnected or sad during her first 2-3 weeks at home and postpartum depression. 

Never make light of your thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, or that something bad will happen to the baby, either intentional or accidental.

Don’t allow sadness and crying to stay with you after the first 2-3 weeks.      

And don’t keep it a secret. This must be helped by medical professionals and needs to be addressed in the moment.

If you find yourself questioning the quality of your bond with your newborn... I say, “Sit back and breathe, go easier on yourself. Let it happen.”  Take stock of your past efforts and the courage you have shown. Affirm your strength.

Take positive steps to control your own health and the health of your child. You will feel empowered by gradually taking charge of your new daily routine, (I recommend baby steps!) and experience a sense of growing confidence.

Eat, sleep and be kinder to yourself.... give yourself time to bond. You are strong, you are confident and you definitely deserve to be happy.

Support groups for new moms can be found in many places. Contact La Leche League or call your local hospital or place of worship for suggestions. My rural community developed a volunteer group, providing home visits for families with new babies.

Allow caring friends and family to support you.

And get some sleep!

Paula Zindler BSN RN IBCLC

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