Breathing exercises for new moms

When people tried to convince me a couple of years ago that motherhood was going to be energy-draining, I wasn’t ready to accept this as my reality. After all, I had spent the nearly a decade in post-secondary then in the work force as a TV journalist then psychologist, amidst a soul search or two. My goal was to navigate a newborn with calmness & balance.

After a couple years of parenting — to a busy little toddler & a newborn — I’ve discovered that being a parent can be both a tough (perhaps the toughest!) & a rewarding job (nothing soothes a weary soul quite like the hug & sweet words “I love you mama” from my little guy). As a parent, I’ve found I cannot control all of the circumstances that arise, but I can control my reactions to these events. Breathing exercises have helped me — & can help you — do this.

As a psychologist who has worked with both children & families, especially in the areas of cognitive therapy & mindfulness, I decided to incorporate my meditation & mindful breathing techniques into my new life with a newborn. These methods helped me to face the challenges that came along with it, but also be present and enjoy the journey, acknowledging there would be times of ease and times of difficulty.

The following are some breathing exercises I’ve found helpful for myself & my clients who had new little ones at home.

A Breathing Exercise for  ::  Comforting Your Crying Baby

Your energy, vibrations & thoughts are powerful when dealing with newborns. If you act nervous or frustrated, your baby can become fussy as well. They often mirror our behaviours & emotions.

To help calm a crying baby, it is ideal to strive to feeling calmness first within yourself. Try this breath work to ground you:

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Inhale deeply through your nose for 4 counts.
  3. Hold & suspend the breath gently for 4 counts.
  4. Exhale the breath through the nose for 8 counts.

Make sure your breath is deep, slow, and steady. Continue to practice this slow breath while you’re interacting with your baby.

If you no longer feel grounded or become frustrated, kiss your baby to show loving kindness to both your baby & yourself as you forgive yourself once you regain control & feel grounded once again. Mindfulness practice is a learning process, so leave self-judgment & criticism by the wayside.

A Breathing Exercise for  ::  Feeding Your Newborn

Feeding your baby, whether by breast or bottle, becomes the new constant when you have a newborn. It’s easy to fall into the tram of taking that time to scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed. I know I fell into this trap in the early days with my first born. Instead, use these 10- to 45-minute fedding sessions to energize your body & truly tune in to the present moment with this breathing exercise:

  1. Inhale 4 short and steady sips of air through your nose.
  2. Exhale through your nose in 1, deep breath out.
  3. Optional: For an extra boost, inhale peppermint, lemon or orange essential oils.

Repeat this exercise for the full feeding, or until you feel invigorated.

A Breathing Exercise for  ::  Preparing for a Nap

Deep, uninterrupted sleep becomes something of the past for many moms after you have a newborn. This doesn’t mean you can’t feel well rested. The key is to listen to your body & make the most of the periods of time you do have to sleep.

After all, every moment is valuable — if it takes you 45 minutes to fall asleep, that’s 45 less minutes of rest. So when you lie down while your baby is napping, recite this affirmation: “I will receive the exact amount of rest for my mind and body to be clear, energized & alert.” Then try this left-nostril breathing technique:

  1. Plug your right nostril by pressing your right thumb on its side. Extend the rest of your fingers straight up.
  2. Take in a long, deep breath through your left nostril for the count of 4. Hold it for the count of 4, & then exhale for 4.
  3. Optional: Using relaxing essential oils, like lavender, can be used for this exercise.

A Breathing Exercise for  ::  Tuning into your Partner’s Breath

When a new member joins a family, other family members can get out of discord. You can mindfully tun into your spouse or partner’s breathing to get a sense of what he or she is experiencing. It’s also an opportunity to observe and better synchronize your breathing pace with that of his or hers.