“If only I knew then what I know now, it would have been a lot easier, I could have handled the situation a lot better”, is a thought which often haunts me and just this once, I wish I could go back in time, sit my pregnant, ‘know it all’ self, down and give the following advice:
- Do proper breastfeeding research
Before Bean was born, I did not really give much thought to breastfeeding. I had decided that I will try but if it was not going to work out, there was always Formula. I did not realise how emotional my breastfeeding journey would be and I definitely did not take into account the guilt a mother feels if breastfeeding is not quite as easy as anticipated.
Once I had Bean, one of my friends invited me to join the La Leche League group on Facebook. This helped me get through all the growth spurt stages and the fear of not having enough milk. Seeing other mommies pushing through their breastfeeding hardships helped motivate me to keep on breastfeeding and expressing in times when I almost gave up.
- Spend some quality time with your husband
I was one of ‘those’ pregnant people, the one who was convinced that having a baby cannot be that hard, that it would not affect my life too much and that my husband and I would simply glide into our new roles as parents with ease, while maintaining our relationship as husband and wife.
I was wrong of course.
As parents we now often focus only on our son and we tend to forget that we need to work on our relationship and enjoy each other’s company, as individuals, not parents.
Before the baby is therefore born, take the time to enjoy each other. Take the time to further lay the foundation of your relationship. Trust me, you will need it.
- It will get hard, really hard but it will also get better
Having a newborn to take care of is hard. Breastfeeding is hard. There will be times when all you want to do is cry, when you feel so utterly useless and so, so tired. But it really does get better.
It is also oh-so-rewarding. You will find a routine; you will learn to read your baby’s cues and, I promise, you will manage.
- Ask for help
I am a very proud, do it yourself, type of person and I did not like asking for help. I told myself that I had to manage on my own. The only person I would ask for help was my husband and this put a lot of unnecessary strain on both of us and in turn on our relationship.
If family and friends offer help, take it. And if they don’t, ask for it. Do not be too proud to ask for help or to accept help. Everybody knows how hard it is to have a newborn – nobody will look down on you or judge you for not doing it all on your own. In fact, nobody expects you to do it all on your own.
- Soak in every minute of this new life unfolding
The first few weeks with my son were really hard and I often found myself wishing that this phase would be over soon. Then, suddenly it was over and I realised that I had missed so many moments with my beautiful little boy by feeling sorry for myself and wishing the time away.
Please therefore, try and soak in every minute of this precious new life unfolding in front of your very eyes. Before you know it, another miraculous moment, another milestone has passed.
- Take a breath and calm down
When my little Bean was born, I had no idea what I was doing 90% of the time. So when he cried for no apparent reason or when I could not settle him down immediately or when he wanted to constantly feed, I would go into panic mode and it would just escalate the situation. After a while however, I learned to read his cues and I learned how to settle him down. All that was needed was for me to remain calm.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself
I can be a bit of a control freak and while still pregnant, I read all the books. I had lists and lists and lists of various scenarios which could occur and their solutions and set routines I would follow. Come what may, I would be ready for this child and raising him would be a piece of cake. All I had to do was follow all the advice in all the books.
Needless to say, everything was turned upside down when Bean was born. Not being a robot which could be controlled, he of course would not simply follow the routine which I tried to force on him. The solutions to all the various scenarios which were given by all the books also did not always work. I thought I was doing something wrong and I was very hard on myself because of it.
In reality though, I was doing nothing wrong. I just had to realise that not all babies are the same, that they do not all react the same to the solutions given and that they are little human beings who will eventually settle into their own routine.
- Don’t try and be perfect
I tried to be perfect at everything and I was convinced that I would be able to nurture a perfect baby.
Life though is not perfect, humans are not perfect and, most importantly, babies are not perfect. We have feelings and emotions and we make mistakes. And that’s OK. Learn from the mistakes and move on.
You do not have to be perfect. You just have to try your best. And I promise that you will automatically try your best, as this little baby will mean the world to you.
- Cuddle as often and as much as possible
I often placed Bean into his cot or his little crib while sleeping even when all I wanted to do was let him sleep on me and cuddle. I did this because I was told that he should not develop these type of sleep associations as it would be very difficult to break them when he was older. I really regret that now.
These little babies are only so small for such a short time and all they need is love. They cannot be spoiled so my advice is to cuddle. Cuddle as much and as often as you want to.