Café Recap: Taking Care of Mama

Our panelists: Stephanie Fournier (PT, DPT, WCS, CLT-LANA), Jilayne Luckey (PPMD Support Group Leader), Debbie Perdew (DONA) and Lisa Wixted (LLL Leader and Yoga Instructor), and our  moderator, Lauren Barnes.

Being a mother means caring for others, sometimes above yourself. Today we are talking about the importance of taking care of yourself as a mother. Below are a few difficult but necessary pieces of advice for your new role as a mother: 1. Be realistic - you have less time now that you have a baby 2. Simplify your life - focus on what is most important 3. Establish a new routine - it takes time to find a regular rhythm after having a baby 4. Ask for help - let family and friends assist you 5. Learn to let go - trying to do too much doesn't leave enough time for what's most important

Stephanie emphasizes number 3, establish a new routine. You will not be able to jump back into your former way of life like tv and media would let you think. Debbie says that simplifying your life is crucial; trying to do too much will not be in the best interest of you or your children. Jilayne says that keeping each of these items in mind will help you balance your new lifestyle. Lisa encourages asking for help and then accepting help. She knows our natural instinct is to say "oh no we're all fine", when really there are plenty of things we could use help with. Via show of hands, our audience acknowledges that we all struggle with each of these items.

Physically, our bodies have been through a lot after birth. Stephanie says that our pelvic floor muscles have been "running a 9 month marathon". During delivery they are under even more stress, and stretched up to 120%. We need to give ourselves a break and rest so that our bodies have a chance to recover.

Lisa encourages deep breathing exercises as a way of relaxation. It is a simple way to give yourself a quick few seconds of rejuvenation. Jilayne finds that remembering to stretch can feel so much better physically that it will help mentally as well. She also actively pushes the negative thoughts away, not letting herself get trapped under a messy house or other superficial worries. Our audience suggests simple things like having a snack (mamas get cranky without energy, too!); reading a non-parenting book; getting outside to let kids get out their energy and yelling; doing something that makes you feel like a person outside of being a parent; spending time with your spouse (put the baby down early and relax together).

There are many changes during pregnancy that are to be expected and many of these issues will continue 6-8 weeks postpartum. If there are still issues after 6-8 weeks postpartum, or new issues, check in with your doctor. If something doesn't feel right, don't hesitate to talk with your care provider.

How do we find time to shower and cleaning during motherhood? Debbie recommends putting infants in a safe apparatus, and teaching older children how to behave and help you around the house. They can get their own snacks, help pick up, etc. Lisa did the familiar "put the baby in the bouncer right outside the shower and play peek-a-boo while you clean off" routine. Audience members remind us that a baby crying will be okay for two more minutes while you rinse out your shampoo. Others find that they need peace in the shower and will create a new routine, or put the baby tub in the shower with them.

The following self-care tricks can help you refocus and relax: 1. Mommy Break/Mommy Time Out 2. Mom's Night 3. Pamper Yourself 4. Relax

Exercise can be a challenge for mothers. Finding time to work out is not easy, but Lisa suggests getting your kids involved. Wear a baby sling and do simple toe-raises or squats. Mommy and Me Yoga incorporates moms and children working out together. Stephanie says to do kegals, tightening your pelvic floor muscles. To do it correctly: breathe, don't use your butt muscles, don't bring your knees together, and squeeze gently. Do kegals when nursing, before standing up and while sitting down, and as often as possible during the day. Make an effort to keep your posture correct throughout the day as well. Don't bend at the waist and hunch over to pick up kids' toys; instead, sit on a stool and keep your posture upright or squat (if your body is ready).

Debbie suggests living room dance parties as a way of exercise- kids love it! Try sit ups with a baby on top of you, push ups with a baby on the floor, etc. Stephanie cautions that if we have diastasis (splitting of the ab muscles), we need to be careful about the exercises we do. When the ab muscles separate during pregnancy (normal in the 3rd trimester) they sometimes come back together naturally after birth but other times require special steps to recover. If you do situps and see a little bump in your abs, you have diastasis and should see a physical therapist.

Neck and shoulder pain are also common postpartum; because of the way our weight is distributed during pregnancy, our posture suffers. If you don't take care to actively work on your posture after birth, then neck, shoulder, back and wrist pain are likely. Using good posture when nursing and feeding baby is important: put a small pillow behind your back (lumbar spine); add a boppy or nursing pillow to your lap (bringing the baby up instead of slumping down to meet him); roll your shoulders up and back, then down; and finally, bring your chin up and back instead of tucking it down.

In preparation for your first child, here are some suggestions to get yourself ready mentally: 1. Learn as much as you can 2. Talk to people you trust 3. Think positive 4. Don't be afraid to ask for help

Remember, mamas, that by taking care of yourself you can take care of your children. Set the example of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle and your children will learn to do the same.