I often wonder how new parents feel as they get used to the idea they are now a ‘family’. Expectations during the pregnancy will be influenced by family and friends, medical professionals, the internet and even a few books. Parents will imagine life once the infant is born and some will feel a huge overwhelming responsibility that they need to be ‘great parents’. They may view the future like a car or a cornflakes commercial. A beautifully kept house, a bread-baking well rested Mother holding a smiling healthy infant, and the home on time dad, carrying flowers. Sounds like a fantasy…it is. Reality is often a long long way from this.
Dear new Mums,
After going into labour at some ridiculous hour – which will hurt like nothing you have experienced – and last an obscene length of time- one of the following happens.
- The baby eventually arrives and you never ever want to go through pain like that again. (Which you will forget and go through pain like that again) ….And you so want to meet the man who invented the term ‘normal delivery’, hold him by his neck and ask him “Explain which bit is normal “
- The labour goes on and on and finally after all that effort you are told that you have ‘failed to progress’ and a caesarian section is performed.
Then assuming you have a healthy newborn (phew), there will be a period of utter joy, and desperate tiredness. Then, the breast feeding begins. Sounded nice and easy during the antenatal classes, but then you start running into problems and you feel like you have failed. This will be compounded by all sorts of advice as each nursing shift changes which will leave you confused and trying even harder. Then……Eventually…
- The baby and your breasts eventually come to some sort of truce and things start working
- The baby and your breasts stop communicating and start a cold war.
This latter scenario will prompt all sorts of peace talks from doctors, midwives and lactation consultants. Sometimes a peace keeper will be brought in, such as nipple shield, a feeding tube or a bottle. You feel so much pressure to breast feed you think that if you fail he or she will end up with a single digit IQ, look funny and end up doing jail time. You want to slink away from the hospital to get away from the breastfeeding police and hope they don’t do a home visit.
Eventually home. You are so tired you’ve forgotten everything you were told in hospital. So you start frantically googling. What is the normal colour of poo ? How often should they wee ? What about the head shape. Is it normal ? Why all the sleeping ? Why when not sleeping all the crying? How do they know to keep breathing? Then again why does the breathing seem to be all over the place ?
Then, just when you start to feel like things are under some sort of control, people start visiting. Which maybe fine, but their opinions start visiting as well. These opinions may have some sense, but often all they are is personal anecdotes and opinions. It is like they are throwing little doubt grenades into your brain. So beware of sentences that start with ‘If I were you….’ Sometimes it is best to nod, smile, yawn, pretend to go to sleep and hopefully they’ll go away.
So good luck new Mums. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it is far from perfect.
What About Some Advice ?
Assuming that you get home with a healthy infant and things seem on track, what is the right advice about how to raise a healthy infant. The three words ‘just do it’ come to mind and these are not a bad place to start. But perhaps lets look at exactly what the infant needs during the first few months of life.
- Attachment – This means that there is a bond developing, between the infant and (at this stage) the Mother. The smell, taste, sounds, warmth, and eventually sight of Mum is basically ‘home’. This does not need effort, and it happens for all types of infants, whether they are easy to manage or cry a lot. They are all forming a bond as long as you are also forming a bond. If you are not feeling it, struggling with the expectations, are feeling worthless, depressed and teary then it is important to get professional advice.
- Nutrition – in whatever form. Yes ideally breast feeding but if this is just not happening and the infant is struggling, appears scrawny, and hungry, calories will be far more important than any benefit from exclusive breast feeding. Formula is an excellent alternative.
- Sleep – Does not have to be long, uninterrupted, or even at night. Most infants will spend a significant amount of the first few months sleeping, even those that appear irritable. A nice sleep routine is desired, but does not always happen.
This is all infants need during the first few months of life to grow, and develop. Some infants will do nothing but sleep and feed. Some infants will seem to do nothing but cry. But as long as they are gaining weight and developing then they are doing ok.
Observations from Evidence & Sense
- Placing your baby on his back to sleep has definitely lessened the incidence of SIDS.
- The only way an infant communicates is by crying. It is a survival skill in all species. It does not necessarily mean something is wrong
- There are several hundred baby books written each year. If one of these books was 100% correct no more would be written
- Internet folklore and social media can be a dangerous place to get advice.
- If your infant spends a great deal of time crying (see irritable infants) and you are at the end of your tether, put him or her in the cot, close the door and ring someone. Nothing bad will happen. This does not make you a bad parent.
- Find a Mother’s group that does not turn infant and child rearing into a competition making you feel inadequate.
- If you hate being a Mother this does not make you a bad one.
- Do not give an infant honey (botulism)
- Baby monitors are not essential.
- There is categorically nothing wrong with dummies. As long as they are gone by around 18 months for hygiene and dental reasons.
- Controlled crying is effective and beneficial, but should not be attempted in the first few months.
- Iron is the most common micro-nutrient deficiency if breast feeding. Ensure your levels are good. Premature infants are usually on an iron supplement. For some dark skinned infants and parents, vitamin D is needed.
- Vaccination is so successful the modern generation questions them. You have no idea how cheap life used to be and how often infants died of vaccine preventable diseases.
- The optional meningococcus B vaccine -bexser0– is safe, effective but not yet free. You will need to discuss this with your immunisation provider.
- If any of the serious claims made by those against vaccination were true, doctors would simply not vaccinate.
- There is no evidence that infants suffer significant psychological distress if placed into daycare early
- Daycare though, will result in lots of viral illnesses.
- You do not have to fix stuff, just listening is all that is sometimes needed
- Learn to find the boundaries of care. Remember what she has just gone through so she will be want significant control.
- It is a lot easier the second time
- your time will come to attach and bond.
- Learn to do housework without being asked.
- If you can, take the baby for a walk (yes in the pram!), or a drive.
- No baby is born with a ‘joint out, or sublimed’. So chiropractic manipulation of babies has no basis or evidence. No child has ever suffered orthopaedic problems from not seeing a chiropractor.
- There are no special herbs or tonics that need to be given. Some of these can be dangerous
- There is absolutely no evidence you can ‘boost the immune system’ by vitamins/tonics/herbs.