MY MOTHERHOOD GAME CHANGER

I’ve shared a million baby items and motherhood recommendations, but today I’m sharing the absolute one and only life changing item in my mothering toolbox. For a twist: you can’t buy it, register for it, or gift it, but I cannot mother well without it.

(Remember that scene from Legally Blonde, where Elle Woods has the epiphany in court and says, “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!”? It’s kind of like that.)

When Trey was nine months old I thought I was experiencing postpartum depression, so I marched myself to my doctor for a prescription. I knew I didn’t feel like myself and wanted to change that, and it seemed like a straightforward fix. My doctor said, “I get it. But also, how much are you working out?” My response: “Working out? (Thinking, “Do I look like I have the time to work out? I have an infant.”) “Not at all.” She said, “I will write you something, but first I want you to try working out every day for thirty minutes for one month, and then tell me how you feel.”

I agreed, but I actually thought, “This is bad practice.” Telling someone who is depressed to work out felt like telling someone to swim upstream with weights on. The mountain feels insurmountable. Even just finding and putting on shoes takes so much mental energy, let alone moving your body enough into a jog, and when would I even find the time? Also: I come from a thin-framed family, and it seemed like the marketing message I got for the primary reason for working out was for weight loss, and I couldn’t see beyond that for any other immediate benefits.

I have never been so wrong in my life.

I started my “prescription,” by running two miles, every single day. Maybe because it was orders from my doctor, or because I felt so desperate, but for whatever reason, I somehow stuck with it, stringing days together, then weeks. I slowly felt better and better, and at some point, the fog completely lifted. I was back. Everything felt easier again, and more lighthearted. I was my usual self. Little things that used to bother me didn’t as much anymore. I found joy again in motherhood. My email inbox didn’t seem so overwhelming. I became an absolute believer in endorphins. I found a way to fit a workout in every single day, and I was hooked.

Maybe perhaps the most radical idea about all of this is that it was an internal fix, not external, and my doctor knew this and trusted me enough to get there. I came out of it on my own, and I now had this tool in my back pocket should I ever need it again in the future.

And yes, I would need it again.

Fast forward three years to this past summer when we welcomed our next baby. After a traumatic pregnancy, I knew I was poised for another round of postpartum depression. I knew the stats, I went in wide-eyed, I knew it was more likely to go there this time, and maybe even sooner than before.

It did. The first week after Blaire’s birth I felt amazing. She was here, she was whole, she was healthy, we made it. Then something shifted and It was more intense than the time I experienced it before. But this time, I knew what to do. At 5 weeks postpartum I laced up my shoes and started running again, mostly because I was so desperate. We also joined a gym and I discovered a love for group exercise. I made it a priority and I found a way to sweat, every single day.

Miraculously, it worked, again.

I don’t know why I was so surprised, since it worked for me before. Maybe because my PPD felt more intense to me this time, or because when you’re in it, you can’t really imagine anything getting you out of it. Regardless, I was back to my normal self within a few weeks and life didn’t feel so hard. I could handle all the normal ups and downs of life and even the more intense emotional and hormonal shifts that come with the territory of a new baby.

The moral of the story is: if you are struggling in motherhood, whether you are two weeks postpartum or two years, make time in your day for exercise. Maybe group exercise isn’t your thing, maybe it’s swimming or spin (I actually despise both), but give me some running shoes and a good playlist, or a dance class with fun choreography and I am so in. Find what works for you, something, anything, and do it every single day. Get those endorphins however you want, it doesn’t matter the medium, it just matters that you get them. If you think you don’t have time, the truth is, you don’t have time not to. Even if you already fit in your pre-pregnancy jeans. My life is infinitely better in a multitude of facets from endorphins, and it’s pulled me out of PPD twice. I am an endorphins advocate, and I want everyone to know it.

Notes: this is just my personal story to share, I am not a doctor. I realize that no two cases of PPD are alike, and for more moderate to severe cases of PPD, exercise might be helpful but likely not the whole solution. There are many other tools for treating PPD including medication and therapy. Please please please reach out to your health care provider, partner, neighbor, or anyone if you are struggling. You are not alone and you deserve to feel better.

Shared in partnership with my local favorite: Brooks Running. I wear the Launch 6 and Adrenaline GTS 19 and love them both. Grateful to partner with this local company who has made such an impact on my mothering, mental health, and overall outlook on life.

