Chelsea is a new mom life coach who focuses on helping women through the transitions of life after a baby. She specializes in group coaching and taboo topics. She loves bringing women together to have hard, messy conversations and see growth in a community.
Hey sweet momma friend. Returning to work does not have to mean the end of your breastfeeding journey if you do not want it to. Some women choose to end their breastfeeding when they return to work. However, if you want to continue on your journey we are here to help you make a pumping schedule, know your rights to pump at work, and give you tips to make it easier.
Knowing Your Rights When you Pump at Work
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed in 2010, includes a break time for nursing mothers. This part of the Fair Labor Standards Act guides the way companies must accommodate the needs of a nursing mother. It is important for you to know these requirements and the details of your workplace so that you can advocate for your rights.
This mother’s law specifically covers two things: Adequate time to pump, and appropriate location for pumping. There are limitations that need to be considered. First, this applies only to employers with 50+ employees. Second, this applies until the baby is one year of age.
This means that employers with less than 50 employees are NOT required to provide time and space to pump. This is only if they can prove that doing so would create hardship for the company. Also, after the baby turns a year old, the employer does not have to provide this time and space for the mother. Fortunately, some companies go above and beyond to provide for breastfeeding mothers. Unfortunately, many do not and many women are left with less-than-desirable conditions around trying to pump at work. If you fall into the category of having less than 50 employees at your workplace or the desire to pump past a year, you will have to have specific conversations with your employer.
There is no hard and fast time requirement listed in policies. The language states that mothers are to be given “adequate” time. We will talk below about your pumping schedule and deciding what frequency and time is needed. We will also talk more about tips you can use to save time setting up and cleaning up for your pumping sessions.
If your manager or decision-maker is not familiar with theneeds of a pumping/breastfeeding mom after maternity leave, you may need to share the schedule and length you need in order to maintain the milk needed for your child. Keep in mind that for many women, getting a letdown while away from a baby can take longer than it would while you are with the baby. So, do not shortchange yourself as you make a schedule with your employer.
Is Time Used for Pumping at Work Compensated?
According to the US Department of Labor,
Employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time. In addition, the FLSA’s general requirement that the employee must be completely relieved from duty or else the time must be compensated as work time applies.
Finding space to pump at work can be one challenging factor for mothers returning to work. For some, there is a dedicated Mother’s Room available at the workplace. The accommodations can vary. On the great side, rooms with a comfy chair, a refrigerator, and a sink to help pumping mothers pump and store most effectively. Other places, may have a small space with a closed door. However, a separate space is not mandated by law. The location can be used for other purposes. But, it must be able to be a private space when needed by the mother.
It is stated, within the policies, that this space can not be a bathroom. Some of my clients have been part of an organization with a dedicated room with accommodating resources. Other clients of mine have had to pump in a multi-purposed closet.
Making a Schedule for Pumping at Work
When you are returning to work, you want to think about the frequency and duration of your baby’s feeds and try to mimic this.
If your baby is on a schedule of eating every 3-4 hours, you want to pump every 3-4 hours. If your child usually eats for 15 minutes, you want the duration of your pumping session to be around 15 minutes. Keep in mind, as you are planning and talking with your coworkers and management, the steps you need. You will need time to move to your pumping location, set up, pump for the needed duration, and clean up and return to work.
Your pumping sessions do not have to be at the exact same time that your baby is eating. But, you do want to keep a cadence that tells your body to continue to produce milk and allows it to keep a flow. You may work your pumping sessions around work meetings, lunch breaks, phone calls, etc.
Promoting Pumping When You Pump at Work
As mentioned above, things like being away from your baby and being under stress can make it more difficult for the breasts to have a letdown.
Here are a few tips to help you promote a letdown when you are at work:
Bring a photo and/or video of your baby to produce oxytocin.
Have a destress routine to allow your body and mind to relax.
Start with a breast massage and/or warmer or use a tool like the lavie massager to help get the milk flowing.
Drink water all day long! Keep the body hydrated so it can produce milk.
If you are working with limited time when pumping at your workplace, every minute you save is helpful. Here are a few of our favorite tips to make pumping easier and save time.
If you are unable to store your pump and supplies in the mother’s room, have it in a bag that is quickly accessible and ready to go. If you are able, keep a spare set of pump parts in this bag to avoid problems if you forget something at home.
When you are able, utilize the fridge hack for your pump parts. This allows you to safely keep your parts in the refrigerator between pumping sessions, saving on cleaning time between sessions.
Returning to work after maternity leave makes breastfeeding more difficult for many women. However, momma, it does not have to be the end. If your workplace is understanding, supporting, and empowering, great! If your workplace is not, it is a great time to know your rights. Advocate for your needs and those of other working women. And, be a bold leader in the world of working mothers.
Ending Our Breastfeeding Journey: How It Actually Brought Us Closer During A Time That My Postpartum Anxiety And Depression Was Trying To Pull Us Apart
Who would have known that the night before I admitted myself to the hospital at 4.5 months postpartum would have been my very last time nursing my baby girl? When I think back to that night, it makes me so emotional. I can’t help but to think that I may have savored that moment differently if I had known that it would have been our very last time and that I would stop breastfeeding her.
I felt robbed. Robbed of something that I was so extremely passionate about. Something that I loved so much and something that I had great success with this time around. So much success that I had plans to donate my large stash of frozen milk to a mom in need.
Breastfeeding Became A Trigger For My Anxiety
The day I was discharged from the hospital and returned home, I quickly realized that nursing my baby was now a trigger for my anxiety. And once my anxiety kicked in, the scary intrusive thoughts I had been experiencing followed. I felt trapped while nursing her. Trapped in the sense that I couldn’t do anything if I started to feel anxious. These intrusive thoughts haunted me. I wanted to try and avoid them at all costs, even if it meant making a decision to temporarily stop breastfeeding my baby.
I temporarily made the decision to bottle feed her using my frozen supply of breastmilk. The breastmilk I was so grateful I had been procrastinating on donating. I was an emotional rollercoaster at this time. I went back and forth between being ok with this temporary decision and then feeling like the worst mom ever. It was guilt for not sucking it up and continuing. I had “believed” in my heart breastmilk was the best for my baby. But you see, that’s the thing. Society makes us moms feel as though breastfeeding is the ONLY way to feed our baby. That if you don’t, then you must be a bad mom. This is so far from the truth. Mamas – please know that you are the absolute BEST mom for your baby regardless of your decision.
I Began To Fall In Love With Bottle Feeding
Bottle feeding my baby was a whole new experience for me since I had not bottle-fed either of my girls. My emotions would sometimes get the best of me. The guilt I felt overpowered any positive feelings I may have felt. But you know what, as time passed, bottle feeding my baby was something I grew to really enjoy. Not only did I find comfort in it, but I loved how close I could hold her to my body and face.
