Breastfeeding is just one way to show care for your baby — it’s also hard work and it can take a lot out of you. So you need to care for yourself when breastfeeding. Self-care can mean different things to different people, but here are some self-care basics that can help you show yourself plenty of love too.
Breastfeeding provides your little one with all they need to grow healthy and strong. And your body works hard to make that milk. The exact number of calories you need to breastfeed depends on a number of factors (like your body size, how much and how often your baby nurses, and your activity level), but we know it takes a lot of energy to breastfeed — breastfeeding likely uses more energy than your brain or any other body system! Listening to your body’s cues and eating nourishing food that satisfies you when you’re hungry is most meaningful to help you get all the energy you need.
Again, your body’s working hard while breastfeeding, and staying hydrated is important to stay healthy. Much like with eating, you should take your body’s cues and drink when thirsty. This is more important than taking in a specific amount of water or liquids each day. But because it can be easy to overlook some of your own needs when you’re busy with a new baby. You might “forget” to drink when thirsty because you’re busy caring for your baby, and, say, sit down to nurse or pump, but not grab a glass of water first. It’s helpful to try and plan for this and take care of your own needs just as much as you take care of your baby’s. You might want to always sit down with a large glass of water when you nurse or pump, or have your partner or loved one bring you a drink every time you do, or even fill up a big water bottle at the start of the day. A set routine, or a special drinks station can really help!
One golden rule of parenthood, especially in the early days: take a nap, or at least rest, whenever you can. Every new parent knows that those early days can be brutal, especially when it comes to sleep. As much as needing more sleep is normal in those days, you need and deserve to feel rested. So do all you can to squeeze in rest however you can. You might decide to nap when your baby naps if that’s realistic for you (always a good idea if you can swing it), have your partner give your baby a bottle overnight if that’s an option, or just squeeze in a quick afternoon snooze here and there. Even if it means the dishes pile up or you have to order takeout once in a while, really, take a nap or rest when you can. One thing that we promise will help? Taking a break from screens (yes, even this one). Even if you can’t fall asleep, your body and brain will both get a good recharge if you put your feet up, tuck away your devices, and rest your ever, even for just a few minutes.
Get help if you need it
Being a new parent, and even just breastfeeding, can be challenging and stressful. It’s normal to need support when you have a brand new baby — and onward throughout your parenting journey. This might mean seeking out a mental health therapist if you’re having a tough time or just want support during what’s a major life change. This might also mean asking for extra help from loved ones as needed — like asking your partner to take on all the diaper changes since you’ve got breastfeeding covered or for them to give your baby a bottle while you take a nap. It might also mean reaching out to a lactation consultant if you’re struggling with breastfeeding or just have questions. Even if you haven’t been comfortable asking for help before, this is the time to reach out and get all the help you need — you don’t need to go it alone.
Take some time for yourself
If you have a positive experience breastfeeding, it can be a gift to enjoy some warm and wonderful, quality bonding time when nursing your baby. But because breastfeeding can take a lot out of you, physically and mentally, it’s important to take some time for yourself to recharge. Even small moments here and there can make a big difference. This might mean having some alone time away from your little one or even using nursing sessions as a time to show yourself a little extra love, like by listening to a favorite podcast or album, reading, or having a snack. Some moms and babies even do a relaxing bath together! Whatever works best for you and helps you feel good, you deserve that.
If you’ve made it through breastfeeding challenges, or even if everything has gone smoothly, it can be rewarding to treat yourself to something to celebrate. Maybe it’s a fun water bottle to help you stay hydrated, or maybe it’s a cute breastfeeding-friendly top. Whatever it is, it can feel wonderful to honor your successes and celebrate your journey!
- Nourishing foods to support breastfeeding
- Why it’s normal to have complicated feelings about breastfeeding
- Kelly Bonyata. “Do breastfeeding mothers need extra calories or fluids?” KellyMom. KellyMom.com, March 10 2019. Retrieved July 23 2020. https://kellymom.com/nutrition/mothers-diet/mom-calories-fluids/.
- Breastfeeding Your Baby. American College of Obstericians and Gynecologists. American College of Obstericians and Gynecologists. Retrieved July 23 2020. https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/labor-delivery-and-postpartum-care/breastfeeding-your-baby.
- “Maternal Diet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, February 10 2020. Retrieved July 23 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html.