It’s been a little while again since I’ve written anything. Quite a few people have contacted me through the contact form with advice and opinions on my energy levels and what I should do about it. I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to write to me and offer an opinion or advice. I appreciate the time everyone took.

First an update on how I have been feeling. I’ve been feeling better since I last wrote about my problems. I’ve been feeling  better of late. More energy to do things and feeling less tired. I’ve even been playing ping pong – I purchased a table from www.gameroommania.com which said it was the best ping pong table for moms. It’s been great for a bit of exercise.

I still don’t have the time to do things that I’d like but there’s probably a whole different set of issues behind that.

I’ve been doing my best to follow the tips I gave in the last article. Preparing and eating better food has been a challenge, especially when cooking for a family, but I’ve been making improvements where I can. I have had better luck implementing my other suggestions, especially on exercise. In addition to ping pong I’ve now made it part of my routine to either go or a walk early if my young daughter wake me up (we go together). If she doesn’t get me up early we go instead after my other children head off for school.

It’s something I’ve really come to enjoy, even given the colder time of year. It has helped me feel fresher in the morning, getting off to a good start.

I’ve also been making a real effort to have more me time. At least one night a week we’ll get take out or dinner will be something quick to make or prepared in advance. And then I’ll try and take the night “off” and treat myself to some time doing nothing. I’ve noticed I’ve felt really recharged the day after.

With my daughter being older, she has started to sleep better. This has helped with getting more sleep, which must make a big difference to how I feel.

So overall I am feeling better. I am still not getting more done, but that’s okay. I feel less tired and have more energy for my kids and husband, which is really important for me. I am not sure how much of my energy has been from following my tips or simply things improving as my daughter gets older and I get more sleep. It is probably both but I do feel better when I take deliberate action to improve things. I feel more in control.

I haven’t been writing much recently. I’ve been quite tired, and have simply not had the energy to make sure that I can write as often as you like. Now I’ve larger family people keep telling me that I can’t expect to get everything done that I want to do, and it’ll be hard enough to focus on getting the essential things done.

Perhaps everyone else is right, and there’s things I need to let go. I love being a parent, no doubt about that, and I love spending time with my newest daughter, but when she’s asleep I still feel the drive to try and get as much as I can done.

energy

However, even with getting more help with things around the home, I’ve still been struggling with energy, and getting my energy levels have been all over the place. This is common for people with modern lives, and doubly so for people adjusting to the arrival of new addition to their family.

So I’ve resolved to fix this. I’ve been doing some research into what anyone, but particularly new mothers like myself, can do to try and boos their energy levels. Here’s some of the better advice I’ve read:

1. Get a good night’s sleep

Easier said than done? Sure. It can be hard to get any sleep with a young child. But it is still important to try. Even just a good block of four or five hours of uninterrupted sleep can lift energy levels considerably.

2. Eating the right foods

Diet. So many of these things come down to the diet. But what you put into your body is a massive factor in what energy you have. There’s lots of information about this already on the internet, so I won’t go into it too much, but limiting processed foods, eating three decent meals a day and concentrating on foods with a lower glycemic index will help you feel more energetic.

3. Exercise

This is starting to seem more and more like a list of things for losing weight. That said, moderate exercise can increase energy levels. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout with the aim of burning fat, instead something as simple as going for a good walk early in the morning can increase serotonin levels in the brain and energy levels everywhere else. It’s something I’ve already been trying to do.

4. Get rid of tasks you don’t need to do

This is good advice for anyone at any time. But for people who are stretched thin it’s doubly so. Are you doing things that are both unnecessary and  not enjoyable? Then stop. Reflect on what takes up your time and see if it is something you neither like nor need.

For things you don’t like but need to get done, see if you can get help. Like I discussed in my last article.

5. Take some time out for yourself

Lots of information I’ve read talks about meditation and quiet time. Maybe that’s not for you, but carving out some time to focus on yourself – even if it is something as simple as having a nice bath and watching your favorite TV should in an hour of “you time” – is important in relaxing and letting go of stress and tension. Stress and tension both impact on energy, so reducing them will raise your energy levels.

