My first born son turned 20 years old a couple of months ago. It was hard to swallow for me – twenty years being his mom, twenty years of concern, anxiety, worry, laughing (he’s very funny), making birthday cakes, celebrating milestones.
It led me to think back on those early days as a new mother. It is so hard to remember; I feel like there is a fog hovering around in my brain when I try to call up those details. I remember being scared, feeling unqualified to be a mother to this beautiful baby.
“I can barely take care of myself” I heard the words in my head, louder than life. “How will I take care of a baby?”
When I started working with mothers and babies, I really wanted new parents to feel supported in whatever way they needed to be successful. Sometimes, we sat in groups and talked about the difficulties of motherhood. Other times, I was the only support person, the only cheerleader, continually reassuring new mothers that their milk supply was enough, that their baby was thriving.
Recently, I asked the mothers in the breastfeeding support group we meet in weekly. Only a short year ago we met in person, where parents could interact with each other, ask questions, and learn from one another. Although the pandemic stole our time away from us, we are thriving in a virtual setting. I asked some of the mothers to share what they would tell a new family, just starting their journey. This is what they came up with~
“Just love your baby / babies and do what makes you and them feel comfortable and safe. Set clear boundaries and stick to them, even though some people may not like or understand them. And you’re not a bad parent if you don’t enjoy every minute, because parenting is hard and sometimes, you’re too tired or hormonal to be in this elated state that everyone expects from you as a new parent!
Regarding breastfeeding… JUST. KEEP. GOING. Even if it’s hard at first, if you work with your baby and your IBCLC, you’ll get to a good place! Even when it’s easy, there will still be times when it seems like too much and you’ll want to give up but power through! Moms are strong for a reason!” ~Tracy, mama of 2 sweet boys
“New mamas out there I wish someone told me not to worry about what everyone else is doing or is telling you to do. The worst thing you can do is compare yourself or your baby to another mom and baby. Each baby is so different, and they do exactly what they are supposed to do, especially with breastfeeding, even if sometimes it feels like they are just crying all the time. You will also get a lot of advice from family, friends and co-workers and most of it, although well attended, isn’t great. The only advice you should be listening to is from your IBCLC. You know your baby best and therefor you know what is best for her. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Through breastfeeding I learned so much about myself but the main thing I learned is how much I could give of myself to another person. When you breastfeed your baby, you aren’t just giving them food. You are giving them a piece of you and that is a difficult but beautiful thing.” ~Alyssa, mama of a sweet baby girl
“No matter what anybody says to do, the most important thing is to give your baby love, safety and food. Feeding can be whatever works for you and the baby. The only right answer is that s/he is fed. It can be breastfeeding, formula or both. You can exclusively pump, breastfeed directly or mix it up.
No matter if it’s your first, second, or fifth time having a baby, it’s always different and you have to learn each other. Reach out for help when you need it. To take care of a baby you have to take care of yourself first. There will always be mom guilt but be kind to yourself.” ~Kate, mama of 2 sweet boys
“No one ever told me how HARD breastfeeding would be. Not just physically (oversupply, potential tongue tie, sore nipples), but emotionally / mentally as well. The trick for me was to change my mindset. Dropping my expectations (of how long Ireland was going to feed, when she was going to feed, if I was going to get a shower that day, etc.) and really being present and bonding with my baby. But what also helped me was our breastfeeding support group! It was hard to get the energy / courage the first few weeks being a new mom and leaving the house but being able to talk to other moms about breastfeeding and mommy things helped so much. It keeps your motivation alive.
So, my advice is to not give up, find a support group or someone to talk to, and ENJOY this special bond no one else can have with your baby!” ~Anna, mama to a sweet baby girl
The transition to becoming a new mother can be difficult. Be kind to yourself.