When her eyes looked up at mine, my heart melted in a way that I didn’t always experience while breastfeeding. I loved rubbing my face on her soft, fuzzy head. It was a new way of bonding and one that I actually began to fall in love with. I thanked God because having to make this difficult decision actually brought us closer during a time that my postpartum anxiety and depression was trying to pull us apart.
At this time, I had hopes of continuing our breastfeeding journey once I was healed. If I am being completely honest, it wasn’t for any reason other than “believing” that my breast milk would help get my baby through the winter without getting sick. Whether this breastmilk belief is true or not, I’m not sure. But, when you have more than one child and that child goes to daycare, you quickly realize that no breast milk is mighty powerful enough to prevent ALL germs from spreading within a household.
The Permission I Needed To Stop Breastfeeding
I had been pumping and storing my milk this entire time. I did this to keep my supply up to prepare for the day that I returned to breastfeeding my baby. The pumping sessions added a huge amount of stress to my life. Something I didn’t need any more of while I was healing. I went back and forth between the decision to exclusively pump or switch to formula after my frozen stash was out. I was so torn and was looking for help in making this decision. Of course, I wanted to do what was best for my baby. But also for me and my own mental health because I mattered too.
Every day, I am so thankful that my nurse practitioner and my therapist could see how stressed I was. This was such a difficult decision and that what I really needed at the time was for someone to help me make this decision. And just when I needed to hear this the most, my therapist said, “If you want someone to give you permission to stop breastfeeding, then I am giving you permission and it’s perfectly ok.” It was in that moment that I felt so much lighter. All of those mixed emotions I had been experiencing began to subside.
The End Of Our Breastfeeding Journey
Once I had made the decision, I never once looked back. I SLOWLY started to wean myself from pumping. With each pump session that I dropped, I began to feel stronger and stronger in my decision. I slowly started to introduce formula to my baby which to my surprise, I was ok with. Eventually my frozen stash had come to an end along with my pumping journey and we were strictly formula feeding.
So while ending our breastfeeding journey wasn’t completely my choice or what I had intended, I’ve come to learn through my experience that I actually really love formula feeding. I most likely would never have gotten to experience it if it weren’t for my suffering. But, I am actually thankful that I did. Formula feeding opened my eyes to a whole different way of bonding with my baby. It made me better in asking and accepting help since others were now able to help feed my baby. It is so much less demanding. And, it made life with an infant and a toddler a bit more easier and less stressful on me.
My Biggest Takeaway from The Choice to Stop Breastfeeding
As I sit here writing this while watching my baby girl play with her big sister, I can’t help but to feel proud of myself for making such a difficult decision and realizing that my mental health mattered way more than the milk that my baby got. My baby is thriving. She is hitting her milestones. She is happy, healthy, content, is well taken care of. My baby girl feels safe, loved and guess what – she was formula fed for almost 8 months! I will never regret making this difficult decision and I am a much stronger mom for having done so. Fed is best! Don’t ever for a second think you’re any less of a mom because you chose not to breastfeed or stopped breastfeeding.
Jenn Wirth is a wife and mom to her 2 girls and her Angel baby in Heaven. She is a former first grade teacher from New Jersey and a postpartum anxiety and depression survivor. Her struggles with postpartum has led her in founding Mom’s Maternal Health. MMH is a safe, judgement-free community that focuses on normalizing the hardships of motherhood; the stuff no one really talks about. She offers tips, takeaways, resources, and support to help you on your journey from trying to conceive to pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. She invites moms to share their story; the good, the messy & the emotional rollercoaster of mom life in hopes of helping moms feel seen, heard and less alone as they navigate motherhood.
Imagine a world where women did not have to rush their body recovery after giving birth. A world where women did not have to choose between feeding their babies and going back to the workplace. A place where women are given the time and support to mentally and emotionally recuperate after a huge life transition. Imagine fathers and partners with more opportunities to get to know the newborn and help their partner heal. Where employee turnover rates after birth were not so high. This is imagining a world with maternity leave policies that support and care for families.
We Should Not Have to Dream of Better Maternity Leave
To cut to the point we should not have to imagine this. We should be able to live it. The United States is a progressive country. An adequate maternity leave and parental leave policy should not be hard to imagine. According to the UNICEF Office of Research, the United States falls last on parental leave policies of high and middle-income countries. The United States is the only country in the world that does not guarantee paid parental leave. How progressive. How “land of the free, home of the brave.”
This is bullshit.
As a Postpartum and New Mom Coach, I get to work with clients around the world. Most of my clients are in the United States. These clients face the struggle of deciding if and when to take maternity leave, and how to make up for unpaid time off. My clients from other countries come with different experiences. Places like Canada, France, and Ireland (to name a few places I have had clients from), share their maternity leave with a different approach. You can see how the US compares to other countries when it comes to maternity leave policies.
The Result of Shitty Maternity Leave in the United States?
In a recent study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16% of employees in 2018 had access to paid family leave. SIXTEEN PERCENT. That is not a lot. This same study found that 88% of employees had access to unpaid family leave (FMLA). This leaves 12% with nothing to protect their job if they decide to take any time off for the birth of a child. For those of you who have not birthed a child, allow me to include here that it is no small task. Time to recover without losing your job should not be a luxury. Time to recover, maintain your job, and get paid should not be a luxury.
There are currently only 8/50 US States, and the District of Columbia which have a State Paid Family Leave law. These laws differ by state, but go beyond the federal laws and offerings.
The Struggles We Face With Poor Maternity Leave
When we are not providing adequate coverage for women after giving birth, we are taking away from her and her family, and our society as a whole.
Our capitalistic values can only go so far before we hit a wall and see a breakdown in families and individuals. We are already seeing it.
According to a 2019 study in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, the implication is made that “Providing a needs-based income replacement policy to mothers who wish to take parental leave after the birth of a child may be the best policy to decrease IMR for infants from all socioeconomic backgrounds.” There are a number of factors that could impact this outcome. The mental health of the mother being a big factor. Another leading factor is when a mother has paid leave time, she is not forced to use all of her PTO for maternity leave, allowing her to save hours and days to attend necessary pediatric appointments and keep tabs on her baby’s wellness.
Women can also experience healthier prenatal care when they are not concerned with saving all of their paid or unpaid work leave for the postpartum period.
Mental Health of Mothers
There are a number of factors when it comes to a mother’s postpartum mental health. When thinking about maternity leave there are direct impacts. One is the lack of rest a mom gets (in general) and even more when returning to work. The body takes around 18 months to heal. Hormones take months to regulate. Many moms find themselves more stressed with the pressures of childcare, logistics, fitting in appointments, breastmilk supply (if applicable), and more.
For families who choose to breastfeed, improved maternity leave policies lead to improved breastfeeding outcomes. A recent California study shows marked increase in breastfeeding duration for women who have paid medical leave.
