Postpartum, pregnancy

Disappointment as a Mom: How Gender, Birth Plans & Health Impacts New Moms

Gender disappointment and Birth Disappointment

In the taboo ABCs of postpartum D is for disappointment.

Disappointment can come a lot of ways when it comes to being a new mom. And we’re actually going to back this up and even talk about what disappointment can look like in pregnancy. This can impact our confidence and more specifically, our self judgment and criticism as new moms. Moms may feel sad about the outcome of something but those feelings can cause shame.We’re talking about gender disappointment, medical disappointment, and birth disappointment.

Maybe it’s just not being ready to be a mom yet.
Maybe it’s the disappointment of how something has gone differently than the way you anticipated.

The struggle I see here is that we don’t often feel okay to have joy and disappointment coexisting with gratitude. Many new moms have this feeling of grief and disappointment over how something has gone.

Gender Disappointment

Gender disappointment is one that is common one that I experienced myself. I always picture myself as a boy mom. And so when my second turned out to be a girl, for a while, I was disappointed. I couldn’t imagine what that would look like. It wasn’t what I had envisioned for myself. I was excited to have her. I love her to pieces now, but I did feel a little bit of that gender disappointment.

Whether it’s at a gender reveal party, or whether you wait to find the gender of your baby at birth, you can feel this disappointment, probably because you pictured it one way and it turns out to be another. If you really wanted a boy and find out you are having a girl of if you wanted a girl and found out you are having a boy, you can feel sad.

Medical Disappointment

You also may experience disappointment with something medical, maybe you’re in the NICU with your baby. Maybe there was something that became unexpected about your baby, and you’re just feeling this disappointment about things not being the way you pictured. When I gave birth again to my daughter, my first week was spent in the NICU and that is not how I envisioned it, I was disappointed. I was disappointed that there were medical complexities. I was scared, I was nervous. And I was also just feeling this loss of how I envisioned things.

Related: Being a heart mom

Disappointed in Birth Plan Not Happening

You may also experience disappointment about the way your birth went. Perhaps you had a birth experience that was way different than you anticipated. Maybe you planned for a certain way of birth, maybe you had your birth plan, maybe you had everything prepared.
And then it went differently. I hear this often from clients who planned a vaginal delivery had a belly birth (csection). I also hear this from women who planned unmedicated birth and end up with an epidural or other medical interventions. If you feel like your birth plan failed, you can be disappointed by the birth and your birth story.

Related: Hospital Unmedicated Birth Story

How to Address Disappointment in Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum

So I want to talk about a few ways that we can address disappointment: whether it’s gender disappointment, birth disappointment, medical disappointment, or just circumstantial disappointment. I want to give you three tips on how to handle disappointment, whatever kind you might be facing.

  1. Get it out

One is to find a safe space to get it out of your head, maybe you’ve been carrying this thought and feeling guilty about it or not having a place to put it. This might be trusting in your partner or a good friend or a therapist. And if that doesn’t feel comfortable to you, that’s okay, you can write it out in a private place or find some way to get it from here (your head), out there so that it’s not just swirling around in your brain anymore. So that first step is to find a place to get it out.

2. Make peace with your disappointment and gratitude

Your second step is to tell yourself that it’s okay to have disappointment and gratitude and thankfulness. At the same time, you can be both disappointed and grateful for how things are. Give yourself the space to have both of those experiences at the same time.

3. What is possible because of the disappointment?

And third, I want you to ask yourself, what is possible because of the disappointment. So anytime we are disappointed it’s because something came or is that we didn’t expect so give yourself the space to consider this- write it out or talk about what is able to be because of the disappointment that you faced.

Disappointment is probably more common than you thing. Gender disappointment, circumstantial disappointment, birth, disappointment, all of these things happen because we picture in our head the way things are going to go. We are dreamers and have a vision and maybe sometimes that’s wrapped up in a little anxiety. We have an idea of how we think things will go, how we want them to go and how they should go. And so it’s natural and okay for you to have some disappointment when things don’t match up with the way you want them to. Give it some space. Give it a name. Identify the things that you can feel at the same time and then realize what is and what has come out of that unexpected disappointed experience.

Related: More than a mom

If you need a place to process the changes of new motherhood, a place to say the hard things and connect authentically with others, check out Postpartum Together Small groups. I help women just like you find peace and empowerment in the season after having a baby. I want you to be a confident, connected momma too.

Postpartum, Pumping

New Mom Question and Answers: Postpartum Depression, Pumping and Sex

Length of PPD, Painful Pumping, Sex Discomfort and More

This week’s New Mom Question and Answer covers pumping, sharing the load of baby care, painful sex, postpartum depression, communication and more. Read on.

New Mom Question 1: Pain while pumping, what do I do?

All right, you guys, I’m not a lactation consultant, but I was an exclusive pumper for 13 months. So I know a little bit about this. If you’re experiencing pain while pumping, there are a few things you want to look at.

My first thing that I encourage you to do is check your flange size. So the flange is the part on the outside of the pump that actually suctions on to your breast. Pumps come with a standard flange, but this might not be the right size for your breasts and your nipples. And so you want to check the flange size. You can look online for a flange check. And you may need to get a different size because if it is too big, it’s pulling too much, and it’s not working appropriately. If it’s too small, it’s going to be tight and cause some pain.

Photo from  MedelaPhoto from Medela


Potential Pumping Problems:

If that is not the solution. I want you to look into thrush, make sure that you’re not dealing with that. And also look in to mastitis, just make sure you’re not dealing with clogged ducks, and engorgement. And if you continue to have pain while pumping, try to identify where the pain is, is it deeper in your breast? Is it your nipple, and this is something you might want to talk specifically to a lactation consultant about if the flange doesn’t do the difference. And if there’s not, you know, an underlying issue like thrush and mastitis, one last thing you might want to look at is what kind of suction you’re using on your pump.

So if you are also nursing, you want this suction to mimic baby. I know how tempting it can be to up the suction, to try to decrease pumping times and I’ve been guilty of that too. But if you are having too high of a suction and too high the speed that could just be too uncomfortable for your breast

Related: Boob Problems After Birth

New Mom Question 2: Tips on Making Sex Less Painful, Especially When You are Nursing

I love that she brings up being a nursing mama because what this means is that often the hormones that are helping you to produce the breast milk are also decreasing your libido and decreasing the moisture that your vagina is able to make when you are getting in the mood or starting into sex. And so my number one tip y’all is more lube, lube lube lube, I’m going to put below the link for my favorite lube, Coco lube, and you want to be super liberal with your lube. And don’t feel any shame or weirdness about that, because your body is just not in a place to make as much as it did before.

Pelvic Floor Therapist

The second thing if you’re experiencing painful sex is to go to a pelvic floor therapist, this might be a physical therapist or an occupational therapist, often you can get a referral from your ob or midwife or just directly contact the therapist on your own. So some of these are insurance based, some of them are private pay, some of them are coming to your home, some of them are going to the office. But there’s so much that happens in that little region during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. And in many parts of the world, pelvic floor therapy is standard care. 

