Years of celebrating incredible women such as my mom, my grandma, my sister and most recently my mother in law, I have finally joined the troop of mothers as I celebrate my first Mother’s Day today. Today marks me being a mother for 5 months and 2 days (I know, I’m such a veteran). Now, I could say I need no gift, and that Ziana’s love, health and happiness is plenty (which it is and my utmost priority), but it doesn’t hurt to have yet another day to be spoiled and another excuse for a gift for all the things I so desperately need (my Lust List keeps expanding).
Shortly after becoming a mom, I learned that there’s something called a “mommy cult”. The word cult may have a bad rap, but in this instance, it’s not so bad at all. When Ziana was only a few days old, I posted an adorable pic of my newborn on Facebook with a caption along the lines of getting no sleep and soliciting the advice of other mamas. I was overwhelmed with the sweet comments, advice, direct messages and texts I received from other moms. As most of you know, some Facebook friends are friends that you haven’t seen or spoken to in decades. Regardless of how long it’s been since you’ve seen this friend, a fellow mom will still reach out to you. It’s like as soon as you become a mom, there’s that instant connection that any female can relate to, hence the term cult. Within these comments and messages was a slew of advice and many conflicting one another, so then how do you determine what’s right?
One thing I’ve learned in this journey so far, is that, aside from some glaring exceptions (and don’t get me started on anti vaccinations), nothing is right or wrong when raising your child. While one thing might work with one child, it may not work with the other. As an investment professional, I’m very analytical and tend to side with parenting advice that’s often backed up with clinical studies. In addition to the unofficial Mom Cult Encyclopedia, we have a plethora of information from Google, which again can give you conflicting advice, so you kind of have to pick what works for you. They say that even if it’s your first time, trust your mommy gut, because you ultimately know your child the best, and that is precisely what I did. While I listened carefully to all advice and read an exorbitant amount online, I eventually decided to try tactics that resonated with me.
So if you’re a mom to be, a new mom, a second time mom looking to switch things up or just here for the read to see how I’m dealing, I decided to share some quick insights on how I’m managing this new chapter in my life.
Even if it’s your first time, trust your instinct! You spend the most amount of time with your child, so you’ll know if he/she is not well. I find that since I spend so much time with my daughter, I can even estimate her weight and height to get a gauge of if she’s growing or not. Eventually, you start learning exactly what your baby needs or wants, it’s like having a secret language only you two understand – you learn how to interpret her cries, whines and gestures.
My first piece of advice still stands, trust your instinct. However, a lot of times, you just need to try different things to see what works. You may have 5 different pieces of advice for one thing. Sometimes the first thing you try works, while other times, third times a charm.
Ask your doctor to prescribe you the prescription nipple cream and don’t wait for your nipples to start chapping to use it! Start applying it even before giving birth to prep your nipples and apply it after each feed to avoid the dreaded dry, cracked nipple syndrome.
Do go see a lactation consultant. They’re a great, free resource (for us Canadians that is) that can help ensure your baby is latching properly and getting enough milk. There’s no harm in going in regularly until you get the hang of it. Breastfeeding should eventually stop hurting and if you find the pain isn’t subsiding with time, a lactation consultant can help determine the cause and provide solutions.
If you find your newborn is falling asleep while nursing and waking up again in an hour to feed, strip your baby down to nothing but his/her diaper. The cold will keep them awake long enough to fill up their little bellies. Some moms even use an ice pack to keep their baby awake!
I’m lucky that my daughter is a great sleeper so far. I’m not sure if it’s luck or a combination of the following things that did the trick.
First off, a baby will only sleep a longer stretch if their bellies are full. You can try a “dream feed” which is feeding them for longer than you normally would. If you typically feed for 15 minutes, try a 30 minute feed. If my daughter doesn’t have a dream feed, I find that she tends to cluster feed in the evenings right before going to bed.
At first, my daughter was mixing up her days and nights. She’d be asleep all day and wide awake at night. I read several articles explaining that her circadian rhythm may be off and to adjust it, I should create distinct patterns between day and night. During the day, I’d keep all the blinds open so that she would be exposed to natural sunlight, let her nap while I was watching TV and keep upbeat music on. At night time, I’d dim the lights and create a calm, soothing atmosphere. Within a week her schedule got adjusted.
Another thing that I swear by is White Noise. I’ve been putting her to bed with the use of white noise from week 1 – you can YouTube it, buy a noise machine or even it stream it on iTunes.
Lastly, babies are creatures of habit and thrive on routine! Try creating a night time routine which triggers it’s sleep time and keep it the same every night. Even when I’m out at a friend’s place or on vacation, I try my best to mimic our night time routine I do at home.
Every time I take Ziana for a check up at the doctor’s, I always ask where she is faring in the height and weight growth chart. Doctors will advise what percentile your baby is in based on her age and region. The way percentiles work is the higher the percentile the bigger your baby is relative to other babies his/her age for the specified region (North America in my case). For example, at birth, my daughter’s weight was 8th percentile and height was 82nd percentile. This means that 8% of the babies at birth are lighter than her and 82% of babies at birth are shorter than her – so she’s well below average for weight (less than 50%) and well above average on height (no surprise there!). At her one month check up, she dropped to 7th percentile weight, and although it’s not a lot and my doctor didn’t seem to be worried; since she’s on the lighter side, it didn’t sit well with me. I expressed my concern to my doctor and she recommended that I force an extra feed or two daily. I took my doctor’s advice and she shot up to the 15th percentile the following month. Now, it’s perfectly okay if your baby was born say in the 5th percentile for weight/height and continues to track at 5th percentile, however it would be very concerning if your baby dropped significantly and continued to drop – especially if say your baby was born 50th percentile weight and within two months dropped to 10th. I’m sure your doctor would address such a concern; but it’s just something I personally like to also keep track of.
Lastly, in this beautiful whirlwind we call motherhood, it’s easy to lose yourself. That is something I promised myself I wouldn’t do. I have a strong belief that in order to best take care of your child, you have to be the best version of yourself. So do take some time out for yourself – go for a massage, have a girls night, ask friends and family for help so you can have a break. Personally, towards the end of my pregnancy, I started piano lessons. I took a break after giving birth and picked it up again around 6 weeks postpartum. Every Monday, at 8pm, for 45 minutes, it’s my time, to work on me to do something I’ve always longed to do. And may it be when she’s down for the night, taking a nap during the day or even crying wanting me to pick her up, but I’ll squeeze in 10 minutes of practice. Oddly enough, if Ziana’s having a fit, as soon as I start playing, she quiets down to listen – it’s as if, even she appreciates my me time!