This article is primarily focuses on maternity leave. However, it is important to also note the lack of overall parental leave (including partners) can lead to a lack of partner involvement. Retuning to work early can interfere with bonding and also make relationship balance difficult. Partners who are able to take that time for early bonding, interaction, and involvement are more likely to continue being involved parents.
Employee Morale and Turnover After Maternity Leave
If the benefits for the family are not enough (though they should be), companies and capitalism would benefit. High turnover happens around insufficient maternity leave policies. The cost of employee turnover includes trainings, the loss of knowledge from an existing employee, HR costs and beyond. Maintaining a good employee who is also a mother is in the company’s best interest.
Women who are able to return to their place of work once they have had sufficient time to recover and enter into motherhood are more likely to advance in their workplaces. The fear of losing a job from taking time off can impact the confidence and performance of a working parent, though women particularly feel this. Also, normalizing and standardizing maternity leave across companies would remove the pressure some women feel to return to work before their leave or not take their full leave in fear of losing opportunities or advancements.
What Women Have to Say About the Benefits of Improved Maternity Leave
I asked members of my community to share how paid maternity leave would have impacted their decisions and experience. Here are a few of the responses:
Back to Work with a 6 Week Old With No Sick Days
“The leave I had that was unpaid was nearly impossible. I had saved all my sick and vacation days and would have to pick to use one to three of those days a week just so I had some money coming in. Which meant I went back to work with a just six week old baby and absolutely no time off to use if either of us were sick. It added a lot of extra stress. Taking leave without pay is often a dicey choice and I couldn’t afford to lose my job. It just was an exhausting juggling feat.”
With my Third, I resigned.
I would have still had vacation/PTO to use later in the year, instead I had zero time off and had to work over to cover appointments until more time accrued. For my third I took FMLA until I officially resigned. FMLA was nice as it allowed us to slowly settle into a lower income and get a budget in order before I was totally cut off.
I Could have Returned to Work
I would have had money to save to eventually pay for a sitter /childcare, but instead, I just can’t afford to work. Of course, the cost of childcare is a whole separate issue, but at least this would have helped. Also, I might have felt valued as an employee and chosen to return to my prior workplace.
A Good Policy: Peace of Mind
I took 3 months and was paid by employer. They were fantastic. I did part time work to stay plugged in during the little’s naps, but I had so much peace of mind.
Two Different Maternity Leave Experiences
With Landon I did not have any paid maternity leave so I had to go back to work pretty quickly and even the little time I was off we racked up credit card bills. The amount of stress that I was under was crazy! And you know stress causes other problems to like lack of milk production which just made me stress even more that I wasn’t producing enough And I wasn’t back to work and we had 1 million bills. It was a viscous cycle.
Fast Forward 8 1/2 years and with this pregnancy I had maternity leave and disability pay because I was on bedrest and never went without a paycheck.. My overall pay was decreased because we get 80% of our total pay and I also was not working on the ambulance or at the college so there was 0% for that… Even the 80% was amazing we were able to readjust our lives. I was home all the time so we were eating in more and we were watching our spending and somehow during my leave we were actually able to even put Money into savings. Way less stressed this time around.
I Didn’t Take Care of Myself Because of Costs
Being first time parents is hard enough without added extreme financial struggles to the mix. I had postpartum anxiety and depression that I didn’t seek treatment for until a year postpartum because I worried it would cost too much. I wasn’t eating healthy foods because cheap foods are less healthy. My husband and I went on one date in the first year and one again during the second year.
I had terrible postpartum (depression) that stemmed from having to leave my daughter before I was ready. I had 6 weeks of 60% pay from long term disability and 2 weeks of vacation. If I had been given the opportunity to stay home longer, I honestly think my mental health would not have suffered as significantly as it did. My mental health was the biggest area that was affected by short term “leave”.
America is Better than This: We Could Thrive With Improved Maternity Leave Laws & Policies
With all of this information both anecdotally and research-based, we can conclude that paid and sufficient maternity leave is beneficial for our society as a whole. Imagine a whole generation with adequate time to adjust and recover. There is progress happening on a number of fronts, but it cannot happen fast enough. If you believe in this, here are a few things you can do:
1. Share this post. Share it with friends, family, your HR director, on LinkedIn, etc.
2. Talk to your company about maternity leave policies. Ask what it would take for these policies to be approved.
3. Keep your eyes out for petitions and advocacy opportunities in your state or on a federal level.
4. Speak up. Use your voice and your story to continue the conversation and influence change.
Symptoms, Growth, To-Do List During the 2nd Trimester of Pregnancy
So you’ve crossed the threshold of the first 13 weeks of pregnancy and entered into the 2nd trimester. Congrats! Maybe now it is feeling real. Hopefully, the nausea and some of the initial symptoms of the first trimester are subsiding. You are feeling more energetic again. Maybe you are ready to prepare for birth and life after baby. Let’s talk about what you need to know and do in the second trimester.
When is the Second Trimester?
The second trimester starts at week 14. The average length of pregnancy is 40 weeks and so each trimester is approximately 13 weeks. As the second-trimester starts, so do new stages in your pregnancy. Weeks 14-27 of your pregnancy are a great time to focus on preparing for life after the baby arrives.
During this season of your pregnancy, you can expect that your uterus will continue to expand. Your body will experience some aches (chiropractors can be great!), your skin may start to show stretch marks, and skin changes and you will likely start to feel the baby move!
Symptoms of the Second Trimester of Pregnancy
During the second trimester, if you are lucky, you may get a break from some of the pregnancy symptoms you experienced early on. However, there are still many changes happening in baby and in you. Your belly will continue to grow and likely really pop during this time. Your hormones continue to fluctuate and your body continues to adapt to the caring for the baby growing inside. Some of the symptoms you may experience include (but are not limited to):
-Leg cramps/Charlie horses (these were one of my worst pregnancy symptoms!)
Start Preparing for Baby’s Arrival During the Second Trimester
The second trimester is a great time to use your energy to prepare for the baby’s arrival. Yes, you want to prepare for labor and delivery. Also, you want to prepare for all the changes that come after the baby is born. A birth plan is great, but do not forget to create a postpartum plan as well.
Preparing Your Body For Birth During the 2nd Trimester of Your Pregnancy
When it comes to preparing your body for birth, this means taking care of your wellness while also prepping the body for the work of delivering a baby. Continue your exercise routines as you and your medical provider feel comfortable. Continue to prioritize proteins, healthy fats, complex carbs, fibers, and vitamins.
You want to prepare your core and vagina for birth. This means working with an expert in prenatal exercise, practicing visualization and pelvic floor movement for birth, and perhaps getting your partner involved with perineal massages.
Preparing Your Home For Birth During the 2nd Trimester
When you come home with the baby, you want to make things accessible and easy so that you have the time to rest and recover as needed. This is a great time to think about a snack and water basket for when you are trapped on the couch, easy access to diapers and feeding items, and food that you (or your partner or support person) can easily prepare. If you have a home with steps, ensure that you can remain on one floor for the first couple of weeks as your body recovers. Another way to prepare is to stock your bathroom with a basket full of the postpartum recovery times you will need.
