Are you a “first time mum"? Or becoming one soon?
“Expect the unexpected” was the advice from one of the mums at my clinic when asked how she found the experience of becoming a mother for the first time. She found that all plans made in pregnancy can change very quickly when the baby is in your arms. She summed up the experience of being a first time mum as having to “learn as you go”.
The main advice for first time mums seems to be that adaptability is important. Over the nine months changes in your body shape, diet, sleep patterns as well as the pregnancy health checks prepare you for the major changes to come with birth.
In this article I want to highlight some of these changes that face the first time mum ... from the birth of your baby, what to expect in the early days, what signs tell you that your baby needs help, tips for sleep and finally, looking after yourself!
First time Birth.
Giving birth for first time mums is akin to a roller coaster ride. I recall arriving at the maternity hospital during my own first labour and feeling unsure that my body was going to give birth having never experienced it before!
I had read the books and seen the videos - but the reality of labour was a whole different ball game. Having a birth plan certainly helps, but each birth situation is unique. Sometimes that may mean the control of the birth is out of your hands and into the hands of the hospital professionals.
The use of intervention (C-sections, vacuum, forceps, and episiotomies) was not on your birth plan but the safe delivery of your baby is priority. In any case, I have found that the effects of an assisted birth on the baby can be alleviated successfully with craniosacral therapy.
Holding your baby close as soon as possible after the birth and allowing it to latch on for a reassuring suck is a first time experience that makes everything worthwhile!
First few Days.
“Is this your first?” This is a classic question for new mums but one that often heightens their feelings of inexperience. But learning the ins and outs of your baby takes time.
At first you are wondering if baby is hungry, sleepy or needing a reassuring cuddle? Very soon you notice little signs, rubbing its eyes when tired, snuggling into the breast for a feed and relaxing when it hears your voice and smells you close by.
However, if you find yourself constantly questioning if your baby has fed enough, is tired or in pain - remember you have a support group to help in those early weeks.
Help at Hand.
If you’re lucky enough to live near family then take the help offered and they are sure to have plenty of advice too!
First port of call is your doctor and public health nurse. They have helped many new mums over those first hurdles of parenthood. If needed, they will refer you on to a paediatrician or your local maternity hospital.
Specialist help is also available in your community. Check back with the breastfeeding group in the hospital or locate a private lactation consultant if you have problems with breastfeeding and would like one to one advice.
After difficult births with upset babies, see a craniosacral therapist. As a craniosacral therapist myself who specialises in babies, I see a lot of newborns that won’t settle, who cry for no apparent reason or have problems lying comfortably on their backs. They may turn to one side only or need help with forming a good suck. It is wonderful to see the baby become happier and sleeping after a few sessions together.
Sleep deprivation is a reality and one of the hardest parts of being a first time parent. You may feel that you are walking around in a daze for the first few weeks. Babies need to feed often and will wake you up when you are in a deep sleep. Each baby often has their own distinct sleeping pattern.
The following are some tips that other mums found helpful:
What about Mum?
Many new mums go from being socially active with a career to being home alone with a baby. This can be lonely and isolating.
Social media is a great backup if you are home alone. Without having to go out, (which now could take an hour minimum to get ready!), just go on line to chat with others in similar situations. Most new mums are involved with chat groups, forums, following threads or researching everything on line. Knowing others out there are in a similar situation to you is a wonderful support.
Later on, when baby and you are ready there are many groups in the community which you can join. Most problems are far less daunting when shared!
Finally, new mums tend to forget their own needs so remember to eat well and rest - even for a short while each day. Once the “teething problems” of the first few weeks are over it does get easier.
Most mums feel they turn a corner when their baby smiles back at them. Suddenly it is all worthwhile!