One of the first decisions a new mum must make is whether to breastfeed. Breastfeeding exclusively, for the first six months is strongly recommended, but breastfeeding rates are still quite low.
If you are yet undecided, it is important to understand the benefits of breastfeeding for mum and baby, both physical and mental.
5 Breastfeeding Benefits for Mum
So, what about mum? There are quite a few benefits worth revealing.
1. Helps You Lose Weight
You burn extra calories when breastfeeding, which means it can help you lose weight faster. This is welcome news for any new mother who may be struggling with her weight. Breastfeeding is a natural and healthy way to start burning calories immediately after giving birth. Your body releases the hormone oxytocin when you breastfeed. This helps your uterus to contract and return to its pre-pregnancy size. This will help you get in shape faster.
2. Lowers the Risk of Depression
Shortly after childbirth, women are at risk of postpartum depression. It has been found to affect up to 15% of mums. You are less likely to develop postpartum depression if you breastfeed. This is because hormonal changes occur when you breastfeed, and these encourage bonding and maternal caregiving.
3. Reduces the Risk of Disease
If you breastfeed for more than one year it has not been linked to a 28% lower risk of ovarian and breast cancer, as well as reducing the risk of health problems such as heart disease.
4. Pauses Ovulation and Menstruation
If you breastfeed regularly, it suspends ovulation and menstruation. Perhaps this is nature's way of making sure you leave ample time between pregnancies.
5. Saves Time and Money
Breastfeeding costs nothing at all and extraordinarily little effort is involved.
You do not have to buy formula or spend time making sure bottles are clean and sterilized. Your breastmilk is always ready to drink and at the right temperature.
5 Breastfeeding Benefits for Your Baby
1. Protects Against Illness
Breast Milk is the best food you can give your baby. It provides all the nourishment they need and is full of live ingredients such as white blood cells and beneficial bacteria.
All of these are going to help your baby fight infection, contribute to their normal healthy development, and prevent disease. That is not to say your breastfed baby is never going to get sick. When they do get poorly, however, there are protective components in your milk that help your baby to recover much faster than if they were being fed formula milk.
2. Provides Comfort
It has been found that breastfeeding when your baby is feeling upset helps to comfort and soothe them. When babies are being vaccinated, studies indicate that breastfeeding provides relief and reduces crying.
3. Breastfeeding and Premature Babies
If your baby is premature, your breast milk provides the best protection against many potentially fatal conditions. It is also likely that you will be able to bring them home from the hospital much earlier if they have been fed breast milk.
4. Breastfeeding and Your Baby’s Sleep
Breastfed babies can get back to sleep much quicker if they wake for milk during the night. This is because their body produces oxytocin when they are feeding, and this makes them sleepy when they have finished feeding. There are also hormones in your milk that help the development of healthy circadian rhythms.
5. Your Baby’s Brain Development
A study in the US found that young children who had been exclusively fed breast milk for at least three months had 20% to 30% more white matter in their brains. This is significant because the white matter connects different regions of the brain. It also transmits signals between these different regions. In the UK, a study of 16-year-olds who had been breastfed for at least six months as babies stood a better chance of getting higher grades in their exams.
Is Breast Pumping a Viable Option?
Pumping your breast milk offers many of the benefits of providing milk directly from the breast. However, there are some additional benefits worth mentioning. If you pump your milk, you can make a schedule that suits you. Get the timing right and you will be able to think about going back to work or freeing up more of your time.
If you pump your milk, you can split caregiving duties. Childcare duties can be balanced between parents, allowing the mother to get more needed rest. It is possible for breast milk to be given and taken on a donation basis.
If you cannot produce enough milk of your own, you could supplement your supply with milk from a donor. If you are undecided about whether to breastfeed or not, this article should give you some food for thought.
It is not something that suits everyone, but there are far too many benefits to ignore it without careful consideration.
This article was written by Lisa Corkery of O’Flynn Medical who are a leading supplier of Breast Pumps to the Irish and U.K market. Lisa has a vast knowledge of Breast Feeding and has seen first-hand the benefits it provides to both mother and baby.
When the going gets tough—when world-class change beckons, and you know you must rise up and meet the moment—what is essential?
