Aug 23, 2013

6 Things a New Mother Needs to Know to Survive the First 6 Weeks

I have no doubt that every mother will agree with me when I say, during pregnancy the only thing you get more of than stretch marks and bad gas, is parenting advice.  Between the always ready to share been-there-done-that mothers, parenting books and online resources, the information available today for new mothers is overwhelming. What's more, you never know what to believe since one book will contradict the next, and what one mother swears by, another mother will insist did not work for her baby. Weeding through all of the advice can be daunting to say the least.

Looking back, I wish I was given more advice on how to deal with becoming a mother, and less on the three million different ways to rock a baby to sleep. I needed to know about the self-doubt and the failures that came along with motherhood, or that having a baby would take a huge toll on my marriage and personal life if I let it. After talking with numerous other mothers, I realized we all struggled with the same issues; things it seemed no one bothered to warn us about in between lessons on feeding, changing and rocking our newborn to sleep.  I've put together a list of the top six things we all agree are so important for new mothers to know.  Things we wish we didn't have to learn the hard way.

Ollie and I at his 6-month well-baby checkup.



1. Listen to your instincts, not Dr. Google. With so many online parenting resources and "how-to" books available today, most contradicting the next, don't get caught up thinking these resources know better than you do.

For example: If you know your baby is hungry feed him. Who cares if it has only been two hours and the book says wait for three. Screw that! Feed your baby. There is no reason to let your baby get hysterical trying to follow the guidelines.

I cannot stress this enough, trust what your gut and heart are telling you, because 9.5 times out of 10, they are spot on right. Every minute you second-guess yourself you and your baby will suffer.  Go with your gut first. Always.


2. The decision between nursing or formula feeding should not become bigger than World War III. First of all, Breastfeeding is NOT "Plug and Chug!" Nursing is hard. Extremely hard. There is no plug in and feed feature to it. It takes time, a fair amount of discomfort and practice for both you and your baby to get the hang of it. (I mean weeks, not days) Ask for help. Find a lactation consultant. Be prepared for a possible battle that will take all of your inner strength to make it through...

Second, BREASTFEEDING MAY NOT BE FOR YOU. THAT IS OK! You, or your baby, may have a medical condition keeping you from being able to nurse. You may hate it. It may just not be right for you. This is VERY common, do not think you are a failure.

Plain and simple-You will either nurse or you will not. Regardless of what you do, your baby will be beautiful and wonderful and smart and articulate. Do what is best for you and your child. Do not let anyone make you feel otherwise. You are NOT! a failure. DO NOT LET THIS RUIN YOU!

3. Listen to your baby's cues. While babies can only communicate through body language and crying, within the first week you will begin to notice behaviors and different tones of crying that are clearly trying to tell you something. For example: Babies will give you cues for hunger WAY before crying, including things like REM, finger sucking and reaching with arms and legs. When you notice any or all of those cues feed your baby pronto, or the blood curdling screaming will be next! If your baby is tired some of his cues might be pulling at his ears, yawning and or quick jerky movements. 

Pay close attention to those different cues and within a week or so you will easily be able to decipher what it is your baby is trying to tell you, and most likely before he even starts crying uncontrollably.

4. Do not get caught up trying to be the perfect mother. There is no such thing! In order to be the best mother to your baby, all you have to do is try your best.  Parenting is filled with both triumphs and failures.  Do not be hard on yourself, or get discouraged if you fail.  Just like with everything else, practice makes perfect. If you fall down, stand up, dust yourself off and try something else.

Above all, do not be afraid to ask for help!  If someone wants to bring over dinner, let them.  If someone wants to come over while you take a nap and shower, let them.  Graciously accept all the help you can get, because chances are the person offering the help has been in your shoes before and knows a little help goes a long way during those first few months.

5. Don't forget to take time for your partner. It is so easy to lose sight of your relationship with your partner during those first few weeks and months of parenthood.  Between the exhaustion from the sleepless nights, the demanding feeding schedule, and your normal household or work activities, it can be hard to find quality time to spend with your partner, however, it is crucial that you MAKE time.

For example: Every single day during those first few weeks, make it a point to be affectionate, say I love you, if possible eat a meal together and then during that meal try talk about anything but your baby.

The key is not to build a new life around your baby, but to blend your baby into your existing life together.


6. Don't forget to take time for yourself. It is absolutely crucial that you take time for yourself on a daily basis. Everyday you need to make it a point to take a shower, put on clean clothes, and eat at least two wholesome meals. Then aim to leave the house for no less than 10 minutes, at least every other day. Even a walk around the block does wonders. Just get away from that baby to rejuvenate, or you will crash and burn.   

From one first-time mother to another... Motherhood is a journey filled with ups and down. In the wee hours of the morning, when you have survived for days on little to no sleep and you are sure you cannot survive one more minute... you can. You will. Just keep repeating, This Too Shall Pass, until it does... Hold on tight to every moment and enjoy the ride, because it really does go by so quickly.  And don't listen to the doctors and nurses about those first smiles being gas induced, your baby is stoked to see you. ~April


Motherhood is such an amazing blessing that is so incredibly rewarding.  






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3 comments:

Jess said...

That is such a great list!! And definitely great advice! The biggest one for me was breastfeeding. I had such an easy time when she Arianna was first born, I thought I would have no problem doing it for a year. After three months, my body decided it had enough and I had to start using formula. While most people were encouraging and understanding, some were the complete opposite, even blamed me for it. And I felt like a total failure as a mother. But my daughter is healthy and perfect! And while I still feel bad about myself sometimes, I know I did what I had to do. Also I try to stay away from Google for answers. I've definitely come to realize I actually do know what's best. Wonderful list! And thank you for putting it up :-)

Lottie Nevin said...

Wonderful post April :) Lots of sound practical advice. I ADORE that picture of Ollie at the top, it's just the cutest photo ever! XXXXX

BIKBIK AND RORO said...

O wow, I am so glad to have found your awesome blog! I stumbled upon your month-by-month "postpartum observations" and they were just brilliant. I don't have time to comment much at present (yes, 6-week-old baby!), but I did want to say hi, and I'm now following you! Take care and have a super weekend :)

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