Passionate about providing medical, nutritional and emotional care for new mums, Dr Camilla White has a holistic approach to pre and post natal health. With her two young children, Camilla recently relocated to Byron Bay and works closely with women as they make the huge transition into motherhood. She spoke to Children of the Tribe about the challenges new mums face, the importance of friendships and how sacred it is to practice self care.
Last year, you relocated with your two young children, Evie and Banjo, to make Byron Bay your new home. What do you love most about the area?
So many things ~ the beaches, the farmers’ markets, the coffee.... but most of all, the freedom, outdoor lifestyle and slower pace of life. The kids are thriving and we get to spend quality time together as a family due to the better work life balance. What I love most is the real sense of community, it’s such a supportive and friendly environment, especially for mothers.
After years of working in Emergency Medicine, you have recently started working as an Integrative Doctor at The Health Lodge and describe yourself as a Holistic Health Coach. What led you to specialize in women’s and children’s health and what can new mums expect from your approach?
I’m a holistic GP focusing on nutritional and environmental medicine. I've also just started my online health coaching business @yourholdingspace where I provide medical, nutritional and emotional support to women in the pre and postnatal period. I am essentially holding space for these women as they make the huge transition into motherhood and beyond. Mums can expect my approach to be caring and supportive as I believe you know your child best. I’m interested in women’s and children's health because I believe, as mothers, we often put the needs of our loved ones before our own and neglect our own physical, mental and emotional health. I've seen so many women suffer from postnatal depletion (of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals) and sleep deprivation which leads to exhaustion, depression and anxiety. If I can help women and mothers in particular achieve optimal health and practice sacred self care, then they can give from a full cup to the rest of their family.
Looking back, what was the biggest challenge you faced as a first-time mum?
The biggest challenge (apart from the sleep deprivation) was the unexpected isolation. In other cultures, new mothers are surrounded by family and friends for support during the 4th trimester (the first 12 weeks after giving birth). But in our western culture we are often alone and isolated and just expected to get on with things. As modern women we are often also fiercely independent and find it hard to accept help. How important were your own friendships in this time of your life? During this time my own friendships were so important. Having your tribe around to catch up with and chat about sleepless nights, breastfeeding or any number of things is so important. We need connection, understanding and support during this time, so having friends around makes such a difference.
What’s your advice for new mums to prepare themselves for motherhood?
Slow down. Surrender. Self care. Support. Trust your intuition and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Women can lose confidence and their sense of self after a baby comes along. Your life becomes all about this gorgeous tiny human you have to care for 24/7 and unfortunately there isn't a guidebook.
Embrace the slower pace of life, surrender to everything, let go of perfection, to-do lists, birth plans and routines. In the early days things are bound to take an unexpected turn, and that's ok.
Practice self-care and look after yourself. We know we should do this but in practice it's really hard (speaking from experience!) So just try to do one thing each day that someone who loves themselves would do. Meditate, do a short yoga practice (7 minutes is enough), have a bath, go for a walk in nature, meet a friend for coffee, sit down to eat your breakfast mindfully.
Support - ask for help and accept it with grace. People love to help and there is no weakness or failure in being vulnerable. Surround yourself with your tribe, talk to your friends, lean on your family. It takes a village to raise a child.
A woman’s body goes through some pretty huge changes throughout pregnancy. What should women realistically expect from their bodies after birth?
Be kind to your body! Don't expect too much. Your body has gone through some massive changes during pregnancy. Things have been stretched beyond belief, but it DOES go back - just don't expect it to happen instantly.
You are pregnant for 9 months so be gentle on yourself and your body and allow yourself time and space to get back to your pre-baby body. Some gentle postnatal pilates or yoga is wonderful to rediscover your core and walking outside in the sunshine with your baby is great for body and mind.
Take your time. Surrender to your new post partum body that has grown a whole entire human. Wear your saggy skin, stretch marks, scars, moles and pigmentation with pride. Look at what you have created!
What are your top 5 tips on how should women look after themselves in the weeks and months after having a baby?
1. Support - ask for help and accept it. Get a family member to organise a meal roster amongst your friends for those early weeks so you don't have to worry about cooking dinner.
2. Nourish yourself with nutrient dense food - there is a great book called "The first 40 days" filled with lovely recipes for the post partum period. You will be tired, but try not to survive off tea and toast.
3. Connect with other mamas, your friends and family. Talk. Cry. Laugh. Walk. Whatever makes you feel good. Your hormones will still be all over the place. So be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. They eventually even out and your days will evolve into a nice rhythm with time.
4. Sleep when you can - but don't stress out if you can't sleep because of your baby. Neither of my children were good sleepers and my sleep deprivation and exhaustion drove me crazy. I could never understand why they wouldn't just sleep, even after I tried everything. If you are woken multiple times, the more you stress about it the worse it becomes. So again, surrender, accept the situation and know that this too shall pass.
5. Don't forget self care. You can't give from an empty cup. Fill your own cup up, however that looks for you, because that will benefit you, your baby and your relationship with your partner.
Camilla works with women as they make the huge transition into motherhood - providing medical, nutritional and emotional support, whether its your first baby or your fourth. Find out more.