Another part of preparing your home is preparing for the logistics. Who can help by bringing food? Who can help with pet or sibling care? Will you utilize the service of a postpartum doula or other helping professional? Have these conversations with your partner and do the research so that you can make the most empowering decisions for you and your family.
Preparing your Finances/Work-Life for Birth During the 2nd Trimester
As you prepare for your baby to be born, you want to know what the leave policies are for your place of employment as well as your partner’s (if applicable.) Talk with your HR department and get all the information on what is available to you and what you need to do in order to ensure you can take full advantage of your benefits.
This is also a good time to have a conversation with your partner and make a plan about finances. With a baby can come more unexpected situations and expenses and working to set aside money for the “what ifs” is a wise choice. While it can be tempting to go all out on nursery decor and onesies, work to find a balance that feels comfortable for you and your partner.
Preparing Your Mind For Birth During the Second Trimester
The hormones, lack of sleep, myriad of transitions… they can be difficult mentally as you adjust to new motherhood. During the second trimester, spend time asking about and learning your family history around mental health struggles. Also take this time to learn the signs of PMADS (Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders). PMADs can show up during pregnancy as well, so be alert of your mental wellbeing.
Preparing Your Relationship For Birth in the Second Trimester of Pregnancy
While it is really beautiful to see your partner step into parenthood, there are also challenges like less time together, lack of sleep, changes in intimacy and decisions to make for the baby and your family. In preparing your relationship for birth, start the conversation about how you can share the load of household responsibilities, research that needs to be done, communication with friends and family. Take this time to list out things that make you feel connected to one another so that you can tap into those things when you need to.
As you move through the second trimester of your pregnancy and weeks 14-27, there are many things you can start researching, discussing, and preparing for so that you can move into parenthood with more understanding and preparation. While you can never be prepared for and control all aspects of having a baby, you can be proactive so there are less surprises!
If you are in the second trimester, join a kick-ass group of ladies preparing for life after baby with intention and honest conversation. Head to the group coaching page and find the next session of Postpartum Planning Group. If there’s not a group that matches your time needs, you can always do the self-paced eCourse as well!
Even in 2020, there is still a lot of pressure to breastfeed or explain how you choose to feed your baby. Phrases like “breast is best” and “liquid gold” circulate mommy blogs and instagram posts. Whether you are deciding between breastfeeding or formula feeding, deciding the best formula to give your baby, switching from breastmilk to formula, supplementing or mixing breastmilk and formula, or any other kind of feeding, the reality is there are a lot of opinions. If anyone talks to you about this by making you feel guilty for your feeding choices or needs, you have permission to ask
The Best Way to Feed Your Baby is the Way that Works for You
At Postpartum Together, we believe the best thing for your baby is taking care of yourself. We believe in making choices that are informed and empowered. We believe the pressure to breastfeed can damage new moms and families. How you feed your baby is not the mark of how good of a mom you are (because there’s not a “better” way) and we believe that you deserve safe spaces to explore and make choices.
Below, 4 women have shared their stories about the feeding choices they made, the feelings they went through, and the ways they have taken care of their babies- all in different ways. If you are here for an answer on what you should do, you will not find that here. But what you will find are real stories, real moms, real choices and a ton of support for you as you take care of yourself and your baby.
Ashley’s Story: However You Feed Your Baby is Okay. There Shouldn’t be Pressure to Breastfeed
What is the biggest thing I wish I would have known after having my son? That society puts way too much pressure to breastfeed or to feed your baby a certain way. That you don’t have to listen to what society thinks. ALSO…It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
At my son’s 1-week check-up the informed me that he had lost 10% of his body weight. His doctor said that this was because he wasn’t getting enough breastmilk and that I needed to start supplementing. In my head, I instantly blamed myself. “My body is failing me.” “It seems so easy for other moms.” “I am one week into being a mom and I already suck at this.”
Introducing Formula to a Newborn When You Planned to Exclusively Breastfeed
Introducing formula was devastating to me. I planned on exclusively breastfeeding. At this point, I was breastfeeding, pumping, and formula feeding every two hours. It was exhausting, my mental health was suffering, yet, friends and family STILL put an emphasis on how he needed my breastmilk. So, I kept on breastfeeding while I suffered silently with horrible anxiety and didn’t listen to my intuition.
At 4 months I decided enough was enough. We switched to 100% formula. It was sad but it was honestly the best thing I could have done. I wish I would have listened to myself earlier in the process. And, I wish I would have had someone say that it was okay and that I wasn’t failing.
Your Mental Health and Breastfeeding
Now, I wish that other moms who see this know that however they are feeding their baby is okay. That your mental health is also a priority. And that there is so much support out there to help you with whatever decision you make. Whether you breastfeed, pump, formula feed, or all of the above, you should never feel like a failure. You are doing what’s best for you and your family and nothing else matters.
Ashley Lyon DONA Certified Postpartum Doula Founder of Bloom Mama
Devra’s Story: “Failing” as a Crunchy Mom The Crunchy Pressure to Breastfeed
We had my first daughter in ’07, back when blogs were just beginning and there was no Facebook or Instagram. From what I’d been able to learn about feeding babies from books or talking to our midwife, I thought there were two options: nursing or formula feeding. Because I was in my crunchy-granola earth mother phase and thought formula was evil, I wanted to nurse so badly. But nursing was painful for me–like someone was pulling shards of glass through my nipples painful. Latch checks and weight gain all seemed to say she was getting enough milk but I was in tears at every session.
After about six weeks, I said to my sweet patient husband, “I feel like a failure but I don’t think I can do this anymore.” I’d already started pumping when I went back to work managing a live-performance theater, so he said “Why don’t you just pump more and we’ll bottle feed her?” And thus our journey with exclusive pumping began.
Turning to Exclusive Pumping
Jump forward 12 years and we were surprised with another precious daughter. Again, I longed to nurse, because that is what we’re built for, right? Thank goodness we now have Instagram and amazing people like @postpartumtogether, @exclusivepumping, and @pump_momma_pump. Along with Sarah Lester, my local IBCLC, when my second nursing try started to go the same painful way as my first, they were able to get me on a great exclusive pumping plan to keep LO thriving now for 10 months.
Jokes on me, too: dried up naturally at six months with the first and we won’t quite make it to a year of frozen milk with the second, so formula still made an appearance. I’m fully committed to “fed is best” and I know we’re doing everything we can to make sure our girls are healthy.
Katherine’s Story: Fairytale Motherhood Plans Changed No More Pressure to Breastfeed
I believe most women imagine an idealized fairytale version of childbirth and motherhood. So many resources encourage developing a birth plan or at least thinking about your preferences. Unfortunately, so few resources tell you that your plans will change. The more prepared you are to go with the flow, the more at peace you will become.
