Who here is looking after themselves as much as they look after their children?
If you answered yes, you’re certainly in the minority. But there are ways we can improve our physical and mental health with a baby – read on for tips.
How often have we heard the saying: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? I sometimes imagine that village: a place where friends and family make up a supportive community that looks after each other and the children. A place where we are exposed to different ways of parenting, and breastfeeding is a normal common practice that we see every day. A village where new parents are cared for and supported to just be with their new-born for at least the first month of life. In some parts of the world, this may still be the reality.
But for the majority of people in the Western world, this is unlikely to be anything near the reality we live in. Without the support of the village, it is no wonder that birthing is often isolating, frightening and traumatic; that breastfeeding is unfamiliar and challenging; that parenting falls on one or two main caregivers; and that post-natal depression is rife.
No matter what situation we live in, we all want the best for our children - in life and in health. From conception, through pregnancy, infancy and the rest of their lives: the well-being of our children is at the forefront of our mind. What we often forget is our own well-being as parents and how much of an impact our health has on the health of our children. Research shows that happiness and well-being of parents has a positive effect on the developmental milestones of infants and children, reduces crying and fussing behaviour in infants and improves cognitive function in older children (i.e., affects how well they learn).
Taking steps to build that ‘village’ and reaching out to others is so important. As well as having friends and family, professionals such as naturopaths, doctors, counsellors and psychologists, masseuses, osteopaths, lactation consultants, yoga teachers or personal trainers can really help. I am available for appointments as a naturopath and lactation consultant and can refer you to a great network of support to meet your needs in the Hobart area. Sometimes when we feel low it can feel hard to make changes or to reach out for help, but knowing that looking after ourselves also supports the wellbeing of our children can sometimes help us to take these steps.
Here are three easy things I try to do each week for my own wellbeing as a mum. I’ll be honest, I don’t manage them every week! But I notice that it makes a difference on the weeks that I do.
20-30 minutes a few times per week will do - in whatever form takes your fancy. Go for a walk, jog, do a group class, dance while no one is watching. Going outside will add another benefit to the outcome – our nervous system responds to the outdoors by reducing stress hormones. If you are a new parent, carrying your child in a baby carrier will stimulate their sensory needs and probably lull them to a calm sleep. If your child is bigger, a pram is good; or consider an active play date with them for some connection and laughter alongside the exercise.
2. Eat your greens
The darker the better! Include 3-4 cups of green leafy vegetables to provide essential nutrients such as Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Vitamins A, B and C, antioxidants, prebiotics, fibre, and proteins, while also being low in calories.
3. Eat more legumes, nuts and seeds
This provides your body and mind with important protein, fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals. Our gut plays a major role in our mood, immune function and so much more. Exercise and eating a colourful, wholefood diet including greens and legumes can help in returning our gut microflora to a healthy balance, which in turn will aid in the healing of our minds and nervous system
What's one thing you can do this week to build the support you need?