Rebuild the Pelvic Muscle

So it’s not weird at all, if you need to go and have someone help you to rebuild that structure in that muscle and tissue after giving birth.
If you want more information on this and just postpartum sex in general, I actually do interview a variety of people from a therapist, to a pelvic floor therapist to historians and doulas and more in my back in the sack, postpartum sex ecourse.

New Mom Question 3: Bleeding from C-Section Scar 3 Weeks After Birth

At postpartum together, we call c-sections belly birth, because you also gave birth, it just came out of your belly. Reminder/Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I am a coach who focuses on the postpartum/new mom period. My advice is from research and anecdotal, but not from a medical degree.

What Bleeding is Normal?

So this momma is saying that at three weeks, she’s still having a small amount of bleeding. Now, I did check in with this mama a little bit more and it seems like it was fairly normal bleeding. When you look into this repair this recovery, it’s about four to six weeks when you want that bleeding to just substantially decrease or go away. This is usually the time where you have that postpartum checkup as well to check your C-section scar. But I say this also- if you feeling like something is out of place, if you’re feeling worried, it’s totally fine to check in with your provider. Send them a picture. Ask them if these things are normal. Never feel like you’re being a burden or that you shouldn’t be able to check in with your provider as you are healing.
Related: Belly birth scar massage

New Mom Question 4: Can Postpartum Depression go Off and On Through the First Year?

Yes, yes. And yes, you are postpartum which is not just depression, postpartum is the season after baby, you are a postpartum for a year-ish after baby. This means that your hormones, your neurological system, all these things can take a year or even up to 18 months to recover. We see that postpartum depression can onset up to a year postpartum because of the changes of hormones.

Read More: Baby Blues or PPD, How to Tell the Difference

You may have weaning hormones- hormones related to nursing. It is important to know that this you might see some highs, you may see some lows, you may feel like you are having this off and on postpartum depression through that first year.

Providers, Medication, Conversation around PPD

I say that to also say continue to check with your provider. If you are using medication, continue your usage of medication and don’t just like go cold turkey on that if you’re feeling good for a few days. If you’re seeing a therapist, continue to bring that to your therapist and know that you’re having ongoing changes. Postpartum depression is common, it is something that we don’t need to be ashamed of, we don’t need to leave it as taboo. And so if you are facing this, continue to talk to your provider, but know that you’re probably going to have some highs and some lows throughout that first year-ish.
Related: How to find a therapist

New Mom Question 5: How Can I Make Baby Responsibilities Shared Between a Stay at Home Mom and 40 Hour Work Week Partner?

This is a really tough one that goes into so many different layers of communication and scheduling and understanding what it actually takes to take care of a baby. So I encourage my clients who are also stay at home moms to think about that as your 40 hour a week job and then your partner has their outside of the home 40 hour a week job.

Block Scheduling

Now how do we look at the in-between and the other things that need to be done? This doesn’t mean that stay at home mom is also the default parent all night, all weekend and all the time. We don’t want to fall into that default mode. What I use with some of my clients and I actually do one-on-ones is block scheduling. This means that we aren’t just kind of wondering who’s on or hoping that the partner takes over. This means that we are being intentional and proactive about our time about who’s in charge; who’s kind of the default parent. This means that we can enjoy our time.

We can schedule in time to be together, we can really schedule in meaningful family time. But this means that we don’t have this default, where the stay at home mom is also the person who’s picking up the slack at 9pm, or the middle of the night or the weekends. Be really intentional about your communication, be really intentional about how you split that time outside of the 40 hour work week. And also honor the fact that being a stay at home mom is really freaking hard and we can count that as our work. But that doesn’t mean that our work is 80 or 120 hours a week. This means that we honor that time, we honor our partners’ other work time. And then we think about that in between and all the gaps that needs to be filled, and how we proactively fill that together.
Related: Communication after baby

Thank you guys for submitting your questions this week on Instagram you can always head over there to submit questions for the week.

pregnancy

Pregnancy Memes: Hilarious Memes New Moms Need in Each Trimester

What are the stages of pregnancy?

As you track your pregnancy week by week, you likely know what size fruit your baby is or what should happen on your pregnancy trimester timeline. Sometimes, though, you need a relatable laugh from pregnancy memes for each trimester. Here they are to get you through when the weeks feel like years and the symptoms feel unrelenting. 

If you’re wondering what you can expect each trimester for mom and baby, you can check out my post over on the Zulily blog where I break down the stages of pregnancy, timeline of the weeks and all the changes. 

We know every pregnancy is different, but there are a lot of changes to expect as you go through each month and week of pregnancy, so here are some laughs to help you through.

three pregnancy trimester description
t

First Trimester of Pregnancy Memes

The first trimester is the land of morning sickness, tender breasts, increased visits to the bathroom and probably a lot of fatigue. Your body is creating a human, so that’s cool. As this happens you’ll have a roller coaster of emotions that impact your body in many different ways. Is your partner calling you moody while you are running to the bathroom trying to decide if you need to pee or puke next? Might be time to take that pregnancy test.


I knew I was pregnant the moment I tried to eat hot sauce and peanut butter in the same bite… and it was confirmed by the pink lines shortly after. Some women notice pregnancy symptoms before a missed period, some can go weeks without realizing they are pregnant. Either way, each journey is filled with some surprise and a variety of emotions as you prepare for this big change.
Related: Myths about motherhood

first trimester is like one long all day hangover meme
woman being sarcastic about first trimester smptoms
peeing all the time in first trimester meme

Second Trimester of Pregnancy Memes

The second trimester brings a growing belly and boobs and is sometimes accompanied by new aches and pains (charlie horses drove me crazy!), skin changes, dental changes, and more. It is also when most moms start to experience the baby kicks. Some even call it the “golden” trimester but that’s still out for your own interpretation. I remember the second trimester as more energy, more cravings and more heartburn. Oh, and leggings. Lots of leggings. Check out some of my favorite clothes for pregnancy and beyond.

woman realizes she cannot shave her legs anymore while pregnant meme
kick me baby one more time brittney spears meme

Third Trimester of Pregnancy Memes

While the third trimester is the last trimester of pregnancy, that doesn’t mean it feels quick. The third trimester is the start of braxton-hicks cramping, often back aches, swelling and that frequent urination again. I remember the third trimester being back and forth- days when I tried to sit back and soak it up and days I just wanted pregnancy to be over. And still, lots of leggings.

what size pants do you wear? leggings
there isn't room for both of us anymore said all of my internal organs to my growing baby bump
each

When you’re moving through the trimesters of pregnancy and preparing for birth remember no two pregnancies are the same and in the midst of it all, find some time and space to laugh. Want to know exactly how you and baby are growing through the three trimesters?
Check out my post on the Zulily blog with all the info.

The Fourth Trimester

Wait, another trimester? The fourth trimester is the time after you have your baby. This refers to baby adjusting to life outside of the womb and mom’s recovery. We love all things life after baby here at Postpartum Together and you can find lots of stories in the Postpartum category. During this time you also have a postpartum check up to make sure you are healing and adjusting!

Postpartum

The 6-Week Postpartum Check-Up: How to Maximize Your Postpartum Care

How to prepare for your postpartum exam. Do you need to go to your 6 week check up? How to know when you need more checkups after giving birth.

