We were recently invited to participate in a discussion forum held by Medela Australia who had conducted a recent survey of almost 8,000 new Australian mums, to coincide with International Midwives day on 5th May 2017. Their research highlighted the overwhelmingly positive support provided by midwives in hospital and in the first 6 weeks after birth, helping mums feel more confident in looking after their baby. Mums also rated very highly the emotional and practical support from key people in their lives - their partner, mother and other health professionals.
Our role in this discussion was to help mums understand psychological changes we experience with having a baby. Becoming a mother is possibly the life event causing the greatest amount of change in our lives. We become mothers overnight. However, the psychological and emotional process of embracing a change in identity, and successfully functioning in our new world with our babies, partners, and societies can take much longer. No matter how longed for the baby is, most mums experience periods of stress, anxiousness or lack of confidence with the newness of everything and the steep learning curve in the early weeks!
Here’s a summary of tips we gave the mums at the Medela forum to help grow in confidence in the first few weeks or months of their baby’s life. They are equally valid for mums with kids at any age and for most of us are a life-long journey! We hope you enjoy these tips too.
- Look after your physical self. We function much better psychologically when our energy levels are higher – we’re less likely to feel emotionally overwhelmed and are more resilient. Try to prioritise sleep as much as you can. Research shows that even 10-20-minute power naps (say when your baby is sleeping) have a positive effect on alertness, memory and overall functioning.
- Get real. This is not a time for over-achievement! Set realistic expectations of what you can accomplish in a day. Make plans, but expect that things can and probably will change, then try to roll with it rather than getting frustrated. Accept there are many things you cannot control with a baby.
- Don’t play the blame game. If, and when, things go wrong - it’s not useful or helpful and to blame yourself, or ruminate that this problem will always exist, or conclude that everything in your life is awful! Find a more realistic explanation of bad events - what’s happened is just the situation and not you. It won’t last forever and you can notice that even if this one thing isn’t great - there are other things that are going well. Studies have shown this “optimistic” style of thinking benefits your mood, happiness and even your physical health.
- Be kind to yourself. If your best friend just had a baby, would you tell her daily or even hourly she’s inadequate as a mum? Or, would you encourage her, tell her she’s doing fine, that everything will work out and to stop giving herself a hard time? The latter of course! The compassion, encouragement and love we give to others we need to give to ourselves. In scientific studies, self compassion and non-self-judgement are linked to lower levels of anxiety and depression, and have a positive effect on happiness and wellbeing.
We encourage you to put these tips into use. Feeling more confident as a mum will help you cope better with the challenges that motherhood presents, manage feelings of overwhelm and help you enjoy this special time much more.
with best wishes,
 Medela provide mums with products, expert insights, ongoing research and education to support the breastfeeding journey www.mymedela.com.au