Episode #2: What I learnt from my own struggle with postpartum anxiety (and why Tough Mothers exists)

Episode #2: What I learnt from my own struggle with postpartum anxiety (and why Tough Mothers exists)

Photo of Rebecca Anderson

“I didn’t realise that out of my crisis the greatest gift would come”

I was lying on the couch wrapped in blankets. It was December in Australia, so it was hot! Yet I was shivering; my anxiety had total control of me.

My third baby was only a couple of months old, and unlike with my first two, the transition into motherhood pulled the rug out from under me. Literally.

I never intended to become a matrescence (the transition a woman goes through when she becomes a mother) and motherhood specialist. However, after I recovered from my postnatal / postpartum breakdown, I knew:

“If my strategy could help me, it could help other mothers”

And it has.

Tough Mothers and its courses were created to help mothers who, during matrescence, feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them.

Matrescence – the transition from woman to mother – is one of the most life-changing transitions a woman will ever go through.
We are changed – physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.

We are literally transformed. And we can use these changes, with some simple strategies, to create the life we desire, and become the woman (and mother) we have always wanted to be.

In this episode of The Tough Mothers Podcast and Tough Mothers TV you will learn:

  • ✓ How gifts come out of struggles. Even when we think the struggle is a curse.
  • ✓ The importance of learning about ourselves and our own brain
  • ✓ How you can help yourself in motherhood

“The brain controls everything. We must be in charge of our brain and mind. Otherwise life will run off on us”

Hear the full episode. Simply click on your favourite podcast app.

Or hit play and watch the full episode on YouTube.


The important take-aways from this episode are:

  • Birth does not always go to plan  Podcast [5.20], TV [4.50]

It is important to have an ideal birth plan. However, it is more important to be flexible, as childbirth rarely goes to plan.

  • You don’t know when the motherhood transition will knock you off your feet  Podcast [13.32], TV [13.02]

You can experience psychological challenges that come with motherhood at any stage in motherhood – it could be with your first baby or it could be with your last (like it was with me).

The manifestation of the transition into motherhood is probably different; but the transition is the same for every mother

  • You must have tools going into motherhood Podcast [16.40], TV [16.10]

The intricacies of the tools each mother must take into, and through, matrescence with her are individual. However, the tools themselves are the same.
These include:

  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • A good support network
  • Sound knowledge of your brain and mind – and tools of how to influence them. The Tough Mothers courses can help you with this 
  • Work with an expert who can help you delve deep into your neuroscience and psychology, so you gain insight into yourself
  • If you are stuck in life, you must look elsewhere for solutions.  Podcast [23.13], TV [22.43]

You must open your mind to new ideas and possibilities.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results” – Anon

  • The importance of inner work and mindfulness in our life Podcast [25.30], TV [25.00]

The key to inner peace is inner work. There is no shortcut or hack. The quicker we find our direction to what we need to do to become the person we want to be, the sooner we will feel contentment.

  • Meditation – why we all should meditate every day Podcast [25.30], TV [25.00]

The scientific evidence behind the benefits of meditation are phenomenal. As a parent having a calm mind is imperative for a calm motherhood life. But it doesn’t just lead to calm, meditation also changes the brain for the better.

I have tried several forms of meditation but found Vedic meditation to be the best for my life because it is quick, effortless and noticeably transformative. Learn about the course I did HERE.

  • As a mother you have to prioritise yourself – you have to be at the top of your pyramid Podcast [25.30], TV [25.00]

“If you imagine a champagne glass tower, where champagne glasses are stacked on top of each other. If the top glass (you!) isn’t full of champagne, nothing can trickle into the other glasses beneath it (your kids, your family, the rest of your life etc).”

  • Because matrescence changes us, and our brain, we need to have a plan for ourselves during matrescence. Podcast [33.20], TV [32.50]

This plan must consist of tools and strategies specifically to the individual mother.

“Tough Mothers came about because I realised that we are sent into this massive life-changing transition of matrescence without a plan. And we really need a plan for ourselves in motherhood.”

  • The tools and strategies we choose for ourselves rewire our brain Podcast [37.50], TV [37.20]

Our brains are individually shaped and wired due to our experiences and our actions – in the present and in the past. Tough Mothers takes your unique make up (your ingredients in your pantry) and helps you create an individual recipe just for you to bake your perfect cake, i.e. create the life you want to live.

“You must not lose yourself in motherhood – you have to make yourself comfortable in your new role.”

