A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Print Friendly and PDF

[Editor's note: When we shared 'Self-care' is not enough to fix how much moms are burnt out, the response was overwhelming. It hit a nerve, as mothers from across the globe expressed their collective burnout. We heard two things: 1). I feel that way too, and 2). How do we fix this? In response, Motherly introduces our new editorial franchise offering expert-based solutions that address the very real burnout that mothers are facing. It is not going to be easy to make this better, but if we take small steps and work together, we can impact serious change.]

After a full day of work and being with my kids, I am exhausted. It is not an unfamiliar feeling, as I know many mothers—close friends and clients—echo similar sentiments. It is a common experience that women are exhausted at the end of the day. Many describe it as being "touched out" and others are experiencing the impacts of burn out.

Then, a text comes in from a dear friend, asking me for help.

"Just say yes, Tracy," my internal dialogue tells me. "Don't let others down. You don't want to upset your friend. It won't take that long."

This dialogue is a strong one—it tells me to ignore what I am feeling at this moment and it tells me to care for others without considering what I need.

So I plow forward and give what the other person is asking. Afterward, I collapse even further into my bed, none the more rested than when I first laid down.

Women often care for others before we care for ourselves. We are used to being the primary caregivers, so naturally, we put others first.

We are trying to balance heavier loads than ever before. Work. Children. Friendships. Household. Relationships. Family. Our own interests and well-being. It becomes impossible to manage all of the demands that are placed on us. And yet we keep caring and giving to others.

There are many signs that you tend to be a caregiver and put others first:

  • You don't say no to others as you feel guilty
  • You don't suggest something or do something your way
  • You don't ask your partner for help but easily offer to help them
  • You constantly feel drained and tired from others' requests.
  • You describe yourself as a "doer." You thrive on doing things, instead of allowing yourself to be in the moment. As a "doer," you are busy thinking of the next moment, and you feel filled up when you care for others.
  • You hold yourself to a high standard and keep caring for others because you hate letting others down. And, you might even begin to feel resentful over time.

But I have to ask: What does caring for others give you?

Many will say they don't want to upset others, they feel obligated to give to others, and they feel responsible for how others feel. But caring for others is a way to avoid feeling negative issues in your relationships. Some of my clients say they don't want to let someone down. And sometimes caring can be a form of avoiding what you are genuinely struggling with.

For myself, it took me a while to realize that by ensuring I was always available for others (including my husband at bath time or at the slightest moment when a child fussed), I was feeding my self-worth. The rules in my mind sounded something like this, "If I am always available to my friends, then I am worthy. If I show up for others whenever they need me, then I am good enough."

But the challenge is that caring in this way for a period of time can be unhealthy, especially when you are maxed out—as we often are in motherhood.

That text message I responded to? I started to feel resentful towards my friend for needing me. But when I step back from that moment, it is not my friend that is responsible for me saying yes in response to her text—it is me.

I am responsible for my choices.

We need to talk about a word that often sounds dirty to many of my clients: boundaries.

Every client or couple that shows up in my office talks about difficulties with boundaries in some way. It is a word with a lot of impact on the wellness of you and your relationships. I like to think of boundaries like the elephant in the room—we all have them, they are always there, but we often don't talk about them.

If you identify with the challenge of saying no and being a caregiver, here are nine steps to help you learn how to say no, mama:

1. Tune in to when it is too much.

We have early signs that tell us we are taking on too much, and that we are exhausted. For some, these could be bodily experiences, like feeling tension in our shoulders or feeling exhausted all the time. Others might experience physiological symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness or difficulties sleeping, or emotional symptoms like anxiety, frustration or irritability with your children).

A strong sign of having a heavy load is that you are viewing others negatively or feel like others are taking advantage of you.

2. Identify what giving to others is costing you.

Giving to others is a beautiful quality, and we need people like you. But there are people in your life that require you to be at your best—your children need you.

The analogy I like to use is a cell phone battery. You only have so much battery power to go about your day. What will you use it for each day? What is most important to you?

For some, making a list and prioritizing this helps to identify what needs to stay and what you need to say no to. Remember to acknowledge the cumulative effect of multiple small gives. Texting back all of your friends in one day and responding to messages on social media might be too much. It's okay to take a step back and pause.

