Practicing mindfulness with an infant

I have always been a type A personality;  competitive, ambitious, finishing people’s sentences because they are talking too slowly, impatient, always busy working and looking to achieve my next goal.  I am used to a fast paced, work myself to the bone type of lifestyle.  When I started my private practice I would see 10 clients back to back, putting in 12 hour days.  Even when I was pregnant I was still working 10 hour days.  People would often ask me how I could possibly have the energy to do it.  Luckily, I was not very fatigued during my pregnancy and I love my job so much that it often doesn’t feel like work.  Another factor that contributed to my number of hours is having no paid maternity leave as a small business owner.   (I won’t even get into the horrific and pathetic lack of paid family leave time in this country).  I needed to ensure that the mortgage and certain bills would be paid for the amount of time I would be out of work.  Saving was all up to me so I had to be very savvy with my income for the past several months.

A consequence of being type A and working so tirelessly is stress level and difficulty balancing personal and work life.  To manage stress I work out, ( I especially love doing barre classes), yoga, and mediation.  But when I had my baby, all of my stress relief/ exercise strategies came to a halt.  I noticed an increased amount of frustration towards the baby, as I couldn’t engage in any of the activities that have helped shaped my identity.     With a baby it’s almost nearly impossible to do things on the timeframe you plan.  If you want to go somewhere you no longer can say confidently that you will be somewhere on time.  The baby calls the shots- when she eats, sleeps, poops (like the explosive diarrhea she just had while sitting on my lap).  It is certainly a constant juggling act with meeting her needs.  The days can feel very chaotic and can fly by.

One of the hardest things to get used to has been breastfeeding.  It feels like I am ALWAYS feeding this child!  I often say there is no way she is hungry, I just fed her, only for her to ravenously suck at my nipple when I offer it to her.  I have been proven wrong on many occasions about her appetite.  Breastfeeding is challenging and can be painful and exhausting, so I began to think of ways to slow myself down and make the activity more enjoyable, rather than wishing it to be over and thinking about all of the other things I “could” be doing.  So I adapted some mindfulness techniques to be more in the moment.

Mindfulness- fully attending to the present moment and what you’re currently doing without judgement.  There is lots of research showing the benefits of mindfulness such as a reduction in anxiety,  and improved memory function and emotion regulation.  I began being mindful while breastfeeding not only to find more enjoyment in feeding my child, but also to incorporate a practice for me that I have been neglecting since she has been born.  This is how I have been mindfully breastfeeding:

  1. Pay attention to something that you see- I usually focus on my baby’s features, her cute eyes, nose, how much hair is growing in, etc.
  2. Pay attention to something you smell- I usually sniff my baby’s head or light a candle or plug in a tart warmer or essential oil that I enjoy.
  3. Pay attention to something you can hear- I listen to the noises she makes when feeding or put on music that I enjoy and helps me relax
  4. Pay attention to something you can touch/feel- I hold her hand or feel my hand supporting her neck, or pay attention to the sensation of her feeding.
  5. Pay attention to something you can taste- this one I don’t always pay attention to but you can eat a snack or a candy or gum while breastfeeding

I feel by being mindful I can appreciate the moment I am in with my baby and remember that I am doing the most important job, which is providing my baby nourishment which will give her health and vitality.  I feel more connected to my baby and am overall more calm and less frustrated with the whole breastfeeding process.  I may not ever be a Type B personality, but I can learn to go more with the flow and accept things for as they happen rather than what I try to plan.