PUMP IT UP

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I spend such a large portion of my day nursing and/or pumping that it’s practically a part-time job. I actually read somewhere recently that the amount of time mothers spend nursing, pumping, and cleaning averages 40 hours a week. (#momsaresuperheros) I’m lucky that my supply is abundant, and I can both nurse and pump effectively. In the early weeks I was producing an enormous amount (pumping multiple times a day for a total of around 30oz in addition to nursing full time). Now that my supply has regulated, I pump just once in the morning, freeze that extra 10oz, then nurse the rest of the day. I have an enormous freezer stash and have tried a variety of pumps. Here is what I’ve found to be helpful:

EQUIPMENT

My number one goal of pumping is to get the most milk in the least amount of time. I do this mostly with the Medela Sonata. It is similar to the Spectra, which is more widely available through insurance, but from my experience, the Sonata is a better pump, meaning I can get 10oz of milk in 4 minutes. Everyone is different! This is just what works (amazingly) well for me. I’m guessing the personal fit flex shields also help with how effective this pump is. It’s a workhorse and I use it daily.

Now. If you work outside the home, or pump multiple times a day and want to still be able to do other things, meet Elvie, a completely wireless, nearly silent, fits-in-your-bra, pump. Brand new and recently available in the US, it’s a game changer. There is only one other brand of pump similar to this, but it requires disposable bags, which are crazy expensive (nearly fifty cents each time you pump). The Elvie comes with reusable bottles, so there’s no further expense after purchase. If you’d like to pump literally anywhere while doing other things, like on a plane, on a hike, in the middle of nowhere, this is your pump! So glad something like this is finally available.

These storage bags are the best because they stand up. (Tip: when freezing, lat flat over a waffle box or other flat surface, to help get the bags into a thin shape to save space when freezing, or use this. I have so much frozen milk this time that we also bought a deep freezer for extra storage.

BRAS

A few things here. Hands free pump bras are an absolute must if you plan to pump frequently and want to be able to use your hands to do other things. Two that you can take on and off: here and here (only for Medela). If you don’t want to change, there are a few makers of hands-free pump bras that you can wear all day, making pumping while at work so much more convenient. The Dairy Fairy makes a whole line, I like the Ayla and the Noa 2.0 styles (pictured). If you’re looking for a sports bra style this is my favorite.

RESOURCES

The website kellymom.com was recommended to me over and over by the lactation consultants I saw with Trey. It has lots of evidence-based resources on all things nursing and I often refer back to it for things like storage guidelines, or other useful information.

Happy nursing/pumping. And remember, fed is best! However you feed your baby is the right way for you. Nursing/pumping doesn’t work for some moms and babies for a variety of reasons and the good news is it’s all ok. (My aunt was raised in the era of “sweetened condensed milk” and is now a nutritionist so I try to remind myself that at least we’re all doing better than that.)

Shared in partnership with a variety of companies listed. All opinions are my own.

DOUBLE STROLLER OPTIONS

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Let’s talk double strollers. There are a million different options, configurations, and price points on the market. If you’re adding a second child to your family and need a stroller for two, here are your options and my favorites in each category:

Single Jogger + Buggy Board

If your older child is around 3yrs and up, a buggy board attachment can allow almost any regular stroller to be used as a double. Our three year old can sit or stand on the back, it’s easily removable, and great for shorter outings like the zoo. (Pictured is this single stroller that I’ve had for three years and is still what I use when I run with just Blaire, along with the buggy board and this car seat adapter.)

Pros: The most cost effective option of them all. East and fast to take on and off.

Cons: You’ll need something more substantial if you’re running with two kids (which I do often).

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Double Jogger

If you’re a runner and you have two young kids, you’ll need some kind of double jogger. This one is my favorite. Since having Trey they updated this one to include a hand brake which is great for the hills in our neighborhood.

Pros: The only way I can run with two kids, it’s easy to navigate, and a workhorse.

Cons: Wide (like it’s not going to fit through a narrow shopping aisle), and may take up too much space in some trunks to be portable. We keep this one at our house since I run directly down our street.

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City Stroller With Add Ons

If you use your stroller more for walking and you don’t plan to run with your kids, you can use a city style stroller. If you’re just starting out with one child, you can buy the single stroller, and then add a sibling seat or glider board later on to accommodate (or even three!) kids. Pictured is this one, just released in black on black.

Pros: The amount of creative configurations with this one is awesome, with forward or rear facing seats, bassinet and/or car seat adapters, a huge under basket, and the glider board to accomondate up to three kids. It also drives like a dream and I find it much easier to steer than the single jogger with a ride on board.

Cons: Good for walking, not running.

Lots of options! If you are active at all with kids or a daily runner like I am, I’d go for a jogging style. Otherwise, a city stroller may work well for you. Just depends on your style and preferences, like most things in motherhood.

Shared in partnership with our favorite, Thule.