Hopefully you’ll be able to use these tips in your own life if you are in the same position as me. It is much easier said than done, but I am determined to try. Hopefully, I’ll post again soon with an update of how I’ve been going.

Like most of the country, it is cold around where we live. Winter is here and is letting everyone know. My daughter has moved from a crib in our room some of the time to being in her crib in her nursery every night. When she was with us it was easy to tell what the temperature was like in her room (as we were in it) and if she was comfortable.

Since the move her sleep hasn’t been as good, I think it is to do with the cold. We’ve got some heating in her room, but I’ve found it best to have to to just take the chill out of the air. Firstly, this saves money – it is not cheap to run heating! And secondly I think it’s more comfortable for my baby. To keep her at a comfortable temperature it is better (so I find) to use bedding and her night clothes – it seems easier to find the right temperature that way.

nighttime

This works well… except when it doesn’t. The problem has been that my baby kept losing her blankets. I don’t mind doing night feeds, but I like to maximise my sleep!

The Problem With Blankets

My daughter moves around in her sleep, like most babies. This tends to result in her sheet and blankets being all messed up, and her not sufficiently covered. As a result she wakes up. My baby wasn’t hard to get back to sleep – she just wanted the blankets back on and to be soothed a little. And this is what made me think it was a temperature thing – it all seemed to be about making her comfortable.

Making sure everything was tucked in wasn’t a solution. My daughter is getting to be big and strong (well, for an infant anyway) and could often mess up her bedding no matter how diligently we tuck it all in. If you’ve got any tips then pass them on!

Solution: Goose Down Comforter to the Rescue

The solution – so far anyway – is a good quality goose down comforter, like these. A smaller sized comforter made from goose down is a good weight and provides a good amount of warmth, replacing several thinner blankets. My daughter has figured out how to pull one of something over her at night when it gets displaced, so now there is just one thing to use she is able to cover herself up close to all of the time.

She really likes some of the great designs for the pattern, too! Much more variety than blankets.

Hopefulloy it keeps working. I am not sure if it is a solution for all year round but it is working for us!

Despite now being a parent of three, things with a newborn feel a bit different this time around. I don’t know if it is because I am older or because I’ve two other young kids in addition to my beautiful daughter but being a stay at home mom of a newborn is making me feel a lot more tired than it did the first two times around. Coping with disrupted sleep is seeming harder than ever. And breast feeding seems to be taking more energy than it did previously.

There’s no easy way to fix it, sadly. All I can do is try and save as much energy for the things that are really important.

Doing Less

One way of saving myself for the things that really need doing is of course doing less. Despite never being that big on housework in the first place I’m trying to do less than I ever have! The ironing has stopped almost completely. When I cook I try and make use of as much pre-prepared ingredients as I can while still trying to be as healthy as possible. And dishes don’t make it out of the dishwasher straight away any more. I’m encouraging the family to use them straight from there and only unpacking when we need to put another load on.

Sharing the Load

One of the big savers, though, has been getting help from my family. My sons, despite being young, have been keen to help where they can. It might be something as simple as carrying things for me (obviously not very big things) or putting plates and cups into the sink. And they know to put their toys and things away if they don’t want their ever so slightly mobile sister to get them!

The biggest energy saver for me, though, is my husband. He’s been amazing. Despite working longer hours at work he still does as much of the housework as he can. One area he has really tried to take over is cooking. It’s a good thing for him to do as he can do it after work when everyone else is in bed, freezing it or putting it in the refrigerator for heating up later. He’s been trying to cook in bulk, and had to buy some new kitchen equipment off the internet to help out. Its saving me a lot of time and, more importantly, energy.

He’s also been trying to take as much of the non-feeding night wakeup time as possible. I don’t know how he has energy for work, really. There’s no way I could do all this without him.

