I am a huge believer in people keeping in touch during these trying times, it is so hard if you have had a baby during this pandemic and my heart goes out to you. I cannot imagine how much more isolating it must have been and how people won’t have had the support that others like me have had during the years prior to 2020. However social media is also playing a huge role in giving out misinterpreted advice, and that advice is also often tainted.
In the same way that celebs show how they “bounce back” so soon after birth and the misconstrued way that women then put themselves in the same category of that impression. I have found that more and more mums are being affected by, not only this image of becoming yourself again so quickly, but also to have your baby conform to social order quickly too. Nobody should be leaving their baby to sleep for more than a couple of hours before waking them to feed, the whole point of a tiny baby is to feed little and often, and I fear this message is quickly becoming lost against this emulation with others. Where mums should be focussed on the bonding with their little ones, instead mums are worried about the baby sleeping through the night, they are expecting too much from them at a time where there should only be a gradual change.
So why are so many new first time mums so quick to want their babies to sleep through the night and to self soothe? It’s just not going to happen! And if it does because what’s-her-face on the Facebook group said so, well, that’s just great! *facepalm*
As a parenting blogger and an advocate for breastfeeding, I’m quick to help out a lot of new parents when they need help and advice. You will always find me responding to people in need on Facebook and Forums and such. But one worrying trend that I keep on noticing and reading about is the number of women wanting their newborn baby to sleep through the night. I saw a woman ask why their little one wasn’t sleeping through at a mere six weeks old! It is crazy madness to me, why people aren’t educated by their midwives about the three-hour rule. People need to understand that sleeping for more than a few hours or to have the ability to self soothe that early on while still in the newborn stage is a ridiculous ask. These trends are not healthy for any new mum to obsess over and it is certainly not good for the baby to be expected to do as such.
The three-hour rule is something I was taught whilst in the hospital with my son. He was jaundice after birth and I saw many doctors and specialists in his first two weeks of life, including breastfeeding experts too. It was my choice to breastfeed, but the three-hour rule still stands for all newborn babies, because they have such little stomachs at the beginning and have to be built up slowly as they grow, to accommodate swallowing more milk.
Babies also need to be held frequently when newborn babies and have regular skin to skin contact in order to help them regulate their body temperature. Babies want to be close to their mothers to help bring in milk supply for breastfeeders and also just to help grow that mother and child bond. Due to poor eyesight in little ones this bond is heavily relied on by scent during those first weeks when baby can’t see much except shapes and black and white. Your baby will know your smell and it is imperative that this bonding happens to establish a safety aspect for baby. It relies on instincts right now that go back to caveman days, and this is all about what the fourth trimester is about. It’s like a running joke, you can’t put the baby down due to cluster feeding or being fussy wanting to be held, it’s like they are attached to you still, when in fact your baby is built to make you pick it up, that is what it needs at this time. Enjoy all the cuddles while you can is my tip!
Getting used to being a parent and the constant three-hour schedules that most babies relate to, is both exhausting and daunting for most people. It is a time that should be cherished and not spent worrying about whether or not it’s the norm. Every parent and every baby is different of course, but the majority will wake every couple of hours. You know that advice that all your mum friends gave you about sleeping when the baby slept, it’s not so funny now is it? I lived my life in 3 hour increments for the first year of my son's life, so I can totally sympathise.
I do fear that first time mums are being shown things on social media that are affecting the way they are parenting, and often in a negative way. Most babies and most mums go through a hard period of adjustment for the first six to twelve weeks. During this time they are usually at home and often rely on social media to stay in touch with people. During the pandemic and lockdown, this communication has become all the more important since you still can’t meet with people. So many baby group sessions are also not running where mums would make new friends and find support through common ground.
Women also don’t seem to be being educated about the fourth trimester, whether that is by midwives or their GP and it needs to be spoken about. Baby needs you, baby relies on you. So often the father goes back to work after a few days or weeks and mums are left to hold the fort. Remember that to a baby the world is a loud, cold and often scary place with lots of things happening that a baby simply cannot understand. As I mentioned earlier, baby has instincts that go back to caveman days during which a baby would be constantly carried by the mother to avoid it being carried off by predators. There may not be predators in your home (I hope!) but the instinct is still there for your little one. They literally don’t know any better and they will cry because they simply want to be held by you. My Tip is this; Cuddle them and make sure they are safe and warm and loved, and then once you can safely put them in a Moses Basket, for example, do your chores and get your baby used to things like a washing machine and hoover noise, it will help you, in the long run, to do it while they are still tiny. I see many women ask, Am I spoiling my baby by holding them a lot? This is not a negative thing and you’re not spoiling your child by cuddling them a lot; which is something I often read about lately too, mum guilt. And the sad fact is that so many older generations seem to put pressure on the younger mums. Times have changed, and the sooner that people realise that the better.