Child birth and motherhood are so unpredictable. The birth of my son did not go the way I always envisioned it, but many of the decisions were my own. I didn’t realize how not getting any part of my idealized birth story would affect me. It manifested in an “obsession” to breastfeed. Thankfully, once my milk came in, breastfeeding was relatively easy. I had a dreadfully slow eater; most feedings in the beginning lasted an hour; but he steadily gained weight. This motherhood thing is definitely a marathon.
I exclusively breastfed (and pumped a few times a day due to an oversupply and the desire to build a freezer stash) for six months. During this time, my husband and I had several conversations about timing around a second child and what it would take to get pregnant again. We needed the support of a reproductive endocrinologist to get pregnant with my son.
Weaning and Pregnancy
Many of these conversations got quite heated because I would have preferred to breastfeed for the entire first year. There was an ultimate compromise to start weaning when my son was six months old. I did not want to wean. But marriage is all about compromise, or so they say. The spacing between our children has always been extremely important to my husband. He is ten years older than me. We did not rush into marriage and we did not rush into starting our family (fur children excluded). Deep down I knew future me would appreciate our children being close in age. I know how much it means to my husband; he has a chronic illness and is overtly aware of his mortality.
Weaning was slow. And deliberate. Although extremely anxious and uneasy about weaning, I convinced myself that starting around six months made the most sense, as I was also starting solids with my son at this time. I could not stand the sight and smell of the first formula I started to supplement with, and so the research began. I was quickly able to settle on a much better looking and smelling formula that my son didn’t mind.
Adding Formula to Breastfeeding
I was convinced my son would hate me forever. I felt the pressure to breastfeed. Cue the extreme mom guilt. I have no idea what I did to deserve it, but I was blessed with an angel from above. After about a week of my son being unsure about formula, we fell into a weaning routine. Every week or two, I would cut out a breastfeeding session and replace it with formula. At the same time, I slowly cut down on the duration of my pumping sessions. It took us two months to wean completely. My son then got frozen breastmilk twice a day until my freezer stash was gone, which was a little after his first birthday. Thankfully my son never really pulled at my shirt or chest. And there were never any real meltdowns about taking a bottle instead of my breast.
I hated having to deal with formula. Breastfeeding was easy while I was on the go with my son. If there wasn’t a private, quiet place to feed, there was always the backseat of my car. I found formula feeding annoying. Did I pack enough formula? Do I have extra if we get stuck or our plans change? Do I have enough water? What about a way to warm it up a little bit? Do I need to bring a hot water bath, or can I get something while we are out? This continued to feed my guilt and angst.
Shame, Guilt & Breastfeeding
My shame and guilt eased up as I saw how adaptable and resilient my son has become. His personality really made weaning easier on me. Cue Covid-19. All the shame and guilt came rushing back. Why didn’t I keep breastfeeding? My son would benefit immensely from the continued antibodies. How can I comfort him without breastfeeding? Then our fertility office shutdown. Cue even more guilt and frustration. Why did I even stop breastfeeding?! My son is going to get sick and I can’t even get pregnant now. Again, my son remained my anchor. Everything about him remained cheerful and resilient. He was growing and developing perfectly. With everything going on in 2020, this was starting to feel right.
Sarah’s Story: We are Both Alive Because She Formula Fed
I knew very quickly that something was wrong. My baby couldn’t latch and had earned the nickname “Miss. Chomper” from the many lactation consultants we saw. But I was determined. My mom is a big breast feeding advocate in the community, everyone knew my name and always asked how breast feeding was going. There was such an intense shame that it wasn’t going well. To top off my experience, no one warned me that let downs can come with this horrible sense of dread and overwhelming feeling of just nastiness. Let downs were few and far between, which at the time I was thankful for because it meant I didn’t get this overwhelming desire to just get my kid off me instantly.
While still in the hospital, I knew something was wrong with both my baby and myself. I could not sleep and was having obsessive and intrusive thoughts within hours after birth. Baby couldn’t latch. I remember her screaming as the LC attempted to just jam her face into my breast. Crying and crying until this sweet nurse ask me if I wanted to try SNS. I said yes, and for a brief moment I felt relief as I knew my baby was getting something. Then, I had to sign a waiver to give my baby formula in the hospital. Unfortunately, postpartum OCD took away SNS feeding from me. Cleaning those tiny tubes is a pain and no matter how hot of water I ran through them, I was convinced they were not clean.
Trying a Bottle After Struggle to Latch
They held me a few days due to the fact my kid couldn’t latch and the LCs made follow up appointments so I could be discharged. The sweet nurse who saw my struggle asked me as I was being discharged if she could show me how to give her a bottle. I cried so much in that moment and the nurse showed me how to just pop the bottle in her mouth. Cue instant mom guilt but my baby was fed. I tried really hard to only give her one or two bottles a day and I honestly had no idea how much she needed to have per feeding. She was drastically underfed by both my body and by my lack of knowledge in formula feeding.
The next weeks were a blur but the highlights are: 1) being told that I am giving my baby a burger instead of a salad and I shouldn’t have such a problem breastfeeding because I was well endowed 2) a swarm of LCs and doctors appointments, including having to give my week old baby a suppository because she wasn’t getting enough from me to get the merconium out 3) a trip to the ER at 3 weeks with the official diagnosis of feeding problems.
At this point, 3 weeks into my daughter’s life, we knew breastfeeding just wasn’t for her even after had felt the pressure to breastfeed. And I tried exclusively pumping for a week. These feelings of just being out of my body and feeling just generally distraught with let downs just being came worse and worse as I tried to pump. Not understanding why I felt like this, I began to dread the pump. My postpartum OCD just spiraled out of control. No one ever mentioned D-mer. Never.
I assumed that I just hated this experience so much that it was manifesting in physical symptoms. It felt like my mental health was slipping away 30 seconds at a time every pumping session. Finally, I snapped. My mental health was deteriorating to the point that I did not want to exist. That I regretted this choice to have this very much wanted and loved baby. I even thought about fleeing the country and starting a new life. I’m serious. It was a full fledged plan. That is when everyone told me to just stop. And I did.
I gave the baby to my husband, I slept 6 solid hours, pumped once for relief that day, and that was it. That was the end of my breast feeding journey.
I was able to start medication for my postpartum OCD and depression without fear of impacting my breastmilk. And, I was finally able to bond with my baby as she happily drank her bottles of formula and smiled.
Anyone who tells you bottle feeding hurts your bond, slap them for me. This can absolutely improve your bond. It can save your life. This can save your baby’s life. It is not this demon or great shame.. It is there for a reason. And in a heart beat, I would formula feed my child again. She is healthy, strong as an oxen (just as stubborn too), and our bond is strong and beautiful because of bottles of formula.p
My life and her life is better because she was formula fed. We are both alive because she was formula fed. The pressure to breastfeed could not take that away.