C is for Check-Up: The 6 week Postpartum Check Up at

Transcript from video:
Oh, hey, it’s time for another blog on the taboo ABCs of postpartum. C is for checkup, and we’re going to be talking about that usually only one postpartum checkup you get which is usually a 6 week check up (sometimes between 4-8 weeks). Now, for the record, I don’t think one checkup is sufficient at all. But we are going to talk about how to maximize that checkup. Also we discuss what to talk to your provider about and how to be your own best advocate.

If you’re new here, my name is Chelsea Skaggs. I am a postpartum coach and the founder of Postpartum Together. And we are freaking committed to making sure that the postpartum narrative changes so that women are more educated, normalized, supported and empowered in the postpartum season.

Now, reminder, postpartum is not just a few weeks. Postpartum is the year ish after baby. And postpartum is not just related to depression, postpartum is a season we all go through regardless of a diagnosis or not. So postpartum is the season after baby full of transitions that we all go through as birthing humans.

Related: Where do we learn about postpartum?

We Believe Women Deserve More Check Ups After Baby

A whole other tangent is that one postpartum checkup is not enough. The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommend comprehensive follow-ups after having a baby. One appointment is not comprehensive follow up. However, we still have this issue of insurance and providers and the communication and honoring the postpartum season. We know that postpartum is a time that is often just kind of disregarded and pushed under the rug, and we’re not given full on comprehensive support. So we’re going to talk today about how to make that one 6 week check up appointment the best it possibly can be. We also discuss if and when you need to how to advocate for more appointments and more care for yourself.

Now, usually, this appointment happens between four and eight weeks. If you had a belly birth, you might have an earlier appointment. Depending on circumstances, it’s probably going to be somewhere between four and eight weeks. At this point, you’re still healing in a lot of ways. You are still living in a lot of a fog. This is kind of a survival mode.

I know from my own experience, and from some of my clients that when we go to that appointment, it’s hard to even know where to start what to ask. Chances are your provider is going to ask some questions, checking on you, but they may not address all the things that you actually need them to address in that appointment. It’s important that you come in proactively knowing what you need answers to and what you need checked on so that you can feel confident to leave that appointment and continue healing and continue growing as a new mom.

What to ask at your Postpartum 6-Week Check Up

So the first thing is that physical healing, right, they’re likely going to check your whether it’s a belly incision, whether it’s in the vaginal tearing and repair that is happening in that area. No matter how you gave birth, there is recovery, they’re probably going to check how your bleeding is- is it down to very minimal or has it stopped at this point? They’re going to check if everything is healing- scars are healing, how is that doing? If you’re still experiencing pain, this is a good time to bring that up like hey, I’m still feeling this way. Is there something that I should be concerned about? Do you know something I can do about it?

Related: Postpartum Plan Checklist

While we’re talking about physical healing, I want you to bring up your pelvic floor. This doesn’t always come up in appointments from a lot of my clients, we actually have to go out and self advocate for this. You carry the baby, right in this vicinity, resting on your pelvis. And regardless of if you gave vaginal or belly birth, you had a baby resting on your pelvis, affecting your organs, affecting the tissue in the muscle and everything that makes up your pelvic floor.

Asking about the Pelvic Floor at your 6-week checkup

In some countries, pelvic floor therapy is standard care for everyone after baby. Here in the US, we often have to either have a big problem we bring up or we have to advocate.
Hey, I know my body went through a lot of stress, I think that pelvic floor therapy would be beneficial for me.
Chances are, it would be beneficial for you. But we know that especially if you’re feeling:
-Bearing down weight called prolapse.
-Experiencing pain & incontinence.
-Once you’re ready to start having sex again, if that is painful and uncomfortable.
These are good times to talk about pelvic floor therapy.

Be that bridge, again, be your own best self advocate.

Related: What is the pelvic floor?

Ask about Mental Health at your Postpartum Check Up

Now, also at this appointment, you’re likely going to get a mental health screening, this is for postpartum depression. I’m going to tell you right now, it has some language in it that can be suggestive, and in my opinion, a little tricky. Some questions are like, I feel sad for no good reason. And you’re like, well, I don’t know everything in my life just changed. Is that a good reason? Or is that not a good reason? I don’t know who’s the judge of whether this is a good reason.

If you’re feeling off, don’t feel ashamed of how you need to answer those questions. And don’t feel like there’s not room to press into it more and ask your provider to talk more with you about your mental health.  Depression is not just feeling sad, it can be rage or other experiences.

It doesn’t have to be: “I can’t get out of bed.” It sometimes is, and that’s worth addressing, too. But know that in motherhood, you’re going to feel off, you’re going to feel different. But if you’re just really feeling like your day to day is compromised, bring that up. Don’t let that screening be where it stops. I passed screenings in situations where I likely needed more support. That phrasing like “for no good reason” really threw me off. Like my whole life just changed, and my vagina is falling apart, and I haven’t slept like that feels like a good reason. So talk more about that.

Mental Health and Birth Trauma

If you experienced birth trauma, it is important to consider how that could have impact you. It could impact your bond and your relationship with your baby, your relationship with your body, your confidence as a mom. So these are all important things to bring up in the 6 week check up. If you feel like you would benefit from therapy that’s okay, too. There’s no shame in that. Ask your provider if they have a maternal health therapists that they would recommend. Maybe it’s someone in the network.

Related: Postpartum Anxiety Story

Sex & Exercise After the 6-Week Check Up

I want you to make sure that you are talking about more than just your reengagement.  We think of this six weeks as like, check mark, you can have sex and exercise now. But you guys, it’s not that simple. You don’t have to start your same intense workouts right after baby and you don’t have to get back to sex in the same way right after baby. So don’t look at this as just like this green light means go full force, I’m healed. You are not healed at six weeks.

It takes intention and it takes getting back into things. So ask your provider, “What would be an appropriate way to get back into exercise? What would be an appropriate way to move back towards intimacy. Again, we want this to be a positive experience for you. Do not be afraid to ask more questions and go a little bit deeper. Your provider is probably going to also talk to you about family planning. Go into it knowing-what do you want? Know that you have a say and you can ask those questions about what are what are the risks, what are the benefits and find the best solution for you.

Purpose of the Postpartum 6-Week Check Up

I want you to feel like this checkup is about you and that you are worthy of the time and the space that it takes and that it is not rushed, that it is not blown off. If you need more appointments, make another appointment. Tell them that you need their support.

A lot of people think that postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar, like all of these things happen in the first few weeks. And that’s not always the case, it can have an onset at three or six or nine months.

And then your pelvic floor- if you are three months out, and you start to have sex again and it’s really painful, you need to talk to them about getting that pelvic floor therapy. If, you’re having incontinence, which means that you’re not holding your fluids in- peeing, pooping, farting without control, you can schedule that appointment and continue to talk about those things.

Be Your Own Best Advocate: Prepare for Postpartum and Maximize the 6 Week Check up

Don’t feel like your postpartum care has to be limited. We have to be our own best advocates. And that comes from understanding what to bring to the table advocating for our own best needs, and really using that time.

So I hope that this helps you to be more prepared for your postpartum checkup. Whether it’s coming up in a day a week, or you’re you know, just right now expecting or thinking about conceiving, know that this is a space where you deserve time, you deserve attention, and you deserve to have the resources and support.

