25 August 2008

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me

I was having a conversation with someone in the mums' room at church; she was worried because her 2-month-old baby didn't seem to want to sleep during the day as much as the "experts" recommended... but this little treasure was a great sleeper at night.

There was a resounding chorus from other mums in the room of "don't listen to that... every baby's different... wow, I wish mine would sleep at night like yours... don't worry, he's happy isn't he??"
It got me thinking that there's a lot of stuff we read in baby manuals, and even get from Plunkett that can put a lot of pressure on new mums, and cause unnecessary anxiety when their babies "don't do what they should"!

Someone recently mentioned that only 20% of babies are textbook babies - I believe that!

I thought I would write some of the things I have learned about babies that you might not find in books - for you new mummies I know are reading this.

Firstly... the best piece of advice my friend Val gave me when I had Dash (my first bub) was: Don't compare your baby to any one else's. She said when she had her first baby, she would hear stories from other mums about what their babies were doing (milestones, sleeping, temperament) and she let it get to her for a while. She felt the pressure and got anxious about stuff which she later learnt to just not worry about.

Now that I've had a third baby, it gives me even more perspective on the whole thing.

One thing's for certain, if you have a friend whose baby is textbook perfect, sleeps and feeds on the clock and hardly cries, while yours has you up through the night, can be heard four blocks away and you never know what to expect... believe me it's not because your friend is a "better" mum than you.

I firmly believe that babies come pre-programmed; their personalities now give us clues about what they will be like later on. And apparently demanding babies usually go on to be highly intelligent people! So the baby experts say. They also say that next time around you might get the sleeper while your poor friend won't know what hit her when her next baby won't follow the programme!

So remember: Every Baby is Different!

I now know this from experience. I was so pleased with myself when Dash slept through the night at 11 weeks old! I'm talking twelve hours!

Then I had Number Two... hmmm, try 11 months? And then she only did it occasionally. In fact, my biggest goal before Scrag was born was to get Miss Fab to sleep through the night (she was three years old!).

Dash nearly killed me trying to breastfeed him, Miss Fab was a dream feeder.

Dash was active and an early crawler and walker... Princess did everything a month sooner than Dash did!

Next: Beware the Breastfeeding Nazis!

Hey, we all know breast is best, but what they don't usually tell you at antenatal classes is that it can also be incredibly difficult and soul-destroyingly painful.

I remember trying to breastfeed Dash... and feeling horrified when I took him off the breast and saw blood ringing his mouth (!) I thought, omigosh, he's a cannibal!

It became so painful I would dread every feed. Not for me those soft-focus posters of mothers contentedly bonding with their contented babies. Nope, I had to bite my lip to stop from screaming when he latched on and sat with tears streaming down my face, wondering how on earth I could keep this up.

The thought of giving up was terrifying - the stigma! The sense of failure! (All that weight to lose!)

I was blessed with a very understanding midwife who took pity on me and offered me some practical alternatives. We tried nipple shields (hopeless), and then she suggested getting a breast pump and recommended the Avent Isis handpump. Brilliant! I was able to express breastmilk for him without pain.

I was so scared of the pain, and so determined he would have breastmilk that I continued expressing until he was four months old and I was getting RSI from all that pumping!

One day I woke up and said to Dash, "Buddy, today's the day. Either you take the milk straight from the cow (i.e. me) or you're going on formula."

Thankfully he went straight on the breast. What an amazing feeling that was, no pain. He seemed to have outgrown his cannibalistic tendencies! I continued breastfeeding him until 15 months, by which stage I was 20 weeks pregnant with Miss Fab. She was a breeze, breastfeeding-wise.

Then came Scrag. I didn't think I would have any problems! Hey, come on, this is my third baby, right?

He seemed to do fine in hospital, but once I got home, with no-one to buzz in the middle of the night, he stopped latching. He wouldn't suck!! My first night home from hospital, I sat for an hour and a half trying to latch him. In the end I went and got out my trusty breastpump, expressed a feed (which he sucked down quite happily) and went to bed at last.

In the morning my midwife (not the same lady as before) was horrified!!

She said to me, "Are you committed to breastfeeding?? Are you?? Because I don't think you are!"

She was worried that he wouldn't take to the breast again and I would get sick of pumping and put him on formula, since he was my third baby (what's that got to do with it??)

If Scrag had been my first bub, I would have been totally intimidated. It made me feel so lousy to be judged by someone who should be supporting me, but I knew that I could do it. And I knew what was best for baby was my peace of mind.

See, I know that now. The best thing you can do for your baby is be happy and healthy yourself. So you have to look after You. Because "if mama aint happy, aint nobody happy!"

I hope this has helped you if you are doing it tough as a new mum. You're not alone!

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Valzy said...

awesome stuff man you should write a book, truely keep it up xx

Cleverly Changing said...

Your blog is GREAT, organized, and tons of good information for mums. I can totally relate to this post. We are have to take it one day at a time. Stop by my blog sometime. http://CleverlyChanging.com

bethanyluchene said...

My daughter was 2 monthd premature and had to stay in the hospital for a month and consequently was put on a bottle before my breast. She never did take to breastfeeding though I tried for 4 long months, cried a lot and felt like a terrible mother for not being able to "do it right". I went to lactation specialists, got a pump and pumped my heart out, but on Mother's Day, the gift I gave myself and my daughter was to switch to formula. She was happier to drink out of the bottle, my milk supply was depleting and I was tired of feeling guilty and rejected at the same time. It was the best choice for us but I hope I will have the chance to breastfeed the next one for longer.

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