Recently a couple of old school friends who don’t live close by anymore have had their first babies and they have messaged me feeling confused, guilty and panicked about the decisions they are making as new mothers. It got me reminiscing about the months after my first son arrived into our lives and turned everything upside down. I started thinking back to the long days alone in the house with just my tiny baby for company, those first anxious visits into the world of baby classes and play dates and the constant feeling that I had no idea what I was doing. So, five and a half years into this parenting lark, now with three little boys to raise and still the feeling that I have no clue what I was doing I thought I would share my thoughts on those early days of being a mum for all the new mums finding their feet.
- Fed is best
From pretty much five minutes after you give birth you are confronted with THE decision “how will baby be fed?”. No matter what your opinions on this subject before your baby entered the world your hormones will now make this an emotionally charged decision and you will dip your first toe into the pool of parenting uncertainty and self-doubt.
The one thing that you must remember to tell yourself is this, fed is best. There are always those on both sides of the ‘debate’ who will feel strongly one way or the other but at the end of the day all you need to do is feed your baby be that by boob or bottle and the decision is entirely yours. If you decide breastfeeding isn’t for you then good for you, if you decide to give it a go and it doesn’t work out then good for you and if you and your baby take to it like ducks to water then good for you. Do what feels right for you whether that’s doing bottle from the get go or breast feeding your baby for the foreseeable future, it’s about what works for you, a happy mum and a fed baby, however they are fed, means a content baby.
- Trust your instincts
The adage “there’s no manual to parenting” is true, every baby, every mother and every situation is different and just like we wouldn’t expect adults to behave in the same way nor can we expect babies to. The reason the first few weeks feel hard is because they are, you are learning the preferences and ways of a tiny human who’s only form of communication is to wail and cry at you until, after exhausting every option you finally hit upon the right thing. Unfortunately, there is no one who can tell you what your baby wants for certain but there is no one better placed than you as their mother to use your intuition and instinct to interpret those screams and whinges.
In the midst of the crying, the sleep deprivation and the failed attempts at calming our babies it is easy for us to feel that our maternal instinct isn’t there, but believe me when I say it is, you know best and you will get there, it just takes time and effort but the way that works for you and your baby does finally come. Trust those instincts, you don’t need a parenting book or a routine plan to tell you what your baby wants, you just need to listen to yourself and them and take it from there.
- There is no right or wrong answer
The good thing about all babies being different is that there is no right or wrong answer, yes it means you will try things which don’t work before you figure out what does but it also means you can’t go far wrong. Never feel that you are making a mistake, remember that you are finding the way that works for you and YOUR baby in each situation, if you can focus on that then the voice of self-doubt in the back of your mind will learn to quieten down.
- Never be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help
As a society, we aren’t the best at making people feel comfortable with saying they are struggling with something, we tend to associate finding something difficult with failing, this must change. There is no failure in voicing difficulties and there is no failure in asking for help, by speaking out and asking for support you are trying to improve the situation for you and your baby, that is strength, that is love, that is succeeding. Suffering in silence is failure, not of the individual but of the society around them who create the culture that to struggle is to fail, never feel you can’t ask for help whether that’s practical help, emotional help or professional help, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a fresh perspective can often be all you need to change everything.
- It’s OK to feel bored
When you have a baby, you picture blissful days spent staring at your offspring with love filled eyes and a full and contented heart and whilst that does happen there are only so many hours of the day you can spend admiring your new bundle of joy. Guess what, sometimes all new mum’s feel bored and isolated from the outside world so don’t beat yourself up thinking you are somehow failing or that you don’t love your baby as much as the mum you see posting a zillion pics of her cooing over her baby on Facebook because she probably feels just as fed up sometimes too.
- Get out of the house
With point five in mind it’s important to say, get out of the house. Baby classes aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but spending a couple of hours a week talking to other adults can make the long days much more enjoyable, even if you do spend that time discussing babies 😉
- Don’t let other people effect you and your parenting
Everyone’s baby does things at different times and every mother parents differently so when you hear that Sarah’s baby slept through the night from day two and Jessica’s baby was potty trained at one don’t take that information as a benchmark or a sign that you aren’t doing something right, simply celebrate it with them as their journey. This is something I learnt the hard way after being deeply affected by baby class talk of night feeds whilst my babies were still feeding in the night well past their first birthdays. At the time, I saw it as something I needed to explain or a failing that I had been unable to stop them but in hindsight I know it was just them and their way and at the end of the day who cares, they got there eventually and I shouldn’t have let someone else’s experience effect what I thought the parenting of my child should be. Believe in yourself and your way, support the mum’s you get to know in their journey’s and hopefully support can bread support instead of the culture of ‘fear of failure’ breading insecurity and doubt.
- Your existing friendships may change
In my experience, it’s also normal for your existing friendships to change, whether we like it or not becoming a mother changes you as a person and it’s inevitable that this will have an impact on the relationships you hold. You may drift away from people you were previously inseparable from and migrate towards new friends who are at the same stage in life as you. Friendships change and evolve and people experience things at different points in their life but none of that is a bad thing, the people who will always be in your life will be there regardless of how often you see them or whether you are less close at certain points. Try to see any changes as an opportunity to expand your friendships and learn new things from new people and new experiences, good can always come from change if we look for it.
- Enjoy yourself
You will be told to “soak it all in, it goes too fast” and I have to say it really is true but when you are doing the endless night feeds it’s easy to think it will be that way forever. It won’t. Each stage has its challenges but as you become more confident that your way is the right way you will learn to care less about people’s opinions and the fear of judgement and you will look back and realise it really did fly by. Every moment won’t be picture perfect and you might not treasure every second but capture it all, the good and the bad so you can look back when it all becomes a blur in the future and remember the small day in day out things which at the time didn’t seem like the big things. Most importantly try to spend less time worrying about routines and people’s advice and more time having fun and enjoying your baby, after all this may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done but it’s also the most amazing.
- Never doubt that you are awesome!
Never forget that you grew a human (or two, or three) YOU did that! You brought your baby into this world, you keep your baby safe, fed, cared for and loved and you devote yourself to its happiness and welfare so believe in yourself more because you are amazing! Shut out the white noise of other people’s opinions, never feel that you aren’t good enough or that you are failing and focus on your instincts because you are a wonderful mother and you’ve got this.
Love An Ordinary Mummy xxx
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