Things that they never tell you about being first time parents/mums

12 02 2009

Recently I have been hearing friends who are first time mums trying to cope with the following: breastfeeding (engorgement, establishing supply, latching), baby crying, lack of sleep, introducing solids, feeding schedules, post-natal recovery, angst of traditions in the confinement period.

There are a lot of information out there on pregnancy and what to expect. But there seems to be a gap in the advise or tips on what to expect after delivery.

My feel is that, what happens right after delivery is usually not as “pretty”. There is a lot of hardwork, lack of sleep, logistics, learning involved, plus coping with emotions and hormonal changes during this period.

I’ll attempt to describe my own experience, in hope that this information can help someone out there.

Breastfeeding

This is a topic that I feel very strongly about, only because I feel that there are a lot of myths and misconceptions around this.

Breastfeeding is not something that one will just pick up at a whim.

It needs to be practiced, support from family and loved ones is very important during the initial stages, persistence and determination of the mummy is critical for success.

Breast milk supply needs time to build up and established to meet the demands of a baby. Some of us are blessed with plenty of milk, others take time to meet the demands of the baby, some just have to supplement with formula milk.

Whichever the case, it is important to focus on the following in order for breastfeeding to succeed:

– Correct latching technique for mummies who choose to feed directly

– Having sufficient rest so that the milk production can take place

– Drinking enough fluids to replenish the body and aid milk production

– Dietary intake: Calcium is highly important.

– Have a positive mindset (something which is hard to do when one is tired, and not having enough sleep)

– Support from family and friends in terms of taking turns to cook/change diapers/clean the house/babysit

– Having a good breast pump should you choose to express. For efficiency and effectiveness, I highly recommend a dual electric breast pump.

– Access to breastfeeding support helplines/groups, lactation consultants in times of need.

Breast milk is great. But not everyone has the stamina to do breastfeeding for extended periods of time, and certainly not everyone can latch on the baby successfuly.

For various reasons, I was a 100% breast pump mummy, for 8 months. Having multiples meant that 1. latching is going to be tough to master (not that it’s impossible), 2. no one else can help to feed if I had to latch so bottle feeding works for me.

What matters is the output, not the process of getting the milk to the baby.
Myth: Formula milk lasts longer than breastmilk, so baby can sleep through the night

I personally tested this with my kids. When they need to drink, they drink. Formula milk (FM) lasts as long as breastmilk (BM), the twins did not sleep through the night just because I gave them FM.

Myth: Breast milk is watery, thus Formula milk is more filling.

Again, this is not true. Breast milk has higher fat content, and because the nutrition level is naturally adjusted according to the baby’s needs, BM gives what the baby requires at each stage, and is more easily absorbed by the body.

Debatable: You need to latch on the baby directly in order to establish good milk supply.

In most cases, I would agree if the baby is a good sucker. Some babies just fall asleep if the milk flow is slow, or they are just slow suckers, and sleepy babies. In such a case, then breastfeeding would potentially cause more anxiety –> thus affecting milk supply –> thus leading to higher chances of the mummy giving up.

A good breast pump may be able to stimulate the supply. Try the industrial breast pumps that can be loaned either during the hospital stay or from the manufacturers. They work wonders.

Maternal Instinct

Not all mummies would instantaneously feel the love for the baby after delivery. It may take time to build that love, especially when one could have a “traumatic” long drawn labour process, and also to cope with the crying and learning how to care for the baby.

Be gentle on yourself. Rest when possible, and in time, the love for the baby will grow.

No one knows instantly what the baby is crying for, it’s a matter of trial and error, through observations and eliminations of causes of cries. There are a wealth of information out there about how certain sounds of the cry could mean a certain thing, but again, it may not apply to every baby.

Some common causes for cries (at least during the first month)

– Hunger (watch for rooting behaviour, moving of the mouths sideways, trying to find the breast/bottle)

– Discomfort (wind in tummy, needing to be cuddled)

– Dirty diaper (wet or soiled)

Confinement Practices

I didn’t practice every single rule in the “confinement traditions” . There are some that I believe has some grounds.

Taking a bath and washing the hair is ok during confinement, it is important that we keep ourselves clean and if there are wounds, it’s even more important to keep up with the hygiene. However, because our pores are open during this period, it is important to dry ourselves completely, immediately after the shower to prevent “wind”  from getting into the body, and causing headaches or aches. The hair dryer was a good friend during the confinement month.

I also drank water, besides the red date tea prescribed. Having to express so often, it was very very important that I replenish the fluids, but I had warm water instead of cold or cool.

Food wise, there was not much choices for me, I just had to bear with what was available and eat them. Soups were great though, it replenishes the fluids, and with the fish and papaya soup, it seems to help with increasing the breastmilk supply.

Having a positive mindset, reading up more to learn about the entire parenting experience, and having faith that the tough times will pass are key factors to help one pass through the initial phase.

No one said it was easy, but it can only make you stronger. Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people just makes the ride much smoother.

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