Dear mama, you deserve a beautiful breastfeeding experience—and mindfulness can help

It's a simple way to feel calmer, boost milk supply and connect with your baby—and your body—on a deeper level.

mother-breastfeeding-baby-mindful-breastfeeding
Kelsey Haywood Lucas + Alicia Wiley Photography

From the moment my baby first crawled to my breast, I knew that nourishing her with my body would be one of the most primal, powerful experiences of my life.

I also knew breastfeeding could be difficult (thanks to a lot of honest sharing on Instagram, I was well aware of the many reasons why some mamas struggle to have a positive nursing experience), and I knew it might be fleeting (it's funny how people ask, "How long are you going to breastfeed?" as if that could ever be decided by just me—and not my body, or my baby, or my job, or my health, or the countless other factors that impact a mother's ability and desire to nurse).

But more than anything else, I knew I wanted to be present in my breastfeeding journey. I knew I wanted to appreciate every second, no matter how long (or briefly) it lasted, and no matter what kind of obstacles came our way.


In my first trimester of pregnancy, I experienced a panic attack that rocked me to my core and shifted my entire outlook on how I approach motherhood. That was the catalyst that made me realize I wanted to be fully, deeply immersed in my breastfeeding experience—the blissful moments, the overwhelming moments, all of it. I knew that I never wanted to find myself looking back, struggling to remember what it was like, disappointed that I had let this sacred season of breastfeeding pass by in a blur.

The day my baby was born, I started applying the general principles of mindfulness to our breastfeeding journey. But what began as a purely sentimental pursuit very quickly became a source of essential nourishment; not just for my daughter, but for me. It has helped me become a healthier, happier mom—and I am absolutely certain that we wouldn't still be nursing today, two years later (and counting), without it. Simply put, mindfulness made my breastfeeding experience.

When I felt chronically melancholy as I watched the early days with my daughter fly by far too quickly for my bursting heart to bear, mindful breastfeeding grounded me in the peace of the present. When I pushed through frustrating dips in my milk supply or symptoms of mastitis—the fever, the body soreness, the agonizing aches—mindful breastfeeding helped me relax and get my flow back. And when I'm irritated or anxious or overwhelmed, mindful breastfeeding offers an escape; a chance to release, recharge, reset and bond with my baby.

It's not always a spa-like scenario with light streaming in through the windows, of course. Mindfulness doesn't need to be practiced in calm moments—it's often most crucial amid chaos. Yes, sometimes it's a luxurious 30 minutes all cozied up in a quiet nursery at nighttime; but sometimes it's 5 minutes pulled over in a parking lot while my too-tired toddler flails around fussing, swatting at my face and twisting my nipples.

Those are the moments when it matters most; when I need to push past my irritation and center myself so I don't snap. Mindful breastfeeding helps me be a stronger, more focused, more relaxed mom—and best of all, it doesn't require me to sacrifice any of my precious spare time to practice it.




What are the benefits of mindful breastfeeding?

My lived experience tells me that mindful breastfeeding is a game-changer for mental and physical health—and the science supports it. The existing research already paints an impressive picture of mindful breastfeeding, while one group of researchers in a 2021 study states that "exploring the essence of mindfulness in breastfeeding and its health-promoting potential is highly warranted." Here's more about how it works:

