Lifestyle whilst breastfeeding (early motherhood)

Finally in your sights is the miracle and beauty of your baby girl or boy. Mothering your infant will be both blissful with countless memorable milestones and exhausting from much deprived sleep. Your boundless love and devotion for your little human being might be pushing your priorities in life and lifestyle choices behind your child’s needs to be the best mother you can be. It may be weeks or months before you do something for yourself and you shouldn’t feel guilty when you finally get your hair or gym membership done. Looking after yourself and your relationship with your partner will also better your role as a mother. Some other common concerns or decisions new mothers face when caring for their newborns are discussed below to provide you with some guidance during these early years.

Wondering whether to breastfeed or formula feed?

Formula feeding may be the only option for many women. This by no means equates to failure or bad mothering, for the causes are out of their control. Many women simply can’t secrete enough milk, others may have nipples that hinder or make sucking painful; some may have breast cancer or lactose intolerant babies who need formula without lactose. There are many reasons why women will opt for formula and in many cases provides a better alternative than the added stress of persisting with breastfeeding.

If however, you are one of the lucky ones who can breastfeed easily throughout the first 4-6 months, it’s important to recognise all the advantages of breastfeeding to make a conscious decision and not let certain emotions or misconceptions about breastfeeding or formula feeding from keeping you and your baby from reaping in the benefits. From the mother’s perspective, lactation promotes recovery from pregnancy, acts as a natural contraceptive, can relieve stress and promote happy emotions. Think of breast milk as a natural and free baby formula which will save you money and time (preparing and sterilisation of bottles). From an infant’s perspective, breast milk is nature’s perfect food source, full of nutrients and protective factors that formula milk cannot mimic. These include important immune and growth factors that are in particular high concentration during the first few weeks after birth.

Dietetic counselling is generally needed for vegan breastfeeding or for mothers with any other dietary restrictions to prevent nutrient deficiencies from causing harm to their infants and vegetarian mothers need to be aware that because of their high fibre diets, they may have reduced appetites that can limit the amount of food they eat. Your healthcare professional can provide you with more information to determine what the best option is for you and your baby. It’s recommend to exclusively breastfeed or formula feed your infant for the first four to six months. You may find it helpful using formula milk as well as breast milk if you’re finding it stressful or difficult to exclusively breastfeed. But if possible, it is good to persist with breastfeeding for as long as you can. If you start relying or using formula within the first month it may reduce your supply of breast milk. After six months, solid foods can be slowly introduced into their diet; this may ease the stress of relying on your diet as their main source of nutrients which has essentially been the case for the past 15 months.

Staying motivated for breastfeeding

Many women find it difficult to maintain breastfeeding for at least six months. There are many lifestyle factors which play a role on the duration of breastfeeding. Social support and encouragement will go a long way in helping you graduate from the six month course of breast nursing. Your partner, family and friends will play huge supportive roles and so will a mothers’ club where you’ll have further support from your fellow new mothers. To join a mothers’ club ask your maternal nurse to help you enrol, you could visit your local community health centre or you might like to develop a club with the women you attended antenatal classes with. Try refraining from introducing pacifiers until your milk supply is well established, reduce or quit smoking cigarettes for some studies suggest that nicotine toxins can suppress the breastfeeding hormone called prolactin and when you return back to work, try expressing the milk in the morning to have ready in advanced for the babysitter or day-care.


Many women ask how soon after birth they can resume exercise. This answer depends on many factors such as your fitness level prior to and during pregnancy and the conditions of your labour including the type of procedure, the duration and how tiresome it was. Your body is once again undergoing enormous changes after delivery, and you should give your body time to recover. You should ease yourself into exercise by doing gentle exercises as soon as you feel fit enough. Most breastfeeding women can participate in some exercise program without affecting their lactation. As with other times around pregnancy, you should avoid vigorous exercises, and do not exercise if you feel very tired. Toning the stomach is high on every woman’s priority list but first check with your healthcare professional that your uterus is shrinking back before you attempt to exercise. Other parts of the body, such as your lower back and legs will also benefit from exercises as well. Toning up your whole body will improve your blood circulation and your stamina, so that you can cope with the demands of looking after your baby. Make it apart of your everyday routine to put strength back into your pelvic muscles to prevent incontinences and prolapse in the future. If you have had a Caesarean section, speak with your healthcare professional about the type of exercises that are suitable for you. Remember that your exercise program should be complemented with a healthy diet and sufficient fluid intake, especially if you are breastfeeding.

Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

Soon after and lasting for a few days after giving birth, 60-80% of women feel uncertain, sad and irritable; emotions which perhaps not expected after months of awaiting the face-to-face introduction with your baby. Baby blues occur because pregnancy hormones are rapidly changing into breastfeeding hormones accompanied by your feelings of exhaustion from the labour and infant care and being overwhelmed with responsibility can all take their toll on your emotions. With plenty of rest and comfort from your family and friends, you will start to feel better in no time. If fighting the blues takes longer than a month or triggered beyond the first few weeks you may have postnatal depression. Postnatal depression (PND) can affect mothers weeks, months and up to a year after giving birth. It is the same clinical depression that is diagnosed in either a man or a woman at any other stage of life, only the trigger is believed to be the result of changing from pregnancy and birth that disrupt the chemical balance within the brain. Unlike baby blues, PND is an illness and must be diagnosed and treated by your doctor. It is a common form of depression affecting 1 in 4 new mothers. The exact causes of PND are unknown however, hormonal changes and/or social and emotional factors have been suggested to play parts. Women who have a family history of depression, anxiety or mental disease, had a problematic labour, preterm birth and other complications are at a higher risk of developing PND. If feelings of hopeless, loneliness, unlikableness and worrying towards your baby or if any other depressive emotions are constantly troubling you, seeks a doctor’s help for there are many treatment options available and is best treated in its early stages.

Being Social

Looking after your baby around the clock can leave you feeling deprived of some adult company. Ask friends and family to come around or chat with them over the phone and join a mother’s group where you and your baby can enjoy others company who are in a similar situation. When your baby isn’t occupying your time, pick up the book you’ve always wanted to read or watch your favourite movie or take up some hobbies around the house to keep your mind stimulated. Brisk walks can also help to clear your mind. Take out the pram and together breathe in some fresh air, enjoy the stretch in your muscles and the beauty of your baby outdoors.

Sleep deprivation

One of the most common complaints in early motherhood is the lack of sleep you will get from constantly attending your baby’s needs throughout the night. Unfortunately many mothers will also tell you, sleep deprivation is something they had to deal with for years as your child’s needs during the night are not just restricted to the infancy months. However, studies show that most new mothers (and fathers) get almost the same amount of sleep than they did before they had a child. The real problem is that their sleep is constantly interrupted, thus many newly appointed parents spend a lot of time in a light sleep, failing to reach a deep sleep, affecting the quality of sleep rather than the amount. This is what commonly causes sleep deprivation. It can affect people differently as some don’t require much sleep to function, while others need nothing short of hibernation to feel remotely useful. There are many different ways to deal with this and it’s important to find what works best for your family as a whole. Some find advantages by sleeping a part, taking it in turns to attend to the baby, so at least every second night you can get a nice uninterrupted sleep. As your baby gets older, sometimes all you may need is one night away from the baby a month to catch up on sleep, to be completely reenergised. Another issue is simply the pressure of trying to sleep before the baby start’s crying. If you do take time falling asleep, try to address these issues, like no caffeine or energy-rich foods in the evening or making sure you clear your mind before going to bed. Thinking about things like the baby, finances and other issues before sleeping are common factors preventing people from falling asleep. However, in the end, you may need to accept the fact that sleep deprivation is a part of having children and your body will be able to adapt.

Work, Finance and Baby Separation Stress

Missing out on your baby’s first steps, words or any other developmental milestones to return back to work isn’t easy nor is your first day or half a day apart any less emotional. Your financial situation, prior arrangements with work and any worries you feel when separated apart, can all influence your timing back to work. Consider if returning back to work as part-time would be suitable financially or is working from home possible? To help you prepare for your return back to work, leave your baby in the capable hands of its grandparents or trusted babysitter to enjoy some time alone with your partner. Each time return a little later so that eventually you and your baby will become less distressed when you depart. There is no one correct way of doing things, as everyone’s circumstances are different. You simply have to find what works best for you and your family and what makes you happy. Be prepared that you may have to make some sacrifices, this is a part of being a parent.

Smoking, Alcohol, Drugs and Caffeine

Nicotine can enter your breast milk potentially poisoning your baby therefore it’s encouraged to not smoke during breastfeeding or to smoke in the presence of a newborn. Passive inhalation of cigarette smoke can compromise the functioning of your infant’s immature organs increasing the risk of cot death. Unlike pregnancy, nursing mothers may choose to drink occasionally only after preparing a well-planned breastfeeding schedule. This includes expressing before drinking and storing the breast milk in refrigerated sterile bottles and waiting for the alcohol to completely leave your system. To be safe, wait 2 to 3 hours after having one drink before breastfeeding. All illicit drugs and some medicinal drugs are not recommended to be taken while breastfeeding. As a precaution, consult with your doctor before taking any medicines, herbal supplements or over-the-counter products. Cut down the large doses of caffeine to quieten down your hyperactive infant. Like pregnancy, reduce your caffeine consumption from coffee, energy drinks, tea, chocolate and other foods to 1 to 2 cups a day which is equivalent to 200 mg/day. Boost your energy naturally instead by eating complex carbohydrates like wholegrain breads and cereals that release energy throughout the day and iron rich foods like lean meats and beans.

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