With just 4 weeks to go now until my due date, I’m very conscious that our new arrival will finally be arriving very soon! And that’s got me thinking a lot about what I want to do differently this time around.
I found the adjustment to being a mum very difficult to deal with. No-one can prepare you for that rush of love that just overwhelms you, but also the intense worry, guilt, and anxiety that accompanies it. As a first time mum, you are so concerned with ‘getting it right’, and it takes some time for the realisation to sink in that there is no ‘right’, just what’s right for you and your baby.
Although I don’t think there are many things that I would want to have changed about how I handled things first time around, there are a few ways that I’d like to approach things differently.
Breastfeeding was one of the biggest shocks for me, and one of the things I found most difficult last time around. My NCT classes had led me to believe that if I put the baby in the right position, then he would simply know what to do. I hadn’t appreciated that it would be a huge learning curve for both of us. We really struggled in the early days – getting the latch right, needing to pretty much sit and feed for hours on end, only to then not be able to when we had visitors round as we basically needed to be sat in bed, skin to skin, and with people downstairs clamouring to see the baby that wasn’t easy to manage.
After a difficult start our breastfeeding journey did get much better – the latch became easier and I felt more confident in feeding in public. But the anxiety over whether he was getting enough milk never left me. Although Max never dropped more than two centile lines, he was always a small baby, and I obsessed over whether he was getting enough milk, to the point where I started topping up his feeds with a few ounces of formula. However it still made no difference to his weight – he was just destined to be a small guy!
The growth spurts were particularly difficult – we would spend a week camped out at home, with me working through box sets at a rate of knots. And the pressure of being the only one able to feed the baby was enormous – no-one to share the night feeds with, and no way to leave the baby for a few hours to get a bit of a break. Breastfeeding is an enormous tie and a huge commitment.
And in all honesty I’m not sure it’s one that will work out for us again. I’m very conscious that I have a demanding 3 year old who requires a lot of attention. Maybe this new baby will take to feeding much better than Max did. Maybe they won’t struggle with the latch, maybe they’ll be a quicker feeder. And maybe Max will be far more tolerant of a few hours spent watching tv / reading together than I expect. I would love to breastfeed again – I know the benefits and I do think that once they reach a certain age then it’s far more convenient than bottle feeding. But this time around I don’t intend to put the pressure on myself that I did last time. It’s about what works best for us as a family, and if that outweighs the desire to breastfeed then that’s fine.
Ditching the parenting books
First time around I was glued to my parenting books. While books like ‘You and Your Baby: Week by Week’ were a great guideline, ultimately I found them to be the cause of much of my worry. I was so bound up in what my son ‘should’ be doing at every stage that I got increasingly worried with every milestone he failed to hit bang on time. He was slightly late to hit them all, but he got there in his own time, and I wish I’d saved myself the stress.
Being more pushy
First time around you don’t know what to expect- you get told to expect no sleep during the newborn stage and lots of crying, but the levels of ‘normal’ can vary so much. But I wish I’d been pushier in getting help with Max. I’m almost positive now that he had reflux, but I tried bringing this up with health professionals so many times only to be fobbed off. We never had that newborn ‘sleep all the time’ stage. He was a baby who cried a lot, who never wanted to be put down, who struggled to sleep – he just wasn’t a happy chap. At 16 weeks, he was still incapable of dropping off during the day and would become increasingly grumpy as the day went on. I remember bringing this up with the Health Visitor, who seemed to not believe that a baby could get through that long without sleeping, and told me to ‘just enjoy the hours in the morning when he’s happy then’. I wish I’d known that the lack of sleep and constant crying wasn’t normal, and known how to be pushier about getting help.
When I had Max, co-sleeping was a dirty word. It was one of the main things that you were told on leaving the hospital – under no circumstances must you sleep with your baby next to you. No dropping off on the sofa, no popping the baby in your bed. There was no information given to us about safe co-sleeping, and I remember being scared of it for a long time. But it’s expecting an awful lot of a tiny baby, who has spent so long curled up inside you, to suddenly be able to sleep by themselves in a moses basket. And when your baby’s unwell, or just unsettled, bringing them close to you is the best way to soothe them. This time around we’ve bought a SnuzPod – a small crib that attaches to your bed, where the side can be dropped down, allowing the baby to sleep really close to you, without the risk of you rolling onto it. I started seeing them about after Max was about a year old and thought what a wonderful idea they were. It’s perfect for breastfeeding in the night as it means that there’s no need for you to get out of bed – just a sleepy night feed and then pop them back down.
Remember everything is a phase!
I remember the worst thing about the newborn days being the fact that I didn’t know when to expect anything to get better. Max took a long time to start sleeping through – he gave us a brief teaser at around 8 months, but then regressed again until around 15 months. And if I’m honest, he’s had phases on and off since then of struggling to sleep. It’s easy to look back on that time now and forget just how difficult it was, but when you’re in the thick of it, questioning how you’re even managing to walk around and barely function on so little sleep, despising yourself for your moodiness, and feeling like a shell of your former self, it’s very hard to see an end in sight. But I hope that this time I can hang on in there, and reassure myself that it will come to an end. This will be our last baby, so there is definitely something to cherish, even in those sleepless nights. The days are long but the years are short, and soon we’ll be racing into toddlerhood and then school, and this time round I want to make the most of every second.