  • It makes breastfeeding mothers kinder, calmer and happier. A 2013 study showed that breastfeeding mothers who employed mindfulness techniques scored significantly higher than the control group for factors like maternal self-efficacy, acting with awareness, non-judging, non-reactivity, self-kindness and total self-compassion (among plenty of other positive traits). The study went on to state that the group of mindful moms "exhibited significantly less anxiety, stress and psychological distress." I'm going to take the leap here and say that mindfulness can help make you a happier, healthier parent. And you know who benefits from that? You, your children, your partner, your extended family and everyone else in your orbit.
  • It increases oxytocin. You've likely heard of oxytocin by one of its many nicknames—the cuddle hormone, the love hormone, the bonding hormone. Breastfeeding is one of the mechanisms that releases oxytocin, which aids in recovery from childbirth, helps the uterus contract, promotes healing, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and boosts bonding and connection between mother and baby. Another way to get a hit of this feel-good hormone? Yep, you guessed it: Mindfulness activates the part of the brain that releases oxytocin per this 2019 study. Pair breastfeeding with mindfulness for a double dose of the warm and fuzzy feelings that strengthen the bridge between your body and baby.
  • It increases milk production. I first learned about this unexpected benefit while experiencing a stressful dip in my milk supply: Sitting up late one night trying (unsuccessfully) to pump any amount of significance, I decided to pass the time with a guided meditation on my Expectful app. Within a few minutes, my milk started to flow freely for the first time in days—and I've used meditation to help increase my pumping output ever since. But if you'd like more than just my own anecdotal evidence, please see this 2018 review, which shows "there is evidence from three studies suggesting that relaxation therapy may be effective in significantly increasing milk yield and from one study suggesting that it may have beneficial effects on milk fat levels." And it makes sense, right? Oxytocin triggers the let-down reflex, but stress inhibits oxytocin—which is why mindfulness can play such an important role in the lactation process.
  • It reduces pain. Breastfeeding shouldn't be painful, generally speaking, and anyone experiencing prolonged discomfort should consult with a certified lactation consultant to treat the root cause. That said, it's common to endure the occasional bout of breastfeeding pain if you're dealing with a temporary issue like engorgement, plugged milk ducts, mastitis or thrush. While you work to treat the problem, practicing mindfulness—which is often used to treat patients with chronic pain because it significantly reduces pain intensity—can provide some relief while you continue to breastfeed through the discomfort (a practice that's generally recommended, as suddenly stopping can amplify many of these issues).



How do you practice mindful breastfeeding?

Ready to begin your own mindful breastfeeding practice? Once your little one is latched, follow these steps…

1. Breathe deep and let go.

Few things are so simple and yet so powerful as the act of breathing deeply: It immediately slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and reduces cortisol (also known as the stress hormone). Get settled in a comfortable position and reset with a few deep, intentional breaths—always inhaling through your nose. After just two or three exhales, notice how the mind slows down and the body relaxes. Plus, the steady rhythm and soothing sound of your breathwork can help your child co-regulate their own breathing—so don't be surprised if you observe their tension melting away as they sync up with your rhythm.

2. Begin with a body scan.

When's the last time you tried to feel the very tip-top of your head—not by touching it, but by simply noticing it? In a mindful body scan, you'll realize how often we ignore our physical selves—but by tapping into the areas we don't often connect with, we can ground ourselves in the present moment. Begin at the top of your head and then slowly move downward, simply directing attention to various spots along the way. Notice how each area feels, then move on. When you arrive at your chest, it's nice to linger there for a little and focus on all the sweet sensations of nursing: the little hands grazing your collarbone or rubbing your belly; the sound and feel of milk flow (it can be helpful to visualize this, too, especially if you're working through a dip in milk supply or clogged duct).

3. Shift the focus to your baby.

Close your eyes. Feel the weight of your child in your arms. Pause to appreciate what a privilege it is to be their mama. Take another deep breath, open your eyes, and take in the beautiful sight, sounds and sensations of your baby: the dimple that's noticeable only while they're nursing, the little patch of peach fuzz on their shoulder, the smell of their skin. Sit still, make eye contact, observe, connect. Rub their back, brush their hair—and commit the moment to memory.

4. Don't stress it.

Mindful breastfeeding is meant to be exactly what you need, when you need it. If you sit down to nurse and really need to finish up a grocery order or respond to a few emails, then that's exactly how you should spend your time—without any guilt. Mindful breastfeeding will be there waiting, whenever you need it, as a way to disconnect from the distractions of your day and connect with your baby and body.