Other Sources of Assistance

We could get more people to help out. And our families have been really good in this regard. My mom is around all the time helping out – even when I don’t ask her to! But it is so nice not to have to get the vacuum out because she’s already done it.

My husband’s parents love taking out our kids, and their grandsons have received a lot of attention from them. This has had the added bonus of helping them cope with all the changes.

If we had more money, another option is hiring some sort of help, like a house keeper or nanny. Or even simple (cheaper) things like getting a cleaning service, like Homejoy or something similar to help. Or even getting the laundry done. It’d be worth the cost for the extra time it’d free up.

breast pump

In my work as a breastfeeding counsellor, I am often asked about breast pumps. Here are my thoughts!

A breast pump can be a nursing mother’s best friend in her breastfeeding journey. It allows moms to continue breastfeeding even if they are away from their baby and helps mothers with premature infants initiate and sustain a healthy milk supply to provide their little ones with their life-saving milk. Whether you choose a manual breast pump or an electric model, there are a few basics to properly using and making the most out of your breast pump.

breast pump

Credit: Mike Prince

1. Assess Your Needs.

It is important to assess your needs when it comes to choosing a pump. Will you be using it daily? Bringing it to work? Will you be pumping occasionally for a night out? Knowing your personal needs and unique circumstances will help you choose the best pump for you. If you would only be pumping on rare occasions then you may be better off buying a good quality manual pump rather than investing in expensive hospital grade units. Likewise if you would be exclusively pumping, then it would make sense to invest in a top of the line pump.

2. Choose Wisely.

There is a dizzying array of breast pumps in the market today. After assessing your needs, read up and do your research on product reviews to help you make a decision. There are sellers who offer the use of trial pumps, check your local listing if this service is available in your area. Look into available parts and accessories in case you need them. Whatever pump you choose, ask if there are different sized flanges available. Using the wrong sized flange for your nipple size may injure your breasts and make pumping uncomfortable.

3. Read The Product Instructions.

After purchasing your pump, please do read the product instructions first before using. Especially for electric pumps and battery operated pumps, there may be a few preparatory steps to do, like initial charging, before you can start using them. The milk collection kits would also need a good and thorough washing and boiling to disinfect them before first use.

4. Find Your Spot.

After reading your product instruction manual and familiarizing yourself with how to operate your pump, find a comfortable spot where you can set up your pumping station. Choose a place where you can relax and keep distractions to a minimum. A stress free environment helps you achieve let down faster and helps increase the amount of breast milk you are able to express.

5. Relax and Pump Away.

The best tip for successful pumping is to relax and trust that your body is able to provide for baby’s needs. It helps to listen to music, read a book, catch up on social media or put your feet up and rest from your chores. Many pumping mothers, especially those at work or away from home find that looking at a picture of their baby or watching their videos or smelling one of baby’s used shirts triggers faster let down and increases the amount of milk they are able to pump.

6. Clean Up and Store.

After you pump, make sure you clean up your pump parts and flanges and to store your expressed milk appropriately especially if you will be traveling home from work with the milk. It is important to keep your pump clean to avoid contamination of your milk and also to ensure it stays in good working condition.

 

Knowing how to use your breast pump properly will go a long way towards keeping a healthy milk supply and helping you sustain extended breastfeeding.

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of being a first time parent, is having to listen to enduring myths and ingrained beliefs of well-meaning friends, family and loved ones. Our in-laws, our mother, our grandmother, our best friend’s mom, our elderly neighbor, all have their two cents worth on what they believe we should be doing in our parenting journey. Breastfeeding could top the list of having the most number of misconceptions and beliefs that often derail a first time mom’s commitment to exclusively breastfeed.

After the popularity of my last post, about everything you wanted to know about breastfeeding but were too scared to ask, I thought I’d like to share some myths on breastfeeding that really need to be corrected.