How do you actually weather this crisis? And how do you hang in there for the long haul?
This might be a sudden loss of your job or your home, or a major change in your relationship. Or perhaps a pandemic or a massive civil rights movement comes to your door.
How do you do what you’ve got to do, and still keep body and soul together?
Such times are rich with opportunity, but only if you play them right. And yet, so few of us are prepared to actually do that. What many know how to do in a crisis is to react. Perhaps that means freezing or leaping into untethered action. Or sending text after text to anyone who will listen, all of them in caps.
Or maybe we just have a very public freak out on social media.
Ah, but friend, here is where the learning curve is.
This is exactly when you need to take a pause and crank up the self-care. If this seems counter-intuitive, bear with me for a moment.
You’ll know you need to do this if you feel your energy flagging, or you’re unable to sleep or even concentrate. Maybe you’re obsessively worrying, or constantly checking the news.
You may feel uncomfortable in your own skin. Especially if world events or events in your own life seem to be spiraling out of control.
And most especially if you feel unsafe.
This is when a lesson is truly at hand, friend. Which is precisely why your body is talking to you.
Instead of reacting, I suggest you get grounded. For within that grounding, you’re going to actually find your marching orders. And they will be spot on.
Here is where you will gather your power.
This is a roadmap you might follow.
Extreme Situations Call for Extreme Self-Care: 6 Action Steps for Getting It
#1. Stop and get clear.
Instead of racing off in the first direction you can think of, I suggest carving out some intentional alone time. Use it to find out just what is going on. What are your body, your heart, and your soul trying to tell you?
Give yourself enough time, whether it be an hour or a day or even a week, to find out what you need. This will be especially true if you have a big decision to make. For some marchers in recent Black Lives Matter protests, they simply quit their jobs and went out there and marched. They knew, deep in their gut, they had to do this. So there was real conviction.
If you’re not clear yet on what to do first, take the time to find out. Pull out a journal and let your thoughts fly. Or if you’re inclined to meditate, go have a good long sit. Take a walk in nature and see if inspiration comes to you while you’re moving. If you’re stressed out, take off your shoes and stand barefoot on the ground. Let yourself feel just how stable and solid the earth is beneath you.
If you still feel muddled, you might even talk to a supportive friend.
One way or another, make time to check in with yourself and spill what’s in your heart. Then listen attentively.
#2. Stay focused on you.
The temptation, of course, is to obsess on the other guy and spin your wheels, especially if you feel wronged. Yet, ultimately this is a waste of time. What is your plan of action? What are your needs? What has to happen before you can move forward?
Keep checking in with yourself as time goes by. This is not a ‘one and done’ experience. The process of self-awareness is always growing and shifting, just as our needs are.
By staying focused on yourself, you intuit each next step and marshal your resources. And you feed your mojo.
#3. Get organized.
Though it may be tempting to dive into what’s happening right now, think out your long-term strategy for the coming weeks and months. Ask yourself what you will need as you move forward.
What can you let go of that will help you live lean, and operate unencumbered? What do you need to add that will boost your energy and your resolve? What will best support you and the plan you are making?
This is not a place for wheel-spinning, but quiet determination. If you want to move out of a hopeless relationship, plot your exit. If you know you need to find a new job, review the status of your resume. Does it need a makeover? Or would a networking group be more beneficial?
#4. Ask for support.
What do you need right now … and can you attain that by yourself? If not, there is no shame in asking for help. In fact, there is power in including others—especially if their skill set in a particular area is better than our own.
This is just being strategic. And yes, asking for support if it's a MAJOR piece of great self-care. If you’re not clear on who to ask, or where to find help, head back to number 1. You’ll get that inspiration if you tune in and listen for a while.
You just have to slow down enough to get clear.
#5. Take conscious action.
Whether it’s filing for a divorce, asking for a raise, or starting a movement, your job is simply to listen to your gut. Then take each step required, knowing you have your feet on the ground and you know what to do. If it feels right, do it.
This is a conscious action, and it’s marked by a wonderful, grounded sense of ease, calm. You know down deep you’re doing the right thing. And that you’re just where you need to be.
