The Power of Self-Compassion in the Postpartum Journey

The postpartum period is filled with changes.

-Are nurturing a new life.
-Are adjusting to a new body.
-Experiencing sleepless nights.
-Are managing emotional highs and lows.
-Are learning the ropes of motherhood.

Navigating these challenges is no small feat and often, amidst this whirlwind, self-compassion is usually forgotten.

I remember as a new mom, I felt pressure from every side. Pressure about how I looked, how I parented in front of other people, how I could or couldn’t whip out my breast to feed, how quickly (or not) the baby went down for a nap. When I was in the thick of it, those first few months, it ate away at me. I felt like I couldn’t keep up with all of the expectations and, as I often do in times of stress, I turned to self-criticism. My inner voice was a beeyotch and I never felt like I was doing “enough.”

It took me a long time to realize most of the pressure and expectations didn’t matter. My baby was loved. He was cared for. In our home, our baby was getting what he needed and it didn’t matter how that looked to others or in comparison to Instagram influencers. The more I started to let go of the pressures and appreciate all I was doing and becoming, the more I was able to love my motherhood journey.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the incredible work you’re doing.

The Rollercoaster of Postpartum Emotions:

As a mom navigating the beautiful but challenging journey of motherhood, it’s crucial to remember that taking care of yourself is just as important as caring for your little one. In the postpartum period, when emotions may be running high and self-doubt creeps in, cultivating self-compassion becomes an invaluable tool for your well-being. Let’s explore the importance of self-compassion during this transformative phase and how it can help you navigate the highs and lows with grace and resilience.  Psychologist and author, Kristin Neff says, “A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”

Kristin Neff, Psychologist & author

The postpartum period is a unique time filled with an array of emotions. From the profound joy of holding your newborn to the ridiculously overwhelming exhaustion that comes with sleepless nights, it’s normal to experience a rollercoaster of emotions. However, these emotional ups and downs can take a toll on your mental well-being if not acknowledged and addressed with self-compassion.

(If you are concerned about your mental health or the mental health of someone you love, learn more about postpartum mental health by clicking here.)

Understanding Self-Compassion:

According to research conducted by the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, self-compassion can significantly reduce anxiety and depression, factors that heavily contribute to postpartum mood disorders. The study showed that women who practiced self-compassion had better mental health outcomes during the postpartum period. Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a dear friend. It encompasses three essential elements: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. By cultivating self-compassion, you create a nurturing space within yourself to acknowledge your struggles, accept imperfections, and offer yourself the support and care you need. For a more hands-on approach, I recommend Dr. Kristin Neff’s renowned book Self Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself or the audio version could be listened to easily when feeding your little one.

5 Things to Give Yourself Permission to Do as a New Mom

In the postpartum period, mothers can feel an overwhelming pressure to be perfect, to immediately adapt to motherhood without showing any flaws. Yet, it’s essential to remember that it’s okay to:

-Ask for help when you need it. (Really, strong people ask for help so that everyone can thrive!)
-Take time to rest and recover. (Not just “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” But really, take it easy. Accept help. Lower expectations!)
-Not have all the answers. (These kids weren’t born with an owner’s manual!)
-Feel a myriad of emotions. (Hello changing hormones and adjustments!)
-Take care of your needs. (This is NOT the time to desert yourself and your needs. If you do, what do you have to give to your babe?)

postpartum mother holding her baby
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on

Postpartum is not just about caring for the baby; it’s also about caring for the mother. After all, a well-cared-for mother is better able to care for her child. For me, part of being cared for was getting out of the same leggings and oversized t-shirt I often wore. Even the practice of finding nursing/pumping-specific clothes helped me feel a little more “human” while keeping easy access to the goods. Brands like Kindred Bravely (click to check them out) offer postpartum clothing options that are less likely to mean a public wardrobe malfunction because they’re made specifically for nursing or pumping moms.

In the postpartum period, it’s common to feel the pressure to be a “perfect” mom. However, striving for perfection is not only unrealistic but also detrimental to your well-being. Embracing imperfections and accepting that mistakes and challenges are a natural part of the journey can help alleviate unnecessary stress. I would go so far as to say, it’s okay to laugh and enjoy the times you flounder. It’s totally normal and just like anyone doing something new. Self-compassion allows you to approach setbacks with understanding and forgiveness, fostering a more positive and resilient mindset.

Quieting the Postpartum Inner Critic:

Many moms find themselves plagued by an inner critic that constantly questions their abilities and judgments. I know I did and she was HARSH. Self-compassion acts as a powerful antidote to this self-doubt. Instead of beating yourself up for perceived shortcomings, self-compassion encourages you to acknowledge your efforts and recognize that motherhood is a learning process. It allows you to reframe your self-talk and replace self-criticism with self-encouragement, leading to increased self-confidence and emotional well-being.

Nurturing Your Needs:

Motherhood often involves putting the needs of your little one before your own. While caring for your baby is essential, neglecting your own needs can leave you feeling drained and depleted. Self-compassion reminds you that taking care of yourself is not selfish but necessary for your overall well-being. It encourages you to prioritize self-care, whether it’s a moment of solitude, engaging in activities that bring you joy, or seeking support from loved ones. By nurturing your needs, you can replenish your energy and be better equipped to care for your child.

