From conception to birth and beyond, becoming a mama is one of the toughest challenges we as women will face in our lives. Learning to nurture your baby’s wellbeing, looking after your physical health, emotional happiness and focusing on building a bond is so important for both you and your baby.
You’ve thought about making a baby checklist for the nursery (changing mat: tick, baby bath: tick, Moses basket: tick), but what about creating a wellbeing plan to support you through pregnancy and help you to be prepared for after the birth?
Here are five key steps you can take…
It starts in the womb
Pregnancy is exhausting, we get it. While it’s tempting to flop down in front of the TV or endlessly scroll through Instagram, it’s important to make time to build a connection with your baby.
Babies are born with the most neurons they will ever have and the first conscious sensory connections happen before birth. From 24 weeks, they develop neural pathways that recognise their mother’s voice and smell, and post-birth feel comforted by the skin-to-skin touch of their parents.
You can strengthen these sensory bonds by putting down your phone and initiating a routine of familiar sounds and touch, as well as reading to your baby. Regular massage is also key. It helps to lower your stress levels, and learn your baby’s unique pattern of movement and rest in the womb.
A few drops of essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser or on a diffuser necklace or bracelet can help to support your relaxation activity. Make sure you use a blend that’s safe for pregnancy such as Babyopathy’s Routine in The Womb Pure Essential Oil.
It’s also really important to keep an eye on your stress levels at this time. New research from King’s College London has established a link between maternal anxiety before and during pregnancy and a baby’s brain development. MRC Doctoral Researcher in Perinatal Imaging and Health, Alexandra Lautarescu and Head of Advanced Neuroimaging, Professor Serena Counsell, who carried out the research suggested that poor mental health could be related to low birth weight, premature birth and more frequent crying.
The good news is that previous studies have shown stress management therapies during pregnancy (including CBT) can have a hugely positive effect on these outcomes. You can’t always control major life events such as moving house or changing jobs, so if you’re going through something like this make sure you’re getting the support you need.
The first few days and weeks after your baby leaves the sanctuary of the womb are very important for re-establishing the connection you built during pregnancy. Babies experience sensory overload during birth and shortly afterwards and need to adjust.
Try to get as much skin-to-skin contact as you can during this time. It releases hormones that help to relieve stress and stabilise your baby’s temperature, heart rate, breathing rate and blood sugar. It also helps to lower your stress and promotes healing.
Spend time stroking your baby’s face, or using massage and interacting with and talking to your baby.
Taking care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is hugely important at this time. If you’re relaxed and stress-free, your baby will feel safe, secure and contented. Your little one will also feed and sleep much better and is less likely to feel anxiety.
Spend the first week after your baby arrives in bed and the second week on the sofa. Rest and relaxation will help you bond with your baby and establish a feeding routine.
If you can, get close friends and family to help with meal drops, childcare for siblings, and household chores. Don’t be afraid to say no to any visitors who will make you feel stressed, though. There will be plenty of time for them to meet your new arrival in the months to come.
Most importantly, don’t put pressure on yourself and don’t feel guilty. The old adage is totally true. Happy mama, happy baby.
It might sound like an oxymoron(!), but sleep for mama and baby is vital for both of your wellbeing. Establishing a difference between night and day will help your baby settle into a routine much quicker and promote restful sleep for you both.
To develop a good bedtime routine from the very beginning, use 2-3 drops of essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser for 5 minutes before baby goes to bed – building up to 20 minutes over the course of the following weeks.
Find a good quality blend that’s safe for both you and baby – such as Babyopathy’s To Infinity and Beyond Pure Essential Oil. We love this one as it’s a blend of cedarwood, lavender, and chamomile – which helps to nurture the bond with your baby and promote healthy sleep patterns during the ‘fourth trimester’.
Find your tribe
You have just been through one of the hardest things you can put your body and your emotions through, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Babyopathy run brilliant Mentor Mum groups and baby classes which form a support system where you can share experiences and seek advice. They also have a great workshop named Dad’s Army, so that partners can learn all about bonding with their baby and what they can do to support you.
They say it takes a village, and it’s totally true.