Real moms talk about ad­vice

When it’s good, it’s very good. And when it’s bad... it’s ter­ri­ble, writes Mar­got Ber­tels­mann

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

RAIS­ING A NEW­BORN: You’ve prob­a­bly never wanted to per­form bet­ter at a job, yet been less trained for it. The first weeks with your tiny hu­man can be like ap­pear­ing on a sadis­tic Sur­vivorstyle game show: pan­icked, leak­ing breast­milk, and shed­ding hor­mones, you must drag your bat­tered, aching body through a se­ries of tasks de­signed to keep a new­born baby happy, and you must do it on two hours’ sleep un­der the watch­ful and of­ten crit­i­cal eyes of fam­ily, friends and health­care pro­fes­sion­als – who all have dif­fer­ent opin­ions on how well you are do­ing.

If this sounds hor­rific, it’s be­cause it can be, de­pend­ing on the qual­ity of the sup­port you are get­ting. Bad ad­vice can be dev­as­tat­ing, good ad­vice can save your san­ity. As you read through these “best and worst” nuggets of ad­vice real read­ers have re­ceived, bear the fol­low­ing say­ing in mind: Ad­vice is of­ten given away for free, be­cause the giver has no use for it her­self.

So al­ways in­ter­ro­gate the source of the ad­vice: what mo­ti­vates the ad­vice-giver? Is she telling you to do some­thing she wishes she had man­aged with her own baby, but didn’t?

Is her ad­vice prac­ti­cal for your sit­u­a­tion, or are your cir­cum­stances too dif­fer­ent for her way to fit yours? If the ad­vice is from a fel­low new mom or rel­a­tive, what are their mo­tives, and do they gen­uinely want to help? And if it’s from a health­care pro­fes­sional, are they re­spected in their field and is their ad­vice peer-re­viewed (in other words, do aca­demics agree on the course of ac­tion)?

FOL­LOW YOUR MOTH­ERLY IN­STINCT

Good ad­vice makes some­thing in your brain go: “click!”, like a light­bulb has been switched on, like the an­swer has been right there, but you just couldn’t see it in your con­fu­sion or ex­haus­tion.

It does not con­flict with your morals or your in­stincts – and yes, you do have a moth­er­ing in­stinct, even if you think right now that you know very lit­tle. If some­thing feels wrong to you (and es­pe­cially if it’s also mak­ing your baby un­happy), it prob­a­bly is.

So, in short, choose the sources of your ad­vice wisely. It may work to pick one or two peo­ple whose opin­ions you trust and de­cide be­fore­hand that these will be your go-to peo­ple when you need help. Dis­re­gard the noise around you. Be­cause

the truth is, noise there will be! Read on…

Your Baby reader Tanya van Niek­erk, from New­cas­tle, says the best ad­vice she re­ceived was be­ing told to baby­wear, breast­feed on de­mand and prac­tise babyled wean­ing af­ter six months. “Sadly, I was also mis­led to start solids too early. Peo­ple say if your baby doesn’t sleep through it means your breast­milk is not ‘strong’ enough. Luck­ily, this has shown up for the non­sense it is,” says the mother of two.

Frances Cor­reia, a Jozi mother of three, says the worst ad­vice she re­ceived by far was by peo­ple who in­sisted on know­ing how to make your baby sleep.

“My first child slept on a two-hour­son, two-hours-off rhythm and noth­ing could change that. If I had ac­cepted this ear­lier, I would have been hap­pier, and got­ten more sleep my­self,” she says.

Gezell An­drea Jo­hannes, a mom of three from Cape Town, says the worst ad­vice she re­ceived was to al­ter­nate for­mula bot­tles with breast­milk.

“It can upset a baby’s di­ges­tion, ap­par­ently. Luck­ily, I was also told to al­low my baby to self-wean,” she adds.

Gezell adds that mothers should stop be­ing judgmental and sham­ing es­pe­cially of par­ents’ feed­ing choices. “Breast­milk is best but if you are un­able to, for­mula will do the trick,” she says.

YOUR BABY IS AN IN­DI­VID­UAL Reader Mazzie Sakhile Mthun­zie, who has one child and is ex­pect­ing an­other, says she was ad­vised to cook por­ridge for her three-day-old baby. “This ad­vice is still dished out by the older gen­er­a­tion – don’t take it! I didn’t. I waited un­til my baby was five months old and I’m glad I did,” she adds.