This is how we can make a difference in the world, thanks to the healing power of self-care.
Your time is now.
Suzanne Falter is a writer, podcaster, and speaker whose work has appeared in SELF, O, More, Fitness, New Woman, and The New York Times.
So you’ve been hitting the gym for years, but lately, you’ve been having this feeling that something is just… Off.
Actually, now that you think about it, it’s only been getting worse and it definitely didn’t happen out of the blue.
You’re getting tired a lot quicker, maintaining your strength and physique has become much harder, and you’ve been needing more rest between workouts as well.
If you’re at least in your late 30s, what you might be experiencing are the downsides of approaching menopause—or specifically, the effects of gradually declining estrogen levels.
Confused? Let us help you understand the intricacies of your ongoing hormonal shift and, of course, we’ll also talk about the various ways through which it can be tamed.
The “Lock and Key” Analogy
When it comes to working out, your energy basically determines how well you’ll perform. If you don’t get tired too quickly during your sessions, maximizing your gains shouldn’t be too hard—with a bit of effort and time.
Now, what does estrogen have to do with this? Think of the processes in your body being kept behind locked doors, needing the right key before they can provide you with whatever benefits they have.
Among those processes is glucose and lipid metabolism, or the breakdown of sugars and fats so that they can be used as energy when necessary instead of being merely stashed away.
Estrogen, as it turns out, is the key to unlocking that “metabolic door”. By activating estrogen receptor α (ERα), the hormone promotes the breakdown of glucose and lipids, giving you the energy you need during exercise.
Interestingly, there’s another “lock” that estrogen seems to work on despite not necessarily opening it. Leptin is a hormone that’s responsible for giving you a sense of fullness and facilitating energy expenditure.
Unfortunately, the body isn’t always that great at opening leptin’s door, which is why it’s sometimes so hard to stay away from snacks no matter how much you’ve already eaten. You eat, but you don’t feel full.
So, with the female sex hormone’s help, you get twice the energy boost. And alternatively, when its levels are far too low, you end up feeling worn out or lethargic for long periods.
What makes the problem worse, is that tiredness or fatigue can cause depression if left unchecked. Staying motivated is crucial to maximizing your time at the gym, and in keeping yourself from missing sessions.
On Weak, Damaged Muscles
Now that we’ve got the energy part covered, let’s move on to strength—a factor that limits how hard you can go, regardless of how enthusiastic you are about improving your physique.
Here’s something that tends to surprise many: the lack of estrogen leads to a reduction of myosin. This particular motor protein is found within muscle fibers, and it’s what makes muscle contraction possible.
In other words, it gives force to the movement. And surely, when there isn’t enough myosin being produced, strength, in general, takes a hit as the muscles themselves end up losing an important part of their structure.
That’s not the only reason why estrogen is vital to strength though, as the hormone also plays a role in preventing oxidative damage—or the harm sustained by cells from increased free radical production during exercise.
Remember the “lock and key” analogy?
The female hormone again serves as a key, opening the door to a number of physiological processes that ultimately combat oxidative stress and, in turn, maintain muscle mass.
That effect is exactly why some women use botanical serums with phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens, after all, work like estrogen and may support recovery just as effectively—we’ll talk more about this later.
Going back to oxidative damage, do you know that inflammation, something that is guaranteed to occur after working out, typically entails an increase in free radicals?
While inflammation is part of the recovery process, it involves neutrophils that do more harm than good while getting rid of injured muscle tissue—leaving in their trail lots of free radicals.
It’s among estrogen’s duties to limit the activity of these neutrophils. And so, when there’s not enough of the hormone around, recovery takes even longer due to the added damage.
Solving the Hormonal Dilemma
Keeping yourself energized and your muscles healthy needs a solution that would either target the hormonal shift’s effects or open the same locks that require the female sex hormone as their key.
One way of doing that is by undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, this is something usually recommend to those who’ve hit menopause, not to women whose estrogen levels have just started to drop.
HRT, despite the many advantages it offers, comes with risks that are worth thinking through. The risk of developing cancer, for example, may grow depending on the specific dose, route, and hormone used.
If you aren’t bothered by other symptoms that come with hormonal decline, you could consider a milder, safer approach—such as making sure that you’re getting enough of certain vitamins.