A Reminder To You, Momma
This motherhood shit is beautiful and it’s hard. No matter how you feed your baby. No matter what diapers you choose. If you stay at home or go to work… it’s beautiful and hard all at the same time. The pressure to breastfeed or bottle feed is just that, outside opinions and pressure. Really, it is a choice. It’s a choice that you are equipped to make. It is a choice that does not define who you are. It is a choice that you can use to prioritize your health and wellness and that of your baby. Feed your baby in the way that works for your family and do not let shame sneak in.
When you bring up the term “mom guilt” women will open up about their story: Working mom guilt, stay at home mom guilt, single mom guilt, daycare guilt, household guilt.
There are so many things we can feel guilty about as new moms.
Today we’re talking more about this guilt. We’ll discuss where it comes from and how we can work to overcome mom guilt so that we can be more present and confident in motherhood.
Read it: The transcript
Hello and welcome back to that Taboo ABCs of Postpartum!
G is for guilt and we are talking about working mom guilt stay at home mom guilt, bottle feeding guilt, nursing guilt, introverted mom guilt extroverted mom guilt… You guys, there are so many freaking ways to feel mom guilt.
For those of you tuning in for the first time, my name is Chelsea Skaggs, I am the founder of postpartum together where we work to help women overcome the pressure to be Pinterest perfect, and to find more confidence, connection and communication and just some freakin joy in their journey, I focus on working with women between three to 10-ish months after baby because listen, as the fog starts to lift, that’s when we have all of these feelings and thoughts and ideas, processing all the changes. And it’s the perfect time to figure out how we move forward as women as moms and all the things that make up our identity.
So today we’re talking about guilt and I want to share with you some of the things I have heard from my clients recently.
As a Mom, I feel guilty about:
-how I’m feeding my baby
– The way I birthed my baby
-Amount of time I do or don’t spend with my baby
– I feel guilty for not giving enough of myself to my partner
-Not being social enough
-Because my house isn’t cleaned
– For wanting any space to myself and to get away from my family.
All right, so if you’ve ever thought any of those thoughts, listen, you’re not alone. Because these are all things that I have heard from moms just like you recently.
4 Ways to Get Rid of Mom Guilt
So let’s talk about four ways to get rid of mom guilt. Because sister it’s not looking good on you. Just kidding, I just want you to be feeling confident. I want you to feel like you are not behind, to feel like you don’t have to live in the world of shoulds and guilts. And I want you to feel that you can be connected and competent in your way of motherhood.
1. Teach your support people how you need to be affirmed and cared for.
Maybe it’s that you need someone to notice that the house is clean. Alright, we are going to have to teach our support people to say that or to acknowledge that if that is what makes us feel fulfilled and not feel guilty. Maybe it is that we are feeding in a different way than we expected to talk to your support people about how difficult that is for you. If it’s difficult if you’re feeling guilt, acknowledge it, talk about it and make a space to say hey, this is actually what I need to help me come back this guilt so we are teaching the people around us how to better support us because the chances are they want to support us.
2. Take a break from the things that make you feel shitty, and cause comparison.
This is often social media or magazines or that trashy ass reality show that you find yourself watching. If you are feeling this ongoing comparison it can sound many ways. Like you just can’t keep up with this person or she can do it so easily, or look how good she looks, her house looks, or her kids look then it’s causing you some stress and comparison. This then piles right into the feelings of guilt that you have because you’re shaming yourself and listen, you can step away, you can turn it off, you can take a break, you can mute whatever it is that you need to serve you so that you’re not drowning in this pile of guilt.
3. Honestly reflect on each day and celebrate one win when we are in the throes of postpartum
When the days are blurring together, we’re hardly getting a chance to shower. Whatever that looks like for you in those early days, it can be hard to feel like we have done enough or done good enough.
Maybe it’s when you’re returning to work or you’re getting into the stay at home rhythm or you are you know figuring out what you’re doing. Social life and friendship and relationships can be tough in this season. It’s easy to feel like we’re not doing enough because again, that comparison game tells us that other people are doing it better, they’re doing it more, they’re doing it easier, like they are winning and we are losing. And that makes us feel guilt for not being good enough. So I want you to take time to reflect each day on one win that you’ve had. And listen, if you’ve had one win, that is a day worth celebrating.
4. Schedule five to 10 minutes a day to think or feel for yourself about yourself.
Do this so that you can be proactive in your brain, reminding yourself and affirming yourself. Know that you are not dictated by the comparison outside or by what other people think or what other people are doing, but spend that time with you.
Is the Mom Guilt Helpful?
Here’s the question I want to leave you with: -What guilt am I carrying that isn’t helping me, my baby or my family? -Next, how will I process that and let it go so that it doesn’t have a hold on me? This takes work, intention and practice.
And if you’re looking for a safe space, to process out all the changes of postpartum to put tools and resources into place to have accountability to have connection we are here for it. Check out our next postpartum together small group offerings at postpartumtogether.com/groupcoaching and make sure that you subscribe to this channel (and blog) so that you can get the next videos in the taboo ABCs of postpartum series.
As a new mom, one thing I found myself feeling stressed about often was breast milk supply. I was constantly looking for ways to boost breast milk supply. There is a lot of pressure on new moms when it comes to breastfeeding choices. From “Fed is best” campaigns and “Is she breastfeeding?” as a question that comes up more times than you can count in the first few months, a lot of moms carry heavy feelings around breastfeeding and their breast milk supply.
Wondering about the safety of drinking while breastfeeding? Learn more from my post on the Zulily Blog here.
At Postpartum Together, we believe there is no perfect way to feed a baby. We encourage you to find the way that works for you and we support your choices to honor yourself and your baby. If you find that using breast milk is what works best for you and your family, these tips are for you. If you decide that breastfeeding is taking a mental and emotional toll on you, we encourage you to evaluate other ways of feeding (Formula is not a bad word!)
Like every part of motherhood, what works for one mom may or may not work for another. Our bodies are different. We produce breastmilk differently and respond to supplements differently. For example, some women swear by Fenugreek to boost milk supply, while others experience a decrease in milk supply from the supplement Fenugreek.
Tracking Your Breast Milk Output as you Boost Milk Supply:
One way to evaluate whether the methods are working is to measure your breast milk output. For many women, though, this is very stressful. If you are directly nursing, you can watch feeding times and windows between feeds to see if baby seems satisfied and full. If you are pumping, you can measure the ounces during each session. Remember, though, your worth is not measured in ounces! If you are pumping, a favorite tip of mine is to put a sock over the bottles so you are not constantly watching the measurement on the bottle. That kind of stress does not help anyone!
