A survival guide for new mums
The "baby blues", post natal body image, breastfeeding hiccups - these are just a few of the issues a new mum may face. Find out how to deal with these issues and face the world as a strong, confident mum...
Here’s the truth: motherhood, especially if you’re a new mum, is not easy.
Forget that TV commercial with a relaxed-looking new mummy with glowing skin laying her cherubic (and sleeping) newborn down in his cot. Or the smiling new mum effortlessly handling the household chores while her baby gurgles happily on his play-mat. In reality, things rarely happen this way.
Motherhood is tough and fulfilling. It’s equal parts smiles and tears. There’ll be times when your heart just wants to explode with love and pride and there are times when you want to curl up into a ball in a corner and sob.
Because motherhood can be both physically and mentally hard work, here’s a survival guide for new mums — especially for you.
To sleep or not to sleep?
“Sleep when the baby sleeps”. How many times have you heard this bit of advice from others while you were pregnant? But sleeping while your little one sleeps is easier said than done.
There are a million things for a mum to attend to when her baby drifts off to the land of nod. If you don’t have a helper, then of course this is the time you could potentially get some household chores done. It’s also time for you to brush your teeth, and if you’re lucky, take a quick shower (with the door open, of course, in case baby wakes up).
So when do you sleep then? Of course, if your baby sleeps for hours at a time, then you actually might find the time to join him for a nap, after you complete your other chores.
But babies, especially newborns, are notorious for their short sleep cycles and frequent night wakings. This is because in their first few months of life, babies’ needs are very high but their ability to communicate is very low. So, if a baby slept through the night, needs such as hunger and comfort would not be satisfied.
How to survive:
What saved my sleep when both my kids were tiny babies was co-sleeping. However, if co-sleeping is not for you, then consider establishing a gentle bed-time routine when your little one is old enough for it. A warm bath, lots of cuddles, a soft lullaby and a snug swaddle might do the trick.
Also, keep visitors at bay for a bit until you are settled into a routine that you are comfortable with. Visitors, although they mean well, can be disruptive to your little one’s sleeping and feeding routine.
On the next page of this survival guide for new mums — how do you tackle breastfeeding issues?
It seems pretty simple – just pop your boob in your baby’s mouth, yes? But for some new mums (including myself with my first son), breastfeeding can be challenging, at least at the beginning.
The World Health Organisation and other reputed health institutions and medical professionals worldwide, recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months. They suggest breastfeeding should be continued for up to two years, of course, with appropriate complementary foods.
But often, many mums give up when faced with issues such as low breastmilk supply or latching on problems. I was close to giving up too when faced with similar problems with my first child. What kept me going for more than two years was support from my husband and seeing a lactation consultant.
How to survive:
Of course, to breastfeed or not is a choice that mums are entitled to take. But do consider seeing a lactation consultant right at the beginning, who can show you correct latch and hold techniques. You can also join an online breastfeeding support group for great tips, support and advice on all things related to nursing your child.
Sometimes, a little bit of support makes all the difference!
Post-baby body image
Pregnancy is an awe-inspiring experience for sure. But it involves huge changes to your body that may linger on after you have the baby too.
So don’t be surprised if your baby belly doesn’t completely vanish even six months after you’ve had your little one, or you have stretch marks in places you never imagined they would appear. And of course, the breasts (not going to say more than that!).
For some new mums, their new post-baby bodies may be somewhat difficult to accept, and it doesn’t help when that well-meaning (but nosey) aunty asks you if you’re pregnant again already. Then of course, there’s all the pressure mums face from the media, sensationalising the stories of celebrity mums who regain their pre-baby bods in no time.
How to survive:
If all this pressure gets you down, please remember that those celebrities have a whole entourage of trainers, stylists and nutritionists at their beck and call to whip them back into shape.
Your breasts, which might not be the exact shape or size you want them to be, are now nourishing that tiny new life. Your strong arms hold and comfort your baby like nothing or no one else can. Your tummy may be soft and flabby — but what a miracle it nurtured for nine whole months!
Give yourself some time (and a break) to slowly ease yourself back into a gentle exercise routine and try to ignore the nay-sayers. Really, you are perfect.
“Baby blues” — what are they? Find out on the next page.
Beating those baby blues
Have you heard of the “baby blues“? It’s a condition that new mums may experience during the first few days after giving birth. These mums may feel tired, irritable, happy one moment and sad the next — feelings mostly caused by hormonal changes and sometimes, the demands of a new baby.
Usually, these feelings go away in a week or two. But sometimes, the baby blues may develop into a more serious condition known as postpartum depression (PPD). According to SingHealth, approximately 3 to 5% of mums may experience PPD.
How to survive:
Ask for help from others if you feel you can’t cope with baby’s demands. This will let you get as much sleep, healthy food and exercise as possible, which is important to keep your mind and body strong, therefore warding off PPD. Please don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor if you think you might be experiencing PPD.
Also, join a support group of new mums — no one can understand the challenges involves in caring for a little one than other new mums themselves.
theAsianparent runs the following vibrant and very active online support groups for mums:
If you or someone you know suffers from PPD, you can seek help at the Women’s Services unit of KK Women and Children’s Hospital.
Looking after Baby
Looking after a tiny little human being can be daunting for some mums, especially if it’s their first child. You might wonder how you’re going to ever handle those fragile little limbs during bath time, swaddle your little one when he’s asleep without waking him up, or even change his diaper.
But as with most things, you will learn in no time at all, perhaps even instinctively. Don’t beat yourself up if your little one screams right through bath time or you just can’t figure out how to snap on that onesie. There’s really no “wrong” when it comes to a new mum navigating through the world of parenthood… because at the heart of everything you do, is pure love.
How to survive:
While you are in the hospital, ask plenty of questions from your caregivers about all aspects of looking after your little one. Ask a nurse to show you the best ways of bathing, diapering, dressing and swaddling your baby. Request to talk to a lactation consultant. And don’t forget to ask about umbilical stump care.
As a mum, you are blessed with an instinct that is usually spot-on when it comes to your little one’s wellbeing. Trust this instinct and you will be fine.
Always remember: you are your little’s one’s world and he is yours. And this has been at the heart of motherhood since time immemorial.
Share with us, mummies — how did you get through the first few weeks of new mummyhood? What helped you? Tell us by leaving a comment below.