As a new mum, my instincts about how I should raise my son have only just resurfaced after nine long months of being fed bias opinions from articles, studies, nurses, doctors, friends and family. It is incredibly overwhelming attempting to decipher the vast array of advice…all of which naturally contradicts each other.
“The nurse told me to persist with breast feeding, but my mum is insisting I supplement with formula.”
Conflicts such as these dominated my life in the early weeks and months, and yes I was told to just do what felt right. Surely it was as simple as soaking it all in and selecting the one that suits you, like picking a new pair of shoes? Not quite. Well intended and not so well intended information clouded my mind. I didn’t have a clue what I thought. My emotions and hormones were still raging. I’d just birthed a very hungry caterpillar (on a Monday), and sleep deprivation sapping my minute energy sources equalled a very scattered brain. My instincts and gut feelings were anything but clarified.
“I wish I’d known back then what I know now.”
Hindsight is great, if I had of adopted a stronger mindset back then I know it would have been much more smooth sailing. Nevertheless I have pin pointed a few tips I’ve collected along the way in the hopes it will help other struggling new mummies out there.
1.) No matter what you do, it will always be wrong in someone’s eyes.
While this isn’t the most positive way to set off, it is vital that this fact is adopted. Like anything in life, you will never please everyone, and the day you stop trying to will be like the epiphany you’ve been waiting for. Every single person will have unique views on child rearing. How you raise a child will inevitably influence that child’s behaviour, personality and aspirations; therefore parents feel strongly that their way is the right (and only) way.
2.) Mums are mums worst fears
Mothers groups are fantastic for socialisation, and really benefit your mental wellbeing. I would recommend them to every new mum. They get you out of the house; create new friendships; supply many tips and tricks, and allow you to debrief on the sleepless week you’ve had (with a partner who expects to come home to an immaculate house), However it’s also a breeding ground for boasting, judging, and comparing. Let’s face it, every mum wants their child to be advanced, and what better way than to see other babies the same age as yours not yet reached their ‘milestones.’ My friend’s mother told me not long ago that you forget that developmental milestones even exist once you reach your fourth child. As soon as you let go or reduce the competitive streak that we all have in some way or another; life will be less stressful. It’s not the end of the world if the baby a week younger than yours rolled a month before yours did. At the end of the day, every baby is unique and goes at their own pace. Admittedly this is something I did very wrong which causes me a lot of unnecessary concern. Second time around, I’ll leave nit picking milestones up to the clinic nurse.
3.) Breast feeding is hard
Evolution failed us when it comes to breast feeding. Our hips widen; stretch marks form; ankles swell; haemorrhoids form etc. It would be nice if nipple toughening could have been included. While some lucky ones have it easy, the majority of women struggle at some point whether it be pain, mastitis, supply issues, latching, leaking, etc. If you choose to breastfeed you need support. And lots of it. I remember sitting there breastfeeding my son crying in pain, and my partner (who comes from a culture where formula feeding is first choice) begged me to formula feed, while the nurses never even suggested it as an option. Whatever you choose, you need to get everyone on board, so you’re not pulled in all directions. While formula feeding has its difficulties such as finding the appropriate one; the pain that comes accompanies breastfeeding can make the first three weeks torturous. Be prepared and buy the relevant equipment before you give birth. Things such as lansinoh, gel and cotton breast pads, and breast shells (this is something I discovered a few months later which would have been very useful) are needed. Consider hiring or buying a pump. Get the numbers for lactation consultants (I saw two as I felt I needed a second opinion), and be aware of milk stimulating supplements found in health food shops such as blessed thistle and fenugreek, or prescription medications that stimulates prolactin secretion such Domperidone (aka Motilium).
4.) Don’t make decisions when you’re emotional
“Consistency is key”
If you feel routine or patterns if you want to be more politicly correct are your style; don’t decide to suddenly adopt Cry It Out (CIO) after you’ve dealt with a sleep defiant baby for the past three hours. This was one of my biggest mistakes; deciding after one tantrum episode I would need to completely overturn my style of how I do things. When in reality my son was just having a bad day. Personally, loose routines suit our family quite nicely, and certain methods of how we feed him, and put him to sleep are discussed by me and my partner when we’re relaxed. Not when we’re on edge with our adrenaline pumping, listening to a screaming baby and searching desperately for a ‘must needed drastic change.’ Make sure everyone is aware of how you wants things done, and get everyone on the same page. A major attribute to routines are consistency, based on the principle that presumably babies can predict what will happen next - promoting security. Of course we have our off days, utterly exhausted days, and lately, very hot days. Don’t beat yourself up if everything doesn’t go to plan, or you opt for the more energy efficient version. Every now and then I take an afternoon nap with my son attached to my boob. Life isn’t supposed to be like clockwork. Where would the fun be?
5.) Always go to the toilet before attempting rocking baby to sleep
That speaks for itself…you never know how long you’ll be, and waking your baby up during the fragile and risky decline into the cot due to an insatiable urge to go the toilet produces an irritation beyond imaginable.
6.) Try to borrow the infinite array of carriers before you break the bank
Ring slings, mini monkey slings, organic cotton slings, belted and buckled carriers, homemade and store bought fabric wraps; there many many ways to transport a little 5kg person. And trying and buying can cost a lot of money. This is where mothers groups come in quite handy, organising everyone to bring in their carriers; or creations is very useful. Facebook is great too for finding baby wearing groups in your community, where you can go and test out the different models.
7.) Don’t let scary words sway you
Strong, intimidating language is the keystone of persuasive writing, and one of the most daunting words that new mothers often come across is ‘harmful,’ whether the carrier you’ve just paid $150 for is harmful for their hips, or CIO is harmful for their emotional development. Decide for yourself what is and what is not ‘harmful.’ Beware of the scare tactics promising that certain methods of baby rearing are detrimental. Ignore words such as ‘must,’ and mentally substitute such words for ‘maybe.’ Another great trick of the book is throwing in the odd “studies have shown” line. If an article fails to state the quality or quantity of the study, it most likely is rubbish. It may have been an informal observation on 10 babies, or simply a lie to weasel particular ideas into your head. Rather, take on board reputable studies that state objective data such as statistics, and exactly how many babies were involved. Gather information from respectable online journals, and from university and government regulated websites such as the World Health Organisation. Also remember that research can go both ways, and your own subconscious ideas may be the biggest influence on your findings (I’m mainly talking about immunizations here). Try not to unknowingly scroll past articles, because they have a different perspective. The point of research is to make an informed choice, and to do this, all angles and avenues must be explored and considered.
8.) The counting game
“Before I put him down, I will count to 200.”
Patience unfortunately is not on my list of favourable traits, and one of the most frustrating things I did was put him down to bed prematurely, just to have him snap awake as soon as he hit the mattress…meaning I had to start from scratch (a good 20 mins of rocking/feeding). Playing the counting game physically prevented me from becoming impatient, and ensured he would most likely be in a deep sleep when I made the treacherous decline to mattress.
9.) The no-stimulus baby sack
I remember calling the Australian Breast Feeding Association in tears when my little boy would not stop eating or settle. The lovely woman on the phone suggested the best newborn settling technique I have ever heard, and it would be pure selfishness not to share it. What you do: Get a big square blanket or wrap; lay it on a bed; put baby in the middle, and get two people to bring both edges together and sway slowly back and forth. The blanket blocks out the big scary world when baby has had enough, and I was incredibly surprised and relieved to find it works a treat.
10.) Do your kegels
I discovered how important these exercises are after attempting star jumps on the Wii fit. Need I say more...