Credit: Jason Carter

Credit: Jason Carter

Stress turns breast milk sour

My grandmother, bless her heart, always kept reminding me, always be in a good mood, don’t stress, relax, otherwise you can’t breastfeed, makes your milk turn sour. As much as I love my grandma, breast milk DOES NOT turn sour no matter how stressed you are. Breastfeeding actually relaxes a mother by releasing the hormone prolactin, also known as the “mothering” hormone, instantly and naturally inducing a feeling of calm and relaxation in a mother. And one other thing, breast milk doesn’t spoil in your breasts. You may feel engorged and get rock hard bossoms but no, your milk won’t turn sour.

You can’t breastfeed if you’re sick

Many mothers worry that breastfeeding their little one while they are sick would also make baby sick. Not true. If mom is sick, then all the more they should breastfeed. Breast milk actually protects our baby from illness by providing much need antibodies specific to your illness. Not breastfeeding baby while sick actually makes baby more prone to catching your bug. While it is not an absolute guarantee that bay won’t get sick, continuing to breastfeed during a bout with the flu actually provides baby with the much needed protection from your illness. He may feel down and unwell for a day or two, but compare that to not breastfeeding at all and having to endure baby’s restlessness for a week.

Breastfeeding is only for the rich (or the poor)

Breastfeeding is the great equalizer. You only need one boob and one baby to provide the perfect food genetically and perfectly designed to provide for your infant’s unique needs. No matter what your social or financial status in life may be, breast milk is the only need all mothers are able to provide with no prejudice to how much they can afford financially. It’s free, for heaven’s sakes, IT’S FREE!

Breastfeeding is painful, deal with it

Many people think breastfeeding is a sacrifice one makes for the sake of the little one, that it is painful and difficult. Breastfeeding is a physiologically designed gift that should not hurt at all. If breastfeeding hurts then you are doing it wrong. Breastfeeding may be uncomfortable at first but by no means should it cause you pain. If it hurts then something is wrong. Get help from a breastfeeding peer counselor or a lactation consultant.

No matter how much we love our well meaning parents, in-laws and friends, breastfeeding is a gift that we can successfully enjoy when armed with the right information. Think of it this way, whenever you hear a derogatory remark that makes you feel you’re doing it all wrong, there’s always Google and Facebook and blogs to remind you that you’re on the right track.

Here are even more myths about breastfeeding!

Even after doing all your research, reading all those parenting and breastfeeding blogs, reading all the latest lactation studies, there will always be those lingering questions in every new mom’s head about breastfeeding — especially those questions that can be embarrassing to ask or seem too absurd, selfish or vain to be a valid question. For this post, I’d like to share some of the questions and the answers I’ve learned about breastfeeding (through personal experience and / or obsessive research and blog-trolling), that you may be too ashamed or afraid to ask:

breastfeeding

1. I’d really like to get my hair colored / highlighted / permed /rebonded / treated, etc. but I’m breastfeeding! Is that ok?

Yes it is okay to get your hair done even while breastfeeding. While many discourage chemical hair treatments or applications for breastfeeding mothers, studies have shown that even if these chemicals gets passed on to your baby through your breast milk, they are in quantities too negligible to have any effect on your little one. Go ahead and get that perm. Just make sure of course you aren’t actually breastfeeding while you get your hair done.

2. I really want to enjoy a glass of wine (or bottle of beer) at my friend’s party, but I’m breastfeeding, is that ok?

Go ahead and unwind with that glass of wine (or bottle of beer, or shot of vodka for that matter). The point is to unwind and relax (but not get drunk) and it is okay to take alcohol in moderation even when breastfeeding. Studies have shown that the trace amount of alcohol that gets passed on to baby are also in negligible quantities. To be on the extra safe side, nurse baby before you go out to have a drink (or have pre-expressed milk in the fridge for him), or wait for 2-3 hours after your drink before latching again. Again, moderation is key.

3. Breastfeeding will cause my breasts to sag! Is that true?

No, breastfeeding does NOT cause your breasts to sag. Stretching which happens during pregnancy may contribute to sagging breasts post partum, whether you breastfeed or not. Other factors like smoking, aging and genetics also play a role in sagging breasts. So unless you have really good genes and wear really good bras all the time, you’re breasts will sag eventually, WHETHER YOU BREASTFEED OR NOT. Such is the law of gravity.