Sources:

Ito E, Shima R, Yoshioka T. A novel role of oxytocin: Oxytocin-induced well-being in humans. Biophys Physicobiol. 2019;16:132-139. doi:10.2142/biophysico.16.0_132

Korukcu, O., Kabukcuoğlu, K., Aune, I. et al. Development and psychometric testing of the 'Mindful Breastfeeding Scale' (MINDF-BFS) among postpartum women in Turkey. Curr Psychol. 2021. doi:10.1007/s12144-021-01858-6

Mohd Shukri NH, Wells JC, Fewtrell M. The effectiveness of interventions using relaxation therapy to improve breastfeeding outcomes: A systematic review. Maternal & child nutrition. 2018 Apr;14(2):e12563. doi:10.1111%2Fmcn.12563

Perez-Blasco J, Viguer P, Rodrigo MF. Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on psychological distress, well-being, and maternal self-efficacy in breast-feeding mothers: results of a pilot study. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2013;16(3):227-236. doi:10.1007/s00737-013-0337-z

Shires A, Sharpe L, Davies JN, Newton-John TRO. The efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions in acute pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Pain. 2020;161(8):1698-1707. doi:10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001877

Sobhy SI, Mohame NA. The effect of early initiation of breast feeding on the amount of vaginal blood loss during the fourth stage of labor. J Egypt Public Health Assoc. 2004;79(1-2):1-12.

Uvnas-Moberg K, Petersson M. Oxytocin, ein Vermittler von Antistress, Wohlbefinden, sozialer Interaktion, Wachstum und Heilung [Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing]. Z Psychosom Med Psychother. 2005;51(1):57-80. doi:10.13109/zptm.2005.51.1.57

Kelsey Haywood Lucas is a writer and editor who focuses on skincare, self-care and mindful motherhood. Kelsey is passionate about helping moms stay mindful and archive their motherhood journeys—follow her on Instagram or sign up for her newsletter at kelseylucas.com to get helpful tips, journal prompts, inspirational ideas and more.
https://www.instagram.com/bykelseylucas

In This Article

    Kristen Bell and Jackie Tohn on how they’re ‘sneak teaching’ kids with their new show "Do, Re & Mi"

    The best friends created a musical animated show that's just as educational as it is entertaining

    Amazon Studios

    This episode is sponsored by Tonies. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Kristen Bell and Jackie Tohn have been best friends since they met as young singers and actors more than 15 years ago, and now they're collaborating on a new Amazon Original animated kids series called Do, Re & Mi. The show, which follows best birds Do, Re and Mi as they navigate the world around them while also belting out catchy tunes, is just as educational as it is entertaining.

    On the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, Bell and Tohn talk to Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety about how they're "sneak teaching" kids with their new show and why music is such an important focal point.

    "It was basically our mission from the very beginning to 'sneak music education' into kids' lives, hands, brains, all of it," Tohn admits.

    "There's so much science and data to support that [music] helps kids, their brains grow with math, with social skills. It literally can change your neuroplasticity. You can put music of their favorite genre or timeframe on, in an Alzheimer's ward, and they will come back online for a couple minutes. I mean, it's crazy," Bell, who has two daughters of her own, adds. "You know, music can bind a lot of families together. It can bind friendships together. And it's just a show that you can feel really good about. We want to get it in front of as many kids as possible, because I don't like the fact that some kids won't have exposure to music. Their brains deserve to grow just as much as everyone else's."

    The first season of Do, Re & Mi premiered on September 17th and its creators recorded 52 different songs for the show that range from reggae and pop to country, blues and jazz.

    "That's what's so exciting about this show," Tohn gushes. "Not only are the lessons we're teaching for everyone, but every episode has a musical genre, a musical lesson and an emotional lesson. And so there really is so much to learn."

    Elsewhere in the episode, Bell tells Tenety about how she made literal toolboxes that carry different regulation tools to help her kids calm down (one is "find a song you love and sing out loud") and why having a village is crucial to surviving motherhood, especially in a pandemic, while Tohn details her special friendship not only with Bell, but with her daughters, too.

