GUEST BLOG – 10 things I’ve learned in 10 weeks as a Mum

written by Melanie Hall.

  • Parenthood is the most hotly debated topic in the world. Even more so than politics, religion, and which team will win the next English Premier League. Listen to all the advice (smile and nod – it usually comes from a good place), and take from it what you please. Lean on a handful of people that you trust most, and save your questions for them.
  • The only constant is change. I thought I’d “cracked” a routine with my newborn baby until she cried incessantly for 3 days straight. It took me that long to realise she was just more hungry than usual – her feeding “routine” had suddenly changed from 3-hourly to 2-hourly, with cluster feeding in the evening. Babies grow and develop every single day, so you just can’t expect any day to be the same.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. You’ll make mistakes (like the above) many, many times as a parent and I’ve been told that those “parent guilts” never go away. I have to keep reminding myself that the best i can do is your best.
  • Leave your ego at the delivery room door. It’s true that everyone’s a perfect parent until they have kids! A dummy may be your lifesaver, and you might be too busy or too tired to ever use those cloth nappies you bought. You’ll find yourself doing things you said you’d “never do”, but those little things (yes, they are little things) really aren’t a big deal as long as you and your baby are both happy and healthy. And don’t concern yourself with what other mums are/aren’t doing either – every baby is different.
  • Always get a second opinion. Actually, get a third. It took that many to figure out why my baby was struggling to latch – she was finally diagnosed with both tongue and lip ties. She had laser surgery at 4 weeks old, and now feeds perfectly. If something doesn’t feel right, keep asking until you find an answer.
  • Read your baby, not the book. Babies develop at their own pace, in their own time. Some will be below the curve, some will be above it. That’s how bell curves work. Most of the time it’s nothing to be concerned about. In the early days I was told that my baby MUST feed for at least 20 minutes, and must feed off both breasts in order to get enough milk. I stressed us both out trying to force this, until a 320g weekly weight gain proved she was getting more than enough from one breast, in a 10 minute feed. Our babies haven’t read the textbook, they’re just following their natural instinct – trust them.
  • Breastfeeding is hard. You already know pregnancy is hard, everyone tells you how awful labour is going to be (I came out of it looking like I’d had an affair with Edward scissorhands), and you know to prepare yourself for sleep deprivation. But when it came to breastfeeding, I definitely went into the whole thing with rose-tinted glasses. Black and bruised nipples, cracked nipples, bleeding nipples. They happen, and they really, really fucking hurt. With the aid of Lansinoh cream, hot showers, hot and cold compresses, gel pads, some expressing and syringe feeding, I managed to battle (yes, battle) my way through those first few weeks of breastfeeding with gritted teeth. If you are battling, just remember it will get better. It got a hell of a lot better for me after my milk came in, and better again after my baby had her lip and tongue ties treated. If it’s not getting better after a week or two, go and see a lactation consultant (they’re free through the hospital until 6 weeks, and free through Plunket after that) and have a look for a breastfeeding support group in your area (wharekai Pepe in Wellington is amazing).
  • You can’t spoil a baby. It’s true that babies aren’t wired to manipulate you. If they’re crying, it’s usually for a reason. Check the usual things – wet nappy, hungry, over-tired. If all else fails, give them extra cuddles, let them sleep on you, feed them for comfort – whatever works to give you both a break. And don’t sweat it. If everything you did at this early stage was “creating a habit” then they’d still be shitting in diapers when they’re 20!
  • Find your village. My village is a modern-day one – it comes in the form of the New Mum Club Support Group on Facebook, it comes from my antenatal group girls who I meet with regularly for coffee, it comes from group classes at Lower Hutt Parents Centre and it comes from friends and family. They’ll guide, listen, deliver hot meals, and babysit while you nap. Parenting is a tough gig, and no one should have to go it alone.
  • Enjoy it. Some days you’ll bake cookies, do 7 loads of washing, and vacuum the house. Some days you’ll be glued to the couch wearing puke-covered pyjamas. Embrace them both. And find a really good series on Netflix (shameless will make you feel better about your life). Before you know it your baby will no longer want those cuddles that stopped you from hanging out that load of washing today. Each stage is over far, far too quickly. Every day I try to find time to cuddle, sing, read, laugh and go for a walk outside with her in the pram. Whatever you do, just remember to enjoy it.

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