By Dr. Natasha Thomas

Hope Grove Psychiatry, PC

Have you recently had a baby and feel uncomfortable about your mothering skills, changing body, or how you measure up to other moms?  If so, this blogpost is for you!

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Finding your footing as a new mother can be tricky.  First time moms may wonder if they know how to do the job effectively, while experienced moms may question their ability to satisfy the needs of all their children.  The reality of your changing postpartum body may lead to embarrassment and insecurity, too.  However, the really great news is that you can grow to feel proficient in your abilities, and comfortable in your skin, with experience, support and these tips.

Don’t Forget, This is YOUR Thing

The world’s worst pitfall, and most damaging detracting factor in developing a healthy self-concept, is comparison.  On your journey of mothering, your fears, falls, fights and victories are all your own.  And that’s a beautiful thing.  Though other moms might be able to lend an ear or a hand of support, in the end, it’s your walk with your babies that will define the relationship you develop with them. Everything done with good intentions and love for your little ones will lead you to the right steps for your family. 

So, you know a mom who can breastfeed like a champ and you’re using formula?  Good for her, not the right fit for you!  Popping the top on a jar of baby food while your girlfriend’s an organic baby food-making machine?  Do what works!  It doesn’t matter if you know a woman that has read every mothering book, blog, or run a social media postpartum support group.  Her journey doesn’t have to be yours.  

The same is true when it comes to postpartum weight loss and our hopes for an awesome “snapback”. Whether you’re looking to surgery, exercise, or good fortune to get your “pre-baby body” back, do it without idealizing another woman’s image or progress.  If you catch yourself looking in the mirror with disappointment (or avoiding mirrors altogether), find at least 3 things you love about your body, and stay in a space of gratitude for its ability to bring your child(ren) into your life.  

* Please remember that what you see on social media is usually filtered and specifically selected to highlight people’s best days – not their reality.  Don’t buy into it.

Make a “Mommy Manifesto”

Once you’ve made sure you’re free of the trap of comparison, you’ll be liberated to create your very ownvision for your mothering journey.  Spend some quiet time thinking of how you want your mothering journey to look. If you have a spouse or partner, ask for their input as well.  Keep in mind, this is not necessarily about outlining how your life with your family will go (because that’s not completely under your control).  However, a Mommy Manifesto can help you stay on track with how you show up for your family, how you’ll face the hard times, and what you most want to impart to your children, especially as they grow. 

So, in as much detail as you can, write about how you’d like to start your days with your kids, how you’ll respond when they’re hurt, scared, angry or otherwise uncomfortable, what your personal style of guidance and discipline will be, and what life lessons you feel most moved to teach them.  If you’re clear on these things, you’ll have a bit of a road map. Let your mothering moves take you always in the direction of your vision. As you watch yourself succeed, your confidence definitely will grow!

Identify Your “Knowledge Gaps” 

Knowledge truly is power.  And early in motherhood, you may not feel like you have a lot of it.  Nothing is as reassuring and confidence-building as the feeling that you know what you’re doing – come what may.  So, our final tip in boosting your self-esteem in the postpartum period and beyond is to find your own “knowledge gaps” (i.e., mothering questions) and fill them with reliable and accurate knowledge.  For this step, you’ll need the help of medical professionals.  Usually, your child’s pediatrician, your OB/GYN or lactation consultant, and perhaps your mental health provider will make up the team of professionals that can help you fill knowledge gaps.  These are areas you wish you understood better – questions you naturally discover in the process of mothering.  Once or twice a week, identify only one“knowledge gap” area and research it with reliable sources (don’t overwhelm yourself).  Your healthcare providers can point you in the direction of good resources.

Some common knowledge gap questions are:

  • What do I do if my baby won’t breastfeed?  Or take a bottle?
  • What do I do if my baby won’t sleep at night?
  • How soon should my period return?
  • Is it normal to have worrisome thoughts after having a baby?
  • How can I make sure I get a chance to eat or rest after having a baby?
  • My partner isn’t helping as much as I thought they would.  What do I do?
  • Is it normal if I don’t feel bonded to my baby?  When will that change?
  • How can I tell if I have baby blues or postpartum depression?
  • Where can I make other mom friends?

Of course, other moms can help you fill knowledge gaps, too!  But if conversations with other moms generate more questions or anxiety, ask a professional. 

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The days, months and early years after childbirth are some of the most rapidly-changing, stressful, and rewarding times of your life.  You can do it well!  Trust yourself, be focused on your path, and determine what you want to learn.  You’ll excel and have fun doing it!

The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.