Again, I am Chelsea Skaggs and the founder of Postpartum Together if you are pregnant girl, get my postpartum planning ecourse that is going to walk you through all the things you need to have prepared for an empowered and supported postpartum and life after baby. If you are you know already postpartum, Maybe you want to grab the postpartum sex Back in the Sack eCourse where we talk about the mental, the emotional, and the physical implications of intimacy again after baby. Maybe you need some extra support, some guidance, some tips, resources and empowerment, check out our postpartum together small groups.

Postpartum, Pumping

DMER in New Moms: Anxiety When Breastfeeding by Pumping or Nursing

Anxiety When Breastfeeding: A Hormonal Response, Not Mood Disorder

D-MER is a physiological response to the release of breast milk. It can feel like sadness or anxiety when breastfeeding. It is a hormonal reflex and is not an indicator of a mood disorder. The feelings should not last more than a few seconds or minutes. I remember wondering if my body or mind was telling me I didn’t like breastfeeding or wasn’t connected with my baby. Research shows D-MER to have no link to mother-baby bond and to be uncontrollable by the mother.

RELATED: Myths About Motherhood

Many women learn about D-MER by searching things like “I feel sad when breastfeeding” or “I don’t know if my body likes breastfeeding.” According to d-mer.org, “Dysphoria is defined as an unpleasant or uncomfortable mood, such as sadness, depressed mood, anxiety, irritability, or restlessness. Etymologically, it is the opposite of euphoria.” In reference to D-MER we can see that the unpleasant or uncomfortable mood impacts the milk ejection reflex.

RELATED: Boob Issues After Baby

woman breast pumping and feeling anxious from DMER

D-MER is Not a Mother Failing

It is important for moms to know that D-MER is not a failure or a direct reflection of their ability to breastfeed. The anxiety when breastfeeding is not an active choosing to not attach to your baby or hold any negative feelings. This understanding can help moms to make an educated and supported choice on whether to continue feeding through the experience.

Some believe that things like nutrition, rest, exercise, reducing stress and cutting back on caffeine can impact the hormones and improve D-MER symptoms. (I know, I know, all of those things can be hella hard to do when you have an infant!) Remember, your maternal mental health is always an important factor.

10 Things Moms on Instagram Said about D-Mer

When we brought up D-MER on Instagram, moms had a lot to say about it! Maybe some of their responses will resonate with you too:

  • It was such a relief to realize I wasn’t alone. To love breastfeeding but experience that feeling of dread was so very confusing.
  • You just solved something I thought I was making up. I say to myself “I’m just sleep deprived” or “I had too much caffeine today” but it comes and goes with my let down 2-3 times a day.
  • I did not know this was a thing but have totally experienced this and wondered “What’s wrong with me?”
  • My mother recounts this with my youngest sibling. She switched to formula and internalized not trusting herself with the baby for months.
  • I had it through all three of my kids. Breastfed a total of 7 years. Deep breathing and mindfulness techniques helped.
  • Totally had this. It was like a mini anxiety attack just as I was getting set up to pump and it would go away shortly after letdown.
  • I felt this way sometimes and I felt so yucky! I couldn’t explain it because it almost came out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly.
  • With my first baby I would ball my eyes out the first 5-10 min of nursing her. I could be happy as could be, start nursing and tears would start flowing. I thought I was crazy.
  • It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it’s awful. That foreboding, sense of dread and anxiety. Someone said it’s a homesick feeling and that’s such a good explanation. Just dread.
  • I told my mom about how I was feeling and she thought I was on the verge of a mental breakdown.

What to Do If You Have Anxiety While Breastfeeding

If you’re experiencing D-MER the first thing to know is that you’re not alone and you’re not doing something wrong. Our bodies have many changes and responses to pregnancy, birth and postpartum and it looks different for everyone. As your hormones are regulating, you may experience D-MER. If you do, remember it won’t last long and you can get through it.
1. Take deep breaths. (Almost like labor!)
2. Create a mantra Ex: This is only a moment and I accept this moment.
3. Stay connected
4. If it persists or becomes too much, talk with your doctor about

Postpartum

Navigating Your First Period After Having a Baby

What to Expect From Your First Period after Baby- and When Will it Return?!

After giving birth, there is a period of time before you start to experience a menstrual cycle again. You may be wondering if your periods will be different during postpartum after baby or how long it will take for your period to return. While periods after birth vary greatly, there are some things you can expect when it comes to having your first period after baby.

Chances are, it has been awhile since you had your last menstrual cycle. While pregnant, there is no ovulation and no period (except for VERY RARE cases of superfetation.)

RELATED: New Mom New Baby Postpartum Guide

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional.  I am a postpartum coach and mother of 2. While all content on Postpartum Together is created with research and best practices, do not replace any information with the direct care of your medical provider. Also this site may use affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, Postpartum Together may receive a portion of commission from any sales.

what to expect from your first period after having a baby

When Should My Period Return After Giving Birth?

The return of your period can happen anywhere from a few weeks postpartum to months- even a year+ after giving birth. On average the return of period is around 74 days, but breastfeeding can draw out the time it takes for your period to return because of the hormone levels.  While it is not common for a woman to ovulate while she is breastfeeding, it can happen (and yes, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding!) Your body produces more prolactin when you are breastfeeding to stimulate milk production. This usually keeps your ovaries from releasing eggs and, in turn, not experiencing periods.

Are Periods After Baby Different?

It’s likely going to take a few cycles for you to feel like your period is back to “normal.”  You may have fewer or more days between cycles, your flow may be heavier or lighter and PMS, cramping and other symptoms can feel different after giving birth. If you are noticing a difference in your menstrual cycles, don’t be alarmed. Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum cause many fluctuations in your hormones and the impacts go beyond the days of birth and early postpartum. This means we can’t give you a direct answer about what to expect from your period after baby, which is probably frustrating, but know that if periods feel different or you don’t know what to expect, you’re in good company. Most women notice some kind of change at least for the first couple of cycles.

RELATED: Postpartum Emotions

Will I Have Less Menstrual Cramping After Birth?

Often women with endometriosis or other painful period experiences are told they may have less cramping and pain in periods after going through pregnancy (I remember being told this when I was in high school and first prescribed birth control for my periods which, in another story, wasn’t great.) The reason you may experience less pain after birth is again hormones. Increased progesterone levels can carry over from pregnancy and birth which impacts endometrial tissue and can result in less painful periods. This can be a welcomes reprieve after birth, though this does not mean periods will continue to be less painful (I know, bummer).

Some women do enjoy less painful periods after birth. This can be from the cervix and uterus changing shapes, sometimes stretch and impacting the cramps you may experience. Also, hormones can cause the uterus to relax and create easier periods.

Why is My First Period After Birth So Heavy?

