Bring up Baby
New parents should know that expecting a baby is like getting a surprise, but if you’re ready to go with the flow, everything can go as smoothly as clockwork.
“When I was expecting my twin girls, I enjoyed listening to other moms’ stories about how their babies either followed their mother’s timetables, or completely turned their worlds upside down,” says Huimin, 35.
She wondered then, if her twins would follow the same schedules or be complete ends of the pole.
“On the other hand Mikaela was completely unpredictable and even now that she’s eight, she gets hunger pangs at odd hours,” she adds.
Every baby is an individual too – he or she feels hungry at certain times, wants to be cuddled in different measures and styles, and to fall asleep whenever he or she feels fatigued, says Susan Lee, a lactation and babycare consultant.
She adds, “Why should we expect babies to all have the same schedule, when we as individuals, have our own idiosyncracies.
“The best thing to do, therefore, is to try to understand what it is that baby wants and needs, rather than insist on her three-hourly feeds and watching out endlessly for her to soil a diaper everyday.”
For new parents, having a newborn is a great expectation and while it comes with heaps of joy, it can also bring about some challenges.
Some of the stress that can come along in dealing with baby includes:
§ Baby cries all the time
§ Baby falls ill
§ Conflicting caregiving methods among family members
§ ‘Difficult’ in-laws
§ Feeling overwhelmed
§ Work/family strains
§ Financial strains
§ Less sexual intimacy
§ Less personal time
“Although a newborn can bring some stress into your life, you can overcome them with simple and practical solutions. In the end, parenting is a maturing process that will make you more patient, more forgiving and more generous,” says Xiaoling, family life educator and social worker with Fei Yue Community Services.
Fatigue and Exhaustion
Don’t underestimate the whirlwind activities that can come along with the small bundle of joy, because a newborn needs your attention almost 24/7.If you have a baby that conforms to your schedule, you’ve been lucky. But in most cases, you will become used to waking up at night for feeds, and planning your schedules around baby’s timing.
“The trick to getting enough rest, especially if your baby wakes up often at night, is to sleep along with your baby,” says Susan.
Caring for a newborn often means constantly making adjustments to accommodate the new mother and the baby’s schedules. “If something is bothering you, the last thing you should do is keep quiet and let things go awry,” says Susan.
For example, if you and baby have a habit of taking long afternoon naps, let your guests know not to visit you in the afternoon, instead of rigging your schedule to meet theirs.
“Be firm, but explain to them nicely that the naptime is precious,” she adds.
Keep your Energy Up
Eat a balance, healthy diet with lots of fruits and drink enough water to keep your immune system up.
“It’s not really a myth that mothers never fall sick, but perhaps mothers feel that they have more responsibilities and if you fall sick, not only will you be less able to care for your baby, you may even pass on the illness to her,” says Sharon, 35, a mom of three.
To keep fit, she eats a balanced diet that includes a feel-good snack like a chocolate bar and some ice-cream occasionally. “I like to feel happy too, and when I’m happy, the kids feel my happy vibes,” says the stay-at-home mom.
Relax, Don’t Fuss
Don’t fuss over housework or the cooking or any chores that used to take up your time and energy. Take a back seat and let someone else do them for a change, while you fuss over your new baby, says Susan. If daddy isn’t available to lend a hand, hire part-time help to clean your house, or just do less.
A very delicate area centers around the new mother adjusting to the experience of breastfeeding.
“She may feel ‘touched out’, a term that explains how her physical contact with baby leaves her not wanting to be touched more,” explains Susan.
Many husbands could find themselves out of the loop when mom takes baby away to nurse, and then seem not to have time for them.
“As much as I appreciate Huimin nursing and caring for our babies, I did feel a bit lost when she centers her attention totally on our twins and we probably have around 30 minutes to talk in bed every night before she falls into deep slumber,” recalls Chuan Lim.
“Needless to say, our intimacy suffered for a couple of months before she’s settled and we had a good long talk about how we can make quality time together again,” he adds.
But husbands do need to be very understanding and patient in the initial months, Susan cautions.
Make Time for Yourself
A baby isn’t the be-all and end-all of life, even as many mothers may feel totally responsible for the new life.
“You need to strike a balance – time for yourself, time for your spouse and time for your family,” says Xiaoling.
“Take time to go out, run errands, get a facial or a manicure, do some shopping – take a couple of hours off to do something that makes you happy,” says Susan.
Let others have a go at babysitting for a while, or just take baby along with you.
“I learnt to breastfeed inconspicuously in public by using a baby sling and a shawl – I would simply slip her in, pack her diapers into a haversack and we’re off to take the train, go shopping or even to the wet market,” says Sharon.
Say ‘Yes’ to Help
At first it can be difficult to trust that others can do the mothering job better than you, but picking baby up, cuddling, feeding and changing a baby isn’t all that tough, especially for grandmothers!
“It took me a while to believe that my mom-in-law could take care of my twin girls but when I had to go out for an urgent errand one afternoon, I just left them in her care and made a dash out.
When I came back, the babies were sleeping quietly, duly fed and burped. I realised then that grandmothers are just as good,” recalls Huimin.
From then on, she never said ‘No’ to help from grandparents or relatives and other volunteers.
Ask For Help
Once you have no problem accepting help, learn to ask for help when you need some.
“Once I saw a mother nursing her baby in the nursing room at a shopping centre. I asked her how she could do it so expertly and she showed me the ropes,” says Huimin.
Another time she asked a colleague who also expressed milk in the office, how to achieve a quick letdown.
“It used to take a long time for me to achieve let down, but Sue taught me to apply a warm towel before starting and it works!” she recalls.
Don’t suffer in silence is her advice. “Mothers are always happy to share tips, and if you feel shy asking, join a parenting group or forum,” says Susan.