Parenting isn’t a one way street. Go with what works for you and your baby.
A question I often hear with an accompanying sound of – Arg!!!
Is, Why don’t babies come with manuals?
Having manuals maybe easier for you to give you directions but having babies it simply just doesn’t work that way. Most of the time we are just rigging it and see what works. Learning through trial and error, guiding yourself with your intuition and making the best decisions that work for you is ultimately the better outcome.
As most of us know, becoming new parents to a newborn baby is wonderfully exciting, but also very daunting.
A lot of new parents may feel unprepared, anxious and overwhelmed.
Having worked with hundreds of babies and their parents over the past 20 years as a baby consultant. I have seen first hand how parents are affected by too little, too much or information that has no relevance. Pressures of ways to feed your baby, sleep your baby, what gadgets to use and other parenting guidelines and recommendations is best for your baby are all out there ready for you to pounce on.
Many books, magazine articles and now with the internet widely available to search any topic you may feel is going to give you the answer your looking for.The feeling of overwhelm is all too real.
There is more and more conflicting theories, research based articles and an endless supply of free advice from family, friends and even strangers. But with this advice comes confusion, despair and ultimately the feeling of not being good enough and guilt because you have lost your ability to make an informed decision that will work best for you and your family.
As I work with clients my main aim is for them to reconnect back with the confidence they had before their newborn came along. That person, who managed their own business, worked in the corporate world, made decisions on behalf of all their staff. Deep down that person is still there.
But because becoming new parents is a new beginning of another stage of your life and the manuals are simply not there. We struggle to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that we are actually able to nurture and care for our babies the way we see works best for us.
So let have a look at which topics are readily talked about that we find gain the most traction.
To be fed is best
Many times you will hear the words “Breast is Best” and there is no denying that breast milk is an amazing source of nutrients needed for health and wellbeing.
Breastfeeding isn’t easy and it certainly doesn’t come naturally in most cases. It’s a learned skill for both mum and baby to master over time. For this skill to be a success it also has to come with lots of knowledge and support. This is often what is lacking in our hospital systems and our communities because there aren’t enough people around to help. What concerns me the most around the Breast is best statement is that when mums are either have mad a decision that breastfeeding isn’t right for them or they have made an decision to stop due to many stressful factors in continuing.
Stress and successful breastfeeding is very counter intuitive. Mums should not be made to continue through the pain and anguish because breastfeeding is the only way. For me a baby that is Fed is the best way. Whether that is via breast milk or formula. While on the subject of bottle-feeding another question, which is often asked for those who are exclusively breastfeeding is when they can introduce the bottle. My recommendation is to start as early as you can. It’s best not being in a situation when you have been invited to a function or an event at short notice and you need someone else to look after your babe. Be prepared I say and have all your ducks in a row so its easier to make that decision.
Too swaddle or not too swaddle.
Recommendation to swaddle has been around for years.
It is suggested it helps your baby from waking due to the startle reflex. While I agree on the most part there are some babies that just plainly don’t like it. If you are swaddling with muslin and you have a Houdini then I suggest changing to a natural fabric that has more ability to stretch. Muslins are not the best for swaddling as they allow no movement and unravel very quickly if you have a baby that moves around a lot. If a more stretchable material is still not giving you success then I would give up the swaddling altogether. Some babies just want to feel free and sleep with their hands in the air. As your baby develops better motor skills and more control of there extremities swaddling is usually out around 8 weeks of age.
Sleep or no sleep
Sleep is certainly one of the biggest conversation starters for many. Its also a hot topic many experts are quick to recommend with what is best for your baby.
Sleep is definitely an essential nutrient we all need.
“All” as in both baby and parents. Too often I hear that sleep deprivation is normal part of becoming new parents.
Sleep deprivation causes brain fog, mood changes, diet changes with either weight loss or weight gain and complete exhaustion among a few, which ultimatley leads to postnatal distress or depression.
Suggestions such as sleep when baby sleeps, co-sleeping in the same bed is not the best advice of all parents. As a mum myself I was never able to sleep when my babies slept because I always found chores to be done or sleeping in daylight wasn’t something I had mastered even while working shifts as a nurse. Its interesting because while sleep deprivation is frightening real and very dangerous. When you search for this topic around parenting. Suggestions that it is normal and how to cope rather than preventing it, is the advice.
Guidelines for safe sleeping
Safety guidelines are just that, guidelines. But with regular media attention, research articles, policies written by big organisations its no wonder that parents especially new ones are very confused and frustrated with conflicting advice. My concern with these sleep guidelines, is that we are placing babies in only one box. Babies can only sleep on their back, babies should only be swaddled, babies should either be in their parents room or co- sleep in the same bed, breast is best, the list goes on.
Babies are individuals, they react to different stimuli, may have other challenges like reflux, poor weight gain or a medical diagnoses.
Back sleeping is safer however not all babies sleep well on their back. When you have eliminated all other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, bed-sharing unsafely. You can rest assured that you are making an empowered and confident decision to help you and your baby get better sleep in another way.
Bed sharing or room sharing with your baby until at least 6 – 12 months of age is another guideline that is forcefully recommended. But there are other aspects that we need to take into consideration.
Babies are very noisy sleepers. During their sleep cycles they frequently wake, grunt a lot, suck on their hands or fingers and even let out a cry or two. When you’re a heavy sleeper or don’t mind the disruption during the night then there is no need for a change. Parents who are light sleepers, wake frequently and are often lying awake at night because their babies are keeping them awake may need to rethink their sleeping arrangements. Having babies sleep in their own room will allow you to only wake when they need to be fed or are awake for other reasons. Many mums are concerned they will not hear their babies cries. I believe it’s a mothers natural instinct to hear the needs of their baby. Babies who sleep in their room tend to sleep for longer periods than those who share with their parents.
Creating the balance
Oh what’s that you say. Well I have learned over many years and helping many clients find balance while parenting at the same time. Yep its possible but can be hard to achieve especially when a lot of advice is very baby orientated and the guilt factor is very real.
Parenting is the hardest job in the world.
Yet, looking after ourselves takes a back seat especially for mums. We feel guilty even thinking about ourselves let alone taking time out. But I have learned that its one on the most important decisions that you will have the ability to make.
The decision to go out for a coffee with friends, a regular exercise class, joining the gym or even seeking part time or going back to work full time shouldn’t have the guilt factor attached to it.
Think of what you used to love doing, what sport did you play, did you like going to the movies, having a girls night out. Write down the things that are important to you and find a way to achieve them.
To fully reconnect with your baby you have got to have the ability to disconnect and look after yourself. It is important not just for you but also for your partner and your baby.