5 Tips That Can Help You Boost Low Breast Milk Supply
1. Lots of water
When you are making milk and liquid is leaving your body, you need to be putting that hydration back into your body! Many new moms find themselves struggling to get in enough water due to the busyness of the days. Make a commitment to drinking more water- aim for at least ½ of your weight in ounces (and then some). In one of my recent New Mom Growth and Empowerment Groups with Postpartum Together, all the moms ended up with this huge water bottle to keep them on track!
2. Feed/Pump during the morning (between 1-5am)
Your body tends to produce the most during the 1-5am hours. Many women do not take advantage of this time because, well, it is early and inconvenient. However, if you are looking to increase your output to build a freezer stash or plan for the day ahead, an early pump session can be very beneficial. If you plan to go back to sleep after this session, keep the lights low and do not spend the time on your phone so that it is easier to fall back asleep. If you are getting up at 4 or 5am and staying up for the day, get to bed early enough!
3. Lactation Cookies
You do not have to convince me to try cookies for helping anything. So when I learned about lactation cookies, it was a no-brainer. Popular lactation cookie recipes are heavy on the oats which are galactagogues. Some also include brewers years, another galactagogue many believe increases milk production. If you want to skip the baking you can send the recipe to a friend or family member when they ask “What do you need?” or you can buy them pre-made. (I never used pre-made so I cannot recommend a brand or type, but I can say that the ones I made myself were heavy on the chocolate chips because… why not!?) Here is one of my favorite cookbooks for breastfeeding (or not!) mamas. It’s a must!
4. Dark stout beer
Want to learn more about the safety of alcohol while breastfeeding, learn more from my piece on the Zulily Blog here.
Some research links lower cognition to alcohol usage, though the usage researched is typically numerous drinks. Dark malty or stout beers have galactogogues and for many, increase milk production when used in moderation (1 drink). Personally, I had one dark stout beer right after a pumping or feeding session and could see the output increase in the following sessions. These types of beers have the same components as oatmeal and brewer’s yeast and so it makes sense it would have the same impact. Drinking out of moderation can have a number of negative effects, so keep to a moderate amount.
5. Power pumping session
In order for the body to make milk, it needs to be told that milk is needed. When we want to increase milk output, we can increase the “request” we make on the body. Power pumping is a way to tell the body that more is needed. It is not something you make a long-term habit, but something you do for a couple of days. Whether you are exclusively nursing, exclusively breastfeeding or a combination, power pumping can be a helpful way to stimulate your breasts for more milk.
Example Power Pumping Schedule:
-Pump 20 minutes
-Rest 10 mintues
-Pump 10 minutes
-Rest 10 minutes
-Pump 10 minutes
Do this 1-2 times a day for a day or two to give your breasts a “make more” signal.
Tips for power pumping
1. Don’t sit and watch the ounces. Use a sock to cover the bottle and do not take it off until your session is complete
2. Drink lots of water
3. Do something to relax
4. Do a warm compress and/or massage before starting.
When you are looking to increase your breastmilk supply, ask yourself why you are doing so. Are you feeling pressure to have a huge freezer stash? Are you truly not making enough milk and want to try to produce more? Are you afraid of supplementing with or using formula? Why?
Remember every body is different. Milk production looks different for every mom. Your worth is not measured in ounces. Your mental and emotional wellness is necessary.
Wondering about the safety of drinking while breastfeeding? Learn more from my post on the Zulily Blog here.
Maybe it was feeling morning sickness or perhaps you missed your period. Maybe you just felt different and thought to take a pregnancy test. No matter how you learned you were pregnant, the realization makes you think about all the things to do in the first trimester. Let’s not forget, all the things to avoid during the first trimester.
I’m not going to give you a lecture or 20-point to do list, but let’s talk about how you can start taking care of yourself and that growing baby in the first trimester weeks.
There are 3 trimesters in pregnancy and a “fourth trimester” which describes the first 3 months after you have your baby. The weeks of the pregnancy trimesters are:
First trimester: 0-13 weeks
Second trimester: 14-26 weeks
Third trimester: 27-40 weeks
The first trimester may not look like a lot of change on the outside, but a lot is happening as baby grows and your body changes to take care of your new baby.
What do I Need to Do in the First Trimester?
Enjoy your cravings and also work in nutritious choices.
It can be fun and curious when you have strange cravings. I first thought I might be pregnant when I came home from work and put hot sauce on a spoonful of peanut butter. Yep, pregnant. I also tried to make a salt and vinegar ice cream. That did not work very well. Enjoy those cravings and have fun with it! When it comes to working in nutrition choices during the first trimester, work in vegetables, fruits, fibers and lean meats if you consume meat.
Avoid fish high in mercury, don’t eat cat litter (but really let someone else handle the cat litter) and stay away from anything that you think could give you an infection from being uncooked or unpasteurized. It is also wise to try to cut back on caffeine. This can be hard since you may be feeling so tired, but work to reduce intake. This is also a good time to start prenatal vitamins and folic acid. First trimester sickness (morning sickness but it can hit at anytime of the day!) can make it hard to eat and drink enough, so keep some healthy snacks and water nearby at all times (this is a water bottle that I happen to love). Oh and stop any tobacco, alcohol or drug usage. If you need help stopping, find a program nearby to assist you (getting help is always better than suffering alone!).
Find a trusted provider
Your pregnancy and birth team is very important. If you do not have a trusting relationship with your current provider, it is okay to switch to someone that makes you feel more confident. Find a provider that will listen to you, has an approach to pregnancy and birth that you align with, and will help you understand all the changes and choices you will experience. If you have a history of anxiety or depression, or are feeling depressed during pregnancy, ensure that you have a good relationship with your provider and can bring these things up.
Give yourself permission to rest
Chances are you will feel fatigue throughout pregnancy, but it can be most evident in the first trimester. While you are cutting back on caffeine, you can also be adding in rest. Let go of something on your to-do list and add in a nap. Communicate with your partner (if applicable) that all the hormone and body changes mean you need more rest.
Protect yourself from getting overwhelmed by comparison
It can feel like there are hundreds of things to do after you find out you are pregnant. You may get tempted to download every app and join every Facebook group. Figure out what makes you feel seen and connected and identify anything that traps you in comparison. If you love bump pics and fruit sizes, great, but if you do not, that is okay too.
You do not have to do everything possible to have a good and loving pregnancy. Check out our Instagram page for the space you need for REAL talk about postpartum- preparation, education, advocacy, communication, connection. We help you prepare for life after baby and support you through the first year with resources, small group coaching, 1-on-1 consults, courses
Plan your parental leave
Start to explore parental leave at your place of work and your partner’s place of work. Look into your contract and any HR policies to see what will be available to you. Plan accordingly so that you are able to have a leave.
Should I Announce My Pregnancy in the First Trimester?
Deciding if and when to announce your pregnancy is a very personal choice. Some people will tell you that you HAVE to wait until after 12 weeks, when the risk of miscarriage declines. You do not have to wait. It can be very valuable to have people in your corner no matter what the outcome of your pregnancy is- we need community in our joy and in our pain.
