Thoughts on Supporting Mum’s Mental Health: TBSTP Perspective
One of the important things for people who are committed to responsive parenting, day and night, is to recognize that your own physical and mental health is not at odds with your baby’s needs or your desire to parent in a more gentle way. This is a tough season of our lives. It may look different than we expected, but there are ways to survive and potentially thrive while always supporting our children.
We need to be really clear on the idea that we were never meant to do this alone. We were not meant to live in bigger homes, often away from families and support networks, and go back to work early (or be SAHM’s with little respect or help). We were meant to have a village of people around us. We were meant to “mother the mother” … in smaller, tribal communities (and other places in the world today), the whole village rallied behind a new mom. They brought her nutritious food, tended to her older children and held the baby at times so she could get some rest or whatever else she needed to do. There wasn’t social media or parenting books or the heavy expectations that most of us have as parents.
For a variety of reasons, the focus has shifted away from supporting the whole family to focusing on baby’s sleep. I think you’d find it interesting to read about the history of sleep training… I’ll post some articles.
In this group, we are moving beyond that focus and shifting to a way that we support Moms and families while still respecting our little one’s real needs when it comes to love, comfort, security, connection and healthy development (body, brain and emotional).
But, it is so hard, right?! What can we even do if not work on changing baby’s behaviour?
Here are some of the many coping strategies that a family can consider, depending on what works for them and their unique baby.
*You can develop a better understanding and knowledge of what is actually normal for human infants when it comes to sleep, feeding and development. For example, that it is normal, healthy and protective for infants to wake and feed often. That they are meant to sleep close to a caregiver. That they do not possess the ability to learn to self soothe. That a toddler still waking in the night for a breastfeed is normal . That so much of what parents are experiencing is normal and not a problem to be fixed. Things like developmental leaps, learning new skills, teething, etc. can have big impacts on sleep too.
*Looking at the goal behind the goal. WHY do you need your baby to sleep differently? When we look at that why, we can brainstorm some ways that you can achieve that without placing unrealistic expectations on your baby. Or perhaps work through the possibility that what you are hoping for just isn’t realistic in this current season of your life.
*We can look at the way that night time care is managed and consider some ways to make that easier, meaning ways that you can get you and baby back to sleep as easily and quickly as possible. For example, safely bed sharing or putting the crib/cot side car to the bed. Don’t use your phone at night and use only red light in the room. Don’t ever check the clock or track wake ups. Use background noise and blackout blinds for night time sleep.
*Let go of schedule expectations and follow baby’s lead, allowing them to regulate their own sleep needs.
*Embrace contact naps or naps “on-the-go” in the carrier or stroller/pram.
*We have lots of practical tips to encourage sleep and make night time a more positive experience for everyone, which is what we want for children.
*Are you taking care of yourself in other ways? This is huge! Are you practicing good sleep hygiene and prioritizing good sleep, to make the best of the rest you do get. Are you eating nutritious food and drinking lots of water. Moving your body and practicing mindfulness when you can (that doesn’t feel overwhelming… walks with your kids with baby in a carrier is a great for your health and in regulating our internal clocks). Are you getting some time in for simple self care activities when you can?
*Are you asking for and receiving enough help? Who in our life, including your partner, can offer more help and support. With all kinds of things… housework, errands, meal planning, grocery shopping, meal prep, cooking, taking care of pets, etc. Looking after the kids while you get some rest. Or, looking after the older ones while you are with the baby. If you don’t have a lot of support, are there any paid services or other free community supports you can take advantage of?
*Are there people and/or trusted health care professionals that you can speak to if you find your physical or mental health is suffering. You are so important and need to be there for your kids. Become educated about the warning signs and resources in your community. Keep talking and reaching out. Have tests done if you’re finding yourself physically depleted.
*Are there things you can delegate or hold off on for now. We can have it all, but not at the same time. Can you re-prioritize to focus only on the actual needs of the family right now. That means the house may be extra messy for a while or a project you’re working on will have to wait.
*Know that you don’t have to be perfect all the time. Follow you heart, trust your instincts and listen to your kids. That way, you can’t ever go wrong.
I hope that helps answer some of your questions. I’m sure our members will have some insight for you.