How to gain body positivity as a parent
Body positivity can be difficult for anyone, but it comes with extra challenges after having a baby. So many changes happen to our body during pregnancy and birth and it impacts the way we feel about it. However, I am here to show you exactly why this doesn’t need to be the case, and why there are so many reasons to feel body positivity, and how you can indeed gain body positivity as a parent.
Why does self-esteem decline after having a baby?
If your body confidence decreased after you had a baby, you’re not alone. This is more common than people even talk about, and there are a number of reasons for it.
Hormonal and physical changes
After giving birth, estrogen and progesterone levels drop significantly, which can leave mothers feeling like they’re riding an emotional wave. This coupled with lack of sleep can make us feel low about our bodies and it isn’t always easy to process. Physically, our bodies go through a lot of changes, and very fast. Everything has to change shape and size. We may also feel like we have low energy especially as we require extra vitamins and minerals to help our bodies recover after birth, and when breastfeeding. Hormones can affect how our skin and hair looks, and our muscles are more relaxed from pregnancy and birth which changes the appearance. All of these changes can affect how we see ourselves and take some time to feel comfortable in ourselves and to gain our energy levels back.
Our survival instinct which was once focussed on ourselves will naturally shift to focus on our baby’s survival and their needs become our priority, often meaning our own needs become less prioritised. Our brain also changes to become more able to self reflect and have a stronger sense of empathy. This can have an effect on our body image because we are no longer focused on ourselves and it can feel like we are being neglected in order to care for our baby. These brain changes and hormone changes happening simultaneously makes it no wonder we can feel low about our bodies.
A new mother needs a strong support system because it is by nature her instinct to focus on her baby. Somehow society seems to have lost this essential message. Mothers are expected to keep up with everything they were doing before, plus work, plus give out all their attention equally. The physical and mental overload is simply not attainable. When I had my second baby, I felt this pressure hard, especially as I didn’t have barely any help. However, I knew my baby’s development and our bond were the most important so I put everything else at the bottom of my to do list and focussed on her. Society will have to adjust if mothers start to regain their confidence to say no and prioritise themselves and their new baby. However, these expectations can add to the low feeling of our body because it gives us feelings of being overwhelmed or guilty when in reality all we need to think about is this special time with our new baby and our own self care.
How to gain back your body positivity
So with all of this going on, as well as the social expectations to “bounce back” and to be doing things that people seem to be doing on social media (usually people who do have a lot of support), it is no wonder our self image gets knocked to the floor. We are having to fight with our own instincts and minds. The process of becoming a parent is very natural, and it’s a beautiful one. Mothers need to understand that they are allowed time, time to let their bodies heal, time to focus on their baby, and time to feel all of the emotions.
It’s okay to feel like you miss your old life and your old body. Life before having a baby is full of energy and time to focus on yourself. That doesn’t make you any less of the parent you are just because you need time to miss that. When we give ourselves time to feel all of those emotions, this allows making room for everything we have gained. We still have the same body, except now it has been through a truly wonderful journey. Your body has carried you and your baby through this and now it has a story. You just grew and birthed a human being, your body isn’t still just beautiful, it is a work of art. It deserves your admiration, your care, and your love. If you could see yourself through your baby’s eyes, you’d understand how beautiful you are.
Care for your body
Secondly, know that your body deserves care. It deserves to be nourished with all of the healthy foods, it deserves what ever fresh air and exercise you can give it, even if it is a 10 minute walk. Your body deserves your favourite bath bomb and relaxing music. If you are a different dress size right now, your body still deserves that dress in a different size. You deserve to wear it. And you deserve it right now, as you are. Create an area in your home which makes you feel like you, create a vision board with all of the things which remind you of who you are. I also recommend starting a journal so you can write down all of your thoughts and emotions. Affirmations are also a powerful tool, begin by choosing a few of your favourite ones and write them down to read every day or when ever you get a few minutes to yourself. Self care is all about little and often when you are a parent.
Know that beauty comes from within
Once you get used to your body after having children, if you give it care and appreciation, you will start to see how wonderful it is. Not only will you accept it, but you will be happy with it. And the most wonderful thing is when someone feels happy in themselves, that’s where true beauty is found. You’ll see that your self esteem was never really about anything physical, it’s about who you are and how you take care of and respect yourself. Also remember everyone is completely different, some people might find this harder than others. When I had my first baby it took me absolutely years to accept and be happy in my body with all of its changes, I struggled to let go of what used to be and I just felt so unfamiliar with myself. When I had my second baby more recently, because I had done so much research into birth and read so many stories of other mums feeling the same, I had a completely different mindset and I remember feeling so proud of my body throughout pregnancy, labour, and postpartum. It all depends on your own individual journey. Remeber it all begins with having compassion for yourself.
Be gentle with yourself, know that how you feel is valid and that with time and dedicated self care, you can absolutely feel body positivity as a parent.