First, it’s important to know that lochia after birth can last 4-8 weeks (average 6 weeks) after giving birth. Lochia is the bleeding and tissue passing after giving birth as your body heals from pregnancy and delivery. Read more about Postpartum Bleeding here

During this time, it’s important to know what red flags to look out for such as:

  • Red and heavy blood more than a week postpartum
  • Large clots (bigger than golf ball), or high number of clots
  • Discharge has a foul-smell
  • Fever or chills
  • Dizzy and/or nauseous
  • Racing heart

Note: Postpartum bleeding may increase when you are breastfeeding, engaged in activity (walking steps, etc.), straining to use the restroom or when you first get out of bed.

Bleeding is a normal part of postpartum as the body transitions from pregnancy and birth. However, if you feel your bleeding is abnormal, contact your doctor.

In the first period after birth, you may still be experiencing heavier periods which can be caused from the changes in your uterus and the mucous lining throughout pregnancy and birth. As this continues to pass and go “back to normal,” your periods should also.

What is a “Normal” Period After Baby?

Just like pre-baby, normal looks different for everyone and every body. According to the experts at the Cleveland Clinic, an average menstrual cycle is “28 days long; however, a cycle can range in length from 21 days to about 35 days.” The Cleveland Clinic also indicates that most women bleed 3-5 days “but a period lasting only two days to as many as seven days is still considered normal.”

As your cycle returns after birth, you should be thinking of “normal” as your normal pre-pregnancy and use that to identify if anything feels off. This also means if you had struggles like PCOS or endometriosis, they may return after having a baby (though you should have a continual conversation with your provider about this.)

Another consideration is if you were on birth control prior to your pregnancy. Birth control is known to shorten or even get rid of menstrual cycles and so you baseline of “normal” may be different when you are postpartum and not back on birth control.

Cramping During Breastfeeding: Is My Period Back Already?!

Some women wonder if their menstrual cycle is returning just days (or hours!) after giving birth.  Do not fear, you are not experiencing the return of your period. This is most likely involution- afterbirth cramping.

Afterbirth cramping is the process of your uterus returning to its’ regular size after growing during pregnancy and delivering during birth. This can be noticed most during breastfeeding due to the hormonal release.

I Had My First Period, Now Will They Be Consistent?

Once you’ve had your first postpartum period, you might wonder if you can count on a regular schedule. Chance are, it will take a few cycles in order for your periods to be predictable again. This means you want to still use protection if you are having sex and carry your favorite hygiene products with you (um have you tried Thinx Period Panties yet?!) Also remember that the flow, duration and cycle can change as your body regulates again and gets back into a rhythm. If you find yourself with erratic periods for months after you cycle returns, it’s a good idea to talk with your medical provider about this.

RELATED: Am I Ready for Sex After Baby?

So in short, it’s hard to describe exactly what to expect with your first postpartum period. Like pregnancy, birth, and all things postpartum- our bodies all recover and operate in different ways. Do not be surprised by a difference in duration or flow during your first few cycles after you give birth. Know the signs of any postpartum bleeding problems, and have open honest conversations with your medical provider about what you are experiencing so that you can have your periods with confidence.

do period underwear really work to hold bloodThinx Period Undies are my go-to for all periods, but I SO wish I would have known about them for postpartum and the first period after baby. They can hold up to 4 tampons worth, and are created to absorb moisture and smell. Seriously periods suck, but this can make it less sucky.
Plus, with the link you get $10 off your first order.
motherhood, Postpartum

Alternatives to Tampons and Pads: Making the Switch to Better Period Products

The Truth about Periods, Pads, and Tampons

Do you remember that time the boys and girls were separated for a special series of middle school health class? There was awkward talk about sex, boobs and vaginas. I even remember talking about how friendships could change and hormonal girl fights. I remember hearing about how you would be wearing a tampon and/or pad to soak up the blood and how everyone has that one time blood gets through and creates an embarrassing moment. What I don’t remember anyone talking about is how standard brands of tampons and pads can be full of toxins, how uncomfortable they can be, how the fill up landfills and how there are actually other options. I did not learn about tampon alternatives.

To be fair, “other” options weren’t as prevalent at that time, but you’re in luck because now there are so many more options for how you treat your vagina well and honor the feminine time. Whether you despise or don’t mind your menstrual cycle, having a way to deal with it that feels good is important.

Related: Am I Ready for Sex After Giving Birth?


are pads and tampons full of toxic chemicals and are they safe to use

Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links which means that at no extra cost to you, Postpartum Together may receive a small commission from any purchases made on this page. Good news- we only recommend things we love to use ourselves and products/services that don’t suck. 

Why You Need to Ditch Most Pads and Tampons

Your vaginal walls are very permeable. This means that anything near them can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. While chemicals sprayed on cotton may not have a big impact on the tshirt you’re wearing, putting that cotton into you through your vagina runs greater risk. Having that cotton (and other elements we’ll discuss) resting on the vulva and opening of your vagina means that the toxins that are present in that pad or tampon have more access to your bloodstream and body.

Toxins Found to be Present in Pads and Tampons

Currently (August 2020) only the state of New York requires ingredients to be disclosed on packaging of period products. (Read about the recent bill signed by Governor Cuomo). Because tampons and pads are seen as “medical products” there is no regulation and no federal bill stating that ingredients must be disclosed. This is a problem when it comes to products that go inside or near your vagina. According to Women’s Voices for the Earth 2018 testing, “Previous testing of tampons and menstrual pads have found pesticide residue, parabens and phthalates linked to hormone disruption, antibacterial chemicals like triclosan, and various carcinogens including styrene and chloroform.” This alone is an alarm to find a tampon alternative.

Let’s say you have your period from the ages of 13-53. That’s 40 years of periods and 12 periods a year. Let’s take out 3 years of no periods if you have 2 children. 40×12=480 -36 =444. Four hundred and forty four periods. Four hundred and forty four days of wearing something inside of you for 5(ish) days. That’s 2,220 days of products inside of you (or lining your vulva). With that frequency, it makes sense that you would want to protect and be mindful of what you’re using.

With chemicals, pesticides, dyes and sometimes fragrances compromising tampons and pads, that’s a lot of exposure. If you haven’t thought about this before, don’t beat yourself up or feel ashamed. We aren’t taught this in health class. Most of the time this isn’t mentioned to us by our PCP or OBGYN. There is a lack of education and support surrounding women’s reproductive health and in an ideal world we wouldn’t even have to think about whether the products made for our bodies are safe. You’re here now- hooray! It’s never too late to make positive changes.

Waste of Pads & Tampons

Not only are feminine hygiene products unregulated and containing potentially harmful chemicals, they create a lot of waste. I know, there are a lot of things that create a lot of waste, but this is one step each of us can take to cut down on our waste. Not only do the actual products create waste, but plastic tampon applicators and pad wrapping also creates waste (read more from National Geographic here).

Save Money with Tampon Alternatives

I like to keep things honest so I’m going to tell you truthfully- there are options that are going to be cheaper than your regular tampon and pad purchases (like using a reusable menstrual cup) and there are options that will be more expensive (like having 4-5 pairs of period underwear) so if price is the major factor for you, switching to a cup is going to be what saves you the most money.

