This is a special time in your life; one that you will always remember. It is also a challenging time, becoming a mother. Give yourself the best chance of making lots of happy memories and enjoying your maternity leave with our ten top tips.
1. Accept offers of help.
If family and friends offer to cook you a meal, do an errand or help in the house, say yes. If you try to be a supermum and do everything on your own you may end up being burnt-out and exhausted. You have an excuse to sit back and focus on looking after your baby. Let everyone else do the running around just this once.
2. Get active again.
The list of benefits is endless. It will get you out of the house, give you some structure in the week, help you feel better about your post-pregnancy body, help shift the baby weight, help prevent back pain, help get rid of the wobbly mummy tummy, help you feel great …
Walking with the buggy/ sling is great for starters, then build up to something that challenges your body just a little. Choose an activity which is suitable for post-natal clients. Your body is still in recovery from the pregnancy and birth, and you are still at risk of muscles strains because of the hormonal changes in your body. There are baby-friendly fitness classes out there which also have the advantage that you will meet other mums too.
3. Meet up with other mums.
Chatting to other mums who are at the same stage as you is fantastic. It gets you out of the house, out of your head, helps to ease anxieties you might have by sharing stories, and you might just make some new friends for life.
Try different social groups to meet like-minded mums depending on what you are into. Cuidiu parentlink is a great all-round scheme to connect local mums, or try La Leche League or Friends of Breastfeeding if you are breastfeeding, or a sling meet.
4. Happy baby = happy mum
Look out for tips from other mums on how to soothe your baby. Every baby is different and what works one month may not work the next, so it’s good to have a ‘toolbox’ of different strategies you can use. Baby massage is great for helping baby relax. Try lifting baby up to an open window to experience a breeze and a different view. Some babies like to be out seeing other mums and experiencing new situations and get easily bored. Other babies prefer less stimulation and would rather stay quietly at home.
Observe your baby carefully. Listen to what s/he is telling you and you will start to understand the cues and be able to stop the fussing before it turns into crying.
5. Read ‘What mothers do; especially when it looks like nothing’
Naomi Stadlen helps you to feel good about not ‘being able to get anything done’ . If you did not keep up with household chores today, it means that you gave your baby the time and attention that s/he needed instead. This is the mark of quality parenting, not of being disorganised or inefficient.
6. Plan some home-based entertainments.
There are days when you might want to get out of the house, but your baby has other ideas. Get in some good books and magazines. Have them to hand wherever you feed your baby, in case you end up being there for the whole afternoon. Start a new DVD box set, and watch them only when it’s you and your baby cuddled up on the sofa together. That way you will look forward to those times rather than feeling frustrated because you would rather be out.
7. Keep baby close.
When your baby is snuggled next you s/he is likely to be happier than spending lots of time in a crib/ rocker. Bonding is really important during these first months, as there will be fewer opportunities when you go back to work. Bed-sharing is lovely way to do this – check out the guidelines by James McKenna on how to do this safely (see below).
Baby-wearing (carrying baby in an ergonomic sling/ carrier) is not just a practical alternative to a buggy when you are out, but is also a great way to bond with your baby at home. I had difficulties breast feeding with my first baby and was very upset that feeding was more of a battle than a bonding experience. Wearing him close in the sling for a lot of the day helped us to have lots of happy moments together.
8. Listen to advice, but trust your own instincts first.
There is a saying ‘your baby is the teacher, you are the expert, and everyone else is there to give support’. When you observe and listen carefully to your baby s/he will tell you what they need from you. You can get great tips and advice from other parents and from books, but you are the expert on your own baby. If a piece of advice doesn’t resonate with you try saying ‘Thanks for the advice. I’ll think about it.’; then ditch it.
9. Join or start a ‘Self Renewal Group’
These groups are a based around a personal development book for mothers called ‘The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to reclaim, rejuvenate and re-balance your life’ by Renee Peterson Trudeau.
I joined a group of 5 mums soon after I had my daughter. Each month we do another chapter and consider such questions as bringing adventure back into your life, or what your own parents taught you about parenting. The questions that you answer together in the group are fairly probing and lead to a greater level of openness and sharing stories than you would get by just a casual meet up. I have found it to be a really rewarding experience.
10. Seek help if you need it.
If you are having a hard time in the first few months, get help. It might be that you feel your baby has a health issue that is being dismissed by your GP – seek a second opinion. If you feel your baby is unusually fussy, windy or has colic, try baby massage or cranio-sacral therapy. If you really want to breastfeed and are finding it difficult, call a private lactation consultant right away. If you feel depressed or anxious, tell your GP, join some groups/ classes for mums and babies and consider talking to a counsellor.
This is a time in your life you want to look back on with joy. It is too important to say to yourself ‘maybe tomorrow things will be better’. Maybe they will, but maybe they won’t. Take control of the situation, be proactive and get help. You and your baby deserve it.
James McKenna for safe co-sleeping guidelines http://cosleeping.nd.edu/
Cuidiu for parent link support groups http://www.cuidiu-ict.ie/
La Leche League https://www.lalecheleagueireland.com/
Friends of Breastfeeding http://www.friendsofbreastfeeding.ie/