    To hear more about the show, Bell's experiences in motherhood, and her enduring friendship with Tohn, listen to The Motherly Podcast for the full interview.

    Entertainment

    12 baby registry essentials for family adventures

    Eager to get out and go? Start here

    Ashley Robertson / @ashleyrobertson

    Parenthood: It's the greatest adventure of all. From those first few outings around the block to family trips at international destinations, there are new experiences to discover around every corner. As you begin the journey, an adventurous spirit can take you far—and the best baby travel gear can help you go even farther.

    With car seats, strollers and travel systems designed to help you confidently get out and go on family adventures, Maxi-Cosi gives you the support you need to make the memories you want.

    As a mom of two, Ashley Robertson says she appreciates how Maxi-Cosi products can grow with her growing family. "For baby gear, safety and ease are always at the top of our list, but I also love how aesthetically pleasing the Maxi Cosi products are," she says. "The Pria Car Seat was our first purchase and it's been so nice to have a car seat that 'grows' with your child. It's also easy to clean—major bonus!"

    If you have big dreams for family adventures, start by exploring these 12 baby registry essentials.

    Tayla™️ XP Travel System

    Flexibility is key for successful family adventures. This reversible, adjustable, all-terrain travel system delivers great versatility. With the included Coral XP Infant Car Seat that fits securely in the nesting system, you can use this stroller from birth.


    Add to Babylist

    $849.99

    Iora Bedside Bassinet

    Great for use at home or for adventures that involve a night away, the collapsible Iora Bedside Bassinet gives your baby a comfortable, safe place to snooze. With five different height positions and three slide positions, this bassinet can fit right by your bedside. The travel bag also makes it easy to take on the go.


    Add to Babylist

    $249.99

    Kori 2-in-1 Rocker

    Made with high-quality, soft materials, the foldable Kori Rocker offers 2-in-1 action by being a rocker or stationary seat. It's easy to move around the home, so you can keep your baby comfortable wherever you go. With a slim folded profile, it's also easy to take along on adventures so your baby always has a seat of their own.


    Add to Babylist

    $119.99

    Minla 6-in-1 High Chair

    A high chair may not come to mind when you're planning ahead for family adventures. But, as the safest spot for your growing baby to eat meals, it's worth bringing along for the ride. With compact folding ability and multiple modes of use that will grow with your little one, it makes for easy cargo.


    Add to Babylist

    $219.99

    Coral XP Infant Car Seat

    With the inner carrier weighing in at just 5 lbs., this incredibly lightweight infant car seat means every outing isn't also an arm workout for you. Another feature you won't find with other infant car seats? In addition to the standard carry bar, the Coral XP can be carried with a flexible handle or cross-body strap.


    Add to Babylist

    $399.99

    Pria™️ All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

    From birth through 10 years, this is the one and only car seat you need. It works in rear-facing, forward-facing and, finally, booster mode. Comfortable and secure for every mile of the journey ahead, you can feel good about hitting the road for family fun.


    Add to Babylist

    $289.99

    Pria™️ Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

    Want to skip the wrestling match with car seat buckles? The brilliant Out-of-the-Way harness system and magnetic chest clip make getting your child in and out of their buckles as cinch. This fully convertible car seat is suitable for babies from 4 lbs. through big kids up to 100 lbs. With washer-and-dryer safe cushions and dishwasher safe cup holders, you don't need to stress the mess either.


    Add to Babylist

    $329.99

    Tayla Modular Lightweight Stroller

    With four reclining positions, your little ones can stay content—whether they want to lay back for a little shut-eye or sit up and take in the view. Also reversible, the seat can be turned outward or inward if you want to keep an eye on your adventure buddy. Need to pop it in the trunk or take it on the plane? The stroller easily and compactly folds shut.


    Add to Babylist
    $499.99

    Tayla Travel System

    This car seat and stroller combo is the baby travel system that will help make your travel dreams possible from Day 1. The Mico XP infant seat is quick and easy to install into the stroller or car. Skipping the car seat? The reversible stroller seat is a comfortable way to take in the scenery.


