Sometimes mums can feel they’ve lost their own identity in being mum all the time, sometimes it can feel like you’ve found yourself at last. But if becoming a parent is guaranteed to do anything it’s make you look at yourself in a different way.
You will sometimes see your own parents coming out in your natural reactions and the things you say and you may find yourself thinking about the world differently as you see it through the eyes of someone who has suddenly got so much to lose in a way that wasn’t conceivable without the shift in the centre of your world that happened as you fell in love with your child.
It’s completely normal to alternate between feeling totally great about yourself as a new parent and totally lost and inadequate for the job. Finding joy in this time of transition and learning about yourself is possible, it’s important to accept how you feel and to give yourself time to adjust. If you’ve never practised self-care before now it’s time to start. Find small moments in each day and longer times weekly if you can to do kind things for yourself, remember you can’t pour from an empty cup and now this small person is here who relies on you for everything and needs you to keep giving you need to fill up.
(For more beautiful art check out the wonderful Sketchy Muma on facebook and buy her new book )
If you’re choosing to bottle feed remember you need to look after yourself and keep your baby close to you in the early days. You will need to learn your baby’s early feeding / hunger cues so you can make sure a bottle is ready before they are overly hungry and distressed. As powdered formula isn’t sterile it’s worth considering using pre-made cartons at least in the first few weeks.
You can also still have lots of skin to skin bonding time with your bottle-fed baby which will be good for both of you.
Gentle bottle-feeding techniques can benefit your baby in many ways. Keep baby sat up and place the bottle teat just touching baby’s lower lip, wait for baby to open their mouth and take the teat in. Just tip the bottle far enough so that baby can easily suck the milk from the bottle rather than allowing it to pour into baby’s mouth. Watch baby for signs of comfort or stress, baby should be relaxed and actively sucking. Wriggling away from the bottle or splayed hands or arched back means baby is feeling overwhelmed and needs a break. Give baby the opportunity to show they still want more milk by tipping bottle out of their mouth but leaving it touching their bottom lip so they can open their mouth and ask for more.
Bottle fed babies may like to have the comfort of sucking even when they are not hungry and don’t want a bottle. One thing you can try is using a dummy to give baby that comfort while giving them a cuddle.
Breastfeeding is a massive learning curve for most mums and it’s really common to find it hard work and or painful. But there are lots of things that can help with the process, not least peer support. If you want to get breastfeeding off to an easy start find your local breastfeeding support group while you’re still pregnant, go hang out with breastfeeding mums and get the benefit of their experience, watch real babies really feeding and learn what to expect.
Look up and learn about laid back or natural feeding positions and stick to these while you learn to breastfeed, hang out skin to skin as much as possible and ask for help as soon as you feel you need any. It’s normal to need help and encouragement and nothing to worry about.
For some great videos on getting started with breastfeeding check out this youtube channel.
Things that you might not be expecting that are completely normal.
You can also call me. I'm trained and experienced to support you getting going with breastfeeding.
The concept of the fourth trimester is as old as women having babies but the specific term was coined by Dr Harvey Karp when he wrote the Happiest Baby on the Block book. The term recognises that compared to other mammals human babies are born relatively early in their development due to our large brains and relatively small pelvis shape ideal for walking upright. As a result babies are happiest when kept in similar conditions to the womb and allowed to get used to the world gradually and at their own pace.
This can help us to understand our babies and to make their first weeks and months with us easy for them and for us. Our expectations of babies and ourselves in the new born period is often heavily affected by the idea of a ‘good’ baby perpetuated by childcare ‘experts’ based on the Victorian ideal that children be seen and not heard and the individualist culture which values people most highly on their involvement in the capitalist pursuit of money. So the ideal has been to separate as quickly as possible from our children, for them to follow a routine set by us and to sleep without our input during the night.
