THE WORST THINGS TO SAY TO A STRUG­GLING MUM

If you’re strug­gling to cope with your baby, you’re not alone. Th­ese new mums share how they tackle the chal­lenges.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

Th­ese rst­time moth­ers open up about the emo­tional roller­coaster they face as they ad­just to their new lives with a baby.

Yanni Ang found her­self in the throes of de­spair just days af­ter giv­ing birth to twins about a year ago.

A first-time mother, she had planned to breast­feed her ba­bies, but could not do so be­cause her milk sup­ply had not kicked in.

“I cried ev­ery day be­cause I felt very help­less and use­less. I felt that I could not do any­thing for my ba­bies,” says Yanni, 36, an as­sis­tant ad­min­is­tra­tive man­ager in a hos­pi­tal.

Even when her milk sup­ply did come in about a week later, it was in­suf­fi­cient for her twins, Os­car and Olivia. She ended up hav­ing to sup­ple­ment ev­ery feed with for­mula milk.

Al­ready ex­hausted from hav­ing to care for two in­fants, the anx­i­ety from her low milk sup­ply made things worse. She stopped breast­feed­ing af­ter one month.

“I felt low for months af­ter that,” she says.

Her ex­pe­ri­ences may par­al­lel the emo­tional roller­coaster many women face in their rst year as moth­ers. High points of joy and de­light are of­ten matched by low pe­ri­ods of ex­haus­tion and frus­tra­tion as they struggle to ad­just to their new lives.

They need help, but when help ar­rives, it is not in a form that they want or ex­pect. Take, for ex­am­ple, so­cial worker Shirley Teen (pic­tured next page, top), 39, who could not get her baby daugh­ter to latch on to her breast.

Her friends who were moth­ers told her that this was all “part of the process”, and that she would be able to “push through”.

“Such com­ments only made me feel even worse about my­self,” says Shirley.

“Their suc­cess sto­ries made me won­der: Could it be me? Per­haps I’m not tough enough?”

Af­ter sev­eral months and af­ter suf­fer­ing from sore, cracked and bleed­ing nip­ples, she gave up breast­feed­ing and opted to pump out her breast milk in­stead.

What should I do now?

The help from con­fine­ment nan­nies and pae­di­a­tri­cians may not al­ways be what a new mother would like, ei­ther.

Stay-at-home mum Kay Tan (pic­tured, over­leaf), 27, sent her con­fine­ment nanny home af­ter only one week in­stead of the usual month, be­cause she caught the nanny re­peat­edly pre­par­ing milk for her son right af­ter chang­ing his di­a­per – with­out rst wash­ing her hands.

The nanny also kept leav­ing her baby unat­tended atop the di­a­per chang­ing ta­ble, de­spite Kay’s reminders to stop do­ing so.

Af­ter she sacked the nanny, Kay’s mother, a house­wife, came to help her.

A few weeks later, how­ever, the young mum ran into an­other prob­lem: A curt pae­di­a­tri­cian.

When she took Henry to the doc­tor for his rst-month check-up, the in­fant ar­rived for the ap­point­ment wail­ing. Kay could not pla­cate him and the pae­di­a­tri­cian de­clared ir­ri­ta­bly that she couldn’t as­sess him.

“She told me to gure it out and sent us home with his health book­let blank,” Kay says.

“To have a doc­tor drown you in crit­i­cism when you’re just try­ing to stay afloat as a new mother was com­pletely dis­cour­ag­ing. I cried buck­ets on the way home.”

She says that she also felt “ter­ri­bly blue” in the rst few months af­ter Henry’s birth.

Part of the dis­tress was caused by the fact that she didn’t know what to do with her in­fant, es­pe­cially when he cried.

“I loved my baby so, so much, but it was just me and him, his cry­ing, and ev­ery long night stretch­ing end­lessly ahead of us. I felt fear­ful and lost,” says Kay, a for­mer teacher whose 28-year-old hus­band works in the me­dia in­dus­try.

Things started to look up as Henry grew more re­spon­sive and she learnt how to com­mu­ni­cate with him.

“I re­mem­ber the mo­ment when I felt that things were be­gin­ning to look up. It was when my baby rst smiled at me. I will al­ways re­mem­ber the slight, gummy smile he gave me when I smiled down at him, ly­ing in his cra­dle,” she says.

“His head was cocked to the side. His eyes were xed on mine and he blinked slowly, his smile not fad­ing. He looked like he adored me. I felt like a whole new world had cracked open then.”

Why won’t Baby eat?

Other new moth­ers struggle with prob­lems of in­ter­rupted sleep and chil­dren who are picky eaters.

Se­nior public re­la­tions man­ager Yas­min Baey (pic­tured be­low), 31, says her 20-month-old son Asher wakes up mul­ti­ple times ev­ery night, whin­ing, with his eyes closed.

“I do crave the un­in­ter­rupted sleep I used to have be­fore I had a child, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get that back,” she says.

Kay is per­se­ver­ing with her son Henry, now 22 months old, whom she says is “an ex­tremely picky eater”. She tries vary­ing the of­fer­ings, but her son re­jects most foods. “If he ac­tu­ally chooses to eat, it’s en­tirely ran­dom what he de­cides to sam­ple for the day,” she says.

Feel­ing like a fail­ure, she fret­ted end­lessly about his nutri­tion in­take. She also used to cry af­ter ev­ery sin­gle re­jected meal, which hap­pened about six out of seven days a week.

Now, she is less emo­tional and says she has learnt to take the on­go­ing chal­lenge more eas­ily.

‘‘Ev­ery­one has their own chal­lenges. What works for one mother may not work for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all way of be­ing a mother.‘‘

She still pre­pares all three of Henry’s meals ev­ery day and hopes that he will one day learn to eat ev­ery­thing.

“My ad­vice to other moth­ers like me would be to try not to take things so hard and try to laugh, even though many things will go awry,” she says.

Yas­min agrees, adding that her own ex­pe­ri­ences in the rst year have taught her to be less rigid. Her plans for the day have of­ten been de­railed, es­pe­cially when her son sud­denly falls sick.

She has learnt to “go with the ow” more, and to re­act quickly ac­cord­ing to chang­ing cir­cum­stances rather than get frus­trated with the sit­u­a­tion.

Yas­min says: “I learnt a lot about my­self. It was a process of self-dis­cov­ery as I threw my­self into this new role of be­com­ing a mother. All things con­sid­ered, I ac­tu­ally think I en­joyed it.”

Shirley says that ev­ery mother needs to gure out her own style of par­ent­ing.

“Ev­ery­one has their own chal­lenges. What works for one mother may not work for you. There’s no one-size-ts-all way of be­ing a mother,” she says.

Yanni adds: “Don’t bother so much about what oth­ers say. Do what you think is right and best for your­self and your baby.”

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