Here are a few of my favorite suggestions to have on hand for the “newborn mother” after birth:
What a moment in time to be in isolation with a baby! For those of us in Canada right now, the COVID 19 crisis means that we must practice social distancing, or as I prefer to say, physical distancing and social solidarity. For the newest of new parents with a newborn or baby under the age of 1....oh my! I feel for you. So many thoughts must be wandering through your head right now. "Will we stay healthy?" "What kind of future lies ahead for my child," "How will I survive another day, week, month trapped in my house with this small creature of my creation?!"
Personally, I think one of the most challenging moments is the 5-10 month range of age. These babies are changing in their needs every week; you are introducing solid foods, sleeping and nap schedules are often changing, baby is wanting to start to move and explore in his or her environment more and more (but may not have the physical skills yet to do so with ease), they want to be "entertained" but have an extremely short attention span, they want to be on the move with you but are getting heavier to carry around. With so many challenges, much patience and support from the parents are needed.
How do you fill your days in self-isolation with these little munchkins?!! How do you keep your sanity and feel good, joyful, at peace? It’s all about keep oxytocin high (the love hormone) and keeping adrenaline on the low.
Oxytocin is often known as the "hormone of love" because it is involved with lovemaking, fertility, contractions during labor and birth and the release of milk in breastfeeding. It helps us feel good, and it triggers nurturing feelings and behaviors. Adrenaline is the "fight or flight" hormone that humans produce to help ensure survival. It keeps us on our toes and alert, but when there is too much present in our systems it can lead to feelings of stress, agitation and emotional ups and downs.
Here are my 9 best suggestions to pass the time with your little one and feel your best:
1) Practice an attitude of GRATITUDE: No matter what is happening in your life right now there is ALWAYS room for gratitude! If you are reading this and live in Canada- WE ARE BLESSED! Clean water to wash our hands as much as we want! A roof over our heads, food in our bellies. A FREEEEEE medical system. A government that is helping its people to the best of its ability. Creating a morning ritual of writing on your fridge or another visible place what you are grateful for can put you in a positive mood to start your day!
2) Music & Dance: Turn the beat up! Throw your baby in a wrap or just scoop them up in your arms and move to the music. Music and movement fuel the body & soul! I have never heard someone say that they feel worse after a good dance session (and babies love it!). Hopefully you will both be jiving and have good juju flowing after a music moment.
3) Bath time: If you are fortunate enough to have a bath tub and hot water, well this is a treat. Get in the tub with baby! Bring some containers with you, some spoons, strainers, etc. Splash & play with baby. I guarantee that 30 mins at least can easily slip by.
4) Time spent in nature: Everyone needs fresh air & sunshine (even when the world seems too scary to go outside!). Spending a moment outdoors each day will for sure do you and baby good. Breath in deeply and feel grounded to Pachamama (the earth), let the sunshine warm your body, and let the cool breeze tickle your skin.
5) Tea time: This is a TLC ritual that I particularly enjoy. Every morning upon awakening I enjoy a hot cup of tea. Taking a moment to sip something warm and soothing even while you are on the go with baby has proven benefits of keeping you well. It warms the body and warms the soul.
6) Good food: This is the time to make your favorite meals and comfort food! (Many grocery stores are delivering, so please don't head out yourself!). Plan a couple of special recipes a week. Put your baby in a "back carrier" or in a bumbo chair next to you and get to cooking.
Some of my favorite super quickies are:
-Red Lentil Dahl
-Thai peanut noodles
-Eggs to the rescue!
-Tahini freezer fudge
7) Carry your baby (on your back): Do you spend most of your days prancing around your little prince or princess? Does your child fuss anytime you put them down? THIS IS NORMAL! Babies want to be held to feel safe and protected--it is a survival mechanism! However, it sure makes it a challenge to get ANYTHING done. So, I highly recommend "Back Carrying." Check out this website to get the down low on how to keep your babies spirits high and your arms free:
Back Carrying takes a bit of practice in the beginning, but don’t get discouraged...it will all click! Try to practice the first few times when your baby (and you) are calm. Like anything new, it takes a few tries for you both to get used to it.
8)Massage: Touch is a most vital thing for all humans. It makes us feel loved and nurtured. In this moment of "no touch" with our neighbors & friends we need to fill this void somehow. Sure, a massage from a professional might sound like the best idea, but when that is not possible why not have a moment of self massage? Or a Momma/ baby combo. Julia Jones, founder of the newborn mothers collective, offers some amazing tips and tools for a positive self-massage experience: https://newbornmothers.com/blog/the-newborn-mothers-ultimate-guide-to-self-massage
Last but not least--
9) Online Sharing Circles: I know that nothing can compare to the face-to-face sharing experience, but give this a try! It has its perks. You can mute your mic or video if you little one is having a meltdown or if you need a bathroom break. It allows to you join in while staying in your PJ's comfy at home. It allows a moment to share your story and hear how other parents are coping. Every Friday morning, I host an online circle from 10 to 11 am. We will continue until May 1st 2020 (or possibly longer--fingers crossed for not too long!). Join via zoom video at zoom.us or by downloading the free app on your phone. The zoom code to join is: 779-475-4340. It's free!