3. You are not responsible for other's thoughts and feelings.

I want you to read that last sentence one more time.

So often I hear from clients, "I could never say no, that would hurt their feelings." Yes, saying no might hurt their feelings. But you are not responsible for that.

One friend might be excited that you are prioritizing yourself, and the other may feel hurt—it is then their responsibility to cope with their own feelings.

We all have our thoughts, feelings, opinions, desires, wishes and values. We are separate people. And it is our responsibility to cope with our inside experiences. You cannot control how others feel. Instead, we are responsible for how we communicate and say no to other people.

4. Say no.

You can say no in many kind and caring ways.

If you whisper your no, the other person will not hear you, and will likely push again.

If you scream, "Can't you see how overwhelmed I am?!" (a more aggressive remark) or mutter, "Yeah sure, 'I'll help you just after I change two diapers and do a million other things," (a passive-aggressive remark), it may not be the kindest way to express that you are overwhelmed.

An assertive, kind and caring ''no'' sounds like, "I know you need my help right now (empathize with the other person). However, I am not able to give you help (state what you need). Next time I would like to be able to help you (clarify for next time)."

Notice that your ''no'' does not include an apology. You do not need to apologize for having a boundary. You have a right to say no.

5. Take the broken record approach.

Remember, if you are a caregiver others will not be used to you saying no. Whether it's a coworker asking you to help with a project, a boss calling you after working hours, or a family member asking you to do a task, these people are likely not used to hearing you set boundaries.

They might even say, "But it 'won't take that much time," or "Just this time." If you change your no, you teach others that they can push and make you change your mind. Once you have decided to say no, maintain your boundary and repeat it. "'I'm not able to do this," over and over again.

6. Slow down.

Life moves so quickly. In a few clicks, I have enough items showing up to my front door to dress my newborn, entertain my toddler and host a play-date.

I can be in contact with 10 people at a time.

My child is asking for a snack, while I'm nursing my newborn, while also texting a friend to let them know I'm going to be late for our playdate.

Sound familiar? We move so quickly all day long.

Setting boundaries and learning to say no will take you slowing down. Before responding to someone's request, consider giving yourself some time away to reflect on what the other person is asking you, and whether you truly have the energy to provide them with.

Often, the answer is no, but you need space first to find that no.

7. Let go of your guilt.

Guilt is a powerful emotion, and mothers are particularly prone to experiencing it. Our society and social media place tremendous pressure on mothers—to have it all, to do it all, and to get it all perfect. It is no wonder that when you begin to prioritize your own wellness that you feel guilty.

The challenge with guilt is that the more you avoid doing something out of guilt, the more you will feel guilty. It becomes a vicious cycle. If you feel guilty for saying no, I encourage you to begin to say no!

8. Become your dearest friend.

What would you say to your closest friend if she said no to helping you? And could you say this message to yourself?

Self-compassion is showing kindness and caring towards ourselves for our struggle. If you struggle with saying no, try acknowledging the struggle and then allowing yourself to say whatever it is to yourself that you would say to your dearest friend. You might even come up with a mantra or statement and put this somewhere to remind yourself during times of saying no.

9. Lean on others that also respect your boundaries.

Fill yourself up with those who are understanding when you say no. If you are someone that tends to help others, you likely don't ask for help often. When we are busy giving to other people, we minimize our own needs. By doing this, others don't know that we need help

But we all need help and support at some point.

So what might you ask for help with? Maybe you start by asking for 20 minutes between meal time and bedtime to yourself. Perhaps you take an hour to yourself on the weekend. Perhaps instead of trying to problem solve something on your own, you reach out for advice. Or, you let others know how you are feeling in this moment.

Dear mama, the extreme exhaustion of this stage is real. Taking more "me time" is not enough—and we need to reconsider how we are in our relationships. We are hard-wired to connect with others. It's important to us. So re-evaluating your boundaries and learning to put yourself first can be incredibly challenging – but this is key when life's demands are changing in front of you moment-to-moment.

Remember that while so often our children bring us joy, this season in life is also incredibly hard. And you are doing your best.

You might also like:

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

Our Partners

Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

Coverage:

A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

You might also like:

News

[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

You might also like:

News

[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

You might also like:

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.