    Add to Babylist
    $699.99

    Modern Diaper Bag

    When you need to change a diaper during an outing, the last thing you'll want to do is scramble to find one. The Modern Diaper Bag will help you stay organized for brief outings or week-long family vacations. In addition to the pockets and easy-carry strap, we love the wipeable diaper changing pad, insulated diaper bag and hanging toiletry bag.


    Add to Babylist

    $129.99

    Mico XP Max Infant Car Seat

    Designed for maximum safety and comfort from the very first day, this infant car seat securely locks into the car seat base or compatible strollers. With a comfy infant pillow and luxe materials, it also feels as good for your baby as it looks to you. Not to mention the cushions are all machine washable and dryable, which is a major win for you.


    Add to Babylist
    $299.99

    Adorra™️ 5-in-1 Modular Travel System

    From carriage mode for newborn through world-view seated mode for bigger kids, this 5-in-1 children's travel system truly will help make travel possible. We appreciate the adjustable handlebar, extended canopy with UV protection and locking abilities when it's folded. Your child will appreciate the plush cushions, reclining seat and smooth ride.


    Add to Babylist
    $599.99

    Ready for some family adventures? Start by exploring Maxi-Cosi.

    This article was sponsored by Maxi-Cosi. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


    Boost 1

    This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

    One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

    I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.


    Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

    The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

    Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

    Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

    Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

    Woodland Snug comforter

    Sunday-Citizen-Woodland-Snug-comforter

    The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.

    $249

    Braided Pom Pom Throw

    Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.

    $145

    Lumbar pillow

    sunday-citizen-lumbar-pillow

    What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?

    $65

    Crystal infused sleep mask

    sunday citizen sleep mask

    Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.

    $40

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

    Shop

    10 Montessori phrases for kids who are struggling with back to school

    The first day of school can be hard for everyone, mama. Here's how to use the Montessori method to help your child adjust.

    No matter how excited your child was to pick out a new lunchbox and backpack this year, there will likely be days when they just don't want to go to school. Whether they're saying "I don't like school" when you're home playing together or having a meltdown on the way to the classroom, there are things you can say to help ease their back-to-school nerves.

    More than the exact words you use, the most important thing is your attitude, which your child is most definitely aware of. It's important to validate their feelings while conveying a calm confidence that school is the right place for them to be and that they can handle it.

    Here are some phrases that will encourage your child to go to school.


    1. "You're safe here."

    If you have a young child, they may be genuinely frightened of leaving you and going to school. Tell them that school is a safe place full of people who care about them. If you say this with calm confidence, they'll believe you. No matter what words you say, if your child senses your hesitation, your own fear of leaving them, they will not feel safe. How can they be safe if you're clearly scared of leaving them? Try to work through your own feelings about dropping them off before the actual day so you can be a calm presence and support.

    2. "I love you and I know you can do this."

    It's best to keep your goodbye short, even if your child is crying or clinging to you, and trust that you have chosen a good place for them to be. Most children recover from hard goodbyes quickly after the parent leaves.

    If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, give one good strong hug and tell them that you love them and know they can do this. Saying something like, "It's just school, you'll be fine" belittles their feelings. Instead, acknowledge that this is hard, but that you're confident they're up to the task. This validates the anxiety they're feeling while ending on a positive note.

    After a quick reassurance, make your exit, take a deep breath and trust that they will be okay.

    3. "First you'll have circle time, then work time, and then you'll play on the playground."

    Talk your child through the daily schedule at school, including as many details as possible. Talk about what will happen when you drop them off, what kinds of work they will do, when they will eat lunch and play outside, and who will come to get them in the afternoon.

    It can help to do this many times so that they become comfortable with the new daily rhythm.

    4. "I'll pick you up after playground time."

    Give your child a frame of reference for when you will be returning.

