During our pregnancies, especially with our first baby, many of us spent a lot of time imagining what motherhood would be like.
We saw peaceful scenes in our mind like rocking our babies in a recliner while they effortlessly breastfeed.
We imagine the things we’ll do while baby sleeps the hours away. We wash and fold (and refold) baby clothes and get the baby’s things ready. We daydream about our little one and how we’ll care for him.
Often, we’re quite unprepared for the reality of the experience of new motherhood.
While having children is a blessing, the postpartum period is one of huge adjustments. In fact, there probably is no other experience that is more life altering than the entry into parenthood!
Our expectations are often quite different from the reality. Many new moms experience some or many of the following challenges:
Fussy babies – Having a colicky or fussy, “high need” infant can shatter a new mom’s confidence and cause major stress. When your baby cries for hours at a time, it can put strain on your relationship with the baby’s father and undermine your emotional well being.
Often there is little that can be done for a fussy baby other than holding him and waiting for him to outgrow it.Some babies will feel better if they nurse all the time – this was certainly true of my oldest. A baby sling can be a lifesaver for fussy babies. Research shows that babies cry less when they are “worn” close to the mothers body.
Mood swings – The baby blues is a very common experience for new moms in our society, and there are many theories as to why so many moms experience this phenomenon.Contributing factors may be: the stress of such a massive life change, sleep deprivation, the physical demands of childbirth, lack of proper support, and hormonal adjustments.
After I had my first baby, I would have persistent thoughts of tripping near an open window and throwing him out. It was a little scary, but the feelings subsided, especially when I got some more sleep.
Certainly it is wise for a new mom to lower her expectations of herself. Getting out of the house for some socializing, exercise, and sunlight can be a huge help. Good nutrition and avoiding sugar and caffeine are also smart moves. Read more about breastfeeding and postpartum depression here.
Relationship difficulties – Some new moms become resentful of their partners. While a mom’s life changes drastically after the birth of a new baby, a dad’s life doesn’t change so much. His apparent freedom can be the cause of negative feelings. If you read the magazines at the checkout counter, Angelina Jolie seems to be suffering from a little of this.
Good communication skills are important here. Moms can tell their partners what they need, and affirm his place and importance in the family. Letting him care for the baby on his own to learn his own style is a good idea.
Bonding issues – When moms read about the bonding that is so essential for baby’s development, they’re sometimes stressed or worried if they don’t feel an instant connection with their new infants. Bonding is different for each mother/baby dyad.
Some moms experience an instant feeling of deep love for their newborn infants the moment baby is put into their arms. For others, the feeling develops over time. There is no right or wrong way to bond.
One thing that helps a mother develop a deep attachment to her baby is to wear him close to her body in a baby sling. Babywearing helps baby adjust to postpartum life gradually, leading to less crying. A happier baby means a happier mom. It’s also easier for mom to get things done around the house, increasing her sense of accomplishment.
photo credit: Ja-nelle
Breastfeeding challenges - Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience, and for some mothers it comes easily. Others experience difficulties.I will never forget when my big sister asked me if I planned on breastfeeding. I told her, “Of course!”. She said that after the first few weeks things would get easier, and that it could be a little tough right at first. She said this while latching on her own 6 month old at the breast. I was so ignorant – I remembered thinking, “What’s the big deal? You put the baby on your nipple and they drink!“
Painful breastfeeding can increase the risk of postpartum depression, but successful breastfeeding decreases the risk. A mom who is experiencing pain should get help immediately. Often all that is needed is a slight adjustment in positioning or latch to stop the pain.
New moms need support and information to have a happier postpartum adjustment. Talking with other mothers can be extremely helpful. Thankfully there are many mother’s groups that a new mom can reach out to in order to get the community she needs. Groups like La Leche League, Holistic Moms Network, Attachment Parenting International, and others.
What about you? How was your experience of being a new mom different from the reality? How did you cope with the transition?
Recommended Resources for New Moms:
This is an amazing book that every mother should read. Written by one of my favorite authors, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD. It examines the feelings commonly felt by new moms in our culture and how to help yourself during the transition.
This was my favorite cookbook after my 4th child was born. Everything in its pages can be created with only one hand! Written by attachment parenting enthusiasts and foodie moms, this cookbook will make it possible for you to feed yourself again. I promise!
Martha and Bill Sears have 8 kids between them. He’s a Pediatrician, she a nurse and La Leche League Leader. Think they know some secrets about surviving postpartum? Oh yeah. This one is easy to read in snippets while you’re sitting in the nursing chair.
Save the hate mail ladies. Wait until you check it out. Because laughter is a great cure for the new mom blues!