This isn’t the first post on this subject you’ve read, is it? It is undoubtedly only one in a long browser history of articles you’ve looked up, trying to learn the best way to raise a healthy and happy baby. I know – I remember being a first-time mother well. May this be the last you read – there is only the one formula you need know.
A few years ago, there were two new mothers. One was a mother of a little girl with beautiful curly hair; the other was me, mother to a baby boy with a smile that brightened every room he entered.
My friend, the first of our friendship group to give birth, chose to breastfeed her daughter for six months – then tired and disheartened by constant interrupted sleep at night, swapped breastmilk for formula. Her daughter started sleeping through the night almost instantly, in her own cot, in her own room. From infancy, all meals were home-cooked; and to my disbelief and amazement, nappies were reusable.
My son was exclusively breastfed for most of his first year, and when solids were introduced, they came from convenient squeezable packets from the local supermarket. He has always worn disposable nappies, and for better or worse, co-slept with us as often as he slept in his own cot that first year.
"When solids were introduced, they came from convenient squeezable packets from the local supermarket." Image: iStock.
It’s difficult to find similarities between our two experiences of new motherhood, but there are two worthy of note. One, that we discovered our own rhythm that was right for our baby and ourselves; and two, that had we done everything by the book, everything that we are told to expect by well-meaning nurses, our experience of motherhood would likely have been for the worse.
There is a formula for baby’s first year that is often dictated to mothers, from as early as their first appointment with their GP in pregnancy, to the first day of motherhood. The formula changes somewhat between generations and cultures, but it goes something like this - baby will be breastfed, and for the first few weeks and months, feeds will go anywhere from between half an hour to an hour. Routines ought to be like clockwork; babies should nap and sleep at the same time every day. Solids should be introduced between four to six months, and babies trained to sleep in their cots from a very young age.
As new mothers will know, the information on newborns is overwhelming. Image: iStock.
It is right that we are told these things – it is endlessly useful to have in the back of your mind an indication of the average behaviour and patterns of a newborn baby. Sometimes though, like my friend, you might try your hardest to exclusively breastfeed your baby, but their tummies are just not filled for long enough at night. Sometimes, like me, sleeping next to your newborn is the only way either of you will ever get any sleep. Sometimes it suits your baby to nap at varying times, day to day. Sometimes the formula we are prescribed just doesn’t work out.
So here’s the one formula you should rely on – your desire to be a good mother to your child will help create the fact. If any aspect of this crazy journey doesn’t go as planned – feeding, sleeping, eating – know that there are alternatives and back-up options you needn’t ever feel guilty about employing. There is no one right way to do this first year of parenthood – so do it your way.
Mother-to-be reading this – I am again pregnant, just like you. Again, there will be two new mothers. I know the formula for baby’s first year that suits me as a mother– I promise that given enough time and room for flexibility, you’ll learn yours too.
What else do you think new mothers should know for the first 12 months?
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