Getting easier? Perhaps not. It may feel as if the last 10 weeks have passed in a blur, leaving you wondering just where each day has gone. Babies absorb an incredible amount of time and energy, much of it repetitive and even tedious. Newborn babies are wonderful, but they are also very vulnerable and dependent. It is only with time, maturity and careful nurturing that they will learn how to care for themselves independently.
Try not to underestimate the importance of what you are doing. Although it may not be apparent just now, your hard work will pay off.
Many parents feel guilty if they don’t feel as if every moment with their baby is wonderful. We have an expectation that this should be one of the most satisfying, contented periods in our lives. When it isn’t or fails to come up to what we have always dreamed of, disappointment follows.
Aim to be honest about how you feel and find some like minded friends. Parent groups, or Playgroups can be excellent for emotional support, so can friends, neighbours and other parents who have had similar experiences. You may find parents to connect with on the Huggies Forum. Avoid feeling as if you are the only person who feels as you do. The reality is that feelings and attitudes around parenting are more common than what we often acknowledge.
Of all the cares you provide for your baby, meeting their nutritional needs will be one of the most time consuming. Breastfeeding, bottle feeding or a combination of both, takes time and planning. One of the advantages of breastfeeding is that it is portable and transportation is not a major issue.
Some women feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public and aim not having to feed if they go out. This can also be the case for mothers of babies who are distracted or fidget and fuss during feeds. Although breastfeeding is natural, it still requires a learned set of skills and behaviours for it to become relatively easy. Don’t worry if you are still experiencing some breastfeeding issues. Support is available from your child health nurse, The Australian Breastfeeding Association or Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand.
Your baby will have developed some sleeping patterns by now. Perhaps they fall asleep straight after their first morning feed, or this is when they like to stay awake. Mid-morning may be an unsettled, wakeful time for them and you have trouble encouraging them to go off to sleep. The afternoons may find you treading the pavements and pushing them in their pram because this is the only place they will settle.
Sleep changes constantly throughout a child’s life. It is not a static or stable condition and does reflect other changes going on in their lives. As parents, we can try to have predictable, secure daily patterns in our lives, this is not always possible. Older children do need to get dropped off to prep and groceries need to be bought. In essence, lives need to be lived.
Try to fit your baby into your lifestyle and be flexible about how things are done. Each day is unlikely to be exactly the same as the one before. Take comfort in the fact that it will be the overall patterns of care which your baby receives over the months of their life, rather than the precise times they receive this care which ultimately counts.
You’ll find your baby can bear some of their weight on their little legs now. Hold them securely upright and see how they can support themselves for a moment or two. When your baby is tired, hungry or cranky won’t be the best time for this of course. Watch their little face as they concentrate on trying to balance.
More vocalising, cooing and even blowing raspberries this week. In fact your baby’s salivary glands may seem to be working overtime, causing you to wonder if just perhaps, they could be teething. The answer is no, unless they are doing this at a particularly early stage of their development. Generally, the first teeth erupt through the gums after 6 months. Though this, like everything else is dependent on individual differences.
You’ll be noticing your baby’s different cries by now. Tired and sleepy ’I’m still awake’ whinges; hungry and bawling, demanding cries; even those cries which just tell you they need a reassuring cuddle. Some parents subscribe to the view that interpreting cries can be done by listening to the sounds their baby makes. Others listen to the pitch and intensity of the cry and the feelings this generates in themselves. There is no one right way to respond. As long as parents are sensitive and do attend to their crying baby, without leaving them to “cry it out” this is what is ultimately important.
Babies of this age cannot modify or change their behaviour as a result of how their parents care for them. They are simply too young and their brain too immature to be capable of this.
Your baby’s only means of communication is their cry and until they can talk and describe what is wrong, you will need to develop some deduction skills and trust your inner voice.
Have a little flexibility with feed times and use your baby’s cues or signals to let you know they are hungry. Searching for the nipple or teat when you are holding them, putting their fists in their mouth, not settling or just a couple of hours since they last fed are all hints they are probably hungry.
Just as you look for your baby’s cues that they are hungry, aim to be just as sensitive and alert to the signs that they are full. No longer sucking, turning away from the nipple or teat, fussing when laid down in a feeding position or even going to sleep towards the end of their feed are all hints that they are satisfied.
When parents override these signals that their baby gives and continue offering milk, this can, over time, teach their baby to ignore the signs of satiety (or fullness) that their body is giving them. This can lead to food issues in the long term.
Healthy, well fed babies are able to tell when they are full and don’t want any more milk. As parents it is important that we listen to them.
If you are still feeling teary at times give yourself permission to do so. Hormonal fluctuations in mothers are still common at this stage so feeling cross, sad, overwhelmed and exhausted are all within the realms of normal. However, if you are feeling very anxious and unable to cope with each day, this may be a sign you could be depressed.
Postnatal depression affects around 16% or women who give birth in Australia, making it a reasonably common condition. If you feel you could be depressed or are not enjoying your baby as much as you could be, speak with your child health nurse or G.P. Check organisations that can help you with specific advice on what you could do.
Organisations to seek help include:
PANDA Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia provides advice for new parents. This site has an on-line checklist which can help to identify if depression is present and what you can do about receiving some support. You can also call the PANDA National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 7.30pm AEST/ADST) or email: email@example.com.