    If your child can tell time, you can tell them you'll see them at 3:30pm. If they're younger, tell them what will happen right before you pick them up. Perhaps you'll come get them right after lunch, or maybe it's after math class.

    Giving this reference point can help reassure them you are indeed coming back and that there is a specific plan for when they will see you again. As the days pass, they'll realize that you come consistently every day when you said you would and their anxieties will ease.

    5. "What book do you think your teacher will read when you get to school this morning?"

    Find out what happens first in your child's school day and help them mentally transition to that task. In a Montessori school, the children choose their own work, so you might ask about which work your child plans to do first.

    If they're in a more traditional school, find an aspect of the school morning they enjoy and talk about that.

    Thinking about the whole school day can seem daunting, but helping your child focus on a specific thing that will happen can make it seem more manageable.

    6. "Do you think Johnny will be there today?"

    Remind your child of the friends they will see when they get to school.

    If you're not sure who your child is bonding with, ask the teacher. On the way to school, talk about the children they can expect to see and try asking what they might do together.

    If your child is new to the school, it might help to arrange a playdate with a child in their class to help them form strong relationships.

    7. "That's a hard feeling. Tell me about it."

    While school drop-off is not the time to wallow in the hard feelings of not wanting to go to school, if your child brings up concerns after school or on the weekend, take some time to listen to them.

    Children can very easily be swayed by our leading questions, so keep your questions very general and neutral so that your child can tell you what they're really feeling.

    They may reveal that they just miss you while they're gone, or may tell you that a certain person or kind of work is giving them anxiety.

    Let them know that you empathize with how they feel, but try not to react too dramatically. If you think there is an issue of real concern, talk to the teacher about it, but your reaction can certainly impact the already tentative feelings about going to school.

    8. "What can we do to help you feel better?"

    Help your child brainstorm some solutions to make them more comfortable with going to school.

    Choose a time at home when they are calm. Get out a pen and paper to show that you are serious about this.

    If they miss you, would a special note in their pocket each morning help? If another child is bothering them, what could they say or who could they ask for help? If they're too tired in the morning, could an earlier bedtime make them feel better?

    Make it a collaborative process, rather than a situation where you're rescuing them, to build their confidence.

    9. "What was the best part of your school day?"

    Choose a time when your child is not talking about school and start talking about your day. Tell them the best part of your day, then try asking about the best part of their day. Practice this every day.

    It's easy to focus on the hardest parts of an experience because they tend to stick out in our minds. Help your child recognize that, even if they don't always want to go, there are likely parts of school they really enjoy.

    10. "I can't wait to go to the park together when we get home."

    If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, remind them of what you will do together after you pick them up from school.

    Even if this is just going home and making dinner, what your child likely craves is time together with you, so help them remember that it's coming.

    It is totally normal for children to go through phases when they don't want to go to school. If you're concerned, talk to your child's teacher and ask if they seem happy and engaged once they're in the classroom.

    To your child, be there to listen, to help when you can, and to reassure them that their feelings are natural and that they are so capable of facing the challenges of the school day, even when it seems hard.

    Back to School

    Yes, a shower can be self-care—here's how to level it up

    Some seasons of life can make you feel like you have no time for self-care, so here's how you can make an everyday activity a luxury.

    Getty

    Over the course of the last several years, "self-care" has become not only a buzzword, but also a daily requirement for personal fulfillment. And while self-care is important, it loses its appeal when it feels like a chore, or yet another item on a never-ending To Do list. I have a one-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. I work full-time, and I do not have full-time childcare. As a result, like many parents, free time is the stuff of fairy tales.

    Instead of beating myself up over my inability to get to the nail salon or to schedule a monthly massage, I decided to redefine self-care—to be grateful for the little moments, to elevate them. In the seasons of life where you can't figure out how to fit "self-care" in—or when trying to fit it in causes more stress—choose to relish the small escapes. After all, the intent of self-care is to feel better, to improve your overall health, to fill your cup so you can help to fill others. When the act of scheduling self-care puts more weight on your shoulders, it defeats the purpose.

