We all see the Photo Shopped version of new motherhood – frilly outfits, starry smiles and big cuddles. But that’s just not the reality for many women. Having a child that cries excessively and sleeps infrequently can cause exhaustion and inhibit bonding. Here, our guest writer and founder of The Candy Shop, Elodie Feat, shares the trials she experienced when she became a new mum in the hope that it may help other women…
1. No-Return Smiles
“A baby doesn’t smile at you straight away and won’t for at least three to four months! Being my first, my hormones were going up and down and, being exhausted, I couldn’t help having this horrible thought from time to time that my baby didn’t really care about me – that as long as she was fed, bathed, changed and cuddled, she didn’t care who did that for her. Don’t go there – this is rubbish. Don’t even think about things like this…”
2. A Baby That Won’t Sleep
“I had a hard time with Olivia from four to six months. She wouldn’t sleep during the day, which made her very cranky and unhappy. Her cries used to break my heart. I was wondering why she was so unhappy – why me, her mother with all my love, couldn’t give her happiness or the sleep that she desperately needed. I started to think dark thoughts again, that maybe the reason why was because she didn’t really love me. I was spending my whole day, days after days, weeks after weeks, patiently rocking her in my arms, singing all the nursery rhymes I knew, making up new ones with noavail – she would fight and fight against sleep.
Then I was given Save our Sleep by Tizzie Hall, which teaches you how to teach your baby how to self-settle. This book changed my baby’s life and mine. From a cranky, unhappy baby that wouldn’t sleep during the day, I got a happy smiley baby that was napping twice a day. And a happy baby means a very happy mum! When you’re baby is unwell and crying, you heart bleeds. When she is well and happy, your heart bursts with joy.”
3. Feeding Choices & Bonding
“I think it’s ludicrous and a crime to say to pregnant women or new mums that you need to breastfeed to bond with your baby. According to this theory, Dads would never bond with their newborns because they don’t breastfeed, and bottled fed babies don’t love their mums! I personally think that on the contrary, you will probably prevent a mum from bonding with her child if she is forced to do something she doesn’t want to do. She might start to resent her baby instead of bonding over a bottle.
I also feel that it’s very dangerous to brainwash mothers into breastfeeding regardless of their personal circumstances.
So I was shocked to hear from a nurse at a parenting course I attended prior to the birth that it wasn’t possible for a woman to have ‘too little milk’ or not being able to breastfeed. According to her, they are just not doing it right – nature provides enough milk for all women. In an ideal world, I’m sure that is the case, but the reality is we are not all the same. Some people have bigger brains than others. Some people have bigger breasts than others. Some people are sterile. Some people are born healthy and others are not. I was shocked that a medical professional would make such statements.”
4. The Ever-Changing Routines
“As soon as you have established a routine, you feel confident because things starts to tick like clockwork. But as soon as something disrupt that routine, like teething, colds, traveling, bad habits picked up at childcare or with the grandparents, or simply growing, you’ll have to start all over again. You just have to take it in your stride – be flexible and adjust your routine taking onboard any disruptive circumstances, but my biggest advice is to still keep a structured routine.
I always thought that to raise good kids and not brats that your child should fit into your life and not the other way around, but I discovered the hard way that it wasn’t the case. So, when I had Olivia, I was determined that my life would not be regimented by her naps. I didn’t want to be one of those mums that would decline an invitation to catch up because it was nap time or feeding time. She would be fed and sleep wherever I was. And at the beginning, that worked. She would happily sit in her pram observing everything around her in cafes, restaurant, the beach etc. She would sleep anywhere I was and whenever she wanted to. She had no special bath time – I would bath her every day, but whenever I felt like it. It worked very well until she was three months and then it went downhill. It was then that I read Save our Sleep by Tizzie Hall and understood the importance of routine. Now I am one of those regimented mums I didn’t want to be! Olivia wakes up at 7am, has a 10am nap and another nap three hours after waking from that nap. She has a bath at 6pm and is in bed at 7pm. I refuse any ‘out and about’ catch ups that will interfere with her nap times.
5. Being ‘Switched On’ & Engaged With Baby All The Time
“I found that childcare allows me to spend more quality time with my baby than before. When you’re a stay-at-home mum seven days a week, contrary to general opinion, you can’t be 100% there for your child. You’re juggling the washing, the cleaning, the baby food preparation, dinner and sometimes a home business! I was never completely switched on just playing and enjoying the moments with my baby. In fact, I had frustrating moments when my eyes kept watching my watch, counting the minutes to nap time to get this or that done. Now that she is at childcare two days per week, the three days I have alone with her are entirely dedicated to her – there is no more frustration and we are both much happier for it.
If what makes you happy is going back to work, in the end this is what will work best for your bub. There is no point staying at home with your baby if you’re not going to spend quality time with her or him and end up being frustrated, or worse, resentful because you’re doing what’s expected of you or because you’re scared of being judged a bad mum for returning ‘too early’.
Child care boosted my daughter’s development. Possibly due to being around bigger kids and learning things from them – I feel she is much more socialized.
It also gives her a bit of a break from her toys that she knows by heart.
Need help? If you are struggling with motherhood, need someone to talk to or suspect you have post-natal depression, visit Beyond Blue for a list of support services.
Elodie is a mother, stylist and co-owner of The Candy Shop, a Sydney-based online candy store with a unique selection of hard-to-find sweet favourites and international treats from France and England.