Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tips for Supporting an Exercising Nursing Mom

Tips for the Fellas and Family/Friends Who Want to Help Us Help Our Babies...with our boobies... (and I promise the full staying active while nursing article is in the works! Bare with me while I do some more research for it!)

Today my husband and I celebrate 6 years of marriage. Two marathons together, countless triathlons, two Ironmans on different continents, and one amazing baby girl...
Six years later, he is still the love of my life and my Iron-partner. I wouldn't have it any other way. I love that he understands why I work so hard to be a pediatric resident, why I get up at 2:30 in the morning to pump, why Ironman is important to me. I could not ask for a better partner. But even my husband has struggled supporting me as I continue to maintain an active lifetstyle while also nursing our firstborn. It's hard, folks! It's hard for me to do it, it's for me to tell him how to help me do it, and it's hard for him to feel like he is taking an active role in feeding and caring for our daughter when...he just doesn't have boobs. In some ways, I'm sorry, guys, you will never get it. This was a really depressing realization to me when Violet was about 6 weeks old. I was totally sleep-deprived and totally exhausted and totally IN LOVE with my little girl, and part of me was so angry when I finally got it--men will just never understand what it is like to be women and mothers. But that's okay because we will never understand what it is like to be in their shoes. They'll also never have the boob-baby bond. It's not fair on either front, if that makes either side feel better. But, I will say, all of us ladies could probably get a little better at telling our men and other partners what we need from them and how they can help because of course the loving fathers and family members that they are--they totally want to. I think this article says it best. 

But a few more specific tips on helping the nursing athlete:

1. Bring me water and a snack.
Pretty much any time you do this, it will be helpful. But especially while I am nursing and especially when I come in after a run and don't have time to shower or get food or water before that wonderful child of mine needs to be on my boob.

2. Understand that I get cranky when I don't sleep but also when I don't work out.
A happy mommy is made when you watch the baby for a while so she can a) go workout, b) take a nap, or c) both!

3. Help me realize when it's important to sleep and hydrate.
Even when I feel bad because I went back to bed after feeding Violet at 4am when I finally got her back to sleep and probably could have squeezed in a pre-dawn run and given myself some happy endorphins, Curtis never makes me feel that way; he reminds me that I need sleep, too. Being women who have this notion that we can do it all (we can't; we need you, obviously, but we think we can do it all anyway), we sometimes forget that you can't just keep going forever and ever on no sleep. You need sleep to work out your mental stresses (HELLO crazy REM-sleep dreams!), to let your sore or tense muscles heal and relax, to help your body fight infection, and--here's the kicker--to make milk. Dads/partners- remind the moms in your life that they need sleep, too. And, if you're awesome like my husband, when he couldn't wake me up the other day to kiss me goodbye when he left for work and I had finally gotten Violet back to bed at 6am, he left me a cold glass of water to drink when I first woke up. BEST. IDEA. EVER...especially since the hung-over feeling of the nursing mom who is also fitting in workouts includes the need for immediate caffeine (RESIST. It just makes you more dehydrated in the long run, since most forms are diuretics.) and the worst cotton mouth imaginable.

4. Understand how hard it is for me to fit in these workouts and be supportive and tell me that the time away from my baby is time that will make me happier and healthier when I come back to him/her. 
This is something that I have to do now for my husband when he knows he has to go do his 4-hour bike ride for Ironman training but doesn't want to because he hasn't seen me or his child all week and he just wants to be with us. I hold Violet up to him and say, in my best Violet baby voice, "It's okay, Daddy. I know you want to stay, but you have to go ride so you can be my IronDAD. We can play later." And he does the same thing for me by yelling at me to go run when I am heading out the door with my shoes laced up but come back to the nursery when I hear Violet cry.

5. Love me for the mom and the athlete that I am and tell me that I am doing a great job.
My husband is amazing at this. I love him for it. Because being a mom is so hard but so awesome. It is even more awesome with a caring partner. 

And maybe it's not your husband...maybe it's your mom, your mother-in-law, someone in your family, a friend. Ladies, we need to thank all our family members who help us take care of our kids because heaven knows we aren't doing this sh*t alone. But more on that next blog.

On deck: Staying Active as a Nursing Mom