Thursday, June 19, 2008

advice to new mothers

the support for my parenting magazine hatred has led me to write this post.

i find the advice they offer to new moms to be one-sided or empty. it makes me think of all the advice that i received that was actually helpful or the things i learned that i wish someone had told me about.

the best thing was talking to my aunt emily the day i went in to labor (not knowing it would be that day). she said, "you can do it. women have been doing it for generations. you can do it. and just when you think you can't, it's almost over." this is quite possibly the best advice i've ever received in regards to labor. the best.

i think that breastfeeding is the best option, but i think formula is so close that if you can't give your baby the best, it's not a big deal if you give him the next best. so if breastfeeding just isn't working out, don't feel like a terrible mother. your child will grow and develop just fine. there's no way to tell the difference between adults who were breastfed and bottle fed.

your newborn is not a reasonable creature. when i was reading books before ava was born, i thought i'd take ava home and teach her the difference between night and day and when to nap and when to eat. . .hah! ava was not even really all that aware of me except in the sense she could see me and i fed her. there was no reasoning, no convincing, no making of any points. that was a little scary at first.

don't let other people tell you things about your baby (just your doctor). i had a visitor after ava was born who was convinced ava was constipated. i didn't think ava was, but this person was convinced and kept telling me so. this made me worry and stress. you know what? i was right. because i'd been around ava for a week already and i knew how she worked. all that worry and stress just made for a few unpleasant days when they could have been fine. you should trust yourself as a mother because even if you don't know that much about kids, you know your kid.

what advice would you give to new mothers? and what was the best advice you received?


Liz said...

Oh, man, this could take a while! :) Just kidding. But I do have a very strong opinion with regard to infant training books (i.e. The Baby Whisperer, Baby Wise, Happiest Baby on the Block, etc.). When I had Soren, I devoured these books and tried religiously to follow their advice. Mostly with sleep training. Soren was not a good sleeper. Well, he was a great sleeper, but he was not good at falling asleep on his own. So, I tried picking him up, and putting him down, picking him up and putting him down. Over and over and over. I tried rocking him. I tried changing his feeding schedule to try to better facilitate sleeping. Yadda yadda yadda. And what do I know now after that hellish four/five month period? I HATE those books. I think the only thing they accomplish is to create an anxiety-ridden mom who learns only to stifle her intuition and instead bow to the "expertise" of a stranger. Creating self-doubt in a mother isn't a good solution, people.

When Anders was born, I vowed to hold him and cuddle with him and follow my heart. We still had hard times occasionally, but nothing like the struggle I experienced with Soren. And I think Anders came out on top for knowing that his mother was more interested in caring for his needs than following a four-point chart designed by who-knows-who claiming to have such-and-such a title.

My advice: Don't read the gazillion books on parenting and infant training. Just follow your mother's intuition that you've been blessed with. Heavenly Father is your best friend, not Tracy Hogg.

Amber Marie said...

Amen! Such a good post. My cousin-in-law was just terribly harassed by her pediatrician. The old fart was telling her things mother should make decisions about and she was NOT asking his opinion. Anyway we gave her all the advice you just wrote about. It is so true that you need to figure out what works for you and your wee one and tell everyone else to shut it.

Hopefully this next one will be much more relaxing for you ;)

redstarmama said...

Yes, yes, yes!!! I totally agree with Liz when she says to follow your intuition. Your baby is a completely new individual, and you are the closest person to that new individual. No one knows you or your baby better. And no newborn fits into any pattern written in a book.

When I was pregnant with Declan someone asked me if I was scared of labor. Being the historian I am, I answered that women have been giving birth in far less pleasant circumstances for thousands of years, and we're still here. It has to end sometime, usually with a baby, so why stress? Of course, for me it ended with a c-section, but I still got a baby out of it.

And for second time new moms, my advice is "This, too, shall pass." Getting used to having two small unreasonable people to handle is hard. It's frenetic and hair-raising at times. But you get used to it and you find your rhythm and it's great.

Bug said...

The best advice I got was to trust myself. I have to admit that at fist I had little faith in myself to begin with so there wasn't much to trust. I remember thinking, "mother's intution, when do you get that?" Well, it comes- I promise. And there really are times that only you know what to do. That is a great feeling- to know that being the mom actually comes with knowledge.

Sarah said...

I have no advice for mothers, obviously, but I'm amazed at everything written in your post and in response to your post. I read a parenting magazine at my sister's once and all I remember is that movie stars get a c-section and a tummy tuck at the same time. (You know, useful knowledge.) So that's why I think you should submit your posts to Parenting Magazine instead. I know, the irony . . . but there's something they're all missing.

Sarah said...

Keep up the good work, moms :)

Annie said...

I actually subscribe (gasp!) to Parents magazine, mostly for the section on the funny things kids say and for the crafts and recipes, which promptly get torn out and put in a folder never to be seen again. I usually find the articles to be somewhat informative, but then again I always keep in mind that I really know what's best for my kids and what is realistic. I always chuckle to myself when I read the advice stuff, especially when they're talking about tantrums or something of that nature and the advice is to speak calmly and be reasonable. Riiiiiigghhttt. That's realistic. Other parenting magazines I've read have all been like you've described. They're shallow and unhelpful. At least Parents tries to be fair and balanced most of the time. Anywho...

The best advice I give out is to never get comfortable because kids, especially babies, change all the time. You think you've got them figured out and the next thing you know it's like they've had a personality transplant.

And, I would second (or third or fourth) the trusting yourself as a parent. And kid's don't break very easily. I remember being so terrified with my first about his eating when he was a baby, perhaps it's because the formula can says "not following these direction exactly will cause harm to your baby". I was always worried he'd implode if the bottle didn't get mixed just right. Guess, what? He didn't. Babies are tough.

The best advice I got was to make sure my kids know I love them every day, multiple times. There are going to be days, even weeks, when everyone is grumpy and getting on each others nerves. Giving the babes a hug or a kiss or something helps you to surface above the muck and helps them to feel safe even if things are a bit rough.