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September 02, 2015
Becoming a mama is a huge event, not just because you have a whole new person in your life, one who is utterly helpless and relies on you for everything, but also because everything has changed for you. You are suddenly at home instead of at work, any status you had accrued in the workplace means nothing to your baby, nor to other mothers. Your body has changed, not just what you see in the mirror but also the way it feels and the way it moves. You relationship has taken a backseat, it is no longer just the two of you and that is hard, really hard to negotiate. On top of this, you are on one huge learning curve, you need to acquire new skills every day and sometimes it feels as if you will never get things right and you are suddenly require to function on much less sleep and with little time to yourself. It is a time of such change and such great shifting energy that it is normal for new mums to fall into patterns of worry and anxiety as you feel your way into this new world. But there are some things that we really should not be worrying about and instead spend that time and energy on snuggling our new babies. It is easier said than done, perhaps, but here are our five things a new mother shouldn’t be losing sleep over.
Those new mummy friends you’ve made are just as worried as you are, they are all just trying to get through each day as best they can. When new mums come together they often fall into competing with one another. “Little Ada slept through from 4 weeks.” “Francisco rolled from front to back before he was 2 months old.” “Melissa is such a good baby, she hardly ever cries.” What you are getting here is a tiny snapshot, a piece of information that the mother shares because it is one thing she feels she is doing well at. What you are not getting is a true representation of that mothers’ life with her baby. All babies are different and they will all reach their milestones at different points. We all know that adults have varying skills and talents, the same goes for babies. So enjoy your baby at this moment, enjoy the stage she is at and try not to compare.
We know this is a big topic for new mums. How much sleep, when to sleep, where to sleep, what to wear to sleep, how to get them to sleep. Sleep has a lot to contribute when it comes to worries. Remember a newborn baby has no real concept of day and night, in fact when he was still in utero he may have done most of his sleeping in the day when your movements rocked him to sleep. In those early weeks try to just go with the flow, follow your baby’s patterns, sleep when they sleep if you can and slowly fit your schedules around one another. As baby gets older you may find that a sling or baby carrier allows your baby to sleep without too much interruption to your day.
We are bombarded these days with images of celebrities whose bodies magically ping back into shape weeks after having a baby. These women are often publicly applauded for this and other women feel the pressure to do likewise. But I look at it like this, you will never go back to not being a mother, you have entered a new phase of your life. The body that you had in your pre-baby years has changed, your organs have moved around inside to accommodate your baby, your skin has stretched and loosened, your breasts have swelled with milk, you have passed from maiden to mother. No one expects a 22 year old to have the same body as an 11 year old, we expect our bodies to transform over this time. If we can accept that puberty brings about permanent and natural changes in our bodies, why then do we spend so much time fretting over the natural changes that occur when we have a baby? Becoming a mother is a life-stage just as becoming a woman is, we should not expect this change to take place invisibly, instead we should learn to love our new bodies for what they are.
It is common place to hear of new mums voicing their worries that they are “spoiling” their babies by answering to their needs. A mother who co-sleeps, who carries her baby or who feeds on demand is often told that their baby will “never learn” or that they are “creating a rod for their own back”. Babies are born expecting their mother to take care of their needs for warmth, food and safety, likewise a new mother is hardwired to respond to these needs, and her instincts will lead her to do so. It is only when well-meaning grandmas, health professionals or even strangers start to give their contrary advice that mothers begin to doubt themselves. I have known mothers to stand outside their baby’s room in tears, as they listen to their baby crying in her crib, but dare not go to comfort her, lest they “spoil” their child. I tell mothers this – go to your baby, pick up your baby, your baby will not spoil from being loved and cared for.
It’s extremely hard, particularly as a first time mum, to put your faith in your own abilities to feed your baby. Unless you are expressing you can never be sure exactly how much milk your baby is getting and I know some mothers who have never been able to express, so never saw their own milk, but whose babies gained weight and grew perfectly. For the vast majority of mothers the milk they produce will be more than adequate for their baby and once they have gotten into the swing of breastfeeding, babies become the expert and taking exactly as much as they need. Some babies feed for an hour, slowly and steadily. Others feed quickly and efficiently before falling back to sleep with a full tummy. If your baby is content, is producing wet and dirty nappies and does not appear to have any health problems, they are most likely getting what they need. Trust in yourself and your baby to do what comes naturally to you. Watch the baby, not the scale. Weighing your baby too often creates a climate of anxiety and often gives a false view of your baby’s gains, as different scales measure differently and the same baby’s weight may vary vastly according to what time of day they were weighed, whether they have just fed, etc etc.
And a bonus one…
If you are asking yourself this question then the answer is yes. Yes, you are a good mother, because clearly you care. In fact you are a wonderful mother. There is no template perfect mother, there are no rules to follow, no line to measure yourself against. We are all doing the best we can. Perhaps down the line you will do things differently, but you can always look back and say “I did the best that I could with the knowledge and skills that I had.”
Victoria Machin - UK
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