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Surviving the Holidays with a Baby

Is this baby’s first holiday season? Maybe you’ve picked out the perfect ornament for the tree and a few cute outfits for all the parties.

Maybe you’re looking forward to showing off your baby and sharing them with family and friends and cannot wait for all the festivities!

child christmas baby cute

Or, maybe you want to crawl in bed until it’s all over.

Likely, most of us are somewhere in between.

This can be an incredibly hectic time of year for people, fraught with expectations of your time, energy, and money and with a new baby at home you may feel all three of those are in short supply!

Here are some tips on getting through the holiday season alive and with your sanity and relationships in tact:

Do what works for you: some babies have rigid schedules and some parents want to keep them. If what your family is asking doesn’t work for you – suggest an alternative. A few examples of what we’ve done with our family:

  • Have brunch instead of an evening meal so you can be home before bedtime
  • Host people at your house instead of going somewhere so you control the timing and keep your kids in their own comfortable environment

Saying NO is ok. I know this is easier said than done. Everyone means well and just wants to share in your joy but this can be overwhelming. It’s ok to not do EVERYTHING. If it’s causing you additional stress and anxiety, say no! Ultimately, your family will understand (eventually).

You don’t have to let anyone touch your baby. That’s right, not even great aunt Millie who drove 4 hours just to meet your little bundle of joy. Your baby – your rules. I always brought a baby carrier with me to family events. It was great to help soothe her and keep my hands free but it also protected her from unwanted kisses (and germs) and having too many people get up in her space. Now that my kids are a bit older the same still applies – they do not have to hug anyone. Ever. Their body – their rules!

Take a break when you need to. Even a few minutes alone in a room with your baby can help recharge you. If you’re nursing, this can be a good excuse to get away. You can also explain that the baby isn’t used to this many people around and needs some space for a few minutes.

Take time for you. Perhaps your partner is home a bit more now this time of year. Take advantage of this by taking some more time for yourself – do the things you need to do to feel good and well. I’m thinking – yoga and a festive manicure?

Create your own traditions. Man are holiday’s full of family baggage – ‘the way we always do things’. It can be hard to fit your new family into your old way of doing things. Maybe now is the time to embrace new traditions for your own family. For example – my family was big on cutting down a Christmas tree from the bush. Well, our little family of 4 doesn’t have a lot of time and I would rather spend my energy somewhere else. Instead, we get one from the local hardware store and spend the extra time going for night walks around our neighbourhood looking at the lights.

Check in with your mental health. The days are dark. Holiday’s are expensive. Maybe you’re grieving for someone. All of this can exacerbate feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s very important to check in with how you’re feeling and take steps to support your mental health if you need to.

Similarly, be mindful of your drug and alcohol usage. While these substances trick us into temporarily feeling better or forgetting they are ultimately not a solution.

Do less. What does your baby need for Christmas? Likely – absolutely nothing. They also probably won’t get much from the whole unwrapping presents thing. It’s totally ok to buy smaller gifts or necessities for them. My kids got bibs, towels, plates, and sippy cups for their first Christmases. We are the ones who put these grand expectations on what gift giving and holidays ‘should’ look like.

I read somewhere that holiday magic is made by moms. Do I ever believe this. At times it can feel overwhelming and exhausting. My advice to you is to be kind to yourself and be gentle with others. We’re all trying our best to make it work.

Remember, the newborn stage is temporary and so too is the holiday season. Every year will look different and it will get easier with time. Try to look for the simple moments of joy through your kids eyes. I promise you’ll find it there.

 

Ode to a Breast Pump

It’s the end of an era…

breastpump

My faithful pump that has served me for nearly 3 years of breastfeeding has been cleaned and sterilized for the last time and is on its way to another mama.

No, I really didn’t ‘enjoy’ pumping, but it did offer me a reprieve from being my baby’s only source of nourishment 24/7 and the freedom to be able to stay away for more than a few hours at a time. It allowed others to feed and bond with both of my babies and enjoy those close quiet snuggles.

But pumping is no picnic – it takes time and energy at at a period in your life when you sometimes feel short on both. Here’s how I made pumping work for me:

  • I bought a double electric pump. It is faster and you typically get more volume when you use a double pump
  • I brought it with me every time I was away and kept pumping at my regular nursing times (if I was in a hotel I brought a cooler bag with me or asked for a room with a fridge)
  • Once my babies dropped a night feeding I pumped at that time for a while to build a freezer stash
  • I kept my pump plugged in and ready to go right beside where I usually nursed and kept the pump parts in the fridge (if pumping multiple times a day instead of needing to wash and sterilize every time)*
  • I used microwave steam cleaning bags for easy weekly sterilization
  • I regularly replaced the membranes so the pump was as efficient as possible
  • I laid freezer storage bags flat in the freezer so they thawed quickly and were easy to store
  • I froze milk in 4oz portions as it was enough to fill up my babies and not have any left over

 

Now, double electric pumps can be pricey. Here are a few ways to help with the cost:

