by Maria Harpas
The best kept secret is the one that comes after our first born arrives. We prepare so much for the birth, the baby room, the clothes, the pram, but no one can tell us exactly how we are going to feel after the birth. Lack of sleep, cracked nipples and you may never again complete a task from start to finish without interruption! It’s understandable that tiredness can set in due to these physical and psychological adjustments.
With two grown boys (17 & 20year olds), half a dozen nephews/nieces and 12 years of clinical experience helping mothers in my clinic, I have learnt a thing or two. You need practical, realistic ideas coupled with knowledge to check what biochemical weaknesses may be dragging you down. Engaging with services of family medicine and health is essential to keep the family fit and strong.
Getting on top of your family's health is not a new job, women have been doing it forever, but we no longer live in tight communities like our ancestors did. It still takes a village to raise a child regardless of the fact that we don’t live in them anymore!
Here are four things we are told that just don't work:
1 – Don’t do anything because it’s normal to be tired with small children
This is common advice for new mums but remember, everything you've ever experienced about life has been flipped upside down so of course it's going to rock your world. Being tired is one thing, but when your fatigue becomes the norm, this should not be accepted as reasonable.
2 - Women should know how to be good Mums
Knowing how to "Mum" does not come naturally to all. You might be feeling overwhelmed and can’t seem to enjoy your baby the way you feel you should. You feel guilty for not being grateful, and it's a feeling you just can’t shake. Many women feel these emotions, and believing or being told that you shouldn’t, just causes feelings of guilt and further isolation.
3 – Just take an iron supplement
The first thing everyone reaches for when they are tired is iron. Yes, we know that being low in small amounts of iron can cause fatigue, however so do deficiencies of vitamin B12, folate or vitamin D (to name a few.). Iron is not the only possible cause of your fatigue. Fixing the wrong deficiency is not going to improve energy levels and can prolong the issue. The more fatigued we get the less motivation we have and the less we are inclined to continue to find solutions.
4 – Trying to make too many changes & do too many things
As I said earlier, it's essential to remember that parenting is the biggest life adjustment ever! Trying to do too many things and is the quickest way to be overwhelmed and exhausted. As mum’s, we have so many thoughts bombard us on a daily basis. We worry about keeping our kids healthy, about eating well, about managing our weight, about work life balance. Suddenly our 'to do' list hits double digits and this doesn't serve ourselves or our family well.
Tips that may help:
1 – Make three of your meal’s healthy, savoury meals
A common occurrence is for mums to forget about their own eating habits and concentrate on the needs of the family. Let’s remember we need to use the oxygen mask first if we are going to be of any use to the rest of the family.
A simple way to help is to ensure that at least three of your meals are good old fashioned, healthy meals. So even if you're fatigued, you are not replacing with packaged foods that are easily in reach, but are ultimately unsatisfying.
This is my list of good old fashioned savoury meals, just press record and repeat:
roast, veg and salad
soups veg, lentil or chicken
fish, salad and veg
lentil patties or meat balls
eggs with tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach and sourdough
sourdough toast with avocado & pesto
dips with vegie sticks, antipasto foods olives, artichokes, asparagus etc
2 – Get out of sleep debt
We know sleep and kids can be like oil and water, they just don’t mix. So much so that you may resign yourself to making up your sleep in the next decade! I recommend you step away from this approach and try to get into the habit of “sleep catch-ups”. While you may not be getting 6 to 8 hours sleep anymore (and this could go on for a long while), you need to make up the hours, even if they are made up during the day. This is not the time to focus on many things, try to decide on one or two important things to keep in your routine and make your sleep catch-ups a priority.
The truth is if we are overtired, we are not productive, nor will we enjoy life in general. It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that we don’t need to achieve all the things we were doing prior to having children. As mum’s we put so much pressure on ourselves - we need to cut ourselves some slack and allow ourselves to adjust.
3 – Find out if anything is dragging you down, check your biochemistry
Get your levels checked. This is crucial if you are a tired mum. Imagine the relief finding out the only thing between you and good energy levels might be a little nutrient deficiency. It’s worth the check, you and your family deserve it.
The levels worth checking as a start include, iron, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D, thyroid (TSH, T3, T4), cortisol, homocysteine, zinc, copper, liver and kidney function, electrolytes, and red blood cells.
Maria is mumamoo's consulting Naturopath/Clinical Nutritionist. She is the director of Natural Health Medicine, Clinical Nutritionist and a Naturopathic practitioner with over 13 years experience. Read more about Maria's role on the mumamoo Healthcare Team here (include link).
Get in touch with Maria?naturalhealthmedicine.com.au