Related: First Period After Baby

What to Use for Your Period Instead


do menstrual cups work


do thinx period underwear actually hold all your blood

Period Underwear as Tampon Alternatives

Pros: Non-intrusive, nothing to change in and out all day, eco-friendly, reusable, prevents accidental leaks
Cons: Harder to have on hand for emergencies, More expensive

Menstrual Cup as Tampon Alternatives

Pros: Cheapest option, eco-friendly, reusable, toxin-free silicone
Cons: Messy, Some believe it can cause TSS (though very unlikely, read more here)

Washable Pads as Tampon Alternatives

Pros: Reusable, nothing in and out all day
Cons: Hard to stay in place, easy to leak

Related: Finding a Pelvic Floor Therapist and Why You Need One

Why I Choose Thinx for Period Care

Recently I upped my period game and made the switch to Thinx Period Panties. While I’ve been free of disposable period products for years now, this was a step from using mostly cups to now primarily using the underwear. First, I bought one pair to try them out. I noticed that the absorbance exceeded my expectations, they were comfortable to wear, I didn’t experience the “stink” throughout the day and didn’t feel gross and wet. My husband even commented on how cute they were. This is more than I can say for any other type of period product. ALSO while I haven’t personally had this experience, I’ve been told they are GREAT for postpartum bleeding once you graduate from the momma diapers!

As a previous cup user, I really enjoyed not needing to empty my cup, get blood on my hands, find a sink, etc., especially in public places. Along with how convenient and effective they are, I also feel great about supporting a company committed to eradicating the taboo of postpartum and providing effective solutions around the world. Have questions about using Thinx for your periods? You can find all my Q&As on my personal Instagram. Head to the profile highlights and find “Thinx!” and check back to the blog as we share more information about Thinx, periods, postpartum and more!

If you want to try Thinx for $10 off your order, you can find my favorite style and all the details here!


why should you switch to period underwear
Postpartum, Pumping

Your Breasts After Pregnancy and Giving Birth: What You Need to Know

Engorged Boobs, Nipple Pain, Breastfeeding and More

I thought it was as easy as choosing whether I wanted to breastfeed or not. I considered things like how long I had off of work and if I would be comfortable breastfeeding in public. We considered the financial tradeoff, my family’s history, my friends opinion. What I didn’t know the factors could include so many boob problems like mastitis, thrush, insufficient glandular tissue, D-MER, nipple pain, engorgement and more. My breasts after pregnancy came with a number of surprises.

We talk a lot about how you choose to feed a baby. Nursing, formula, pumping, combination. But, we don’t talk much about all the issues that can be part of that decision. The breast issues that can occur after birth can be painful and isolating and they are often still taboo. This post is meant to introduce topics, not go deeply into each.

Breasts After Pregnancy are Not One Size Fits All 

By being aware of these, the goal is that we are more understanding of our bodies (boobs primarily), understand the complexity of feeding choices for ourselves and for others, and speak more openly about a part of our bodies that is often taboo.

 

Note: At Postpartum Together we are team “Take care of you and your family in the way that suits you. There is no one way to feed a baby.” With this in mind, we will refer to problems that can occur both while breastfeeding and/or in the process of stopping milk production. We believe in YOU and the choices you make. It is important for you to be informed and supported throughout your entire motherhood journey- with no one best way to mother.

 

mastitis, thrush, engorgement breastfeeding

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be medical advice, please talk with your providers about any issues or questions you may have. Also, this post contains affiliate links which means, at no extra cost to you Postpartum Together may receive a commission for items purchased from this page.

When Boobs Aren’t Sexy

Chances are, your breasts have been seen by yourself, your partner and/or others at some point in your life as a sex appeal. Breasts are part of the dominant sex narrative of our culture and are often deduced to an object of attraction. With the complicated meaning given to our breasts as we first form them in adolescence and all through our lives, the changes and function of breasts after pregnancy can feel confusing. For many women, it is unsettling to discuss difficulties related to boobs because of two narratives: 1. The sex appeal of breasts and 2. The “Natural” language surrounding breastfeeding.

Body Image and Breasts After Pregnancy

It is okay for you to explore how the changing function of your breasts after pregnancy impacts you as your consider body image and emotional response. It may take time for you to decide how you want your breasts to factor into your motherhood experience and how that impacts both you and your partner.

When we take into account how celebrated a bikini model picture is and how shamed a breastfeeding in public picture is, we can see that there is a general societal discomfort with the functionality of breasts. Whether or not you choose not to breastfeed, you still face the changes your breasts experience in form, shape and size.

RELATED: Sex After Baby, Am I Ready?

Some Boobs Can’t Produce Enough Milk for Feeding

IGT

An uncommon, but real and unspoken breast issue is Insufficient Glandular Tissue. This occurs when the mammary tissue doesn’t develop properly in adolescence. The lack of tissue results in the breasts no producing any milk or producing a very small amount. This is an uncommon issue, but very real and important for us to know as professionals, friends, and mothers. You can learn more about IGT on KellyMom

Endocrine System

Some health problems impacting the endocrine system may have an impact on the hormonal release necessary for milk production. Health problems like PCOS, thyroid (high or low), diabetes, hypertension may factor into the body’s ability to produce milk.

Boobs Can be Physically Painful

Regardless of your choices around breastfeeding (if you do, how you do, how long you do), the body producing milk in reaction to birth can be difficult. From planning to breastfeed to planning to dry up milk supply, there are things to consider as your boobs physically change. Your boobs after pregnancy can create painful situations you want to be aware of.

Engorgement:

Engorgement is the fullness of the breasts that can make the breasts hard and painful. This often happens when milk starts to come in (around day 3-5) and can happen throughout a feeding or weaning journey.

Engorgement can be tricky because you want to relieve the fullness and possible pain without stimulating the body to produce more milk. If you are choosing to not breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding, engorgement can be a painful part of telling your body to stop making milk. Engorged breasts after pregnancy can also lead to plugged/clogged ducts which can be uncomfortable or painful. This article from The Bump provides good information on engorgement.

Mastitis:

Mastitis feels like the flu on steroids. An inflammation of tissue, mastitis can also turn into an infection. Bacteria entering a cracked nipple or clogged milk ducts can lead to mastitis. This is one of the issues that can require medication to heal. It can happen as your milk is coming in and your milk supply is not regulated, when baby goes through a nursing strike, when you begin wearing tight-fitting tops again, or any other point in a feeding or weaning journey (when weaning or choosing not to breastfeed, work with a professional to decrease milk supply and avoid clogged ducts). You can learn all about Mastitis in this Healthline Article.


Thrush:

Thrush can happen in different areas of the body throughout life- it is not exclusive to boobs after baby. However, thrush can come along with milk and feeding choices. This is another issue that can require medication and special treatment. You often can feel thrush on/in/around your nipples and with a stinging pain throughout the breast. This is from candida yeast and can be passed between you and baby (if you are nursing) or you and the pump (if you are pumping). Learn the signs and treatment of Thrush here.

 

Breasts after Pregnancy Can Cause Emotional Reactions

 


Why do I feel sad when I start breastfeeding

With D-MER, we are not talking about the kind of emotional reaction you felt when you walked by a frat house in that sexy top you bought in college. We are talking about DMER- Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. DMER is the onset of negative emotions, sometimes describes as depression, anxiety, anger, annoyance, upon a let down. DMER is physiological, not psychological. This is not an indication of a direct feeling towards feeding, but a hormonal reflex (quick drop of dopamine). Some women say it feels like a pit that hits the stomach and a wave of sadness. This usually only lasts a few moments at and following a letdown. You can learn more about DMER here.

