When I first decided to breastfeed my then-unborn son, I envisioned us lounging together, skin-to-skin inside of my comfiest robe. I pictured myself a lovely, motherly angel and him, a little cherub. I definitely didn't picture having sore boobs or being ravenously hungry. However, when you're exclusively breastfeeding you need to either let your baby latch, or pump to provide food for a later meal (as often as twelve times a day). Knowing that I couldn't keep going otherwise, there were certain things I did for myself everyday while breastfeeding exclusively, because it's important to take care of yourself when you’re doing that much for another person.
Breastfeeding is great and entirely feasible for most folks, but it can also be tough to be the only show in town, food-wise, for the recommended six months (that experts think is best) before introducing complementary solid foods. So it's really important for moms to get the food, rest, and other self-care we need when we're exclusively breastfeeding our babies on demand. To make that possible, my partner took on a few of the chores that were normally on my list (oh, darn!) so that I could either breastfeed or rest, while simultaneously paying extra attention to my health, well-being, and comfort so I'd be able to replenish what my son was demanding from me. (It's that whole "secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others" thing that I've been trying, with varying levels of success, ever since getting pregnant.)
For me, paying attention to my health and well-being means eating my favorite foods, getting as much sleep as possible, drinking enough water, and staying as physically comfortable and socially supported as possible. While exercise is usually a quintessential part of my "healthiest, happiest self" routine, I didn't make it a huge priority when my son was exclusively breastfeeding, especially if it would have cut into any opportunities to rest. Even though I'd try to get out for a walk around the neighborhood every day, I just didn't always have the energy to spare for a full workout, so I didn't sweat it.
In the end, it all worked out. We made it through our first six months, with him happy, healthy and thriving, and me feeling good enough to keep going — though gradually less and less as solid food became a bigger focus — right up to now, still nursing at sleepy times, just days away from his second birthday. That's only possible because I made sure to do the following for myself everyday: