Message to new mothers

A Message To New Mothers

Becoming a new mother has a massive impact on every aspect of ourselves. I hope that you might find some comfort in the following or pass this message on to a friend who is currently wrestling with the changes that we experience at this junction.
It is ok if it is not what you thought it would be like. It is ok if, as a new mum you are finding it more challenging to transition into a new way of being, with your new human being. The images of motherhood that we are exposed to, rarely represent the raw messiness and sheer exhaustion that occurs when we become a new parent; be that for the first time or more.

Becoming a parent to a new-born is under-estimated, under-explained and thereby misunderstood. However, what you are experiencing is entirely typical. In time, you will find that the seas of emotion quell, your confidence rises as together you develop a language, that only you both will understand. But as you get through each day, know that what you are undertaking is a seismic emotional, psychological, and developmental transition that is referred to as Matrescence -reminiscent of the re-organisation of self that occurs at adolescence, which may help to contextualise how you may feel.

This natural transition phase can often be even more challenging when your baby’s care needs, and lack of sleep, overwhelm everything that you are thinking and feeling. Just as every aspect of your baby is immature, including your relationship with them, so too is their sleep profile. This will now mature at a rapid rate over the first 6 months of life and continue to do so until age 5-7 years of age. However, never so rapidly than in this first half of the first year of life. This means that their sleep will begin to get more organised, their brain will begin to be able to maintain longer stretches of sleep, specifically by night and in time by day, and their sleep will no longer be governed by a satiety either.

To help align with the natural maturation of normative sleep, you can begin to foster certain practices that may help. You can promote your baby’s circadian rhythm by developing a regular wake time and having a post-sleep ritual that includes a feed outside of the bedroom, taking advantage of natural and bright light, to help anchor the wake-up time in the day that may lead to more regulation as the day unfolds.

Your baby’s sleep need in the early few months occurs regularly, within 1-2 hours of begin awaking. As they stay awake, sleep pressure builds, that is then relieved by a nap. Understanding the frequency of this need can help you understand their communication with you about what they may do when their sleep need develops. They may offer a brief yawn, or you may see them become still, quiet and actively look away or nuzzle into you. They may do many individuals cues too, that you can begin to learn, understanding that if they become obviously tired, with intense signals such as yawns, eye rubbing or agitation, then the sleep pressure may be too high now for sleep to be achieved with ease, and beginning your nap preparation sooner the next time, might help alleviate this vulnerability. In time, between you, you will develop an understanding of their signals for feed, sleep and entertainment. This can be a huge learning and speaks to a maternal sensitivity that teaches your baby to feel seen, heard safe and secure, as you are decoding and meeting their needs appropriately. These frequent and important interactions strengthens your flourishing relationship, that will extend through the lifespan.

Addressing sleep before over-tiredness creeps in, may act as a protective influence and allow their body to achieve and maintain sleep more readily. Navigating a feeding and sleeping balance to the day, creates a level of predictability for you both that fosters continuity and security too. As it is early days, you may report that your baby only wants to be held by you and just like most aspects of early parenting, this is very typical. Your baby has been housed in the comfort and security of your womb for 9 months and this adjustment for them takes time too. Young infants often require high levels of parental input and proximity to the parents, very often the mum. Develop a host of ways to comfort and soothe your baby, from rocking, rolling, patting, shushing, sucking, swaddling and more. Often babies require a complicated combination of supports to help co-regulate with you. Use your resources: the pram, the swing, the sling-all safely and in line with manufacturers and safe sleep guidelines. Don’t worry about the notion of spoiling babies, your primary task is to show your baby, in a multitude of ways, that you can meet their needs, with love and acceptance of what is going on for them in these early stages.

Sharing the load between parents and others, when applicable and possible is essential. Drafting in support in any capacity if you can, will also be another loving way of caring for you all. Although it doesn’t feel like it, this intensive care need will reduce as the next few weeks and months evolve. Do things to help boost your mood: get yourself out for a walk with your lovely new pram, even when you don’t feel up to it. Put on hold things that are not immediately essential and outsource, when possible, too. Talk about how you are feeling: share with your partner, your friends and family. They don’t need to provide a solution; it is the listening part that is therapeutic. Obviously if you are really struggling, please discuss what is arising for you with your GP or Health Visitor as there are many supports that can ease what you are experiencing.

To correspond with your regular wake time, now also establish bedtime, which is likely to be late for a while and until closer to 4 months of age. This means that your baby will remain with you in the evening, then likely go to bed when you do. Whatever time you aim for, provide a bedtime routine that helps to signal that bedtime is different to all the other sleep segments. Your baby will be sharing your bedroom you can prepare them for sleep in the room, with a few small steps to encourage the transition, such as dim lighting, a nappy and clothing change, song, story and cuddles that all help to initiate bedtime sleep.

Above all else, remember that it is ok to do none or all these suggestions. It is ok for this to feel unexpected or for you to feel uncertain and overwhelmed. To not feel like it is coming naturally. Take it in small, kind, and gentle steps with yourself, you are doing important work.

Photo by Andrew George on Unsplash