Challenges of Being a New Mom

September 13, 2008

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Creative Commons License photo credit: mahalie

During our pregnancies, especially with our first baby, many of us spent a lot of time imagining what motherhood would be like.

We saw peaceful scenes in our mind like rocking our babies in a recliner while they effortlessly breastfeed.

We imagine the things we’ll do while baby sleeps the hours away. We wash and fold (and refold) baby clothes and get the baby’s things ready. We daydream about our little one and how we’ll care for him.

Often, we’re quite unprepared for the reality of the experience of new motherhood.

While having children is a blessing, the postpartum period is one of huge adjustments. In fact, there probably is no other experience that is more life altering than the entry into parenthood!

Our expectations are often quite different from the reality. Many new moms experience some or many of the following challenges:

Fussy babies – Having a colicky or fussy, “high need” infant can shatter a new mom’s confidence and cause major stress. When your baby cries for hours at a time, it can put strain on your relationship with the baby’s father and undermine your emotional well being.

Often there is little that can be done for a fussy baby other than holding him and waiting for him to outgrow it.Some babies will feel better if they nurse all the time – this was certainly true of my oldest. A baby sling can be a lifesaver for fussy babies. Research shows that babies cry less when they are “worn” close to the mothers body.

Mood swings – The baby blues is a very common experience for new moms in our society, and there are many theories as to why so many moms experience this phenomenon.Contributing factors may be: the stress of such a massive life change, sleep deprivation, the physical demands of childbirth, lack of proper support, and hormonal adjustments.

After I had my first baby, I would have persistent thoughts of tripping near an open window and throwing him out. It was a little scary, but the feelings subsided, especially when I got some more sleep.

Certainly it is wise for a new mom to lower her expectations of herself. Getting out of the house for some socializing, exercise, and sunlight can be a huge help. Good nutrition and avoiding sugar and caffeine are also smart moves. Read more about breastfeeding and postpartum depression here.

Relationship difficulties – Some new moms become resentful of their partners. While a mom’s life changes drastically after the birth of a new baby, a dad’s life doesn’t change so much. His apparent freedom can be the cause of negative feelings. If you read the magazines at the checkout counter, Angelina Jolie seems to be suffering from a little of this.

Good communication skills are important here. Moms can tell their partners what they need, and affirm his place and importance in the family. Letting him care for the baby on his own to learn his own style is a good idea.

Bonding issues – When moms read about the bonding that is so essential for baby’s development, they’re sometimes stressed or worried if they don’t feel an instant connection with their new infantsHe likes it. Bonding is different for each mother/baby dyad.

Some moms experience an instant feeling of deep love for their newborn infants the moment baby is put into their arms. For others, the feeling develops over time. There is no right or wrong way to bond.

One thing that helps a mother develop a deep attachment to her baby is to wear him close to her body in a baby sling. Babywearing helps baby adjust to postpartum life gradually, leading to less crying. A happier baby means a happier mom. It’s also easier for mom to get things done around the house, increasing her sense of accomplishment.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ja-nelle

Breastfeeding challenges - Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience, and for some mothers it comes easily. Others experience difficulties.I will never forget when my big sister asked me if I planned on breastfeeding. I told her, “Of course!”. She said that after the first few weeks things would get easier, and that it could be a little tough right at first. She said this while latching on her own 6 month old at the breast. I was so ignorant – I remembered thinking, “What’s the big deal? You put the baby on your nipple and they drink!“  :)

Painful breastfeeding can increase the risk of postpartum depression, but successful breastfeeding decreases the risk. A mom who is experiencing pain should get help immediately. Often all that is needed is a slight adjustment in positioning or latch to stop the pain.

New moms need support and information to have a happier postpartum adjustment. Talking with other mothers can be extremely helpful. Thankfully there are many mother’s groups that a new mom can reach out to in order to get the community she needs. Groups like La Leche League, Holistic Moms Network, Attachment Parenting International, and others.

What about you? How was your experience of being a new mom different from the reality? How did you cope with the transition?

Recommended Resources for New Moms:

* The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood

This is an amazing book that every mother should read. Written by one of my favorite authors, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD. It examines the feelings commonly felt by new moms in our culture and how to help yourself during the transition.