In future episodes, Marcus and I will be delving into the practical tools and strategies you can use, so be sure to listen and watch upcoming episodes. Or even better, REGISTER TODAY to receive each new episode straight into your inbox

I would love to hear from you

What insights did you have when you watched this episode?

How could these potentially change your motherhood experience and life?

Leave a comment below and tell us about it! Many mums come here to find support, and your experience or story may help one of them.

Who is one person that would benefit from watching this episode? – Share it with them through the icons at the top of this article 😉


Be sure to subscribe to The Tough Mothers Podcast or Tough Mothers TV .


Leave a review for the podcast  or on my YouTube channel, as I draw a random reviewer each month to win an amazing Tough Mothers gift.


YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Get all the motherhood support at our village.

Mentions in this episode

The book: I Wish Someone Had Told Me… – unspoken truths about what really happens to women during labour, childbirth and the first few weeks of motherhood

Faster Deeper Bliss – 21 day meditation course with Tom Cronin

Tough Mothers Courses

Thich Nhat Hanh – Living Without Stress and Fear CD set

Champagne glass tower image courtesy of A Beautiful Mess

Mental Health Support Services

If the topics in this episode are triggering for you, or if you feel you need support, please contact you doctor or local mental health line.

In Australia: www.healthdirect.gov.au
In New Zealand: www.mentalhealth.org.nz
In the USA: www.mhnational.org
In the UK : www.mind.org.uk
In Ireland: www2.hse.ie

In South Africa: www.safmh.org.za

If your country is not listed please search “Mental Health Line” in google in your country.


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I struggled to produce breast milk. Then I found supply line feeding

I struggled to produce breast milk. Then I found supply line feeding

Exercise 5 - Talk
Before I became pregnant, I assumed that the size of one’s breasts might be an indicator of milk supply. I figured my C-cup boobs, would breastfeed my children exclusively and “naturally” just like in the photos. (You know the ones I’m talking about!)

Now that I have babies I’ve learned one must never assume anything when it comes to kids, your body and motherhood! Not ever!

My boobs looked like they were ready for the job

My first baby arrived more sleepy than hungry. He was quite content suckling on the colostrum my breasts were making.

Colostrum is the first milk a woman breasts make. There’s not much of it, but it’s loaded with antibodies and immunoglobulins which help protect newborns from bacteria and viruses.

It wasn’t until my son was a few days old that I realised I would probably never be a poster mum for breastfeeding. When my milk came in my boobs ballooned. From the outside it looked like I would be able to feed most of Australia, but sadly that was not the case.

Although my son and I managed to get the hang of breastfeeding, it was my supply that let us down. I felt like a failure. Why was my body not making enough food for my baby?

My journey from breast is best to fed is best

At this stage of my mothering career I wasn’t aware that formula is perfectly fine. All I had heard was breast is best, breast is best, breast is best! Now, many years later, I believe fed is best. As long as your baby is happy and thriving, who cares how they are nourished?

Back then, I sought out a wonderful lactation consultant who embraced my desire (and society’s push) to breastfeed exclusively. She suggested I pump after every feed. This is no mean feat, especially during night feeds, yet pump is what I did.

I managed to get myself a nice little stash of “spare” breast milk, which my lactation consultant encouraged me to feed to my baby through a “supply line”.


In came the supply line

A supply line, also known as a nursing trainer or supplemental nursing system (SNS) – which is what I used – is a feeding device that allows your baby to get extra milk as they breastfeed.

How does it work? It goes a little something like this:

A very thin tube is attached to a storage bottle or bag, which contains either breast milk or formula. The other end of the tube is taped near the nipple, which allows the tube to enter the baby’s mouth when they latch on to the breast.

This not only feeds the baby extra milk, but it also helps stimulate a woman’s breast milk production. With SNS, the milk flow is controlled by the elevation of the bottle and the circumference of tubing used. Nursing trainers, however, allow milk to flow only when a baby is sucking.


Genius device

SNS made it possible for me to feed my baby the “spare” breastmilk while I was breastfeeding him, thereby also stimulating my milk production.

I have met other women who have used supply lines happily and very successfully. Some suffered from low supply and wanted to stimulate their supply or avoid bottles. Others temporarily used supply lines to reestablish supply after a period of not breastfeeding.

I even met one mother who used a supply-line with donor milk, building up her breastmilk supply so she could then successfully breastfeed her adopted daughter.


