Expert Advice

Why your emotional wellbeing is key to a positive breastfeeding journey

Five ways new mums can have a healthy body and mind.

By Fiona Wright
From the moment your baby arrives, your whole world changes as you now have a tiny human relying on you for nourishment and survival.
It's easy to put all your energy into looking after your baby – from breastfeeding, to changing nappies, nursing, bathing and helping them to sleep.
For many mums, it can feel as though you have no time to look after your own health and wellbeing. But it needs to be a priority.
According to Medela Australia Education Manager, Kristy Newnham if new mums look after their body and mind, the benefits are significant.
1. Eat a balanced diet
While a poor diet rarely negatively impacts your milk supply, it may leave you feeling lethargic and less able to muster the energy required for the day. You may also find you become unwell much quicker.
So, it's important to make sure you're getting the right nutrients. While you're breastfeeding, your body requires about 500 extra calories per day.
Eat a diet rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamins. And making breastmilk uses extra fluid, so staying on top of your fluids is important.
Follow these healthy diet tips:
• Eat a variety of healthy snacks such as fruit, boiled eggs, protein balls, avocado on toast, nuts and cut up vegetables.
• Ask your partner to help prepare your snacks for the day.
• Preparing a lunch box made up of a variety of foods you can easily snack on.
• Build up your freezer with meals before you have your baby so you meals ready to go.
• Asking your family and visitors to bring food.
• Have a water bottle or a glass of water in arms reach when you sit down to feed and or go out.
While you're breastfeeding, your body requires about 500 extra calories per day. (Getty Images)
2. Start with some gentle exercise and slowly build up
Research shows mothers who exercise increase their energy levels – and there's also research showing women who exercise regularly have a lower risk of suffering from postnatal depression, and those who have it, improve more quickly.
Your ligaments are still loose after having a baby due to your hormone levels - so go gently, and gradually build up as you feel more comfortable.
Start by going for walks with your baby in the pram or joining a postnatal exercise group.
If you are feeling pain or discomfort during exercise, make sure you stop and switch to something gentler.
3. Catch up on sleep when you can
As a new mum, it's highly likely you are going to be tired – likely more tired than you've ever been as you adapt to night feeds and interrupted sleep patterns.
Night waking for feeds are common, normal, and biologically adaptive – particularly among babies up to six months of age.
Around 64 percent of babies between the ages of one to six months wake to feed both day and night.
Their stomach capacity isn't big enough to go all night without a feed and breast milk is digested very rapidly.
During the first month, babies need to feed on average eight to 12 times every 24 hours to get enough milk and keep building your milk supply.
So, when you're awake at night feeding your baby, it may help to remind yourself of the many other mums going through the same thing.
And the biggest tip is to steal sleep whenever you can.
Around 64 percent of babies between the ages of one to six months wake to feed both day and night. (Getty Images)
4. Ask for help
It's likely between recovering from your birth, learning to breastfeed and caring for your newborn you may struggle to find time to do the things you once could.
Asking your visitors to help can be significant support and enable you to better navigate the world of a newborn.
Most people are eager to do something they know will lighten your load.
Make a list and pop it on the fridge of all the ways your visitors can help.
This will give you and your baby the time and space to get to know each other and learn to breastfeed.
5. Build your village
We know many new mothers can feel more alone than they've ever been – especially those who have limited support and access to people who believe in their ability to succeed at breastfeeding.
Medela Australia recently conducted research showing half of mums surveyed said they felt 'confused and overwhelmed' during their breastfeeding journey.
More than a third felt 'judged or criticised', and around one in four felt 'ashamed, embarrassed or awkward' at times.
But we know just how valuable it is to have a support network for mums.
It's not just a cliché it takes a village to support mothers to breastfeed.
And the good news is there are many ways you can create your village and get the support you need.