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Having a New Baby

My experience with my first baby

by Jeri Carr

Some people have easy babies, and, if you are one of them, some of this won't make much sense, but when my precious little girl was an infant she cried a lot--that is until I found out that as long as I nursed her a lot and held her a lot she was usually pretty content. Basically, she constantly wanted to be held--she cried when I tried to put her down--and she constantly wanted to nurse (my breasts were her pacifier). I was tired and my days were filled with my sitting in a rocking chair in her bedroom and nursing and nursing and nursing her while I read a book and munched on granola bars. Then there was nighttime. Oh, my. . . you don't even want to know how difficult that was. Having a new baby was definitely one of the most overwhelming experiences in my 25 years of life. Nothing compares to it!

As time went by I found out that I could nurse her lying down and that we could sleep together. Those things truly helped, but I can tell you some things that didn't help one bit. Other moms kindly offered help, but sometimes it was the wrong type--once a well-meaning lady actually offered to help me get my baby on a schedule. Instead of offering advice and help that gave me confidence in my mothering skills and instincts, much of the advice I received filled me with doubts and worry that I was doing things all wrong--"If you keep sleeping with her, it'll be very hard to get her to leave when she gets older," "It's okay to let her cry a little; crying is good for her lungs." It was all so confusing, and I was trying so hard to do what was best for my baby.

When my baby was new, I remember reading that some moms love caring for newborns--they actually enjoy serving their helpless, totally dependent baby. I thought, "You have got to be kidding. This is the hardest thing I have ever done!" Don't get me wrong, the rewards were great, but at first it seems that all you do is give, give, give.

As strange as it may seem, as my daughter grew older I started missing that needy stage like crazy and really wanted to have another baby. This is partially because I was watching my sweet, fussy, high-need, highly dependant baby grow into a giving, caring, independant child. It's also because I had learned many important things since I first had my baby, and I'd like to share some of them with you.

I learned that babies do not need to be trained to sleep alone. If mom and baby are happy sleeping together, then that's what matters. Sleeping with your baby is good for him and for you. There are many, many benefits of co-sleeping, and, you know what? Don't worry that he will want to sleep with you forever; your child will do just fine weaning from the family bed as he gets older and as you continue to meet his needs.

A baby sleeping through the night is not the "sign" of a good parent--neither is it the sign of a good baby. Babies simply have different needs, and as parents continue to meet their children's nighttime needs, they will learn to sleep through the night in their own time.

I felt relieved when I found out that it was all right if my baby wanted to nurse "all" the time. The baby who nurses often is not strange and neither is her mother! Many babies want to and need to nurse a lot because it comforts them. Also, some moms have to nurse more often than other moms in order to keep their milk supply up, and babies nurse often when they are trying to increase their mother's milk supply during a growth spurt. To help make sure your baby is getting enough milk, listen to hear him swallowing while he is nursing and count how many wet and poopy diapers your baby has a day. Babies should have 6-8 wet cloth diapers (5-6 wet disposable diapers) per day. Also, most babies have at least two to five bowel movements every 24 hours for the first several months. A lactation consultant or La Leche League leader can help you with these things if you are uncertain.

I found out that babies cannot be held too much, and that holding babies often won't spoil babies at all--it encourages just the opposite thing. Sure they will enjoy it and probably want to be held a lot while they are little, but you are meeting many of their needs by doing so and their asking to be held is not the sign of a spoiled baby--it's simply a baby expressing his need to be held and to be close to you. A sling or other cloth baby carrier to wear your baby in can help immensely.

One of the most liberating things for me was when I learned that it was okay to listen to my instincts and to try to meet my baby's needs. Don't feel guilty when people or books give you advice about what you "should" or "shouldn't" be doing. For instance, how does it make you feel when you hear your baby cry? Does your milk let down and do you feel like rushing to your baby and trying to comfort him? Those are your mothering instincts speaking. Go ahead and answer your baby's cries (babies really don't need to exercise their lungs). Parent your baby responsively--respond to your baby and respond to what your heart tells you.

The often overwhelming first days will go by more smoothly if you relax, enjoy your baby, and remember "this too shall pass." Ask for help when you need it, but do not add worry to your life by trying to make your baby into something that she is not ready to be. As you consistently and promptly meet her needs (whether she's lonely, needs to be held, etc.) she will come to trust you and will grow into independence as she becomes ready. Strive to meet your baby's needs with a servant's heart and do what you feel is best for your family, your baby, and yourself.

You will probably wonder when things will get back to normal. It will never get back to the same normal you had before your baby came along, but having your baby as part of your life will become normal! And wonderful! And you'll wonder how you ever lived without your baby!


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