Vitamins B6 and B12 help to increase the oxygen supply within your muscles by facilitating red blood cell production. This, in turn, supports not only energy metabolism and muscle growth, but also muscle repair and recovery.
Vitamin E, on the other hand, is an excellent choice if you want to minimize oxidative stress. It will benefit your skin too, reducing sun damage much like estrogen itself.
Last but certainly not least, there’s what experts call phytoestrogens. As we’ve partly mentioned, these are plant-derived compounds that function as the female sex hormone.
How exactly? If estrogen is the key to the body’s many “physiological locks”, then phytoestrogens are essentially nature’s duplicates—or in other words, their structure allows them to activate the very same receptors.
The scientific community, intrigued by these compounds, is carrying out numerous studies to map the perks of phytoestrogens and fully understand their potential. And, based on what’s been discovered so far, things are looking good.
What makes these alternatives really great, however, is how easy they are to get. Given that they can be sourced from food (e.g. tofu, nuts) as well as supplements (both topical and oral), they’ve become a popular choice.
Deciding on the Right Approach
All in all, estrogen decline does come with a worrying assortment of effects, especially to gym performance. And so, it’s only to be expected that you’d take the search for a safe and effective solution seriously.
To do that, be sure to visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis and to discuss your options. Remember that while every woman will eventually face this hormonal issue, its impact and scope won’t necessarily be identical for all.
The moment when you finally hit your stride with your workout routine is seriously the best. It’s like the honeymoon phase of a new relationship.
Everything is (relatively) easy. You feel like you’re on top of the world. Nothing can slow you down.
Until suddenly, it happens: You hit the dreaded workout plateau. Now, you’re no longer seeing results, and your motivation is all but gone. What are you supposed to do now?
Well, as we see it, you have three options:
quit (but you’re no quitter, are you?);
keep doing the same workout routine and growing increasingly frustrated with your lack of progress, or
bust through your fitness plateau by leveling up your workouts.
If you want to start seeing results again, there is no question that option number three is the best course of action.
So, how do you make it happen?
6 Useful Strategies for Making Your Workouts Better
Create your workout playlists, pack your bag with essential workout gear and follow these pro tips to get yourself out of your fitness rut.
1. Switch up the intensity
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with your workouts to maximize your results. If you enjoy hopping on the stationary bike in the morning and blasting T-Swift on your phone, then by all means, keep doing it! But instead of pedaling for 45 minutes straight at the same intensity, try switching up the intensity with an interval workout.
An interval workout involves periods of high-intensity mixed in with low and medium intensity and, according to research, it’s super effective at blasting fat.
In a 2017 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that interval workouts can burn up to 28.5 percent more fat than a continuous workout with moderate intensity.
If you normally use the bike for 45 minutes on a low intensity, try doing a 20-minute bike interval workout instead. Start your ride with easy pedaling for five minutes, dispersed with moderate, high-intensity and all-out pedaling before cooling down for another five minutes. Trust us, you’ll be feeling it in your legs the next day.
2. Try something completely new
Okay, we know that we just said you didn’t need to reinvent the wheel with your workouts, but hear us out: Trying a new workout routine can do your body some serious good. Like, a lot of good. As in, omg-I-can-finally-see-my-abs kind of good.
That’s because your body eventually adapts to exercise after about 4-16 weeks of the same workout routine. Once that happens, your progress will come to a screeching halt until you make a change in your workout.
While interval training is an effective way to challenge your body, why not try something new and exciting?
Replace one of your running workouts with a kickboxing class. Swap a cardio session for yoga (which is packed with workout-enhancing benefits, by the way). Who knows? You may just find a new type of exercise to get you excited all over again.
3. Fuel up the right way
Sorry to break this to you, but your low-calorie diet is secretly sabotaging your workouts.
Yep, it’s true. In fact, when it comes to fitness, undereating is arguably much, much worse than overeating. That’s because eating a low-calorie diet won’t provide your body with the proper nutrients it needs to fuel your workout, which inevitably leads to you feeling tired and unmotivated to do that extra rep or mile.