* The One-Armed Cook: Quick and Easy Recipes, Smart Meal Plans, and Savvy Advice for New (and Not-So-New) Moms

This was my favorite cookbook after my 4th child was born. Everything in its pages can be created with only one hand! Written by attachment parenting enthusiasts and foodie moms, this cookbook will make it possible for you to feed yourself again. I promise!

* 25 Things Every New Mother Should Know

Martha and Bill Sears have 8 kids between them. He’s a Pediatrician, she a nurse and La Leche League Leader. Think they know some secrets about surviving postpartum? Oh yeah. This one is easy to read in snippets while you’re sitting in the nursing chair.

And finally:

* Porn for New Moms: From the Cambridge Women’s Pornography Cooperative

Save the hate mail ladies. Wait until you check it out. :) Because laughter is a great cure for the new mom blues!

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8 Responses to “Challenges of Being a New Mom”

  1. Marie on September 13th, 2008 4:22 pm

    I have two first borns. We adopted our first first born, who came home to us when he was 8 months old. I quickly discovered my back going out and my arms aching from suddenly having nearly 20 pounds in my arms for much of the day. He started crawling the week before his homecoming, and pulled up to standing the day after he arrived home, and he has been on the move ever since!

    My second first born was biological. I had no idea what it would be like to have a baby come out of my body and then need to carry on with two children (my son was about 3.5 at the time). Breastfeeding was a real challenge because my daughter had a tiny rosebud mouth, and I had no one on hand to show me exactly what to do. For the first month I almost hit the ceiling with pain every time she latched on. I also didn’t understand the whole “nursing for comfort” thing that newborns do. She would nurse for what seemed like forever, and then cry! I heard all those scary voices about “not enough milk to satisfy,” until someone clued me in that it wasn’t all about food ;)

    I was worried about post-partum depression since I am prone to depression, but it didn’t really show up until my daughter was nearly 9 months! It was unlike the type of depression I was “used to,” and was much more about anger. Knowing this ahead of time, and knowing how to deal with it (at my ND’s advice I used 5-HTP, which worked well for me) would have helped me a lot.

  2. Patrice London on September 13th, 2008 7:05 pm

    With my first daughter I expected to have a perfect unmedicated birth and that breastfeeding would be a breeze. After a horrible birth experience I went on to have a hard time with breastfeeding. My dd wouldn’t latch on properly and I had no info on how to get help so I listened to her nurse practiioner who told me to give her formula until my nipples healed. I hated doing this and cried every time she was given a bottle. After about a week, we resumed breastfeeding until she was about 16 months.

    There were quite a few surprises that no one warned me about besides the cracked/bleeding nipples. The gassy/fussy periods, and the fact that most babies (especially breastfed ones) lose weight before they gain and it’s *ok*. I thought I was slowly killing my baby!

    I came from a single parent home and I thought that in a home with both parents, the work of caring for a child is equally divided between mom and dad-LOL!

  3. Audrey on September 13th, 2008 10:13 pm

    Well, my first ” baby” is 21 years old now, but I remember that I used to babysit a little boy and he was so easy and pleasant. His mom dropped him off around 6:30 in the morning and he went right back to sleep, so I did, too. We woke up around 8:00 and all day long, I played with him, fed him, changed him, etc… and he was always happy. About a year later, I had my daughter, and she had colic. One time she screamed for 14 hours straight. My mom & grandmother had to help me a lot, or I never would have made it! It was nothing like I expected. LOL :)

  4. Jen on September 14th, 2008 12:12 am

    I have three kiddos and each experience was very different. I guess that the third time was the charm because my youngest nursed easily, slept well and has taken his time crawling, walking, etc. This was definitely NOT the case with my middle child; Miss Sophie. She came out shrieking and three years later still has not stopped. I needed help and lots of it. She refused to nurse, didn’t sleep and demanded my full attention 24 hours a day. These were the most trying times of my life and I still shudder when I think of that first year.
    Here is my advice: forget all of the ridiculous baby items that people register for. Talk to an experienced mom and learn about items that are a necessity. If you have a baby shower have the organizer arrange to have your close friends volunteer to bring your family meals after the baby arrives. I was so blessed to have a great group of family and friends. They took turns cooking for us, cleaning, doing laundry and even running errands. They SAVED my life. I was able to tend to my daughter without going into a frenzy because my home was a mess. I get so incredibly frustrated with our culture that we are expected to pop our little one out and get back to business as usual. We need to remember to surround ourselves with loved ones who we can “vent” to, seek guidance from and receive assistance with normal daily chores. It is okay to ask for help, you will appreciate it later and your risk for post-partum depression decreases significantly. Lastly, take it one day at a time and savor each moment because they grow so fast.

