During pregnancy women spend nine months envisioning what childbirth will look like, but they often spend far less time preparing for the days and years after. Once you’ve taken the plunge into parenthood, though, many new moms soon realize it can be tough to keep your head above water without some kind of support system. That’s what prompted two hypnotherapists to develop the concept of HypnoMothering.
Suzanne Vecchi, director of maternal wellness at Acelleron Maternal Health & Wellness and certified HypnoMothering practitioner, was excited to start teaching the program because she saw a real need within her community. “Too many moms don’t get the support they need because they’re often hesitant to ask for it,” she says. “In class, we talk about the challenges of motherhood and getting through difficult moments.”
The class, which consists of a single two-and-a-half-hour session along with eight downloadable hypnosis recordings to practice regularly at home, aims to help all mamas—expectant, first-time, of multiples—thrive in motherhood by teaching them to use hypnosis to recharge in short spans of time.
But Vecchi is quick to point out that HypnoMothering is much more than a one-time class. Students can turn to the self-hypnosis downloads, mom mantras and breathing techniques anytime they need to feel renewed, she explains.
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How to hypno
New mom Amanda Sanderson wasn’t sure what to expect when she tried HypnoMothering for the first time. She knew little about hypnosis, but like a lot of new moms she was eager to find tools to help manage the stress that accompanied juggling her new mom status and a career as she neared the end of maternity leave.
According to Vecchi, Sanderson’s parenting concerns are common. “It’s the most difficult and wonderful time in your life,” she explains. “And motherhood looks different for everybody.”
Sanderson’s first experience with the practice wasn’t entirely what she expected. She wasn’t in any sort of a trance, she explains. Instead, she found an invitation to unwind. In a room with dimmed lights and ocean sounds swelling in the back- ground, she was encouraged to take off her shoes, put her feet up and relax in a safe environment.
“Knowing that I was about to go back to work, I wanted to be able to make the best use of the sleep I did get,” Sanderson shares. “When my baby wakes up in the middle of the night, I need to be able to get back to sleep faster.”
The recordings and relaxation techniques that Sanderson now plays and practices regularly have helped her cope when she’s having a hard time. Between feedings and diaper changes and laundry—so much laundry—you might think there’s no room in your day for you to have a mini meditation retreat on your couch. But the beauty of HypnoMothering is that you don’t need an hour of silence to get something out of the process. Hypnosis is highly concentrated, so you only need a few minutes to go really deep. It’s restorative rest, even in the absence of sleep.
The short progressive relaxation recording, for example, takes just over six minutes. It’s meant to soften the adrenaline rush that could result from being jolted awake by a screaming infant in the middle of the night. During the session, a soothing voice reminds you to release all the tiny muscles around the eyes by imagining a warm liquid moving through the muscles to soothe them. That same warm liquid then moves to the top of the head and down the spine. And just a few minutes later, you’re either asleep or so deep in relaxation that you hardly remember being abruptly awakened in the first place.
Beyond relaxation, breathing techniques like HypnoMama breathing help moms to detox negative emotions in the moment. Moms are instructed to examine how an emotion felt at its strongest and, rather than trying to suppress it, breathe into it deeply.
Once you calm down, you can focus on what caused the emotion and how you would like to see the issue resolved. What emotions would you prefer to feel toward the issue? By taking an aerial view of a negative feeling, you’re less likely to get swept up into it.
Anne Wakeman, mom of two, uses the deep breathing techniques that she learned in class when she’s overwhelmed with her responsibilities as a parent, wife and employee. It helps her reset when she feels like she’s lost control—like when she was recovering from a C-section while caring for a newborn and a toddler.
“First you breathe into your lungs, and then into your mind to clear negative thoughts, and then into the heart to warm the heart space,” she says. Wakeman contends that the breathing and other hypnosis techniques that she learned in class have helped her find peace amidst chaos.
Enthusiasts believe that hypnosis can help facilitate positive results because when you’re deeply relaxed, you’re more responsive to suggestion. Hypnosis not only helps moms unwind, but it can also encourage them to feel empowered.
While it’s true that Sanderson walked away from her HypnoMothering class with a bevy of relaxation strategies and tools, she also found something she wasn’t expecting. The experience gave her a chance to open up about the difficulties of parenting with other moms, all judgment aside.
The class is an opportunity to discuss the trials of motherhood, such as baby bonding, in a safe environment with other moms, says Vecchi. The session explores how bonding with your baby is different for everyone, while bonding affirmations help moms connect with their newborns when the relationship isn’t as instinctive as they thought.
The two extremes of bonding with baby even have nicknames: “The Cinderella Story” and “Beauty and the Beast.” (Keep in mind, many moms fall somewhere in between.) In The Cinderella Story, a mother falls in love with her little one at first sight. But in the second allegory, a mom’s love for her newborn grows over time.
HypnoMothering helps mamas realize that one way is not better than another. Just because you’re not head over heels for your baby in the delivery room doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. Being around other women and talking candidly about the experience can reduce the guilt that unnecessarily plagues new moms.
The practices and benefits of HypnoMothering are game changing for first-time parents who are running on fumes, often in desperate need of rest and confidence. Sanderson finds the mantras particularly empowering. When nursing or pumping, for example, she repeats the mantra “I have everything I need to meet the needs of my baby” to remind herself that her breast milk is the most potent nourishment she can provide.
For new moms, such mantras can help quiet nagging fears. But HypnoMothering isn’t reserved for first-time mamas. Even though Vecchi’s three sons are older (ranging from 6 to 10 years old) and difficulties like sleeping through the night are no longer an issue, she still relies on the techniques to face different parenting challenges, like balancing carpool with her responsibilities at work. Once you learn the basics of HypnoMothering, you can carry the lessons with you throughout motherhood.
HypnoMothering isn’t meant for moms suffering from more serious conditions, such as postpartum depression or anxiety. If you think you might be, seek professional help.