I think at some point in their parenthood journey, every mum and dad-to-be is offered some kind of unsolicited advice. I asked my friends for the good, the bad and the downright ugly advice that they were given about labour and coping with a newborn baby. Interestingly, the same few subjects came up over and over again.
The worst advice
Stop cuddling your baby so much; you’re spoiling them. I reckon this nugget of advice pops up more than any other. ‘If you ‘give in’ and respond to your newborn every time they cry, you’ll create a rod for your own back.’ What a load of… (I’d best not go there.) Not only are you fulfilling your newborn’s needs by comforting them when they need it but there is a wealth of evidence proving that cuddling your baby has amazing benefits for both of you. Just eight seconds of hugging can release oxytocin, a hormone which ‘not only makes us feel good, but helps to reduce blood pressure, lower stress levels and generally improves our mood.’ So next time someone accuses you of spoiling your baby, shove this article down their throat and give that baby a great big hug.
Breast is best/formula makes them sleep. Another subject that it seems everyone feels the need to weigh in on is how you feed your baby. Whether you plan to breast or formula feed, no doubt someone will have some kind of pushy advice to share about how you should be doing one or the other. It’s already a stressful enough time without someone introducing more worries about whether you’ve made the right choice about how to feed your child. Worryingly there were reports of unconstructive advice like this coming from healthcare professionals who tell breastfeeding mums to introduce formula in the first few days of life to help the baby sleep better or formula feeding parents being made to feel bad because everyone knows ‘breast is best’. Do what works best for you and your family. Full stop.
The best advice
Ditch the birth plan. I hear of so many people planning their labour to the very last detail. But labour is really unpredictable; even if you’ve gone through it before, you have no idea how you’re going to feel this time, how well you’ll cope with the pain and how your labour is going to play out. Having a rough idea of how you’d like things to go is great, but a rigid plan could just end up causing disappointment and create unnecessary stress because things aren’t going the way you had hoped. Of course it’s important to know what your options are and the the effects of pain relief or interventions, but use that to prepare yourself for whatever may happen.. and then just go with the flow!
Sleep when the baby sleeps. I’m sure you’ve all heard this one; it’s definitely controversial as it falls under both the good and bad categories depending who you talk to! But as it’s my blog I get to choose… and I don’t think I’d have survived if I didn’t sleep when my baby was napping! Sure, at times, chores fell by the wayside and exercise went out the window, but if it’s a case of that or feeling like a zombie all day, I’d much rather catch up on some ZZZs. My little boy has just turned a year old and has finally started to sleep well but if he has a bad night and I’ve got time the next day, I’ll still be taking a nap if I get the chance!
If you’ve read this far, I’m going to pretend that means this isn’t unsolicited. My advice is simple: remember, no two children are the same, don’t worry yourself over everything you hear or read and trust your gut (there’s a lot to be said for a mother’s instinct!).