25 Oct Five things to NOT worry about when you have a new baby!
Having a baby can be a life changing event, whether it’s your first baby or your fourth. Feeling nervous or anxious about some aspects of pregnancy, birth and caring for your baby is completely normal. There are, however, some things that you really don’t have to worry about! From speaking with hundreds of mums and dads, here are five of the most common worries and the reasons why you can cross them off your list.
I’m scared I’ll poo when I’m in labour!
– Lots of mums-to-be worry about this. It’s one of the most asked questions in antenatal classes. The answer is, yes, you probably will poo during the pushing stage of labour! But it is certainly nothing to worry about. Rather it’s a sign that your body is working hard to bring your baby into the world and moving anything that might impede that out of the way. But remember many women feel the urge to go to the loo frequently in early labour and usually by the time you need to push there is not much poo left. Your midwife will simply and discretely wipe anything away and pop it in the bin, most likely without anyone noticing. Us midwives are a funny bunch- we get excited by things most people don’t, and a bit of poo during pushing lets us know that your baby is getting close.
What if I don’t fall in love with my baby straight away?-
You probably can picture the scene. The new mum and dad, both crying tears of joy as they cuddle their brand new baby. The new mum feels an instant bond and deep love for this little person and is overwhelmed with emotion… Well, yes, sometimes that is the case. But the reality is that ‘falling in love’ with your baby can take time, and that is normal. Giving birth is hard work and many mums need a little while to recover before they can take in the fact that their baby is actually here.
The early days with your newborn are often tiring and challenging and it’s very common for parents to feel overwhelmed. There can also be a sense of mourning the end of the pregnancy and the abrupt change from the “imagined” baby in your belly to the very real baby on the outside, who may look, sound and behave very differently from what you had been envisioning for 9 months. Falling in love with your baby is similar to falling in love with a romantic partner, it can take a bit of time and getting to know each other, but it will happen. However if you do have ongoing concerns about bonding with your baby it is important to seek help, as this may be a sign of postnatal depression.
My baby was really good for the first day, now they are awake all night!-
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone tell me that their 6 hour old baby is “good” I could retire to my own tropical island. Pretty much every baby ever born is “good” for the first 24 hours. By “good”, people presumably mean a baby who sleeps soundly in their crib and only wakes for feeds, not a baby who is in the Scouts and helps old ladies across the street. Of course, babies are neither good nor bad, they are simply babies and they are behaving the way that nature has programmed them to. Being born is as equally tiring for babies as it is for their mothers, and babies recover from this by (usually) being fairly sleepy during the first 24 hours of life. They are born with a good energy reserve and so don’t need a lot of feeding. Their brains are coping with the enormous influx of information and protect themselves by going into a deep, hibernation sleep, often for several hours. Past this point though, your baby will start to wake up more and notice that their room service has been cancelled. Survival instincts kick in and your baby will become unsettled, not want to be put down and want to be at the breast non stop.
All of this is completely normal newborn behaviour. It is challenging and tiring, but not something to worry about. By responding to your baby’s cues and feeding frequently you are helping your baby adjust to the enormous transition to life outside the womb, and also helping your milk supply to become established. Limiting visitors, sleeping as much as you can during the day and reminding yourself that this is normal will help you get through this time.
I’m worried my baby will learn that I will pick him up every time he cries, and will become spoilt.-
Yes, good! Your baby should learn that you will pick him up every time he cries. Babies cry because it’s the only way they can signal their caregivers that they need help. Like us, babies feel lonely, scared, over tired and upset. Imagine you’ve had a really terrible day at work. You accidently sent a personal email to the whole office, you spilled coffee all over your white pants and bloody Marge at the desk across from you has been talking about you behind your back. You get home and look forward to having a bit of a cry and a cuddle from your partner, the person you can trust and depend on to help you feel better. Instead your partner puts you in a room by yourself and tells you to “self settle”. They insist that you’re not hungry, you’ve recently been to the toilet, so that can’t be the reason you’re upset. They return every 5 minutes and say “you’re fine” but don’t make eye contact or touch you. Eventually you stop crying because you have learnt to give up.
When I give this example to parents they always agree that they would never treat their partner like that. So why would we do it to our children? Babies have no manipulation skills, they are entirely helpless and dependent upon their parents. Responding to your baby’s cry teaches them that they are safe and loved, which is a pretty nice thing to know. Of course, there will be times when your baby will cry and you won’t be able to pick them up immediately and that is fine. But please don’t worry that you will somehow spoil your baby by showing him that you love him and that he can trust you.
Everyone else is doing this parenting gig better than me!-
The parenting gig can be pretty hard, and almost always much more challenging than people expect it to be. When I had my babies, social media really didn’t exist yet (my 13 year old daughter was horrified to learn that there was no YouTube when I was a teenager and nearly passed out when I showed her a video tape). The good side to that was having no idea what other parents were doing unless I saw them in person. Instead of seeing carefully posed photos on Instagram of their perfect children, all in designer clothes with the hashtag #Fridaysdoneright, or #soblessed, I got to see them drag their grumpy toddlers and crying babies into playgroup each week, with bags under their eyes and dried weetbix stuck to their shirts, just like me. We had all been up all night, breastfeeding a million times. All our babies hated going in the car and all that our toddlers would eat was chicken nuggets, cheese and boogers. Yes, there was always the glamour mummy who seemed a bit better held together than the rest of us, but even she would eventually open up about reality.
It is very, very normal to feel that other mums and dads are doing better than you are. I still doubt myself, and my kids are almost grown and flown. But looking at the carefully curated and edited glimpses of other people’s lives on Facebook and Instagram and taking that as gospel will only intensify those feelings. People post the images that they want others to see. I remember a friend commenting on a photo I had posted once of a family holiday when the kids were small. They were smiling and hugging each other in idyllic surrounds. “Your family always has such lovely holidays!” she told me. What she hadn’t seen though, was that an hour before that photo, my youngest child had thrown a monumental tantrum in the middle of the street which had then set off her brothers and ended with everyone fighting and me crying in the freezer aisle of the supermarket because I was evidently such a bad mother! #soblessed!
So remember to take all of those perfect images with a grain of salt and surround yourself with people who are just as perfectly imperfect as the rest of us. Joining a mother’s group, Playgroup or the local Australian Breastfeeding Association are great ways to find your tribe.
It is completely normal to have worries about having a baby and being a parent. But there are always people you can talk to about these feelings. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved, so don’t be afraid to seek support and advice if you have concerns. Your midwife, GP and Child and Family Health Centre are a great place to star