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Calming Techniques to Soothe Yourself and Your New Baby

“You just had a beautiful new baby, it’s all a wonder and you’re so excited,” says Beth Ruhmann, certified therapeutic recreation specialist and Community Health program coordinator at Baptist Health South Florida. “But, whether you had a C-section or natural childbirth or you’re breastfeeding, your hormones are up and down and all around, and your whole body is stressed.”

Ms. Ruhmann says there are many stressors confronting new parents and, in most cases, it’s the mother who carries most of the burden. “Stressful situations abound in everyday life, whether it’s work, health, finances, relationships or, of course, a pandemic,” she says. “And as a new mom, you’re recovering from having a baby, plus taking care of a newborn, your family and your home.”

Stress and the Body

Babies don’t have a routine yet so they need their parents to comfort them day and night. All those sleepless nights, however, can have a major effect on your body, Ms. Ruhmann warns. “As a new mom, when you hear your baby cry, your body immediately reacts, triggering a ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response that produces a surge of adrenaline and cortisol,” she says. “All of a sudden, you’re like a momma bear running to protect her baby.”

But, Ms. Ruhmann says, try to stop and take a breath before you run to your baby. “All those hormones pumping through your body on a regular basis can affect vital organs over time,” she says. It’s important to learn to take care of yourself first, she adds. “It’s like being on an airplane when the oxygen masks come down – you put yours on first, then your child’s. Because you can’t help your child unless you help yourself first.”

As an added bonus, Ms. Ruhmann says, taking care of yourself helps you establish a better bond with your baby. “The energy that you put out can be sensed by your baby, and in return your baby’s energy transfers back to you – it’s a win-win situation.”

Chronic stress, on the other hand, is like a volcano, says Ms. Ruhmann. “When it erupts, it can affect both you and your baby in ways that are not good for either of you.”

For example, Ms. Ruhmann says, some babies have problems latching on during breastfeeding, which can be stressful for the mother. “The baby senses her mom’s stress and becomes stressed too, so now they’re both feeling each other’s anxiety and the baby doesn’t want to nurse.” If the baby is unable to breastfeed, she says, “mom may have problems producing milk, which in turn creates more stress for both mother and baby.”

Being a new mom is a learning process, Ms. Ruhmann says, and it’s your responsibility to develop the tools to handle stress better. “There’s a lot of information out there about caring for your newborn, but it’s important to get the right information and to practice what you learn,” she says. “Finding the  information is easy but as a new mom, finding the time can be difficult,” she acknowledges.

Ms. Ruhmann offers these easy-to-follow tips for new moms (dads, too) trying to bring some balance to their hectic lives:

Above all, Ms. Ruhmann advises, be careful with yourself and be kind. “Pay attention, be mindful and practice passion, compassion and patience,” she says. “Learn, adapt and enjoy. You and your baby will be just fine.”