RELATED: What is Maternal Ambivalence?

Making Boobs Less Taboo

On the quest to make boob issues less taboo, it takes a group effort. It takes professional who prepare women for birth and postpartum bringing up these topics and potential struggles. It takes professionals, such as lactation consultant, postpartum nurses, etc., being educated in and openly discussing the issues that may arise during the choice of breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. This requires us, as women and the collective of mothers, sharing our experiences and stories without the fear that our boobs are “broken” or a “failure.”

Can we commit to normalizing the conversation around breasts way beyond swimsuit magazines, push up bras and sexual desirability? What if instead we made room for the conversation around the many changes that happen to and within the boobs and how that impacts us mentally, physically, and emotionally? This is the way we make breasts and specifically breasts after pregnancy less taboo and a more natural part of our lives.

Related: Finding Counseling Support for Perinatal Mental Health

Resources for Breastfeeding

If you are choosing to breastfeed and are looking for resources, you can find some of my favorites here:
Pumping/Back to Work Class

Exclusively Pumping Class

Breastfeeding Cookbook

Breastfeeding Planner

Get Your Free Pump through Insurance

Pumping Must-Have

Beaugen Breastpump Cushions

Postpartum

Maternal Ambivalence: Mixed Feelings About Being a New Mom

Am I a Bad Mom for Feeling Maternal Ambivalence?

Do you feel like motherhood is not pure bliss 100% of the time? Is your joy is mixed with resentment and grief? ⁣Do you have 𝘮𝘪𝘹𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 about motherhood? ⁣ Are experiencing maternal ambivalence? What does that mean and what does it say about you as a mother?

If this is you, chances are you feel a sense of shame or guilt about these feelings. It ss easy to feel like you are the only one going through an uncomfortable experience, especially the kind not many people talk openly about. Believe it or not, maternal ambivalence and what you are experiencing is probably more common than you know. This post will discuss what maternal ambivalence is, why you may have mixed feelings about motherhood, whether or not this makes you a bad mom, and how to work through conflicting emotions regarding motherhood.

a is for ambivalence postpartum together postpartum coach

What does Ambivalence Mean?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ambivalence means:

having two opposing feelings at the same time, or being uncertain about how you feel.

  • I felt very ambivalent about leaving home.

  • He has fairly ambivalent feelings toward his father

  • She has an ambivalent attitude to exercise

Ambivalence describes this opposition of feelings we can have simultaneously. When we discuss maternal ambivalence, this is the opposing or conflicting feelings regarding motherhood, ones role as a mother, you children, or a mix.

What if I don’t Always Love Motherhood?

It can be hard to say out loud, to say to another person, but likely there are times you don’t love motherhood and things you don’t love about it. Motherhood requires us to continually balance our children’s needs with our own needs for growth.

In a day full of gleeful social media feeds and “good mom” expectations, you might not feel safe in your conflicting feelings. ⁣

Motherhood comes with a long list of things to do, shortened time for the self, and a roller coaster of emotions. ⁣

𝗠𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗮𝗺𝗯𝗶𝘃𝗮𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗺𝗶𝘅 𝗼𝗳 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘆𝗲𝘁 𝗮 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀.

⁣Maybe someone says birth is “love at first sight” and you are filled with other emotions when your baby is first handed over to you.
Maybe your child’s need is keeping you from a job, a friendship, your partner, quiet time… things that make you feel resentment or anger even though you surely love your child.

Maybe someone says “isn’t motherhood just the best?!” and it leaves you wondering if you’re broken because you don’t always feel that way. ⁣

𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻’𝘁 𝗯𝗿𝗼𝗸𝗲𝗻.

The system of unrealistic expectations of the “good mom” is broken and ambivalence can be a very normal part of motherhood. ⁣

There are many things you don’t expect about postpartum, as discussed in the 10 Things No One Tells You About Postpartum, and those things can both take us by surprise and also create negative feelings towards motherhood.

Related: Postpartum Planner

I have Mixed Feelings Because I Miss My Old Life

Motherhood changes everything, and it changes it quickly. Mixed emotions are a part of any big change, yet it seems like with motherhood there isn’t room for these conversations and topics.

I first heard of maternal ambivalence when I was pregnant with my second child and it felt like a relief to learn about. It still felt “icky” and “unpleasant” to consider and I felt guilty even considering it. Heck, even today as I write I feel like there is darkness and guilt tied to thinking about the role ambivalence can play into our motherhood. And yet, the language that gives a name and permission to the resentment, boredom, anxiety in the midst of joy, love and gratitude. The term maternal ambivalence allowed me to realize this wasn’t something flawed in me. It was, and it is, a very natural reaction.

what does it mean if I have mixed feelings about motherhood with a new baby

I love My Baby But I’ve Lost My Identity

When we care deeply about things, we have emotional reactions. For many of us, there are things about ourselves and our reality pre-baby that we love. Maybe you love your career. You love your outings with your best friends. Or maybe you love spontaneous travel with your partner. It could be your love for reading a book in your PJs all weekend.

Then, motherhood hits and things we know, the things we love, are turned upside down. Being sad about the loss of those things doesn’t take away your ability and the reality that you love your child. It means you have mixed emotions worth recognizing.

While you are working through the change of your identity in many ways, you’re now taking on the identity of a mom. The opportunities for judgement and self-doubt run wild in our current society.

How does a good mom feel after birth?
How does she feel about her baby? Herself? Her changed life?
What are the things she does, says and feels that makes her a good mom?

Related: New Baby, Lost Identity

Society And Motherhood: Contributor to Ambivalence?

 Chances are, if you’re a mom, you want to be a good mom.

And truth is there are many messages, marketing structures and stories try to tell you what it means to be “good.” These messages pull you in different directions. The tell you that you need to DO more and BE more and BUY more. They tell you that there are 187 steps to being a good mom and this can set you up for failure. So now, not only have you lost a part of your identity, but society is constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough at this new part of your identity. It is no surprise if you feel anxiety, boredom, guilt and resentment even while feeling connected and loving towards your baby.

In the American society, maternity leave policies suck for the most part. Women are expected to breastfeed, lose the baby weight, get back to sex, pick up their jobs as usual and more in just weeks.
What.
The.
Fresh.
Hell?

Related: Am I Ready for Sex After Baby?

Motherhood and the Workplace

A mom who chooses to breastfeed but has a short maternity leave then often returns to an office with a less-than-accommodating pumping room and judgement for taking pumping breaks. Yet a woman who decides to cease breastfeeding “didn’t try hard enough” to “give her baby the best.” (Quotes indicate society terms, not my beliefs.)

A mom who wants to lie-in and spend time resting and recovering from childbirth is often frowned upon by a society that says you need to get newborn pictures, take your baby to meet the family, join a moms’ group and more before their 2 month birthday.

A mom who decides to heal her body from the inside out- starting with emphasis on pelvic floor and core recovery and “smaller” movements is often preyed on by weight-loss companies urging her to get her “body back.”