Wilma Tal­jaard from Beth­le­hem, who has three boys, says the best ad­vice she re­ceived was that she must breast­feed on de­mand and ig­nore the clock.

Frances Cor­reia says her most trea­sured nugget of ad­vice was when a mid­wife and an oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist told her, in­de­pen­dently, that she should “re­spond to the needs of my child and al­low my child to de­velop at their own pace, not ac­cord­ing to a text­book or in com­par­i­son to my neigh­bour’s child”.

“It is pos­si­ble to be­come so blinded by mile­stones that we start to treat our chil­dren as ath­letes on a track in­stead of beau­ti­fully un­fold­ing hu­man be­ings, who are on their own jour­ney,” she adds.

On that note, says Jozi mom-of-one Faeza Is­mail, the most an­noy­ing thing peo­ple say to new mothers, in her opin­ion, is, “En­joy ev­ery mo­ment.” What? “Find me a sleep-de­prived mother whose child is bat­tling colic at 5pm and tell her to ‘En­joy ev­ery mo­ment’, I dare you!” she says. “It’s all very well to re­mind par­ents that the min­utes can drag while the years speed past, but try to do so tact­fully…”

The best thing you can do for a par­ent of a new­born, says Faeza, is teach them about the so-called “fourth trimester”.

This is a con­cept that has come about from the aware­ness that, due to hu­man be­ings’ large brains and small pelvises, our ba­bies are born af­ter nine months’ ges­ta­tion, and are rel­a­tively help­less and im­ma­ture when they are born, com­pared to other mam­mals, such as lambs or calves, for in­stance, who can walk from the day of birth.

The idea of the “fourth trimester” ac­knowl­edges that ba­bies ac­tu­ally need noth­ing more than a safe pair of arms to cud­dle in, warmth, milk and love, and loads and loads of sleep, for at least the first few months of their lives.

“They don’t need to be taught and stim­u­lated. They just need to ad­just to life out­side the womb. So turn down the pres­sure to be a per­fect par­ent to a new child prodigy,” says Faeza.

“And it is im­pos­si­ble to ‘spoil’ a new­born!” adds Yolandi Jor­daan, a mother of two from Jo­han­nes­burg, who is preg­nant with her third. “I hated be­ing told that. Hold your baby all you want. I also can’t stand be­ing asked if my baby was ‘good’. They are all ‘good’. They can’t be naughty or ma­nip­u­la­tive at this age!”

“I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber many aun­ties com­ing to visit me and my new­born at home,” re­mem­bers Capeto­nian Lizelle Fe­bru­ary, who has one child. “They watched me be­ing anx­ious and scared, and ev­ery time my baby cried, I just wanted them to leave and be alone and try to make my baby feel bet­ter. And then one of the aun­ties said, ‘Whoa, he’s got Mommy wrapped around his lit­tle fin­ger, hey?’ I’ve never hated a woman as much as I hated that aun­tie that minute. Luck­ily, my mom-in-law could see I was at break­ing point. She rushed them all out and she just loved and sup­ported me through those first few weeks un­til I gained my con­fi­dence.”

Pretoria reader Ar­lene Meyer was sup­posed to visit her fam­ily with her new baby when the baby was four days old. “But I woke up with tears stream­ing down my face,” she re­calls. “My hus­band said we should can­cel, but I in­sisted we go, be­cause I had never had the baby blues be­fore and I had no idea what was hap­pen­ing to me. I should have lis­tened to him and al­lowed him to look af­ter and nur­ture me, be­cause that’s what I needed that day. We could al­ways have vis­ited the next week­end.”

Feel­ing over­whelmed by bar­rages of ad­vice? Wor­ried if you are get­ting it right? Con­stantly sec­ond-guess­ing your­self? Then let us leave you with this last bit of ad­vice from Nicole Cader: “Don’t worry too much. Ba­bies are more re­silient than you think.”

Nicole says know­ing that helped her through the first few months – “Well, that and find­ing out that Maizena is ex­cel­lent for nappy rash!” YB

IS HER AD­VICE PRAC­TI­CAL FOR YOUR SIT­U­A­TION, OR ARE YOUR CIR­CUM­STANCES TOO DIF­FER­ENT FOR HER WAY TO FIT YOURS?

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