Encouragement for new mothers

Dear new mama,

I am only a few years ahead of you in this amazing journey of motherhood. I still hold more questions than answers but I’ve learned a few things.

New mothers receive much unsolicited advice that range from the very useful to the very annoying. You probably noticed this already during your pregnancy. When well meaning people impose their “gems of wisdom” upon you, “Absorb what is useful, Reject what is useless” (Bruce Lee) and try to smile. Trust that you will become EXPERT at YOUR baby even if you are completely clueless at the beginning. Mother to mother, here are my two cents. I hope it helps.

On Breastfeeding:
You’d think breastfeeding would be a piece of cake since we come equipped for it. Yet nursing beginnings are rarely easy. I highly recommend you see a lactation consultant the day you give birth and as often as needed until you feel comfortable. A good website to visit is www.kellymom.com but it does not replace hands on support from a professional.

On Sleep:
For some lucky few, baby will be a good sleeper from the beginning. The rest of us will have to deal with the grim reality of sleep deprivation. The one thing that helped me was to make sure my infant (0-3 months) never stayed awake more than two hours at a time. Easier said than done, I know. Looking for that window of “drowsiness” cut down on a lot of fussiness and crying (baby’s and mine)! Please nap when she naps at least once/day. It does take some time to learn to sleep “like a baby” but take the rest when you can. If having baby in bed with you works, do it. You will KNOW where your baby is and will not harm it. (Do not co-sleep if you’ve taken certain drugs/alcohol or if you are obese). But if it’s not for you, don’t feel bad. I wanted to co-sleep long term but only did for a few weeks because my daughter wiggled and kicked me too much.

You may wonder if you’ll ever get to sleep again. Let me give you a virtual hug. I promise it WILL get better. My own daughter who was a terrible sleeper as an infant/baby now sleeps through the night and has even been trained to play quietly until I wake up.

Never say always:
When you are deep in the trenches of mothering, it feels like life will always be this way. Don’t despair. There is an ebb and flow to the rhythm of babyhood. He’ll sleep well for weeks and then not. She’ll love banana, hate banana and like banana again. He’ll eat a lot for a while and then need no more than a daily cup of food to thrive. Whatever you’re dealing with now won’t last forever. Pinky swear.

On Eating:
It’s easier to start good habits than to break bad ones. Be intentional about what you feed your child. Set specific meal times and snack times for your toddler. It transformed my picky/fussy eater into a child who gobbles down her bowl of spinach salad and everything else I place in front of her. She’ll eat almost anything if she’s hungry. And she won’t be hungry if I give her food all the time.

On Loneliness:
I didn’t expect to feel so lonely and bored once I became a mother. People are either busy or fear intruding and we’re left alone at home. Be proactive. Go out to the playground even if your baby is too young to play there. You’ll meet other mothers and have a chance for grown up conversations. Sign up for a baby and mommy class. Go to the mall. I met one of my very best friends at the hardware store!

On Worry:
Parents worry about their child. It’s part of the job description. Some of us  worry more than others. Some of us worry too much. As someone who mulls over every little thing, I made myself pretty miserable at the beginning. I wish I had worried less.  I keep this in mind now as I continue on my journey.

 “If you didn’t know any other child and could not compare your child to any other, would you still worry about your baby’s… (insert issue here)”

We often worry only by comparison: baby doesn’t eat as much as Little Johnny next door; baby doesn’t speak as well as Little Nancy from dance class. My own child has always been in the lowest percentile on the size charts, but her level of energy and her enthusiasm never led me to think that she was not thriving. The charts may say that she’s small compared to other children but she is just right for who she is.
Parents are usually equipped with a strong intuition when something truly is wrong. Trust that intuition.

You probably can’t see it now but it will go by fast. The days are long yet the years are short. The good, the bad, the ugly… It’s all temporary. Enjoy the ride. Bumps and all.

And remember: if you’re happy and your child is happy, then your way is the right way.

What is one piece of advice you’d like to share to help new mothers? Write in the comment section below.

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