Furthermore, not all calories are created equal. If you’re not eating enough carbohydrates (an essential macronutrient), your body will eventually rely on the protein in your muscles as fuel, which is the last thing you want!
To fuel your body properly, start counting your macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins). If you don’t know how to do that, use this helpful macronutrient guide or see a certified nutritionist who can help you. Also, don’t be alarmed if your nutritionist tells you to eat way more carbs than you’re used to! Just trust the process. We promise that you’ll look and feel a million times better once you start fueling your body with the proper macronutrients.
4. Wear comfortable workout gear
Look, we can all admit that exercise isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. You’re sweating, your face is flushed and all you can think about is taking that glorious shower after you’re finished. But while exercise itself is generally uncomfortable, that doesn’t mean you need to make it a million times worse by wearing the wrong workout gear.
The wrong shorts can cause chafing. The wrong bra can cause breast pain. The wrong shoes can cause painful blisters that put you off your running game for an entire week or more. In other words, you need to make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothing that won’t slow you down or negatively impact your performance. Prioritize your comfort and you’ll be amazed at how much more motivated you are to do that one additional rep!
5. Set specific goals
When you first started working out, you probably had one goal: Just show up. Get in the gym, do the thing and pat yourself on the back. And to be perfectly fair, that’s a worthy fitness goal—for a fitness newbie. Now that you want to take your workouts to the next level, you can no longer just wander into the gym without a plan. Not if you want to see progress, that is.
So, what do you want out of your fitness regimen?
Do you want to build more muscle? Increase your running speed? Or maybe you just want to get enviable abs like Kate Beckinsale (can you believe she’s 46?! Talk about #bodygoals).
No matter what your fitness goal, it’s important that you know what you want out of your workouts. By knowing the final destination, you can create a fitness road map to get you there much, much quicker.
You don’t even need any equipment to get started. Your body is the equipment! Bodyweight workouts involving squats, pushups and reverse lunges are a super-effective way to train and will help build muscle that boosts your cardio workouts. Plus, you can also use resistance bands, kettlebells, and medicine balls to take your workout to the next level. Before too long, you’ll be looking in the mirror and thinking hot DANG!
Don’t let yourself fall into a fitness slump. Use these pro tips to get back in the game!
Annie Kuniansky is the manager of the Red Dress Boutique editorial team. She oversees all of the content creation and outreach for the company. When she’s not working or writing you can find her researching the latest fashion trends or hanging out with friends.
It’s never too late to get into athleticism when you grow up. Some individuals may believe that you either learn to stretch at a young age, or you’re stuck with low flexibility as you grow older. And while stretching when you’re young makes it a whole lot easier to have the body you want, people of all ages can push their muscles into being far more flexible through exercising and training.
Here’s what you need to know.
No matter what flexibility level you want, starting with yoga is always your optimal choice. This goes especially for yoga styles that focus on mostly flexibility, such as Yin or Hatha. You can enroll in your local gym for Yoga classes, or you can learn poses through many videos available online.
Hyperbolic Stretching Classes
What primarily hinders stretching or makes it difficult for your muscles is something called reciprocal muscle inhibition. Hyperbolic training programs have been proven to be beneficial for all ages, and have mostly been tried and tested on older individuals who have trouble leaning down or bending over.
But now, many individuals use these programs to do full splits with little to no warming up, and this hyperbolic stretching review explains it in more detail if you’re unsure what the training program includes. Of course, you should never do this without a professional present because stretching, when done improperly, can cause irreversible damage to your muscles and tendons.
Sounds all too easy? Perhaps jogging every morning and doing cardio regularly wouldn’t help you with doing high kicks and full splits, but leading a sedentary lifestyle can cause muscle atrophy. So it’s more of a prevention method than one you can use to promote flexibility. You cannot be flexible if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, especially if you have a typical desk job. Get up and get moving, even if it’s just on your indoor treadmill. This will keep your muscles always warmed up and ready to be molded into whatever flexibility you aim for.
Dancing differs from workouts because they usually compel you to challenge yourself with different moves and poses, this works to slowly boost your flexibility, utilizing your joints and muscles to do something your body is not used to. You can watch free videos online, take online courses, or enroll in dance classes like Zumba. An added benefit is that you’ll see yourself rapidly losing weight, which can also massively help with your flexibility training.