And all of these situations create a narrative that you aren’t doing well enough as a mom. How can we blame you, then, when you have ambivalence? When you long for the things you knew how to control, how to do well, and had spent years mastering? When you wanted a break from the pressure, the crying, the needs?

Related: Myths About Motherhood

You Can be A Good Mom and Feel Maternal Ambivalence

You can be a good mom and feel ambivalence. Having conflicting emotions about motherhood does not make you a bad mother. It makes you a human who doesn’t want to lose sight of her own existence and who wants to be able to grow her child and herself. You feel the joy and gratitude of motherhood while also recognizing the difficulty that can come with it. It is okay to recognize the loss of so many comforts and routines you once knew.

Personally, I believe this ambivalence can be recognized, appreciated and serve as a tool in the future. As am ambivalent mother, you have the experience and power to teach your children one day that it’s okay to have conflicting feelings. You can teach them to listen internally and not drown out their own voice. This is an opportunity to teach your children to make choices even when emotions are contradicting. You can teach them that good and bad, negative and positive, can co-exist. You can teach them to care both for themselves and for others even when it’s messy.

Momma- I believe that your ambivalence doesn’t have to take away from your motherhood journey. It can be a powerful part of it.

Postpartum

Postpartum Body Image and Why New Mom Bodies are Complicated

Forming a Healthy Postpartum Body Image

You look in the mirror and everything about your postpartum body looks different.

Boobs.

Butt.

Belly.

You walk and sit and lie in bed and it feels different. Things aren’t put together the way they were before.

Maybe you laugh about this or cry about this. Maybe you feel peace or you feel shame. You’re not sure how you’re “supposed to” feel and what your body is “supposed to” be like after having your child.

The is no RIGHT Postpartum Body

The truth is, there’s no “right” way but there are so many things to consider when we are forming and growing our body image after having a baby. If you identify as a woman, chances are your body has held a lot of meaning for you throughout your life. Our bodies are tied to our perceived worth.

We have been told to measure our value based on how much our body does (or does not) align with women in magazines, in movies and now even on social media. We have measured our social acceptance by how easily we can fit into a group based on the way we look. It is taught to us from a young age that our desirability as a woman, our sexuality and attraction, are dependent on if we look like “that woman.” Without a doubt this impacts our confidence as we form beliefs about ourselves and who we are and what we can do.

Related: Where do we learn about postpartum?

how to address body image after you have a baby

Should You “Bounce Back” Right After Baby?

Now, after having a baby, so much is different. Unfortunately, it’s easier to access messages that tell us “how to bounce back” or “how to lose the baby weight fast” than it is to learn about the changes that have happened in our bodies and the ways to nurture and heal them with intention and grace.

When it comes to our body image after giving birth, we are responsible for what we let in and out of our body and minds. 

Related: Committing to Authenticity

Inside Thoughts About Postpartum Body Image

Ask yourself the following questions
What self-criticizing thoughts do I have?
When do I have them?
How are they trigged?
What happens because of that thought?

It’s not realistic to expect ourselves to never have self-critical thoughts. Sure, it would be nice, but realistically we have to remember we are conditioned to criticize ourselves.

The goal here is to figure out when and where these thoughts are triggered and then to have a plan of action to shut them down so the thought does not have a domino effect.

Example: When I undress to get into the shower, I see my saggy breasts. Then I look all over my body and feel worthless because I should have lost the baby weight by now. I continue to look at all the areas of my body that I feel insecure about and that makes me feel like my partner shouldn’t be attracted to me. It makes me feel like other women are doing it better and I don’t want to go out in public because I’m ashamed.

The Domino Effect of Body Image

Maybe this isn’t your exact situation, but take time to identify what yours is. Now, how do we interrupt this thought pattern? In the example above we can stop at the breasts. When I undress to get into the shower, I see my saggy breasts. Sure, I wish they were perkier, but I remember that they changed because my body grew my baby. Remember that the body changes very naturally in response to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and that it takes time for all of that to heal. I am thankful for what my body has done and I recognize that every mom heals differently- it looks different for each of us. I would never want a friend to criticize her own body and I won’t criticize mine.

Related: 5 tips for communicating with your partner

Outside Input Impacting Postpartum Body Image

Ask yourself the following questions:

What influences my understanding of my postpartum body?
Did I ever learn about all the changes that have happened inside of me?
What social messages are making me feel insecure about myself?

In Postpartum Together small groups I’ve learned that many women gain a healthier body image after understanding what happens to the body to prepare for birth, give birth, and recover from birth. There are many layers of changes and yet not many places to learn about them.

On top of that, our social media and other spaces are filled with invitations and messages centered around losing the baby weight- often led by those who don’t have a clear understanding of how to safely do that after baby. (Accountability or workout groups led by someone who is not trained in pre and postnatal care are not your friends after giving birth.) The ball is in your court to learn about the changes and to be selective about what messages you allow as input. It’s more than okay to unfollow an account, to stop watching a show, to throw away a magazine, etc.

taking control of your postpartum body image

Postpartum Body Image Goes Deeper: The Past

Postpartum is a wonderful time to heal your body image. It’s a time when it is doing so for ourselves, but also because our children will learn from us. When we start to heal body image, we must start by looking back.

Ask yourself:
How were you raised to think about your body?
How did your mother or other women talk about their bodies in front of you?
What was your experience in adolescence with a changing body?
What insecurities and thought patterns do you remember?

Many women identify patterns from their upbringing. Perhaps your mother was always dieting or talking about how her clothes looked. It could be that puberty was uncomfortable and you never found a safe space to talk about it. Maybe you grew up seeing a certain type of woman on TV and it led you to be self-critical. To more forward, we have to look back enough to see where our thoughts and beliefs were formed so that we can rewrite them. If this feels like a lot to do on your own, that is very understandable. A space like Postpartum Together may be beneficial for you, or it may be a topic to discuss with a therapist.

RELATED: How to find a Therapist

How Body Image Impacts Other Things

When thinking about healing your body image, realize it goes beyond the self-talk you experience about your body.
Body image impacts the risks we take with meeting new people and going new places.
It impacts how we feel confident in ourselves which can impact things like work.
Body image has a big impact on our relationships too. We talk about this a lot in the Back in the Sack eCourse, but here are a few things for you to consider when it comes to body image after baby and how it impacts your marriage/relationship.

What role has your body played in your relationship?
Have you held a lot of value in being “sexy”?
Does your partner comment on your changed body?
Have you had an honest conversation about how you’re feeling about your body?

Layers of Postpartum Body Image

There are many layers to body image in all part of our lives, but even moreso after having a baby. It’s okay to have complex feelings about this. Know that taking the time to address and heal your body image right now will have an impact on your life forever. You can set an example for your kids, improve communication with your partner, gain confidence, and take pride in your changing body, but it takes work.

Related: Sex After Baby, Am I Ready?

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Connect with Other Moms and Get Empowering Coaching for a Healthy Postpartum Body Image

We want you to have a season of growth and healing of your body image as a new mom. We invite you to find the next Health Body Image After Baby small group. In this group we address the things that impact our body image, how our postpartum body changes, and how to develop a healthier relationship with our bodies after baby. Find the info on our new mom group page.