Some people will tell you to announce right away and make it big. You do not have to do that either. If you want to keep your pregnancy intimate, that is totally fine.
If you and your partner do not agree on when to disclose your pregnancy, spend time communicating, discussing your values, and working to find a compromise. Sometimes an outside counselor or trusted friend can be a good third party to help you talk through it.
When you find out you are expecting, you want to think about birth preparation and postpartum preparation. Birth preparation includes your preferences for how and where you birth. Postpartum preparation includes setting yourself up for success with life after baby and the transition home and beyond.
Birth prep can be completed via an online course like Birth It Up or at your hospital or through a local birth educator.
Postpartum prep is more difficult to find. At Postpartum Together, we offer an eCourse paired with a small group to guide you through making a postpartum plan so that you and your partner can be prepared for bringing home baby, having support, staying connected in your relationship and more.
Everyone has their own idea of first trimester tips. Prioritize taking good care of yourself, getting in tune with your body, establishing important relationships with your support team and learning about the changes happening in you and your baby.
Friendship after baby can be full of new emotions, conversations, and priorities. When you are parenting a newborn, you need different kinds of friends to support you. Making and keeping mom friends almost feels like dating. Below we discuss the ways friendships change after baby and making friends as a new mom.
In the taboo ABCs of postpartum, F is for friendship. Friendship can feel so different after baby.
Maybe you’re asking yourself if your friendships are going to change or if it’s normal for new friends to come? And how do you even make new friends as a new mom? And what to expect from some of your old friends after baby? There are so many different parts to this: -How we make new mom friends -What kind of friends we need -How this looks different after baby? How do we expect our existing friends to show up for us how our friends can help us after baby? What it’s like to have friends with babies themselves and with friends who don’t have babies?
Factors that Impact Your Friendship After Baby
So we are looking at all these different changes in friendship after baby. When it comes to your pre-baby friends, there are some questions that you’re probably going to ask yoursel Do you still have common interests? Are you able to align your schedules? Are you able to enter some of the places that you overlap to maybe that was your work friends, or you’re going out friends or a hobby friends? And do you maybe have the same kind of approach and values and styles?
And when you become a mom, you’re likely going to make new friends. This might be because your children are the same age or maybe you’re running in a similar circle. Maybe it’s a playgroup, maybe it’s a hobby group, maybe it is work or a daycare setting, you might be making a new friend, because you have a similar parenting style. And maybe because you have some common interests.
Loneliness as a New Mom
I hear from a lot of moms that they didn’t expect it to feel this lonely, you feel like you’re the only one struggling with something. Maybe you’re trying to keep up with so much and there are all these different changes. Friendships after baby can be more difficult, but they’re also still extremely important. I encourage my mom clients to ask yourself a few things.
What is making you feel disconnected from some of your existing friendships? Or from making new friendships? Is it a fear? Is it a lack of confidence that you have in your new mothering style is it because you’re not identifying with hobbies or interests that you used to? Are there some things that are being said that might feel triggering and disconnecting for you?
There are a lot of different kinds of friends that we need when we’re new moms. And I want to give you a couple examples of those.
Examples of Mom Friend Types After Baby
The Listener Mom Friend
The person that you can call up whenever, however, you need to show up and they’re just going to listen, you may need the wisdom friend, this is the person who probably already has kids. Maybe they’re a little older or they are in a stage that’s a few months or years ahead and they can be the person to help you gain that wisdom and feel comfortable and confident.
The Keep It Real Mom Friend
You need that keep it real friend, the friend that you can talk to about anything, nothing’s off the table. Nothing is too taboo
The Nurturing Mom Friend
You need the nurturer friend. This is the person you can turn to when you just feel heavy and hard and you need someone to wrap you up in some love and encouragement and be nurtured.
The Advocate Mom Friend
You need the advocate friends, that friend who is going to help you to find your voice and use your voice and be your own advocate.
The Cheerleader Mom Friend
You need the cheerleader, the one who reminds you that even when it’s really hard, you can do this.
As a mom, you want to enjoy the holidays. You also want everyone else to enjoy the holidays and you feel responsible for making that happen. But there is this invisible load of motherhood lingering in the midst of the holiday cheer.
-Do most of the planning.
-Find the perfect gifts for your children.
-Decorate the house for added joy.
-Outline the menu and coordinate the gatherings.
-Hide the gifts and wrap them during those scarce moments when the kids are asleep.
You carry the holiday invisible load and it can be heavy.
**Let’s stop for a deep breath together because this is a lot.**
The text from grandparents and aunts come in:
What would Elizabeth like for Christmas?
Will we gather for the candle lightings each night or are we using Zoom to celebrate Kwanzaa?
Who will get together for the Thanksgiving feast?
When you’re already experiencing stress and anxiety, each text or phone call can feel like another layer bogging you down. If you feel overwhelmed from the holidays, it can be easy to lose the joy you want to experience.
The Pressure of “Supermom” During the Holidays
The holidays were meant to be a time of celebration, closeness, and laughter and for many moms, the pressure to be “Supermom” through the holidays is a breaking point. Supermom, this illusional character many moms hold in their minds, tells us that we are not doing enough. She tells us that we need to work harder. Do more. Produce more. She tells us that a holiday is not fulfilling for our children without crafts, decorations, gifts, meals, traditions, pictures, and themed-activities. Supermom tells us that we are responsible for doing and being all of this and carrying the checklist in our minds. She tells us that if we sleep or rest or take a moment to breathe, we are failing our children and families.
How did we get the supermom illusion? How does it impact the invisible load of motherhood?
The Supermom is like a modern-day “Keeping up with the Joneses” story. It is not new and not new to moms, but the way we experience it is different and in many ways a strong force than before.
People “Kept up with the Joneses” by having a well-manicured yard and a nice car. You worked to maintain an image from the outside. It was a family affair.
Now, the super mom illusion requires you to go deeper, go inside, go public. The supermom illusion is present in movies and TV shows, on social media and mom blogs, and beyond. There are endless opportunities to compare, to judge yourself, and to think about MORE to do and be as a mom.
Here’s how we often experience it:
The Supermom Puzzle Theory:
Jane sees 5 different moms on social media today
-#1 is gifted in crafts and shares super-cute crafts she does with her kids
-#2 is an amazing cook and highlights her family meals
-#3 is a fitness expert and coordinates workouts with her toddlers
-#4 is great with organization and interior design and her house always looks like a magazine
-#5 is a make-up and style guru and always looks so put together
Jane, the one taking in these images and words, sees these moms and puts each together like pieces of a puzzle. This puzzle is the image of a “Supermom” that Jane sees and expects of herself. She does not realize in that moment that each mom is only highlighting one expert area of her life and does not show all the other aspects. Jane feels like she needs to be the culmination of all of these moms in order to be a “good mom.”