    I can't tell you how many articles I've read that say a shower—basic hygiene—shouldn't qualify as self-care, and I do understand that sentiment.

    However, on the days, weeks, or even months where you can't find hour-long blocks of scheduled "me time," why not embrace your shower as an act of self-care?



    In all honesty, my nightly shower after my kids go to sleep is beyond. I look forward to it. I set the mood and bask in 10-15 minutes of silence and pampering. Here are some of my tried-and-true tips to boost your shower:


    • Light a candle: What is it about the simple act of lighting a candle that sets the mood? I recently received a South Candle from my MIL, and the dreamy summer scent has me reaching for it again and again.
    • Use a dry brush: I jumped on the dry brushing trend a few years ago and never looked back. Right before I shower, I use a dry brush on my body to exfoliate and improve lymphatic drainage.
    • Hang eucalyptus: Visit your local florist, and buy a bundle of fresh eucalyptus. In addition to its spa-esque scent, eucalyptus boasts multiple healing effects, like promoting stress-relief and improving mental health.
    • Cleanse: Indie Lee's Brightening Cleanser smells delicious and is a great addition to anyone's summer skincare routine. This vegan and plant-based formula leaves my skin looking bright and firm.
    • Splurge: It's not cheap, but Tata Harper's smoothing body scrub buffs and polishes your skin, leaving it smooth, glowing, and in my case — ready to hit the sheets!
    • Moisturize: Post-shower, use your favorite moisturizer. I love Alba Botanica's very emollient unscented original body lotion — it's super hydrating and gentle on sensitive skin without an overwhelming fragrance.
    • Enhance your skin while you catch some z's: Glow Recipe's Watermelon + AHA Glow Sleeping Mask completes my nightly skincare routine. It smells like candy, and I wake up with soft, dewy skin.

    Moral of the story? For busy parents, your nightly shower is a special occasion, so don't save the good products for another day—use them now!

    Elevating the little moments and being creative carries over to all other areas of your life as well. Can't make it to a barre class? Slide into bridge pose while on the floor with the kiddos and do some hip raises. Turn a dance party into a quick HIIT workout with some squat jumps. Take the kiddos for a walk and pop in your airpods. Fresh air, movement, and a podcast fuels my soul. Having trouble finding a sitter for date night? Enhance your "Netflix and chill" with restaurant-quality cocktails, fancy popcorn, and a bougie dessert.

    In certain seasons of life, recognize self-care in the little moments. It's not worth stressing about your inability to practice an idealistic—and unrealistic—self-care routine. Instead, find the moment, elevate it, and enjoy it.

    Beauty Style

    9 things I wish my husband had known before we brought baby home

    There's so much to navigate in new parenthood. Proud new papas of the world, this one's for you.

    We brought our baby home in a confused, crazy haze of new-parent life. We didn't know a lot. Actually, scratch that. We didn't even really know a little. There's so much I wish I could have told you—to give you, this patient and amazing man, a heads up. But I couldn't. I didn't know, either.

    There's so much to navigate in new parenthood. Proud new papas of the world, this one's for you.

    Here are 9 things I wish my husband had known before we brought baby home...

    1. We are both clueless.

    I know you've never done this before. But guess what? Neither have I. Just because I'm a woman or I used to babysit in college doesn't mean I know more about what we're doing. This isn't a competition of who knows more or less about babies. The playing field is level. We are both clueless. If you ask me why she's crying again, and I give you a master-level death stare—just understand it's because I. Don't. Know.

    2. So help me.

    Don't wait for me to ask. Please. Just do something. Change the next diaper, get me a snack, fill my water bottle while I'm nursing, cook dinner, throw in a load of laundry. Remind me to take Motrin. Literally anything will be helpful. And it is such a nice feeling when I don't have to ask you to do something. Like, a major turn-on. (And I'll remember that in six to eight weeks.)

