Baby Love author Robin Barker is one of Australia's most trusted parenting experts. The registered nurse, midwife and parentcraft nurse with 30 years experience with families and babies, gives her advice on the 5 biggest concerns new mums have and why they should can stop worrying.
1. Am I failing at breastfeeding?
There are many complex reasons why breastfeeding is abandoned as often as it is, reasons which are usually out of the control of the women involved. Subsequently many women worry themselves silly over their 'breastfeeding failure' and feel intensely guilty.
There are many times during parenthood when things don't go as planned and there's a discrepancy between what we aim for and what we do.
Few women make a conscious choice to go for formula over breast, rather they turn to formula when their breastfeeding doesn't work out; babies have to be fed after all.
Many women need to mourn when their breastfeeding is abandoned. If necessary find the right person to help you through then try to forget about it. It is extremely unlikely in the context of a loving home that there is going to be a negative outcome based solely on whether your baby was breastfed or not. I very much doubt you will still be worrying about the breastfeeding when your baby graduates from university.
2. Is my baby getting enough sleep?
The intensity and anxiety surrounding baby and toddler sleep has increased exponentially in the last 20 years.
Owing to a range of growth and developmental factors - and childhood illnesses in the toddler years - babies do not, in general, sleep the way adults sleep.
This is not a recent phenomenon of the last 20 years. It has been ever thus. After ruling out hunger and illness how much your baby sleeps/doesn't sleep is largely down to luck. Healthy babies in loving homes who are given the opportunity to sleep do not suffer developmentally because of 'lack of sleep.'
Older babies' and toddlers' brains don't shrink if they are left to their own devices in order to teach them to sleep - in other words the dreaded controlled-crying - for a couple of nights (nor does it make them grow up into maladjusted adolescents).
Sharing beds (safely) with older babies and toddlers as a means of living with their chaotic sleep is fine and doesn't 'spoil' them (nor does it make them grow up to be smarter, more caring adolescents). No one - including me - has the definitive word on getting babies/toddlers to sleep how we'd like them to. If some guru's method doesn't work for you it's their fault, not yours. Try someone else or learn to live with what's happening. Above all don't take it as a personal failure.
3. Is my baby is a risk of SIDS?
I doubt there's a mother with a small baby for whom the chance of this happening hasn't crossed her mind at least once.
Without wishing to minimise the devastation to the parents and family following the unexpected death of a baby, the number of unexpected deaths with or without any apparent cause is thankfully small. And, thanks to twenty plus years of excellent research and the recommendations for safe sleeping based on that research, the numbers continue to decline.