Early motherhood can seem a like a minefield for new parents. When I asked my new mum friends and colleagues what their top challenge to navigate was, they said ‘directly conflicting information’ as number 1. From midwives to health visitors, GPs, the books… the so-called baby Gurus...it’s endless. Making baby care complicated is in our culture, when really, it shouldn’t be. Human babies after all, are just brand new and tiny human beings, not a different species or tiny aliens from Pluto, so they don’t need specialised care.
Below are some Postnatal FAQs, specific to newborn babies. Just a few little questions I often get asked as a new mum and a Postnatal Doula, that might help you on your own journey.
Do newborns really feed 8-12 times in 24 hours and then every 30 minutes in the evenings?
Actually yes. But then….so do we, don’t we? Think of every time during 24 hours you have a meal, snack or a drink. How many of that is in the evening? I love an evening snack, or a cup of tea and a ginger snap….
Breastfed babies need to feed frequently. If he or she is also ‘cluster’ feeding, (having a few of his breastfeeds close together then the rest spaced out a little more) — this is totally normal too. She is very clever. The important thing to remember is that the more often a baby suckles at the breast, the more milk is produced.
At times during the early weeks your baby may appear to be more hungry than usual — he will be “asking” to build up your supply in preparation for a spurt of growing and developing.
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM) useful tip:
“Don’t be tempted to make comparisons between how often your baby feeds and a bottle fed baby’s patterns. Breastfed babies have a totally different pattern of feeding.”
In fact….check out this FAQ out for all things breastfeeding. (From ABM website.)
What are the benefits of a babymoon?
When we start something new or at times of change in our lives, most of us need extra support, protection and nurturing. Becoming a parent is no different. We need to take things slowly and find our feet. This might be hiring a postnatal doula, to help with meals, looking after your other children, walking the dog, washing up, keeping visitors at bay, juicing the placenta (!) or just sitting with the new mother and talking to her, listening to her, holding her if she needs to be held or of course, offering breastfeeding support. It might also be welcoming your own mother into your home to mother you for a while. It might also be, after the first initial weeks have passed that you head off to another location for a while to be pampered as a new family.
Do babies need to be left to cry to teach them to self-soothe?
How does it make you feel when your baby cries? If you feel upset or anxious at the sound, perhaps nature has designed that reaction in you for a reason. When you are crying with hunger, pain, anguish or tiredness would you like to be ignored? Orrr how about a pair of loving arms and coos of comfort? The power of touch is incredibly important for your baby’s growth and development, almost as important as food.
These questions above are to help you as a new parent, figure out a way that suits you best, and to know that it’s ok if you don’t like the sound of your baby crying. Some parents find that they figure out ways to cope with their very normal newborn in order to stay sane, get enough sleep and enjoy the fourth trimester.
All I keep hearing is “babies need a routine - and as early as possible!” Do they?
Do you eat, drink and sleep to a strict regimented routine every day? Or do you tend to eat when hungry, sleep when tired and each day is ever-so-slightly (or vastly) different? Babies tend to be the same. However, no routine does not mean living in chaos. Many babies fall into predictable patterns and sometimes these patterns resemble routines set out in the baby-care manuals. Imposing a schedule on your baby, or waiting to see what happens with your baby is a choice you have to make for your family. But again it might be useful to keep in mind that some babies rebel against routines, strongly, but then quickly show their preferred pattern to the day. Newborn babies have instincts and reflexes and no circadian rhythms of their own. They have needs and they ask for them to be met so she can develop and grow.
Is it really dangerous to sleep in the same bed as a baby?
The vast majority of the human race share sleeping space today.
James Mckenna, Ph.D: "Without the stimulation from maternal-infant contact and interactions - including nighttime sensory exchanges - neonatal brain cells are potentially lost forever.”
Understanding the issues about where a baby sleeps is important. The motherbaby dyad (they are one) have just been through an enormous transition. Newborn babies don’t know they are a separate entity from the mother after birth. When her comforting body and smell are gone, how does a baby know she is ever coming back? Stoneage women didn’t put their babies in the next-door nursery cave and have babies really evolved that much since then?
If you are interested in suggestions to help families cope with broken nights, leave a comment below. It’s a separate discussion really. But in short, no it is not but it’s worth a read on how to bedshare safely. Read more here.
Does my baby need a bubble bath every day?
Would you say that you need a bubble bath every day? And babies don’t do half the messy adult stuff you do. It’s worth remembering that a baby’s skin is four times thinner than ours, so chemicals can penetrate.
Why doesn’t breastfeeding come naturally?
Even monkeys learn this art by observation. Don’t be too hard on yourself or your baby if it takes you a little while to get into your groove with breastfeeding. There is also a lot of conflicting information out there, which you probably already know.
Sometimes the majority of antenatal education focuses on the birth of your baby, with a fraction concentrating on breastfeeding. This gives mothers a limited knowledge of her body and anatomy.
There is not one way to breastfeed, and as a postnatal doula, some of the time I will merely support a mother to finding the best way for her and her baby to feed together. Women are very versatile feeders and as for babies...well did you know they can self attach if we just leave them to it?
Read more about Biological Nurturing here.
Finally, my personal favourite (I shouldn’t have favourites really but between you and me):
Am I spoiling my baby by carrying him/holding him all the time?
It is impossible to spoil a newborn baby. A baby only realises he or she is separate from mother at around six months old - that’s when leaving the room is met with whimpers or cries.
Anthropologists believe that inventing baby carrying has enabled the survival of our species. Homosapien babies have no fur or body hair, our babies are so vulnerable to the cold, to predators, helpless and defenceless. A mother’s chest is the closest a baby can get to being back in the womb. Her chest is nature’s incubator. Skin-to-skin contact regulates baby’s body temperature, heart rate and respiration, reduces stress hormones in the motherbaby dyad and keeps oxytoxin high and adrenaline low...which is what your body needs to ensure a good milk flow. Skin-to-skin encourages baby’s instincts to root for the breast, it helps a mother’s uterus to contract back to normal size and, I don’t know if you have noticed this one but, it promotes parental confidence. Having your baby on your chest makes you feel like a mother, like a powerful mother, a force to be reckoned with!
And the skin-to-skin benefits continue long after the newborn stage.
I’m going to try to blog about each one of these (but also others) in a little more detail in time so if you have a preference, which one should I start with? (Message me below)