Dear New Mama and Papa,
Congratulations on your dear new little one! I am so excited for you.
There are always so many wonderful things about cuddling a newborn – getting to know your new little person, baby smells, baby sounds, and dreaming about what the future may hold.
In the early days, weeks and years – your baby will have an intense need to be close to you. At times, this can feel wonderful and empowering. At others, this is very overwhelming. Know that the closeness in this time establishes a healthy attachment for you. This physical closeness also ensures a more abundant supply when it comes to breastfeeding. What you are doing is so important and so much more than you know.
If you listen to your gut, it will lead you. The answers are in YOU. Follow your instincts and you can’t go wrong. If things feel right, they probably are. If things feel off, you most likely know this before a doctor or friend. Whether you are a first time or fifth time parent, each child is new to you and a fully formed individual. There may be technical knowledge you learn along the way, but YOU will come to know your child best.
In the midst of challenges, remember that even with a bumpy start, things can get better. Get help or support now. Talk to an LC or a friend (or call me!). The first few days don’t have to determine the next year. Looking back at the challenges that felt like mountains in the moment, seem so fleeting now. And don’t let any guilt hold you back from growing and moving on.
If breastfeeding doesn’t turn out to be what you thought it would, know that you can still find what works best for your situation and only you get to say what is success in your life – no one else. If that means that you are able to give your baby pumped milk be proud of all the work you are doing to pump for your baby. If you breastfeed with an SNS with your breastmilk, donated milk or formula in it or need to use a nipple shield or ANY change you didn’t anticipate – find a way to let it go and to trust that you are doing the best you can. There are many ways to love, bond and feed your baby – make all your feedings in your arms and you can’t go wrong.
Respond to your baby… you will learn your baby’s cues and your baby will learn to trust and love… a great thing for further relationship comparisons too. :) Being responsive to your child isn’t about spoiling; it is about love, trust, and health. A baby who is held or carried in your arms or in a sling is not just a lucky baby but one who is getting what they truly need.
When I was pregnant with Z, I was amazed that people asked me if I planned on putting him down enough! They seemed concerned that I’d get things done with A & S. or give A & S attention. I told them that I was looking forward to holding him, nursing him, using my many slings while spending time as a family… it goes so fast. And they got to love each other too. Z is running around and growing every day. I never regret any of the time spent holding, nursing, rocking or sleeping with my babies. Looking back at them now – I never, ever think I held them too much or hug them too often.
If you get advice that doesn’t feel right – like holding off on feedings, or crying-it-out, or starting solids too soon – look to your baby for the answers. No person or book can tell you what your baby and your heart can. Read your baby as you would your favorite book. Their cues can help you to know them and they will also learn to anticipate and know you and your cues as well. You are building a lasting relationship. No time spent with your baby is a waste. Just ask any parent who has to go back to work soon or who has lost their precious bundle too soon.
Stand up for your child. If you are considering a medical procedure, be confident in knowing that your child should be treated as any person deserves to be treated. If something is upsetting to an adult it can also be upsetting to your child. If something would be considered painful to an adult, it is painful for an infant. Whether you are in public or at home, your baby will need you in many ways. Your body, your presence, breastfeeding and comfort will ensure your child know you are there for them. This will hold true in later years at dentist, doctor, playgroups, school, sports, and so many other times.
Mothering through breastfeeding has become not only a motto in my life, but the way I parent… breastfeeding has been our first food, our comfort, our boo-boo fix, our tantrum calmer, our teething & pain easer, the super-glue for bonding, the illness reducer, the one-size-fits-all natural and effective way to satisfy my child’s needs!
I breastfed A for 2 ½ years, S for 3 ½ years and Z is “still” nursing at 3 ½ years as well. That doesn’t mean you have to nurse as long (or short) as I did or your friends or family do. But take time to soak it in while you can. The things I love and will miss about nursing my babies are the way they would make eye contact, the little touches to my hair, the hand holding, the calming sensation for both of us and the super-sleep magic. I used to love those midnight sessions where I could have my baby all to myself… no interruptions and no interference. It passes faster than you can imagine when you look back even though it feels so intense right now.
If you have a partner, let each other know that you are both important, that things are going to change in more ways than you could anticipate and that your baby will love you both. At times, baby’s need is more geared towards the primary parent (if you are breastfeeding this is especially you right now) but this is natural. Overtime if your partner is there for comfort, diaper changes, baths, solids, baby-wearing, and more…bonding will happen for you both and you will each find special tools for comfort and ways to relate to your child. And it will not be the same and that will be OK too. You will find your way back to each other if you are gentle and loving with each other.
I am NOT an expert on your child or your family… the lactation consultant, doctor, midwife, doula, LLL Leader, WIC/ BFing USA Counselor, the neighbor, the teacher, the best friend, the nurse, the dentist, the therapist, and the media… not one of these knows your child as well as you (or will soon). You are the one who has spent the days and nights and hours… even if you JUST had your baby less than 24 hours ago or are a new parent – you have still spent more time and energy and LOVE in your child.
If you got this far in my letter without falling asleep, I hope that you can rest & sleep with your little one and feel that you are loved. You can do this! Take it one feeding, one hour, one night at a time. :)