4. My nipples are inverted, can I breastfeed?

Yes you can breastfeed with flat or even inverted nipples. A baby’s latch is enough to pull-out inverted nipples. In the first days though, while you and baby are still learning how to nurse, it could help to use nipple shells or even a big cut-off syringe to “pull-out” the nipple in preparation for latch. But based on experience, flat or inverted nipples usually pop out on their own as you and baby both get your breastfeeding rhythm and routine down pat.

Here are some other myths of breastfeeding.

As absurd or as vain as some of these questions may seem, they are valid questions that deserve informed and reliable answers. After all, the less doubts and insecurities a new mother has, the more she is able to be for her new baby.

Read why I love breastfeeding.

The first time I became a mother, the very thought of even leaving the house petrified me. My sleep-deprived paranoid brain kept up a constant barrage of scenarios from having to breastfeed in public to the germs floating around in open spaces to having to lug around all our baby paraphernalia. Any sort of traveling with baby was out of the question. And then, as the first weeks of my “baby moon” phase waned and I slowly began to long for a glimpse of the world beyond our bedroom door, it dawned on me that both baby and I could use the fresh air and the stimulation of the outside world. Let me say the first time seemed like it was a disaster, but in hindsight it has become a funny anecdote in my parenting journey. And as I slowly gained my confidence in my mothering ability, I learned my lessons as I went along and can now confidently say that I look forward to adventures out with the little one. With a few tricks up my sleeve, allow me to share my list on essential items to take when traveling with babies.

It's crazy the amount of items a baby needs

It’s crazy the amount of items a baby needs

The essentials

No matter where it is your going, to the grocery or the mall or to the other side of the world, I strongly suggest the first thing you think about is how to carry baby around. Number one essential in my book is a stroller. This contraption serves multiple purposes from the obvious one of having somewhere to put baby in, to doubling as a mobile carrier for all other essentials, to having something to lean on when your back needs a moment of relief. If you’re the type who gets intimidated by contraptions then you may opt for ring slings or baby wraps or a pouch.

The point I’m driving at is have something with you that allows you moments of being hands-free. Once you’ve got this covered, then the obvious list follows: your baby bag and everything in it – diapers and extra clothes (enough to cover your trip), baby wipes, hand sanitizers, diaper cream, bug spray, enough formula and bottles (if you choose the formula route) baby food and water (if baby is already eating). If your trip involves sleeping away from the familiarity of home, take along a travel crib or your baby’s favorite sleeping mat or blanket to help give baby a sense of comfort in a strange environment.

Stuff that could help

Once you’ve got the basics covered, think of things that could come in handy for your trip. Any gadget or accessory that makes baby more comfortable and potentially help keep your stress levels to a minimum counts. I once brought along a portable fan to a picnic; I highly recommend that if you’re going for an outdoor excursion. Depending on your itinerary, plan ahead, I’m pretty sure there’s a gadget or gizmo that would come in handy.

In case of emergency

A basic first aid kit, baby’s medication if there are any, and your health care provider’s number on hand ensures you’re ready for every possible complication.

Any trip with baby is an adventure. With a little planning and wise preparation, yes, it is possible to enjoy time with your bundle of joy away from the comforts of home.

family

One of the best things I love about being a parent is the fact that I have someone in my life that I can love unconditionally and who will love me the same way. I love the fact that my child looks to me to keep him safe, provide guidance that he needs to be a responsible person, and to hear him when he is troubled about life.

Another great thing about being a parent is that I learn lessons about myself through child rearing. For example, I learned that I will need to remain humble when parenting because I don’t know everything and sometimes I need help in steering my child in the right direction.

family

Worst Things About Being A Parent

One of the worst things about being a parent is the many dangers that my child faces these days and I sometimes fear that I cannot always protect him from those dangers which include sexual predators, bullies in school or even environmental dangers. Another bad thing about parenthood is when my child becomes rebellious to the point of being disrespectful and I struggle with finding the best way to discipline them without abusing them.