    3. Happily take over when I need a break.

    When you're getting the feeling that I may need a break, or a shower, or to just sit in silence by myself for a minute—take over. With a smile. Bond with your baby. Talk to the baby. Sing to the baby. Do awesome father stuff. I'll get my very necessary break, and I'll be listening in the other room. #Swoon. ?

    4. I'm going to cry a lot.

    Over all sorts of things. I got poop on my hands. Tears. I am tired. Tears. My nipples hurt. Tears. I don't understand what I'm doing. Tears. Someone just stopped by unannounced. Tears. My belly is jiggly. Tears. I feel sad. Tears. I have never been happier in my life. Tears. This cookie is sooo good. Tears. ? ?

    The new norm? Crying. Get used to it for now. I don't really realize I'm crying over ridiculous things, I'm just in this brand-new world with lots of crying (from me and the baby), a nursing appetite that dwarfs my pregnancy appetite and a baby bump without a baby in there. Let me cry without judgment.

    For the most part, there will be zero rationale behind these tears (well, except #hormones... and dang, that cookie was really good). But also, do me a favor and pay attention to signs of postpartum depression. Because I may not be able to.

    5. I've never felt so self-conscious.

    My baby bump is gone, but I am still carrying extra pounds. Some people think I still look pregnant. I haven't showered yet today. My hair is greasy. My legs are so hairy they're confused as to whether they're wearing pants or have a thick fur blanket wrapped around them. The circles under my eyes are deepening by the second. My wardrobe consists of sizes I'd never thought I'd see, and my maternity clothes don't look like they're going anywhere fast.

    Lift my spirits, please. I don't quite feel like myself. Be gentle with me. We can't have sex—and I definitely don'' want to!—but we can cuddle before bed, you can hold my hand and tell me what an amazing job I'm doing, and you can remind me that I'm a badass, beautiful mama.

    6. I'm going to spend a lot of time in the bathroom.

    You may wonder what exactly I'm doing in there. I may be trying to escape you people for a little while. But I also may just be using the bathroom, which now means also using my new BFF spray bottle, very slowly sitting down on the toilet, very slowly picking myself up off the toilet, putting a new pad on, and hoisting my pants up. It's not the quickest process right this second.

    Oh, and when I get a chance to shower... no, I did not get sucked down the drain. I am simply enjoying the peace and quiet while the hot water runs down my back. ? I'm giving myself some time alone to reflect on the fact that yes, this is all happening.

    7. I don't want visitors.

    Sure, the close family members we agreed on are fine. I know they want to check in on us and want to meet the baby. But please don't invite other people over right now. This is a lot to take in and figure out. My boobs are out 24/7, I'm wearing your sweatshirt and maternity sweatpants and—makeup? What does this word mean?

    If you could, just give me a little time and space in our bubble. I'll be ready for visitors soon. Tell people no from us so I don't have to feel bad about it. When the VIPs are visiting, be the overstaying police—if they've been over for too long, make something up so they get the hint to leave. The baby needs to rest, I need to rest, I need to feed the baby, aliens are coming and we need to go into our underground bunker—whatever you need to do. Check in with me privately if you're not sure what constitutes "too long." ⏱

    8. I'm going to go into protective mama bear mode.

    And not just with the baby. ?

    With you, too. I need you with me, near me, supporting me and letting me support you. We're in this together, and I desperately need to feel like a team. Let's try to be patient with each other.

    But also, if we do have people visiting and I give you the "I-need-my-baby-back" stare—HAND ME THE BABY. Politely ask whoever is holding her if you could borrow her and like I said—HAND ME THE BABY. PLEASE. I LOVE YOU.

    8. I'm going to go into protective mama bear mode.

    We are awesome together. Our baby makes us even more awesome together. This is new to us. Let's try to enjoy this time in our lives. Let's laugh over that poop on my hands (after I cry... and remember—let me cry), let's stay in our bubble as long as we can and let's rocking being clueless parents together. Because let's face it—no matter how much we think we know, we'll never know it all.


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