It’s hard work, though

The device is quite finicky, so putting it together, getting the bottle at the right height (to get the desired milk flow), taping the tube to the right part of the breast near the nipple, and ensuring baby takes the tube into his mouth while latching onto the breast can be challenging.

The device also needs to be washed and sterilised after every single feed. The set-up can also make it tricky to feed while you are in public places. I am sure women do it, but I never attempted it, which resulted in us staying home (or rushing home) for every feed.

This might seem limiting, but I felt strongly that supply line supplementing was what I needed to do at the time. I’m sure it helped my postnatal mental health to choose this option.


Things changed with baby number two

When baby number two came along, 21 months later, I had the same supply struggles. I pumped after every feed and fed the “spare” breastmilk to my baby via the supply line.

This time I had a toddler in tow. I quickly realised that using a bottle to top-up the spare milk was a far easier option. We even fed in public places!

At the end of the day, as long as you fill your baby’s tummy, it doesn’t matter how you feed.

This is an edited excerpt from my book, ‘I Wish Someone Had Told Me …. Which is originally published in babyology.com.au


6 things not to bother packing in your hospital bag

6 things not to bother packing in your hospital bag

Exercise 5 - Talk

Packing your hospital bag is an exciting event. After weeks of patiently waiting, your baby is almost here! There are countless what to pack in your hospital bag lists available, and no doubt you will get tips from other mums. Most of the things you will hear and read are very useful, but some really are not.

When I was pregnant, a mother suggested I pack some massage oil. I get it, labour is long, you need to relax … but I had three quite quick labours, and if Hubs had whipped out massage oil during any one of them, I think he would have been quite surprised with a swift elbow to the gut (aside from the fact I couldn’t stand to be touched when I was in labour with baby number 1).

I have spoken to a lot of mums about hospital bags, and the consensus is: keep it light. People can always bring you things if you need them. So, stick to the musts and consider leaving the following six things at home:

1. Pretty much any clothes you wore before you were pregnant

I have two words for you: Kate Middleton. If Princess Catherine still looks seven months pregnant the day she leaves the hospital, then there is not much hope for us true commoners. Even if you didn’t put on much weight during your pregnancy, you will still have a belly. Or if you’re like me and put on quite a bit of weight, don’t bother bringing anything that isn’t maternity wear.


2. Lots of snacks

I took so many high-energy snacks to hospital, the first time, it was ridiculous. I was told that “keeping my energy up” was of utmost importance. That’s true! However, I felt so nauseous the whole time I was in labour that the mere thought of food made me want to puke. I know some labours take longer, but in all honesty, even if you don’t feel sick, you will probably not feel like picnicking.
Once you’re on the ward, it is a different story! But those snacks can be brought to you, so they don’t need to go in your hospital bag. Save that room for other important things like, you know, a string bikini ?


3. Shoes which require hands to be put on

This includes any shoes with laces or shoes where you need to bend or squat to get your feet in. Even if you don’t have a caesarean, bending over is not the easiest thing right after having a baby, let alone perching on the edge of the bed or seat. So, pack only flat, slip-on shoes such as thongs/jandals/flip-flops/plakkies or whatever else you might call them. Your swollen feet will thank you too.


4. Books

I know a book sounds good in theory (and you do have to plan for the possibility of having a long stay in hospital), but even if you have time to read a book, chances are you won’t want to. Most mums I speak to about packing a book in their hospital bag laugh out loud and say that they wish they had packed another five pairs of black granny undies and maternity pads instead.


5. More than a couple of onesies for your baby

Try not to be tempted to pre-empt your baby’s size. For instance, my first was 4.2kg and 57cm at birth. He was too big for any of the 0000 suits I brought along. Similarly, I have met lots of mums that ended up with very small babies that required 00000 suits, instead of the 0000 suits they packed. And don’t bother with “outfits”, there’ll be plenty of time for baby dress-ups when you’re back home.


6. Makeup

If you must take makeup, limit it to one or two things. You will probably not feel like wearing makeup after you have had your baby and you are in that newborn bubble. A mum I know said she took her whole makeup bag and ended up using nothing. In her words: What was I thinking? That I could actually have been bothered to do some Kim-Kardashian-contouring?

So, unless you are Kim Kardashian, don’t bother with makeup. Of course, Kim Kardashian doesn’t need makeup because she always has a makeup artist on hand … but that’s a different story.

This is article was is originally published in babyology.com.au