Speaking of self-care, I have a tangent for you. Self care, in my opinion, is not about things that feel luxurious and frivolous. I love a day at the spa as much as anyone else, but that’s a special event. Self-care can be really small, short moments of your everyday life. It doesn’t need to be expensive or time-intensive. Think about what makes you feel human or even glow a bit- and focus on getting those things into your day. This means communicating the importance to your partner, scheduling it in, etc.

Finding Support in Shared Experiences as a Postpartum Mom:

Motherhood can sometimes feel isolating, especially when facing challenges that seem unique to your own experience. However, self-compassion helps you recognize that you are not alone. Connecting with other moms and sharing your joys and struggles can be incredibly comforting and empowering. Online communities, support groups, or even reaching out to friends and family can provide a sense of shared humanity, reminding you that others have walked a similar path and that it’s okay to ask for help and support. The Peanut App has been a true space of connection, offering a platform where new moms can connect, share experiences, and offer support.

This is the primary reason Postpartum Together was created! For community and connection. Our Postpartum Together small groups are the primary space for moms who want to connect with others, understand the changes they are going through, normalize the chaos, and find empowering tools and strategies to be the mom you want to be for years to come.

Practicing Mindfulness:

Mindfulness is an integral part of self-compassion. It involves being present in the moment without judgment, allowing you to observe your thoughts and emotions with curiosity and acceptance. By cultivating mindfulness, you can better understand your own needs, recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, and respond to challenging situations with greater clarity and compassion.

Mindfulness Grounding Exercises

One simple and effective mindfulness practice is the “5 Senses Exercise”. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pause and Breathe: Find a moment of quiet, even if it’s just for a minute. Close your eyes and take three deep, calming breaths.
  2. Five Things You See: Open your eyes and note five things around you that you can see. Try to pick out details you might normally overlook.
  3. Four Things You Can Touch: Reach out and touch four different objects around you. Notice the texture, temperature, and other sensations.
  4. Three Things You Can Hear: Close your eyes again and listen carefully. Identify three distinct sounds you can hear in your environment.
  5. Two Things You Can Smell: Identify two smells. It could be the scent of your baby, a fragrant candle, or the smell of fresh air from a nearby window.
  6. One Thing You Can Taste: Have a sip of a drink, eat a small snack if it’s available, or simply be aware of the taste in your mouth or the air you’re breathing.

This practice brings you back to the present moment and can help you to feel more grounded when things seem overwhelming. It can be done anywhere and at any time, no matter how busy you are.

Journaling for Mindfulness

Consider incorporating mindfulness tools, like a Mindfulness Journal, into your routine. Journaling can help you track your mindfulness journey, note progress, and identify triggers. This one from Silk and Sonder is structured and comes with a supportive community.

Meditation App for Mindfulness

At one point,a friend strongly recommended that I find some “inner peace” so I gave the Calm App a try taking a purposeful pause in the chaotic days. I personally struggled for a long time with meditation because I saw it as “sit and think about nothing.” It’s not all like that, I promise. The guided meditations specifically designed for new mothers were my solace during this time gave me a way to chill with the guidance of someone else.

Celebrating Small Victories:

In the midst of the postpartum journey, it’s crucial to celebrate even the smallest victories. Self-compassion encourages you to acknowledge and appreciate your achievements, no matter how seemingly insignificant they may be. Did you transfer the baby from the car seat to the crib? CELBRATE! Did you get a hot shower today? YES GIRL YOU DID! Did you take a deep breath when you felt stressed instead of lashing out at your partner? CHEERS TO THAT! Celebrating these moments fosters a positive mindset, boosts self-esteem, and helps you find joy in the little things.

Free Download: Mom Achievement Cards

PS: While writing this, I felt like we just NEED to celebrate more. So, I whipped up these cute Mom Achievement Cards that you can print, cut, and use for the victories!

yellow white and pink balloons
Photo by Inga Seliverstova on

Mom, You Are Doing a Good Job! Practice Self-Compassion in Postpartum

In the whirlwind of postpartum emotions and demands, practicing self-compassion becomes a lifeline that supports your mental and emotional well-being. By embracing imperfections, quieting the inner critic, nurturing your needs, finding support in shared experiences, practicing mindfulness, and celebrating small victories, you can navigate the postpartum journey with greater self-compassion. Remember, you are doing an incredible job, and extending kindness and compassion to yourself will make your journey all the more fulfilling and rewarding.

If you’re struggling to embrace self-compassion or find balance in the postpartum period, know that you’re not alone. Also, you can reach out to supportive resources, connect with other moms, and remember that self-compassion is a journey in itself—one that unfolds gradually but holds transformative power.

Do you want to thrive and feel empowered in this season of motherhood? Are you interested in small group coaching for new moms or 1-on-1 support for yourself? Book a free 15-minute consultation now.

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