Ask a new mother what motherhood means to her and expect a plethora of varied responses. All new mums respond to their new role in so many different ways. Many relish this new dimension to their lives, just as many are overwhelmed or terrified of how they will ever manage. Despite how different mothers’ perceptions are, many of them are making similar mistakes.
1. Reading too much
Mums love to read about their new favourite topics – babies and motherhood. The Internet is overflowing with information, forums, experts, and personal experiences. This can be overwhelming and the information can be taken out of context and can appear contradictory. Find one or two sources that resonate with you and suit your parenting style and stick to them. No two babies are the same, so therefore no one way of doing something will suit all babies, that is why there is a lot of variety out there, just find one that suits you.
2. Self Doubt
When things aren’t going too smoothly with a new baby, many mums lose their self confidence and doubt every single move they make. If it doubt, ask for sure but try to find some faith in the job that you are doing with your baby, look for small things to start with. I was a Midwife when I had my own children and was very confident around newborns. With a very difficult first baby it didn’t take long for me to lose that confidence and it may haze of exhaustion just not really know what I was doing well and what I was not. I didn’t give myself enough credit to see that my son was growing and putting on weight, that I fed, bathed and nurtured him the best I could. And most of all, that I loved him. I fretted about stuff that I was envisaging down the line. For example I was anxious at knowing how I was going to manage my son as a teenager when I couldn’t even get him to feed or sleep well as a baby. Just focus on the here and now and tackle one thing at a time. My sons are teenagers now and they are a piece of cake compared to when they were small babies.
3. Doing too much
New mums are very social and with social media at our finger tips around the clock this is not always helpful. Photos are appearing constantly on facebook and instagram, showing them attending outings that does look glamourous and like you are coping well, but is it in the best interest of your baby? New mums happily wish to spend time with friends, family, mother’s groups, play groups, at swimming lessons, gymbaroo, yoga and the list goes on. It is not uncommon for me to see new mums having 2-3 outings planned for each day. Young babies are easily stimulated by their environment and need time to de-stimulate in a quieter, more relaxed environment between their more stimulated times. Try to aim for no more than one outing or social event each day and plan for a home day once a week. This allows you time to really get to know your baby and allow them the rest and feed opportunities they require to blossom.
Heading out with new babies is often stressful and exhausting for you. If you have chosen to breast feed, this may affect your milk supply. Breast feeding mums need to rest to allow their milk to replenish and keep a good supply.
Following on from #3, with very social mums and trying to attend booked classes and groups that don’t fit in with your baby’s needs is hard. Look at having 1-2 things per week that might not be in time with your baby’s needs and ask around to see if anyone else is experiencing the same things as you and you might find many more wishing to change the time to a more compatible time. Babies thrive on structure and routine. This is a topic in itself but being predictable around feeding and sleep is very comforting to babies and assist in their need to feel secure. To be able to sleep in their own environment at home is important too. That a sleep in the car or pram is ok occasionally and a good skill to have, but all sleeps in the car each day will build a reliance and expectation that they only sleep in the car and expect to feel that way, which is quite different to how they feel in their sleep space at home. By getting to know your baby, you will know roughly how long they can spend awake between sleeps and when they need to feed and rest. With this knowledge, you will be able to work out the best times to be away from home and with some cues when you are out, your baby will understand it is time to sleep.
5 Expecting too much too soon
Babies are human and are changeable everyday. Many mums expect their babies to do the same thing every day and respond the same way to things every day. The amount of sleep that they get affects how they feed and how well they can stay awake between sleeps. The amount of milk they take at a feed can also affect how well they subsequently sleep. For some, different noises, temperatures, surrounding environments affects how well they sleep from day to day. Take a big breath, dig deep for some patience and allow your baby to unfold in front of you. Learn their little likes and dislikes, the series of events that lead to decent feeds and sleeps and those that lead to disaster days. Some babies will need night feeds more frequently than others, some will need to feed at night much longer than others. There is no right and wrong, only what is right for your baby and for you. Find some expectations that you and your partner are happy with and try to aim for these rather than being overwhelmed with expecting too much too soon and becoming disappointed when they don’t happen.
