My journey of motherhood blossomed in December 2021 when I was blessed with a healthy baby boy. As a first-time mom and the first living person in my family to breastfeed, I had no idea what to expect.
To be honest, I thought that motherhood and breastfeeding would be simple and easy-going, much like the movies and shows. I envisioned breastfeeding as a baby just simply putting their mouth on their mother’s breast. I quickly learned the importance of a correct latch, hind and fore milk, series of feeding positions, clogged ducts, oh and, not to mention cluster feeding—cue the horror music.
Within the first few months of breastfeeding, I was mentally, emotionally, physically, and figuratively drained.
At the time, I decided to walk away from my job to raise my son and start my career as an artist. Between juggling a newborn, postpartum hormonal dips, and the learning curve of being an exclusively-breastfeeding mom, my mental health started to deteriorate. I would spend all day taking care of my son and trying to keep the house together. It would be 5 PM, and I would realize that I hadn’t even eaten yet for the day. This became my daily routine. My whole world had become taking care of others before taking care of myself, which gradually led me to a dark and sad place. One day, I settled on a life-altering realization. In order to give my son the happy and healthy life that I so desired for him, I first had to take care of myself.
While I was uncertain of a lot at the time, I was sure of one thing. The way I had been treating myself up until that point could not continue. One day, I decided to take my pain and worries to my canvas and paint where I most felt at peace. Before having my son, I would create abstract paintings using acrylic paint in a method called “pour painting”. While creating a piece, it dawned to me that before I could “pour” into others, I must first pour into myself. The concept of pouring into myself was beyond the canvas. I needed to make a daily habit and routine of taking care of myself so that I may be the best version of myself for myself, son, and family. I had to put on the proverbial oxygen mask before I could help others. Here are my tips and gems about nourishing our most valuable resource—ourselves—from the breastfeeding journey.
- Get you some YOU time: Try to make a schedule that allows for some alone time. Don’t let the mom guilt get to you. As human beings, we need time to replenish and to sit with ourselves. This might look like enrolling your bundle of joy in daycare once or a few times a week. You can also ask someone you trust to watch your bundle of joy even for an hour to do something you enjoy, whether it’s a walk in the park, getting your nails and hair done, or having a meal. You deserve it and you and your baby will benefit from some time away. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and helps your little one build independence.
- Find an activity that gets your hands moving. For me, the activity is painting. There is nothing better than free flowing on my canvas and expressing myself when I can’t find the words to do so. If you’re unsure where to start, go on YouTube and watch some tutorials on crafting of your choice. Activities that get your creative side grooving and your hands moving can relax you, and get you out of your head and into your body. You’ll be proud of the wonderful creation you made.
- Don’t be afraid to seek therapy. Motherhood is one of the most challenging yet rewarding roles we can ever play. The transition—both physical and emotional—can be overwhelming. Therapy helps to be able to reconnect with yourself, talk without judgment, and fill your cup so you can pour into those you love the most.
These gems have not only improved my breastfeeding journey, but they also made my life better overall. My little guy and I are 20 months into the journey. I absolutely love breastfeeding and the connection we have, as it was strengthened by my connection with myself. These gems leave me with the confidence that I am the best mother, and most of all, woman, that I could ever imagine. I hope that by turning and pouring within, other mothers, whether you are breastfeeding or navigating other challenges of motherhood, unlock this perspective, too.