  5. Jana on September 14th, 2008 2:29 pm

    I had a beautiful 1st pregnancy. We had a planned c-section at 39 weeks due to my daughter presenting breach and no hope of turning. After an uneventful c-section, my daughter had a difficult time latching on. Fortunately, there was a nursing coach in the hospital who gave me a nipple shield which my daughter took to easily, even though I was warned from the nurses this was a bad thing to use as my milk supply wouldn’t be enough. Fortunately, my daughter got the hang of latching on about 4 weeks after she was born. Breastfeeding went so well, she would never take a bottle from me or anyone else, and I never had an issue with not enough milk (quite the opposite actually!). She nursed until she was almost 2 1/2 yo.

    My second pregnancy was horrid. I was under the weather almost the entire pregnancy, until 29 1/2 weeks when my water broke. Labor was stopped and I was put on hospital bed rest. 3 1/2 weeks later, labor started again and our beautiful premature baby boy was born, who spent 3 weeks in the hospital. Those first few weeks after he was born were horrible. Taking care of my 3 1/2 year old daughter, pumping breast milk every few hours to bring to the hospital, and being separated from my baby for several hours a day was almost enought to do me in more than once. I was experiencing lack of sleep, my daughter not quite understanding what was going on and “recovering” from her grandmother’s care while I was on bed rest, and the financial strain of it all.

    4 years later I can look back at it all and be thankful that everything turned out well, and with more wisdom that things will turn out OK, even though in the moment it doesn’t seem like it will. Taking one day at a time is certainly the way to get through it.

  6. Carrie on September 15th, 2008 9:50 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences ladies, I am sure they will be helpful to any pregnant moms reading this post.

  7. Elizabeth on September 16th, 2008 2:53 pm

    I have 2 little girls and one baby on the way. My firstborn was an unexpected cesarean section surgical delivery, which led into a very drugged sleepy baby and a long initital separation. All my birth and bonding hopes were already shattered…. When we finally got to see each other, she was more than hungry and frustrated.

    As the weeks progressed, I came to see that she was often frustrated and quick to cry and give up on feeding. We saw LLL leaders, a lactation specialist, used herbs to increase my dwindling milk supply and pumped in an attempt to save our breastfeeding experience. I couldn’t figure out why everything was so difficult for us. She didn’t sleep for any length of time, and refused to be put down. I held and carried her most of the day, and thus could not cook, clean or do errands as i had in the past.

    I felt totally overwhelmed and unable to mother well. Little by little,
    she learned how to breastfeed, I learned how to soothe her better, and eventually she grew into a happy child. She nursed up until almost 2 years of age. Now she is nearly 4, and though quite spirited, is joyful, responsive, loving, obedient (for the most part!) and extremely compassionate.

    I always thought she was a ‘typical’ baby, and therefore was nervous how I could survive the next one. But my second girl,
    a homebirth, was totally different. From the natural, calm birth environment to the easy breastfeeding, to the happy sleeper, to the smiling – yes smiling! baby – who was this child! She is now almost 2 and quite the clown, loves her big sister tons, and still
    is quite content to do her own thing!

    I am glad to have had such a ‘fussy’ baby first. She made me into the co-sleeping, baby carrying, breastfeeding, AP mom that I am.
    And most of all she showed me that all the work I pour into her intense emotional needs, eventually trickles back to me and others in the form of her strong compassion and keen awareness of the needs around her. I often receive comments on how full of joy she is, and how aware of other’s feelings. What a blessing!

    To all you moms…new or not…. take heart, all that emotional and physical energy you seem to pour out every hour…. it is building life into our children – life, love, security, empathy … so many qualitites that are lacking in many adults these days… don’t give up heart while doing good!

  8. Carrie on September 17th, 2008 4:24 pm

    “I am glad to have had such a ‘fussy’ baby first. She made me into the co-sleeping, baby carrying, breastfeeding, AP mom that I am.”

    I’ve made the same comment many times about my oldest child. It was trial by fire. :)

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