A Louth woman has spoken out about the pressures new moms have to “recover” soon after giving birth.
Usan McAlester, 32, and her husband Paul-André, who live in Co Meath, have a 10-month-old son named Finn who is exclusively breastfed.
Ms McAlester said she found it difficult to “just do nothing” for the first few weeks of Finn’s life and pressure herself to get out of the house as soon as possible.
“I was a little hard on myself at first because it’s this idea of the ‘bounce back’ culture that has nothing really to do with my body, but I felt like I needed to be able to get off to go home and take my baby out to the beach for walks and stuff,” she said.
“And if I couldn’t bring myself to do it, my work wasn’t good enough, but really, those first few weeks all I had to do was sit on the couch and rest.
“Let Finn rest and do his thing just to build up a supply and get to know each other and just move very, very slowly.
“It was difficult for me in the first few weeks to just do nothing. They see new moms and they look fabulous and it’s great that they’re able to do that, but that wasn’t my experience so I just pressured myself to go out there.”
Ms McAlester said breastfeeding can be “mentally tiring” and stressed the importance of face-to-face interaction with other mothers.
Finn immediately latched on, but the mother-of-one said she still had doubts in the back of her mind and asked a doctor for confirmation.
“He latched on straight away but I had no idea what I was doing, I had done all the prenatal courses but during Covid they were all online so I didn’t find them that useful,” she said.
“I went in pretty much unprepared, I really didn’t know if he was getting milk or not.
“When you’re in the hospital ask for support and the midwives are fantastic but they are so overwhelmed in other ways that you really need that professional support and I’ve asked for it a couple of times but just like that nobody was there, who could come and talk to me.
“When you come home from the hospital it’s like, ‘Okay, we’re on our own,’ and suddenly all these doubts creep in, so that’s what happened to me.
“I just had this nagging feeling in the back of my head so I found a local lactation consultant and made an appointment, I just needed that reassurance. She kind of encouraged me to just hang in there and trust my gut.
“Those first few weeks are very rocky because you’re a little bit self-conscious and then something might shake your confidence and it’s not logical but your hormones are everywhere. We also went to the public health nurse just to weigh him, but I still had moments of self-doubt.”
Ms McAlester said she now feels confident in her breastfeeding journey and commends support groups like Cuidiú for helping her get to this stage.
“Probably the most important thing was Cuidiú, I started going there every week and there were counselors there who could answer any questions you had and even just meet a community of other women who are also breastfeeding,” she said.
National Breastfeeding Week took place from August 1st to 7th
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/mum-describes-pressure-to-bounce-back-after-birth-i-was-a-bit-tough-on-myself-in-the-early-days-41896659.html Mom describes the pressure of recovering after giving birth: ‘I was a bit hard on myself in the early days’