The arrival of a little baby brings so much happiness and expectation to your life – but it can also be a time of exhaustion and confusion.
After months of being pregnant, reading countless books, painting – and perhaps repainting the nursery walls – your baby finally arrives! It is a moment of unforgettable joy, the first time you hold your baby in your arms, cradling this precious little human in your arms, and feeling more love for another human being than you ever thought possible.
Does this perhaps sound like a TV ad?
Maybe because this is the expectation that so many new mothers have and quite often the reality of childbirth is quite unlike what they were expecting. Perhaps your baby came early or there were problems with breastfeeding or postpartum complications. Some mothers have their birth plans messed up by having to rush for the hospital or they need an emergency C-section.
Giving birth can be overwhelming – especially if it is your first baby. Here are a few tips to help you cope with those first few, exhilarating (and bewildering days and weeks).
1. Don’t be scared of your baby
Afraid to hold your baby the wrong way? Frightened of giving her a bath in case you drop her? Don’t worry, all new mothers (and fathers) have had these thoughts! Your baby is so very small and vulnerable. You have an overpowering instinct to protect your baby but how? Just hold your baby, as much as possible, with plenty of skin-to-skin contact. Get to know him/her and allow yourself to feel the natural instinct of loving your baby.
This is such a crucial step in forming a relationship with your baby and strengthening the unique bond between you. Don’t fret about making mistakes or putting the nappy on wrong. Every time you perform these actions, you will see yourself growing more able and sure around your baby. Before you know it, you will be able to feed her in your sleep, changing diapers in the car!
2. Read the books – then throw them out
A strict sleeping routine may work for some children, but others may need less sleep or more relaxed routines. By all means, get the information and be informed but don’t drive yourself crazy if your baby does not respond the way some expert advised.
The same holds true for the well-intentioned advice of relatives who will tell you what worked brilliantly for them and their offspring. This is your child though, and you know your baby better than anyone. Especially with your first child, the many choices and decisions that have to be made can be daunting. You will find the right answer for you – and your family.
3. Don’t forget about yourself
The first couple of weeks with a baby are usually a blur. You will think and do nothing but baby, your life revolving around feeds, sleeping and nappy changes. You will forget about yourself, happily spending all day in your pyjamas, barely remembering to brush your teeth.
But you need to take care of yourself. You are the centre of your baby’s universe. If you collapse or break down due to exhaustion, who will then take care of your child? Accept offers of help to look after your baby to enable you to get some sleep. Express breast milk and go out of the house, perhaps on a date night with your partner, who may not have seen you with brushed hair in some time! Remember you are not only a mother – but woman too, who used to have a life of her own. Don’t forget about her – or you may find yourself resenting your baby for taking over your life – as well as a partner who misses his other half.
4. Focus on your baby’s health and happiness
It can be so easy to get swept along by expectations and ideas about the right ways to raise a child. So many parents set out with a strict rule book on how things will be done in their house. Or you may even have had a very particular idea of how you want to feed your baby – only to find out that either your breastmilk is not insufficient or baby is lactose intolerant. Don’t stress – it happens!
The only important thing to remember is that your baby needs to grow at a healthy rate. If this means supplementing with formula, it is not the worst thing in the world. As long as your baby is able to grow and pick up weight, everything will be fine. While breast is best, there are many instances when formula feeding is necessary and even good for babies, Harvard doctors have found.
5. Babies cry – often for no reason
This is perhaps the most important lesson for new mums to learn. Sometimes your baby will cry – despite being fed, having slept and being in a clean nappy. What’s wrong? Nobody knows. Babies may cry for any reason and sometimes there seems to be nothing wrong at all.
It can be one of the most stressful times for new mums when their baby just won’t stop crying. Sometimes you have done everything you can think of – and your baby is still crying. Learning how to soothe your baby – and yourself – will work wonders. Go for walk outside, drive around with your baby, wearing the little one in a sling close to your body – these simple tricks have been lifesavers for many new moms.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, rather focus on giving yourself time to get to know your baby. Remember you are all she/he really needs – all the toys, expert advice and expensive equipment in the world can never replace a mother’s love.