I wish I had realised a long time ago, what a great opportunity breastfeeding can be for some much-needed meditation time. We all seem to struggle to find some ‘me time’ in our lives, for a thousand different reasons, but becoming a new parent, and especially a new mother nursing a baby, it can seem like there is rarely a minute to spare in the day for personal reflection. Like anything, the whole concept of me-time, or lack of it, has largely to do with one’s perspective and attitude. We may complain that we never have a moment to ourselves and then spend those ten precious minutes in the shower thinking about our day’s to-do list, or stresses at work.. instead we could be living in the moment and appreciating a few relaxing minutes under the hot water. Think only positive thoughts in the shower and your day will be so much better for it!
As a new mother of course, there is a huge demand for your time and attention. Parenthood is full of joyous times, but in those first few weeks and months it sure can test your patience and lack of experience. The learning curve is steep. Breastfeeding brings its own set of challenges. Many women are lacking the model of their mothers and grandmothers, with trends in recent generations having moved away from breastfeeding towards bottle feeding for a number of dubious cultural and medical reasons. But thankfully it seems that a come back is on the cards and more and more mothers are choosing to breastfeed their babies.
The time spent nursing a newborn is unfathomable at first. That baby might feed every two hours for as long as an hour at a time! Almost constantly in other words and it is testing to say the least. The best advice I received as a new mother was to get comfortable. Cultivate a comfy corner, a nursing chair ideally, with all kinds of essentials to hand.. magazines, books, the phone, snacks and drinks.. anything you might feasibly need throughout the course of the day!
That simple setup can save you some of the stress of being confined to your chair. Nursing can become a joy if you have a hot cup of tea and a good book within arms reach. I have spent thousands of hours nursing my two children and have gotten better at it.. but I often lay in bed with my feeding baby feeling rather sorry for myself.. wishing I could get away and do something ‘constructive’. When my babies were ‘down for the night’, that was just the beginning of the evening… since we had gone against the advice of health visitors and well-meaning friends who suggested we should let them cry it out. So every time my child woke up and called for me (and the youngest still does) I would trot off to nurse the little munchkin back to sleep. Sometimes that would take a few minutes, but often it could be hours before they were asleep deeply enough to let me slip away.
I have missed the end of countless movies and a few parties. By the time the child was done with me, I was usually too warm and cosy to bother getting up again, happy to finally turn over and go to sleep! In fact I have gone to bed so early for the past four years that I have probably had more sleep than before, rather than less.. which almost makes up for the adjustment to waking up every few hours to reattach myself to a stirring infant!
I have only recently been interested in meditation and I am not at all knowledgeable about the subject or practice. But I have read enough about personal development in all areas of life, that I soon realised that a few minutes a day of quiet reflection can do us all the world of good. We all meditate from time to time, whether we give it that name or not.
Have you ever missed a turning on a familiar drive home? It is easy to daydream on the highway or whilst staring out the window of a train.. there are plenty of opportunities to meditate in daily life. Breastfeeding is ideal. It took me several years to realise this. I also never seemed to have a good book handy, so I spent many hours frustrated at the ‘wasted’ time I was attached to my babies when I should have been washing dishes or folding laundry. Of course I knew in my heart that there is nothing on earth more worthwhile than nurturing a tiny human being, but sometimes you lose sight of the big picture amidst the exhausted blur of early motherhood.
Whether you are already well versed in the practice of meditation or just thinking about giving it a try, you might be struggling to find time in your day as a new mother. But you will quickly see how easily you can fit in some practice with baby attached!
Not only will this save time, but it also has another benefit, namely creating positive energy. If you think about it, meditation is all about relaxing the mind and body. But it also brings more energy into your being, widens your awareness, and focuses your attention. This means that all of the energy you are creating while you are breastfeeding is going to your baby.
Of course, not every feeding session will lend itself perfectly to this peaceful activity. If you continue to breastfeed your child beyond a year or more, you might encounter the antics of a distracted and active toddler. My daughter is a master at practising all manner of yoga poses whilst nursing, but in those quieter evening feeds, you can start by taking a couple deep breaths and relaxing your body. Focus on your baby’s beautiful face and think positive, uplifting thoughts of your child’s long, happy, and healthy life. With practice it might even work in the middle of a hectic day and both mother and child will likely be better for the experience.