You always see yoga and Pilates paired together, and that’s because they both focus on flexible poses and can be meditative for both your body and mind. Flexibility isn’t just about training your body to do certain poses but requires the mindset for you to drastically change your posture, as well. Pilates will also immensely prevent you from overworking your muscles, so you won’t have to deal with fatigue as much.
Working your way into a more flexible body doesn’t require a certain biological age. All ages can benefit from the previously mentioned workouts and training programs and can grow to be as flexible as those athletic bodies you admire. However, this journey will take some time, so it needs patience and dedication on your part as well.
If you were to take just five minutes to scroll through your Instagram feed, you will no doubt come across many snapshots of gorgeous women immersed in steaming baths adorned with flowers and bubbles.
These posts all feature beautifully manicured feet conspicuously sticking out the water, and expertly applied the facial mask and even a glass of sparkling wine to complete the picture. You are sighing, saying to yourself that will only happen to you when you win the jackpot, right?
Possibly, but hang on there!
Self-care for yourself as a woman is vital, it is not meant only for the fortunate few. It is a necessity, in fact, no matter what kind of a lifestyle you lead, and no matter own much money you have or don’t have.
Self-care in women isn't selfish – it’s imperative
Self-care is a term which when simply defined means taking care of one’s own health and needs.
Let’s explain it better here:
It’s a true story, the one of Poppy Marler. She had a realization when she decided to look at herself at 40; to change her life and begin a new journey head-on.
She says that when she was a young mother, she just put everything on hold, being hyper-focused on her child’s care. She actually put her own life on hold. She neglected friendships and bored anyone who’d listen with baby stories and pictures.
When she got into real social situations, she found she could not add anything to the conversation because all of her current experiences were about her parenting experiences. She had no life or interests outside of motherhood.
She didn’t notice that she had put on a whole lot of weight either because she no longer dressed in her professional or party clothes. In fact, there were very few times when she wore anything nursing and spit-up friendly. She gradually realized that she had no life outside of her child.
Finally, a dear older and wiser friend of hers told her that it was an essential thing, apart from taking care of her family, to take care of her own needs because her own health and happiness directly impacts her ability to care for her family. She then realized the consequences of her self deprioritization :
Lack of socialization
Poppy eventually realized that just like how in an airplane, you are instructed to put on your own oxygen mask first, then help others; in order to help others, you need to take care of yourself first. It was then that she discovered how taking steps to care for yourself each day should be a top priority.
9 Ways to Show Yourself Some Love and Make Your Life Better
She went on further to start involving these important aspects of her life:
Exercise, because moving your body keeps your blood circulating, keeps you strong, and keeps your mood happy.
Eating well: She says she learned to eat 5-7 servings of fresh fruit and veggies, ensuring that she got all her nutrients in, removing all the junk foods.
Maintaining relationships outside your family. It was important that her family remained her top priority, but she also learned not to under-estimate the power of good friends. She found that just having someone to talk to was a great help in advancing feelings of well-being.
Getting enough sleep: Without good and enough sleep, the quality of your life deteriorates rapidly. Sleep is what is needed to help your body recover and repair itself, and also to avoid television as well as snacks which are high in sugar and fat before bedtime
Getting dressed every day: Working and walking around all day in sweats and slippers is not good for anyone’s self-esteem. We know that when we look good, we feel so good.
Having a positive attitude: A positive, mindful attitude used on yourself and others will change the way you view life. It gives you a reason to get up in the morning and face whatever challenges come your way!
Have a hobby: You need interests of your very own outside of the home and family because it maintains your individuality.
Spend some time alone: Just taking a relaxing bath for 30 minutes or a few hours out to do your hair and nails or reading a book you have been meaning to read, these are what boost your morale, your spirits, and make you feel good about yourself and life.
Ask for help: If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help, because it’s true, we can’t do everything alone – no man is an island.
“Learning to take care of your own needs isn’t selfish, it’s downright essential.”
It makes you a better caretaker because after all, happiness and health are top assets to have, aren’t they?
It’s a lifetime investment – how are you really doing?