Handling a Newborn: 3 Reflections After 4 Months
After giving birth for about 4 months at NUH, handling a newborn is becoming part and parcel of my life. This gives me the chance to reflect my journey on handling a newborn.
1. Acceptance of Self and Limitation in Handling a Newborn
One key is to accept my own limitations and be willing to accept help from others. On top of the usual lack of sleep and recovery from the delivery, my wrists hurt and I was not able to do a lot of things, even seemingly basic things like carrying and bathing her. I felt really lousy about it initially for not being able to carry out the basic duties as a mum.
I had 2 options – to press on and try my best to carry out these duties, or to say that I can’t and to ask for help. The latter wasn’t the easiest to do, but I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t able to do it and choose to ask for help. I know that unless I recover properly and fully, the recovery will be very long tail and I will end up functioning at a sub-optimal state for a even longer period of time.
So in the first 2 months i spent most of my time pumping milk, sleeping and going to the doctor to seek treatment for my wrists pain. But because of that, my husband got to play a much greater role in handling the newborn – to feed, burp, and put her to sleep. And I experienced the help and support from the rest of the family.
2. Trust and Chemistry between the Two Parents
Parenting is like a Cha-Cha dance between the 2 parents that requires trust and chemisty. What i realised that it requires trust between each other was key to handle the situation at hand without ending up in an argument. Often, we have a preference on how we wanted things done that is different from how our spouse would have handled the situation. Trust is needed so that we can let go totally and allow our spouse to handle the situation without hovering over them and instructing them on how to do it “the right way”.
It also requires chemistry because when a crying baby demands your attention, and you still need to prepare the milk/ change the diapers, you may not be in the right state of mind and it is very much appreciated when your spouse can just come in naturally to help and support in whatever ways required. So between 2 of us, one would feed and the other would be on stand by to clean up in case she pukes milk, requires a change of diaper.
Also while we had pre-agreed roles on who would do what, it helped to be flexible in the roles. When one is occupied with tending to her, the other would have to take care of the washing. When one was preparing the milk, the other would have to take on the role of changing her diapers. Being flexible and moving between the roles and what required to be done helped ensure that the urgent things were attended to and that the baby was appeased asap. If we had been fixated with our pre-agreed roles, then both of us would probably experienced much more stress because the task would only be done by one person.
3. The Art and Science of Handing a Newborn
Handling a newborn is a art and science. Just when we thought we got the hang of her feeding and sleeping patterns, things would change again because she was going through a growth spurt.
It was a science because recording her feeding times and amount of milk helped us identify the trend and when things were out of the norm. But to determine the additional amount to feed was an art – to balance between feeding more and not wasting the breast milk that was given.
In her first few weeks she tended to cluster feed from 8pm onwards before “retiring” for the night. There were times where she seemed to have an insatiable hunger and would keep crying for milk. Once we ended up feeding her 150ml in one setting. After which she vomited and then slept v peacefully.
For the subsequent days, she continued to cluster feed, drinking every hour till midnight and sometimes end up vomiting. It was a constant challenge to decide whether to give in to her and give her more milk when she cries, or to insist that she had enough for the night. So we decided to do an experiment and let my mother-in-law take her for a few nights to see if things were different. I wanted to test the hypothesis if it was our lack of skill in putting her to sleep that resulted her wanting to keep drinking milk to put herself to sleep.
What we found out from the experiment – she tended to sleep slightly earlier, which meant that she clustered fed for a shorter period of time. However she still vomited at times too. So our conclusion was that while we probably took a longer time to coax her to bed, her pattern of cluster feeding to the point of vomiting wasn’t specific to us. It was likely her way of storing up reserves so that she could last longer through the night (she only needed to be fed every 3-4 hours compared to every 2 hours in the day).
Handling a newborn is definitely not easy. It comes with its own set of challenges but also with its own set of rewards. I hope that this reflection will encourage mothers who are struggling with their newborn.
If you are not married yet, you might want to check out the post on lessons on dating to find out what you can do.
Share with us your thoughts or your journey on handling a newborn in the comment box below.