“I am every woman, it’s all in me…!” When I was pregnant, I always used to hum these lines from the song by Whitney Houston! And, I delivered a boy and a girl. Rather efficient, I would say. I was as well prepared to welcome the new guests as any parent would be. I read stacks of books, spoke to friends and relatives, made exhaustive lists, redecorated the house, hired nannies, and bought everything my newborns would need. But, looking back, I can say that motherhood, or being a parent, is something that only experience can teach you. From pregnancy to postpartum to pure joy to when you start enjoying your newborn — having a newborn in your life may be a bit of a rough ride till your baby settles into a routine.
1. Breastfeeding – the eternal battle: The biggest challenge for a new mother is the confusion that surrounds breastfeeding. No doubt mother’s milk is the best food for a baby, but the long list of dos and don’ts can be overwhelming. Speaking to your doctor to equip yourself with the knowledge of manageable and stress-free methods can make breastfeeding less daunting. For example, pumping breast milk and storing it well can offer flexibility with regard to time and movement. Remember, motherhood is not about sacrificing your time and wants, it is just about managing the changes, both for your child and you.
2. Tackle postpartum depression (PPD) – focus on your emotional well-being: Having a baby is a life-changing event. After delivery, the hormones take time to settle down. During this phase, mood swings, crying spells, elevated levels of irritation and even anger are not necessarily the signs of a weak mind. Recognising the symptoms of PPD, accepting it, and following up with concrete action is a difficult hurdle to cross. If ignored, PPD can take a very heavy toll on the mother. So, see your gynaecologist and seek help. As a new mom, you need to feel confident, loved and secure to be able to extend the same to your baby. Work towards taking care of your emotional needs too, not just the body.
3. Cut the guilt – time-out for the new mom: It is natural for a mother to want a little bit of time away from the baby. This is important for the mind and body to recuperate well. So, there should be no guilt attached to taking a time-out. On the contrary, it would make you come back relaxed and eager to see your baby. A guilt-free approach and a strong support system for the baby will ensure a pleasant time-out for you.
4. Re-live the romance – time-out as a couple: It is not easy to transition from being a carefree couple to responsible parents. The space and freedom that couples used to enjoy takes the first hit after the child is born. No doubt that love and commitment can infuse a great charge into parenthood, but it is also important for you to spend time together and hold on to the fun and the lighter moments. Spending time over dinner or taking time-out for a movie, or any activity that you may enjoy together enhances the bond between new parents.
5. Talk the walk – communication as a couple: Communication is the strongest tool in any relationship. And, for new parents, it is extremely crucial to be cognizant of each other’s needs, wants and aspirations. To balance individual activities and commitments, it’s always helpful to work out a support system at home. This helps eliminate a fair amount of conflict between the two of you. Be frank about how much of work/free time will be compromised after the baby is born and how much each of you would contribute. Drawing strength from each other is the key rather than playing the blame game. And, have complete faith and trust in your spouse, and a deep-rooted understanding as a couple for happy parenting.
6. For the father – silent support: The husband’s role is vital to a new mother’s mental well-being. Post delivery, a woman’s body goes through many changes, and the hormones create mood swings, depressive phases and other mental fluctuations. There will be unreasonable demands. There will be days when her entire wardrobe would not offer even one decent outfit! During such times, being patient is the key. Let the episodes ride. Reading more into it than there is will only cause unsolicited responses. So, let her just vent her frustrations and offer a shoulder to cry on when she is having her meltdowns. It is not a personality change. It is just a phase.
7. Have a plan in place – money matters: A new addition to the family means allocation of funds towards various aspects of your baby’s present and future. It is helpful to understand the available investment options for your baby’s education and other requirements. Systematic planning would ensure hassle-free tools to handle the monetary needs of your child when they come around.
8. The food fight – getting the meals right: A crying baby is not always a hungry baby! Babies cry for many other reasons, like when they feel too cold or warm, when their diaper is wet, or when they poop. It is normal for babies to have an off day where they might not feel like eating at all. If your baby doesn’t like a particular fruit or vegetable, try to bring in other meal plans to ensure a balance of all nutrients. Take the time to understand your child’s likes and dislikes.
9. Globe-trotting – plan well: Taking a trip with your little one can be such an exciting proposition. Planning in advance truly helps it become an enjoyable experience for both the parents and the child. Here are a few things you can do before and during travel:
- Air travel: Feed the baby at least an hour before take-off.
- Take-offs and landing can be rough on the baby. Suckling from the milk bottle or a pacifier helps ease the change in pressure and avoid earache.
- Dress the baby in comfortable clothes.
- Keep the formula measured out in the required quantities to make it easy to fix a quick meal. Pumping and carrying breast milk also makes mealtimes easy. Find ways of keeping your child entertained wherever you are - straw strings at coffee shops, boats out of tissues and so on rather than carrying a bagful of toys.
- Road trips can be a bit challenging if your baby has motion sickness. Speak to the paediatrician about medicines to administer before the trip. Take frequent stops and space out the feeds to make travel easier.
- Trains offer a fair amount of space for your baby to move around. However, watch out for the bunk edges and the bed bugs!
- Maintain your baby’s schedule as much as possible. It will make the holiday an enjoyable experience.
10. Superwoman to supermom – the myth: The ‘supermom’ or the ‘super happy mom?’ Motherhood is a constant learning process. As women, today, we set such high benchmarks for ourselves - to be the perfect wife, be the perfect mom, throw the perfect party for our children, have perfect meals in their lunchboxes, be the perfect daughter/daughter-in-law, excel at work, be there for our friends and more. The list is exhaustive. We put so much pressure on ourselves that we tend to forget that we are human. Parenting is about making mistakes and learning from them. We did not arrive in this world as pre-programmed moms. So, cut yourself some slack and enjoy the journey!
Trust your instincts, have faith in your doctors and do what is right for both of you. Your baby will be happy only if you are.
Komal Porecha has been part of the Interior Design industry since 1996. She is the proprietor for Komal Porecha Associates which designs and executes residential and commercial interior projects. She is also a freelance writer. Mother to twins, her book, "Bringing Up Your Baby," is a humour-infused comprehensive guide to the first year of your baby.
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