Instincts and hormones aren’t exactly the same, but they are important, just as the safety for babies is now paramount across the world. It’s all about the safe sleeping, safe ways to feed and the safest ways to travel. But above all, new parents should be encouraged to bond with their babies; they need to be supported on the choices that are right for them. And not be told that formula feeding is easier if they’re struggling with initial breast milk supply, or that they have to put their baby down all the time in order to keep up the appearance of a perfect home. You are not spoiling your baby by holding them or rocking them to sleep. Oh, and News Flash, nobody cares about chores on two hours of sleep. So what if somebody on Insta has the perfect looking clean lounge with their baby asleep in a rocker in the centre of it. Because I bet if you saw the reality of their life with three days’ worth of washing up and takeaways stacked up in the kitchen behind them just out of the camera shot, then you wouldn’t judge your own home so harshly. People show you what they want you to see, and they tell you what they think you want to hear, just be mindful. Do what is right for you.
So here are the facts about a newborn and what I know to be true from my experience.
Your baby needs to be held in order to be well, temperature and bonding mainly. Being honest with you now, breastfeeding is best especially during a pandemic; the antibodies you would create are unparalleled to anything that is “man-made”. So if you want to breastfeed (even for a few weeks post-birth) you need to get support as soon as possible after the birth, even before if you’re in contact with your midwife. Drink plenty of water, I mean more than you’d think, you need to aim for three litres, also eat well too as it will burn a lot of calories. My tip is to have a large reusable water bottle and carry it with you room to room. Some sports ones even have a wrist strap! Also, another tip I used myself is to put some healthy snacks around your home, I had a cool bag in the bedroom. Breastfeeding coordinators are your friends and despite the pandemic, they should be available in person at the hospital or over the phone when you go home to give you advice on baby, on latching and on feeding schedules.
You may decide you want to pump and express milk and bottle feed baby. This is still a great way to give baby what they need. Pumping is far more time consuming even though it means someone could feed baby other than you. It’s something you should look into and talk to your family about too. You’d still be required to do all of the bottles and sterilising, things like that, which take time.
If you want to bottle feed your baby with a formula that’s also fine, you won’t find any judgement from me. You may find you have an easier time with a schedule, however, baby still needs the important bonding time of skin to skin contact and you must make sure that you talk to them so they begin to recognise your voice. Same for the baby’s father too.
When it comes to sleeping please don’t expect your baby to sleep through the night. One in a million babies do and you would think “wow aren’t they lucky”. But actually, a baby should be waking up for a feed around every 3 hours. If not you should be waking them to feed them. It’s very important to maintain that regular feeding schedule so that they don’t get dehydrated and their little tummy will start to get used to regular feeding. Wet nappies are also a good indicator of hydration.
Let me ask you a question now. When was the last time that you, you yourself went to sleep at night and you slept all the way through until you either woke fully rested or your alarm woke you up? Not many people can say that they sleep all that soundly. Most of us will wake and have a drink, or go for a wee or get even disturbed and then have to get ourselves to drift back off to sleep by such things as reading a book or counting or just relaxing. And can you recall when you were able to that? Settle down all by yourself. I don’t understand why people expect newborn babies to do it! I would honestly say this to you, rest when the baby has a rest and if you aren’t tired then, by all means, do something important, but remember those precious hours when they ate tiny just fly by and before you know it they are much bigger in your arms. Babies are tiny for such a short time, make sure you make the most of every moment and every extra cuddle.
Oh, and partners and baby fathers, please take photos! Even if we say “don’t I’m wearing a messy hair bun for the third day in a row”. Just ignore us and take them anyway, because every moment is special and every moment is one that you won’t want to forget. When we are tired sometimes the little things don’t feel like they are important, but one day you’ll look back at those images and think, “Look how far we have come”. And believe me; every sleepless night is worth it.
Just to put one thing into perspective for you. I have had friends feed their babies in all ways. They are all different shapes and sizes, some of them walked before they talked and some of them talked before they had mastered the crawling stage. Some of them have amazing fine motor skills and others took a while to grasp on to certain things. Some of the babies slept really well when they reached a few months of age and took to routine well, and others like my son, are still struggling with the concept of sleeping for more than a few hours at a time. But there is nothing wrong with any of them, they are all incredible children and they are all unique.
Here is how far we have come, and it’s been a heck of a long way in his two short years, but he is worth every single thing and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. So hold your babies tight, take photos, stay safe and do everything safely and just enjoy your time as their parents, each little human is a miracle and they should be celebrated as such. I might not get much sleep still, but for him, I would do anything.
Find me on social media if you have any follow up questions about my article or my life as a breastfeeding single mother.
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