• New Parents: 1 Piece of Advice that Always Worked

    transition to parenthoodThis picture is of my husband and son the day he turned 1 month old. That was the day we went from feeling awesome about ourselves as new parents to wondering what the heck happened.  During our first month as new parents our baby was a perfectly predictable alarm clock who politely notified me every 2-3 hours that it was time to eat. Then suddenly, a flip switched and our baby refused to eat and would scream uncontrollably all day. Before this day I was plugging struggling along with breastfeeding. I was incredibly proud of myself for enduring my 12 hour long appointments with my adorable cheese grater, despite horrible nipple pain and a mastitis infection. When our baby was 29 days old I distinctly remember thinking “it finally doesn’t hurt anymore, I think I can do this whole breastfeeding thing!” Fast forward 24 hours and this was the image:

    Around 8:00 pm my husband held my child who decided to replace eating with screaming. I stood at the kitchen sink wearing just my pajama pants and my “My Breast Friend” pillow strapped around my waist. I filled my first bottle of formula, with tears streaming down my face, hysterically sobbing “I’m not ready to quit breastfeeding, but my baby just won’t eat!” My husband and I decided it was time to quit breastfeeding because the stress it caused pushed me past my breaking point. We tried feeding our baby his first bottle of formula, but he screamed at that too. We were at our wits end. In desperation we put our baby in his bassinet and closed the door. By some miracle he fell asleep which gave me 2 hours to pull myself together before his next feed. During this time I read the only piece of advice that has worked for us every time we get to that desperate place. Just give it two weeks. The next two weeks were very hard. He continued to scream at every feed. We saw a lactation consultant and tried every gadget and gismo that Babies R Us had in the breastfeeding aisle. Finally, two weeks later I got my old baby back. This 2 week rule has worked for me every time I found myself at the point of desperation. During each two week period, 1 of 2 things would happen:

    1. The problem would go away.

      • One of the hardest things I struggled with during my new parenthood transition was combatting the feeling that this problem would last forever. I remember distinctly feeling like life as I knew it was over. Exhaustion, post-birth and breastfeeding pain, and my baby’s nap and eating schedule seemed to have completely taken over my life. The postpartum recovery took much longer than I thought it would. I wondered if I would ever feel like a normal person again. I wondered how marriages survived this upheaval. I wondered how anyone managed to have more than one child. I would hear people say that the first year is really hard, or it gets better by six months, or even just make it to three months. But when each day felt like a marathon, even three months felt like an eternity. The new wait 2 weeks perspective helped me immensely. When I was struggling with breastfeeding it was incredibly comforting to tell myself that if it didn’t get better in 2 weeks I could quit and know that I tried my best. Whether I was dealing with supply issues, nipple pain, or being overwhelmed by the amount of time it took, by the time 2 weeks had past I realized that the problem went away.
    2. I would become more patient.

      • Unfortunately the problem doesn’t always go away. When my son was about 4 months old he was still waking up every 2-3 hours during the night. I read absolutely everything I could about encouraging babies to sleep and asked everyone I knew for advice. No one’s advice helped me. I was already doing everything the books said to do, but nothing worked.  I decided to go back to my 2 week rule and reevaluate then. I’m not sure what my plan was if it didn’t get better in two weeks, it’s not like I could have returned him. Two weeks went by and my son lengthened his stretches to 3-4 hours. It wasn’t perfect, but I was functioning. I decided that good enough was good enough. In those 2 weeks I learned to appreciate my baby as he was. He may have been challenging with sleep, but he was easy in so many other ways to balance it out. Instead of looking at his night wakings as something I needed to fix, I tried to enjoy the time I got to spend admiring the way his hand would pull on my shirt or the cute roundness of his cheeks.

    The biggest thing I’ve learned in the transition to parenthood is that every baby is different. You are the expert on your baby. Because my baby was healthy, I found this 2 week rule to work every time. Obviously, other babies have health issues and other factors to consider. Trust your instincts and if you think something is seriously wrong and it can’t wait two weeks, do what you need to do for your baby. As I sit here admiring my 6 month old baby I am incredibly proud that we made it this far. We aren’t just surviving anymore. We are thriving.

One Response so far.

  1. Valorie Lystrup says:

    Great advice. You have made great strides becoming a strong mother. Your article hold great truths learned through experience.

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