  • Some extended health benefits will cover up to $200 for a breast pump – you will likely just need a prescription from your health care practitioner
  • Shop around – I purchased mine off Amazon.com. It was much cheaper than the Canadian site – even with the exchange
  • You don’t need the fancy brand name milk storage bags – generic store brand work just as well for a fraction of the price
  • Check out mom’s buy and sell groups on Facebook. There are often brand new in the box pumps available (make sure you check them out in person)
  • You can buy used pumps and replace the breast shields, valves, membranes, and bottles (the only parts that touch your skin or milk) for around $30
  • Think carefully about your needs – hand pumps are extremely efficient and perfectly fine for occasional pumping and many hospitals and pharmacies will rent pumps too. You might want to try these options first if you are unsure about pumping

 

For reference – I used the Medela Pump In Style and I loved it. It met all my needs. The tote bag style was convenient to carry all the required paraphernalia and I loved the included battery pack and cooler.

Pumping isn’t for everyone, neither is breastfeeding. That’s ok. It has to work for you and your family. It worked for me which is why I share my story.

If you’d like some more info on pumping – or maybe even just some words of encouragement to keep pumping longer – send me a message! I’d love to chat.

 

*if your baby is premature or has other complications you should speak to your healthcare practitioner before doing this.

Reclaiming Mama’s Time – preparing for a night away from baby

Today I’m preparing for a weekend away with some friends – SANS kids (or partners)!! To say that I am excited would be an understatement. But it’s more than that for me at this point – it’s almost a necessity. Ok, I will most certainly survive without it but it’s definitely help me to be the kind of mom I want to be. Let me explain…

It’s been a trying month. I started a new job, my partner traveled extensively, and the sickness has made its way around our house. Mama is tired. My ‘to do’ list is long and my patience is short. It’s time for a break.

But this isn’t the theme of my post. I want to help YOU to prepare for a night away – because YOU deserve it.

No need to be fancy or elaborate –  sleeping at your parents house or crashing at a friends place is fine. We’re just looking for the opportunity to rest and restore your body and your soul and bring you back to the parent you want to be.

But I can’t leave my baby! My family won’t survive without me! What if someone needs me? No one else can handle it! This is impossible! 

Are you anxious yet? Have you given up on the idea?

Don’t! Let’s work it out step by step…

Start incrementally. If you’ve never even left for an hour maybe starting with an overnight trip is too much. Build up to it, even if it takes a few months to get there.

The bedtime routine is a place where we often feel anxious that no one can do it like we can. It’s true – it will be different, but that doesn’t mean bad. Try letting your partner or other caregiver handle a few bedtimes first before your big night away.

I want you to be confident that there are others who will care for and love your children and take care of them in a way that doesn’t stress you out!

Do the practical preparations. I know, you already do so much. But I promise you – a little forethought here will make all the difference in you actually enjoying your time.

Are you exclusively breastfeeding? Start to build up a freezer stash a few days or weeks beforehand. Have a little extra for your own peace of mind.

Do you do most of the cooking? If thinking about your family eating take out or fast food stresses you out – make a simple dinner ahead of time so it’s there for them.

Maybe you want to even lay out all your kids clothes or plan activities for them. If that’s what makes it work for you – go ahead. But maybe consider my next point…

Let it go (let it go….I am one with the wind and sky…) When I was away I used to always ask what my kids ate, how they slept, what they were doing and so on. Truthfully, that was a way of checking up on everything. It didn’t help me relax because I then started to focus on what I thought they should be doing/eating/wearing.

Now, all I ask is: Are you having fun?

Allowing your partner or other caregivers the space to make these decisions helps empower them too. It builds their confidence as parents and makes the next time easier.

Expect a mess. This was a huge learning curve for me. I would get so frustrated at coming home from being away and the house being a disaster and nothing that ‘I would have done’ actually got done.

Now, I expect it to be messy when I get home and I try my best to let it go and I make sure my partner is involved in the clean up.

Do what’s fun for you. Plan something that is fun for you and not just what you feel like you should be doing when you are away.

For example, this weekend for my friends is starting with Black Friday shopping. That’s a HARD Pass for me – so I will be drinking coffee and creating blog posts and meeting up with them later.

If what you want to do is go to bed early and drink wine in your pajamas that is perfectly acceptable. This time is about eliminating pressures and responsibility so you do you, mom.

Call when you need to. There is no rule that you have to maintain radio silence. If it makes you feel better to call and say hi or send a quick text – do it!

Know your limits. If staying away for a certain amount of time causes you more stress and anxiety then don’t do that! Figure out the right balance of time between enough to relax and too much so you’re anxious.

Expect things will be done differently. This is ok. Ultimately what is important is that your children are loved, cared for, and safe. It doesn’t matter what they wear or what they eat for dinner that day. Hey – I fed my kid a cookie with her breakfast today because – Friday.

It’s ok that your kids get used to someone else caring for them and the way someone else does things. This will make it easier the next time you want a break.

Also, our kids are way more adaptable and resilient than we give them credit for sometimes.

Let it go. This time I’m talking about The Guilt. It’s ok to ask for and plan for time to take care of yourself. It’s not indulgent. It also doesn’t mean you don’t love them. It just means you also value yourself.

 

Lastly, I know this is not a reality for everyone. We don’t all have the support available. But can you find ways for rest and recovery throughout the week?

Could you find a friend or a mom’s group and trade off for a few hours? You watch their kids for a while and they do it in return?

We need to find ways to take care of ourselves and help take care of our mama friends. Even starting with a few hours here and there will help – it is amazing the healing powers of a good nap and a hot cup of coffee.

adult beverage breakfast celebration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Embracing Matrescence

A few weeks ago I came across this amazing TED Talk by Dr. Alexandra Sacks on a new way of thinking about the transition to motherhood. She calls it Matrescence.

This six minute talk put words to something I (and likely millions of other women) have been thinking and feeling for years!

Dr. Sacks explains that as a society we understand and allow for the awkwardness and developmental arc of adolescence. We recognize that it is a period fraught with transition and growth. We understand that it makes you think and do and feel weird things. Adolescence is a time where changing bodies and changing hormones change the way we fit into the world. Hello – does this not also sound like the experience of becoming mothers?

Dr. Sacks agrees. But, she says, we do not allow for that same transition time for pregnant and postpartum women. We’re expected to know it all (and love it all) right out of the gate.

I remember so intimately that feeling of going from an independent and autonomous person to an exhausted, aching, and frustrated thing called ‘mom’.

Overnight.

All of a sudden I had this tiny human who’s life was literally in my hands. They were 100% reliant on me. That was daunting to me.

But don’t you love it? They would say.

Yes, of course! I would say out loud. But not all the time. I would say in my head. I didn’t think I was allowed to not love it all the time – I had tons of friends with babies and no one else seemed to ‘not love it all the time’.

Motherhood changed the way I relate to people and it also changed the way people relate to me – during maternity leave when I wasn’t working outside my home I often had this worry that I had nothing to contribute to conversations. I didn’t have the typical work gripes that you share with your friends and people looked at me strangely when I complained about my baby the way you would complain about your boss. But hey, sometimes my baby was overworking and over stressing me!

It’s the push and the pull of motherhood, as Sacks describes. The pull is that oxytocin induced feeling that the baby and their needs is the center of your universe. The push is your brain reminding you of all the other things in your life and the other needs that you have.

I remember distinctly grieving the parts of myself I thought I had lost. Oh how I miss a lazy long mimosa filled brunch (for the record I still miss this). Remember when I used my brain for solving complex workplace issues, instead of just for figuring out how many sleepers I need to buy?

I also remember thinking that I must the only one who felt this way and I’m probably a bad mother for even thinking this way.

**Newsflash**

I wasn’t. And I’m not.

This is common. It’s normal. Most parents struggle with the push and pull of parenthood.

So why aren’t we talking about it?

Sacks argues we need to normalize these experiences of motherhood –  negotiating different identities of who we were vs. who we are becoming. We need to talk about this with other moms. I want to hear about the days when you don’t love it. I want to hear about your ambivalence to this motherhood identity.

Tell me about your matrescence.

pregnant woman standing near white brown bassinet
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

 

 

Navigating New Motherhood

It’s been a busy few weeks here at Jocelyn Wells Postpartum Doula and November is shaping up to be even busier!

I was an exhibitor at the Stork and Stroller Show with my amazing friend and doula sister Tina from Madelina Birth & Baby. It was so great to meet with so many expectant parents in the KW area and chat about all things baby and postpartum. We’re incredibly lucky in this area to have so many local businesses for new and expectant parents!

I’m also working with the amazing team at Two Rivers Health on their integrative prenatal course. This is by far the most comprehensive and informative prenatal course I’ve ever seen and it’s amazing value for the price point! You’re hearing from a labour doula, a naturopathic doctor, a chiropractor, and a postpartum doula (yours truly). Hopefully they will offer a second session so you can check it out.

What I’m most excited about is my upcoming event – Navigating New Motherhood. Honestly, what I craved most from my early postpartum days was the opportunity for real connection with other moms. I wanted to talk to those people who would enthusiastically shout ‘me too’!!! I wanted to talk to people who had been there before and who knew what it was like. I craved the community of other new moms.

It is with this intent that myself, Jess from Our Mama Village, Lucy from Fit & Eats, and Dr. Antoinette from Two Rivers Health created this event. This is a night of real talk with real moms. We are sharing our experiences and our expert information on topics like:

  • dealing with mom guilt
  • recognizing postpartum mood disorders
  • preventing mom burnout
  • breastfeeding and formula transitions
  • thyroid and adrenal conditions
  • your postpartum body
  • nutrition and healthy eating
  • and much more…

In the postpartum period people often talk about ‘going back’. You try to get your pre-baby body back. You try to get some piece of your old life back. Here’s the newsflash: you can’t go back. And really, you probably don’t want to go back to that time without your baby.

So, Antoinette, Jess, Lucy and I are here to help you find your way forward and embrace your new life as a new mom.

Join us on November 13!

You can get your tickets here

Hope to see you all there!!

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