6 Partner Expectations
Often in life when we are floundering, we look to our partners for support and helping us through life’s tougher times. For many partners, having a baby might be a first for them too, or with the arrival of a second child, they may have to step up their support in a more hands on fashion. Modern partners are adept at multitasking – working, coming home to help with meals, housework, childcare and support for you. For some this just comes naturally, for others not so easily. I speak to many great Dads and partners who are happy to be of help but find it difficult to know just what to do to be helpful. I certainly had a husband that was overwhelmed with the amount of crying from our new baby, and myself! He didn’t know anything about babies and had never seen me so out of my depth before. He was not coping with the situation and as a bloke does, felt that he should ‘fix’ it, but didn’t know how. I didn’t want him to necessarily fix it but just be of help. Subsequently having teenage sons, they have expressed to me that they are happy to help around the home with housework but I need to tell them what needs doing. I get frustrated asking them “Can’t you see that the dishes are piling up, that the washing needs hanging out or bringing in off the line and the bin is full?” They genuinely don’t see it as a problem and when given a list or directed they are more than capable of expertly doing the job at hand. So if you are needing your partner to be helpful, help them to understand what kind of help you are looking for. That some clear direction often sorts things out so we all get what we want and need. For example, “Can’t you just clean up?” Might be easier with a written list or more specific, “ Could you please unstack and stack the dishwasher and hang out the load of washing in the laundry?” Or if you are needing support for yourself , “Why can’t you support me?” Might sound like “ I could really do with a hug right now.”
Mostly I find that both parents are out of their depth and by teaming up and working together to find a solution, is far better than working against each other. Explore and research together, discuss things together and make plans that include all of you. If things around the house don’t get done, it’s not the end of the world. Sure the house might look messy, but prioritise to what is really necessary and what is just what you think would look nice. Reassure your partner that they babies cries when you hold him too, that you just need ten minutes to have a shower and then you can tag again. Don’t forget to have a laugh at things together too
7 Not asking family members for help.
Your family love you and your new baby, they want the best for you. Many new mums are seeking advice from ‘experts’ when all the while there is a great resource right there with you, your family. Families are tricky and some are absent altogether, but if you are lucky enough to have a mum, mother- in –law, sister or aunt, don’t be afraid to seek their advice, or utilise their offers of help. Things have changed with child rearing over the generations, so it might be that you have to remind Grandma that we don’t settle new babies to sleep on their tummies anymore or put honey or brandy on dummies, but they still have so much to offer your new family. There are parenting classes for Grandparents to bring them up to date with new advances in child safety that may help empower them to feel confident enough to help you with your new baby.
It might be that you don’t get on too well with your mother-in-law, but she is a great cook and she is happy to drop a meal off to you or pick up a few groceries for you. Other family members might be suited to entertaining your toddler, or hold your baby while you have a shower or take a nap. It is all the little things that will help you to stay strong. For new mums without family close by, a skype call just to ask a few questions or be reassured that you are doing a great job will make your day. Experts know a lot, but they don’t know you, be open to those that love and care for you.
8 Trying to be perfect
Mothers strive to be the perfect parent like they are training for the Olympic Games. What they don’t realise is that they already are the perfect mother – for their own baby. From the moment a mother takes here baby in her arms, she is already the perfect mother. No one will ever have the same love or work harder to protect and make her child happy. We all make mistakes and do things that we not proud of, but we did all those things with love and the best of intentions. An old lady once took my hand and said ” Caroline, all you have to do is love and feed your baby.” She was right. In my quest to be the perfect mum, I was sometimes overlooking the child in my arms and his own distinct needs of me while trying to be a better mum that I thought I was. What I now know is just how perfect I was for him all along. Go on mums, give yourself permission to accept how perfect you already are, and believe it everyday.
What I wish for all new mothers, is that they will look back on those early days with their newborns and realize what a great job they did. There will be highlights and lowlights, but in the end we all just do our best with our kids every day, our hopes and dreams for them will always be there. For now just tackle one day at a time and drink it all in. Make memories along the way out of the everyday stuff, for soon enough your babies will be grown and you will wonder where that precious time went.