Sending you all so much compassion during this challenging moment in time. Social solidarity is SO important. You are never alone--just reach out.
Babies don't need showering! They will be totally oblivious to the gifts that have been given. Parents however, they do need showering: showering of wisdom, of guidance, of food, of useful gifts, of support, love & blessings. We need to bring the attention to the two people who are stepping into their most important roles as mother and father. What better way to do this than to organize a special moment, a rite of passage, to share love & support?
As a doula, and mother of 3 children, here are my best recommendations for a
Family Blessing Shower:
*Have someone who "GETS THIS" facilitate/ host this event to create a supportive and loving space where the parent's wishes will be respected.
*Hold loving rituals/ activities that will create life long memories of this special day for the parents. Some examples could be:
Gift Ideas for the WHOLE FAMILY:
Gift Ideas for Mother:
As you can see, new parents need less than you think in terms of baby goods. More importantly, new families need SUPPORT (rather than material gifts) to get the best start to their new journey. Babies needs are simple: loving arms to keep them warm and to be fed. It is the parents that need care. Please consider this before buying all the "cutie baby stuff." Offer a gift from the WHOLE FAMILY section. They will thank you, I promise!
The old quote goes something as follows “To love another you must first love yourself,” and hence, to care for another you must first care for yourself. But do we as new parents really take the time to care for ourselves? At the Baby Drop-In this month we pretty much came to the conclusion that, No, we don’t really care for ourselves. Some of us may do small things for ourselves but most of the time we are not really conscious that we are doing them, so these precious moments pass by without our own acknowledgment that we are taking care to be kind to our bodies, minds and spirits. The excuses are many, not enough time in a day, to many chores to get done, the baby, child, husband, dog needs our attention, etc, etc...Sometimes we manage to get in a coffee with a friend or a 5 minute chat on the phone while baby tugs at our shoulder or pant leg, but these moments are usually sporadic and within no time we are back to the hustle and bustle without feeling like we really got a break.
The kind of self care that I think we all deserve, and could realistically make time for, is the sort that we could call a daily ritual. Some of the things we discussed at the Baby Drop-In were having a morning coffee or tea and really taking the time as we prepare it, to appreciate that we are making it for ourselves, and to savor it as we drink it. Or taking a moment to look in the mirror and smile at ourselves while brushing our hair or putting on face cream. I know, I know it sounds crazy, brushing my hair?! Say what, not a crazy bun thingy thrown up with a quick elastic before changing another dirty diaper?
Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, speaks about how our nonverbals can deeply affect not only how others perceive us but our own self image. In her TED TALKS video (I have shared the link below), she says that simply smiling in the mirror at yourself for a few seconds a day can greatly alter your mood. She goes on to say that even if you can’t find it in yourselves to smile, sticking a pencil between your teeth and forcing your mouth into an upward position, can trick your body into thinking you are smiling, and again affect your mood!
Sometimes writing yourself a little pick me up message, or in other words a “self love note,” on the fridge might do the trick. The power of positive thinking and affirmations cannot be denied. Looking at something a bazillion time a day is bound to have an effect on you right?! Perhaps something along the lines of the following:
-Being a good mom takes courage, and today I’m feeling brave.
-If I do nothing today besides hug my kids, then I’ve done enough.
-I’m not the perfect mother, but I’m exactly the one my children need.
-Today I will be the type of person I would like my children to become.
- Not loving every moment of motherhood doesn’t mean I don’t love being a mom.
-I will teach my child by example more so than by advice.
And if affirmations don’t work for you than perhaps printing out a funny ecard and placing it somewhere you know you will see it many times in a day might help.
Of course finding time for ourselves would be so much easier if we had the sort of human connections that tribes once had. A social network of people who we could depend on, everyday to help care for our little ones while we took care of ourselves, or hey, perhaps our sisters could even brush our hair for us! Unfortunately many new parents feel quite alone in their endeavors to care of their children. Some of the things that we discussed together at the Baby Drop-In were, trying to find a shopping buddy to go out the grocery store with so that if the baby does end up screaming and crying or you have a poop blow out, you might not feel so stranded and helpless. We talked about the possibility of a momma’s collective kitchen group, where parents could come together once a week to make their meals. The current Collective Kitchen in Sutton is available and open to new groups of people joining! (Once again see the link below). The same could be done for a collective cleaning group- a group of parents alternately helping to clean each other’s homes while at the same time providing a play day for the kids.
For those parents who are already back to work, planning to go back soon or for some reason have a commute during the day (i.e, bringing an older child to day care.) We talked about taking a self care moment in the car. If you just can’t fit it in at any other time, the car might be the best option. Instead of listening to the drone of the radio and running through the endless mental to do list, you could have a special relaxation CD that you could play or an audio book. If laughter is your therapy, there are some great comedians that you could listen to on your ride to have you arrive at your destination smiling. Or a good old “mixed tape” of your favorite belt it out songs, might get your heart singing too. And of course, don’t forget before getting out of the car, stick that pencil between your teeth and check yourself out for a few seconds in your rear view mirror.