A Less Superficial Life

Before I became a parent, I lived only for myself and in fact I told myself that I could never be a parent because I generally did not have patience with children in general or with younger siblings as a teenager. However, I now know that the best blessings in life are not just about fulfilling my own dreams, but about giving of myself to others, especially my children. They make life worthwhile.

More Humor in The Home

Kids do so many fun things and one of the best things about parenthood is that I can laugh all the time. Just the other day my daughter put on a homemade fairy outfit that my dad helped her make and she did a series of comedy routines in her outfit. On another day my daughter took it upon herself to comb her hair and while it looked odd, I loved the fact that she tried.

Judgmental Comments From Others

Throughout my life as a parent some of the worst experiences were in situations in which my in-laws, my parents or even best friends made all kinds of judgmental comments towards me, and they tend to be critical of how I raise the children. At one point I had to let them know that while I appreciate their efforts, I know what is best for my children.

 

There are benefits and downsides in parenting, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything because as a parent, I’m developing my character and I now know the importance of selflessness and gratitude. When I am with my children I develop a sense of renewed purpose everyday and they keep me energized. Finally, parenthood brings me a lot of joy and I want to do everything I can to be there for them.

come from the heart

I still struggle to understand modern society’s need for labels and the consequent stereotypes we attach to them. We label people who only eat vegetables “vegetarians” and tend to assume they are all animal rights activists out to guilt-trip us meat eating, “environmentally insensitive” carnivores. And even within this elite group of “vegetarians” we have sub-groups like ovo-vegetarians, vegans, lacto-vegetarians, and so on, each with their corresponding image to live up to. Perhaps because it is human nature to want to “belong” that we do this, but it has really bothered me a lot that this labeling has even extended to the way we parent our children. We have come up with parenting labels like attachment parents, natural parents, continuum parents, dragon mothers, earthy mamas, etc. In the midst of all this, shall we say, “name calling”, we have inadvertently managed to alienate mothers who don’t fit our descriptions for each so-called “parenting type”. With all these labels we see online “mommy wars”, we read blogs on all sorts of parenting, and we read the ensuing debate on their comment boxes. I practice what we have labeled “attachment parenting”, and I actually advocate for its practices, but then I have nothing against parents who don’t co-sleep or baby wear or breastfeed, and I seriously don’t agree we can call them detached parents.

Attachment parenting calls for listening and responding to your child’s needs, to nurture them and be present for them and respect them and love them. But isn’t that what every parent should do? So why do we need the term attachment parenting? Can’t we just call it parenting? After all, aren’t these what parenting should be all about?

come from the heart

Parenting while I work

I find it sad really that we have become so caught up in trying to live-up to so called “ideal” standards that we sometimes forget that at the end of the day, we all do our best to be the best parents we can possibly be. Not all so-called “practices” of AP work for all families. Just because you don’t co-sleep, doesn’t automatically mean you don’t love your children any less. Just because you don’t breastfeed, it doesn’t make you any less a mother. If attachment parenting is all about raising emotionally secure and socially responsible human beings, then I say that is parenting. No need for qualifying adjectives that may discriminate or inadvertently pass judgment on others. Labels and so called styles help to distinguish particular techniques that may help us in our parenting journey, but they are in no way definitive of who we are as parents.

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, now if only our global community could decide on truly coming together in support of parenting, without passing judgment on how each family is raised, without discriminating attachment from continuum or natural, we could be a better world for it. If the goal of parenting is to raise the next generation of human beings to be better persons than who we are now, we can look forward to a truly brighter future for mankind. Attachment parenting is parenting, in every sense of the word. And so is natural parenting, continuum parenting, social parenting and so is whatever other label we have attached to parenting. Perhaps the question we should all consider as parents is not on what parenting style we employ but rather how do we use all the studies, techniques, practices and philosophies of each movement to become the best parents we can possibly be for our own children.