The problem with this is it simply goes against our natural instincts and what our babies are naturally capable of. What our babies expect and experience in their first years can have long reaching health and especially mental health benefits and risks. Keeping our babies close to us, carrying them and sleeping close by, feeding them when they are hungry and realising that our value in society is much more than our basic input into the economy can help both parents and babies cope and find joy in their new lives.
This doesn't mean you have to check your brain in at the door to motherhood and never do anything by yourself again. It just means you can take it easy, do what you and your baby are ready for when you are ready and don't worry about what the experts say you or your baby 'should' do. The time when you go back to work is coming and the time when they are small feels like it's gone fast when it's gone. Do what it take to get through and enjoy it don't worry about what anyone else says about rods for your own back etc.
For more information on baby sleep click here Infant Sleep Information Source
Holding your baby to your chest and leaving them there when they are born is the biological norm, it’s what your birthing body is expecting and it’s where your new-born baby expects to find themselves, where all the natural reflexes and systems work easily. But our modern birthing environments and the frequency of interventions in labour and birth mean that it’s not always possible and it doesn’t always happen by routine.
The research confirms some of the benefits that we might have expected to skin to skin snuggles in the first hours after birth. For example, the likelihood of continuing to breastfeed between 1 and 4 months is significantly higher if mum and baby are supported with skin to skin cuddles. Babies born a little early have been shown to have calmer more effective breathing if they are kept skin to skin and babies kept skin to skin were seen to have higher blood glucose levels within the first hours after birth. One review of the evidence even found that skin to skin contact could reduce babies pain when routine tests such as the heel prick were performed.
So if you’re pregnant you have the chance now to take action, make sure you put in your birth plan how important immediate skin to skin in for you and make sure your birth partner is well briefed in why it’s important and how they can help you still have that if not everything goes to plan with your birth. It’s always a good idea to have a postnatal plan as well as a birth plan because although the day your baby is born will be a momentous day and change your life those next 6 or so weeks will also be super intense and you will need good support for them too.
These benefits of skin to skin contact continue for you and your baby throughout their new-born period (and beyond). If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, if you want to make more milk, if your baby is upset or seems to have colic, if you’re getting stressed or finding it all too much skin to skin can help. If things don’t go according to your birth plan, then take the first opportunity you can to get your baby skin to skin and if it’s not possible for you immediately remember your partner and baby can also benefit from the boding that skin to skin can bring. When birth hasn’t gone to plan and / or breastfeeding hasn’t got off to the best start having a bath with your baby can be a really effective way to let all the feelings go, to bond with baby, to relax and forget about your troubles and just enjoy each other’s company.
If you decide either not to breastfeed at all or to stop at some point then remember that skin to skin is still for you, being skin to skin while you bottle feed your baby is lovely for bonding and has all the calming and settling properties it always did.
Massive thanks to my wonderful friends who have allowed me to use their photos in this post to show many of the ways skin to skin can look. If you’ve got a lovely photo you’d love to share or an experience where skin to skin really helped you we’d love to hear about it.
You may hear or see the term delayed cord clamping. You might see this referred to as optimal cord clamping. But to call it what it is, let’s say not prematurely clamping and cutting the cord. It became routine practice in the UK to give women an injection to help their placenta detach and arrive while they were just at the end of pushing out their baby and then to instantly clamp and cut the cord. Some people used to refuse this injection but the fear of the idea baby could lose blood through the cord or the mum might start to bleed exessively meant it was still clamped and cut immediately. In more recent years researchers began to question why this routine was routine and to wonder what would happen if we left well alone and let nature take its course. The results showed that premature clamping meant babies were being left with about 1/3 less blood volume and that there were benefits to baby of being allowed to keep all their blood. The fear of baby losing blood turned out to be unfounded in fact they gained blood and this had positive effects for them, not least they were less likely to be low on iron after 6 months of breastfeeding.
So now it has become routine to recommend that babies’ cords not be clamped or cut in the first three to five minutes and that they can be left until they stop pulsating or until the placenta arrives. For more on this click here.
Finding the Joy with Newborns and Babies
Baby's blood and cord clamping.