What I learned during the early days of motherhood...

First time mum Myra Kokke, who lives in Cork city, shares some advice she’s learned over the past three months
What I learned during the early days of motherhood...
Myra Kokke and baby boy James.

THREE months have passed, and it’s been a rollercoaster of doubts, insecurity, happiness, confidence, fear, love and all other emotions that come with being a first time mom.

Having the responsibility over a tiny human, being his whole world — it’s quite something..

I would like to share the most important things (there are so, so many more) I’ve learned over the past three months, to help other first time moms to be and let them know that it’s all going to be OK... It will get easier.

Take care of yourself or let someone take care of you. Eat, hydrate, nap, dress yourself and stretch when you can. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your baby. This is not the moment to sacrifice your health for that little wonder.

Stop doubting yourself. It is impossible for you to be a ‘bad mom’. You are all your baby knows. You are his whole world. And that makes you perfect, no matter what you do.

You decide who comes to visit and when. This is not the moment that you have to be ‘the nice person’ and accept and allow things that don’t feel okay. This is the moment that you choose what feels right for you — without feeling bad about it.

Get support and ask for help. You focus on you, and your little one. Let others focus on the rest of your family, the house, the cooking, cleaning, groceries and so on. Let laundry pile up, leave dirty dishes in the sink... If it bothers you, ask someone to do it for you. At this moment it is not your responsibility.

Listen to your gut feeling. There are so many things to doubt about and its always good to ask for other opinions. But in the end, listen to your gut. No-one knows your baby the way you do (not even dad).

Listen to what he’s telling you. It may be hard in the beginning, but different cries mean different things. Google ‘baby language’ and try to decode his cries.

Accept the crying. Crying is all your baby can do to communicate. Especially in the beginning, babies cry a lot (when changing, bathing, feeding, not feeding, sleeping, not sleeping). I know it can feel horrible and even drive you mad, but it’s okay. Let him cry, while you figure out what he might want. Don’t let the crying affect you too intensely, but accept it as your baby talking to you. The sooner you can accept the crying, the easier it will be.

Keep baby close, use a sling. Picture: Stock
Keep baby close, use a sling. Picture: Stock

Keep your baby close. Spoiling your baby doesn’t exist. That little one spent nine months in your belly. Prepare for another three months (4th trimester) of close contact — and enjoy it!! Use a sling to carry your baby around, co- sleep if you can/want and nurse often.

Enjoy the close contact. Our little guy got very independent very early, and now only needs a bit of mama-time, and then prefers to chill out on his own. I wish I would’ve enjoyed those first weeks of intense close contact more.

Get some equipment. For us, a pump, bottles, storage containers, soothers, a sling, a swaddle, a mobile, a Clevafoam pillow and a baby nest were absolute must haves. I ended up ordering it while struggling and wish I would’ve had it ready.

Create a womb-like environment. Your baby might not feel comfortable in a big cot yet. A baby nest and swaddling blanket can do wonders.

Read up about the 4th trimester. Loads of wisdom and advice there. But most importantly: do what feels right. If that means holding your baby close to you all day, then that’s what you do. No matter what others say.

When in doubt, whip one out (all credits go to Martina Simpson)! Baby wants you, and boob (or bottle if you bottle feed).

If baby won't settle, go through the check-list. Picture: Stock
If baby won't settle, go through the check-list. Picture: Stock

Go through the cry-checklist. Did baby eat? Is the nappy clean? Did he sleep? Work through all things to figure out what might be making him cry.

Respond to cries early. Not sure if this works for everyone, but it did for us. Let your baby know that he’s heard and answered. It may limit the need for crying in the future.

Get a sling. It’s amazing, keeps your baby close and comfortable and gives you your hands free.

Manually extract some milk when the milk comes in (a hot shower helps). Baby might struggle feeding those first days, so help him out by making your breasts softer and easier to latch onto.

Be mindful of the type of bottle you introduce. Our little man got so used to his fast flow bottle that he now flat out refuses the ‘slow’ breast. Which sucks. Try to prevent that if you really want to breastfeed!

Take a break when you need to. If baby is fed, clean and healthy but keeps crying, it’s okay to give yourself a few minutes to catch a breath. Dad or someone else can take over for a bit.

Have a Cuidiu breastfeeding counsellor on your quick dial. They are a amazing support and can provide you with answers to most of your doubts and questions.

Split the nights. Let dad or another partner take one (or more) night feeds if possible so that you can get some rest.

"Every two weeks get easier." Picture: Stock
"Every two weeks get easier." Picture: Stock

Sleep when the baby sleeps. Let the whole house go to hell and focus on rest.

Every two weeks get easier. Focus on segments of two weeks — because it gets easier every time that two weeks have passed. Read: https://www.scarymommy.com/pep-talk-for-getting-through-newborn-stage/ — download the Wonder Weeks app. It doesn’t work for everyone, but sure did for us.

Babies can cry for hours after vaccinations (wish someone had told me that when the cry marathon started: not my best moment). And that’s usually normal. Keep your baby close and comfortable, stay on top of the Calpol and keep take turns in holding baba to prevent you from going mad or crying with him.

Co-sleep if you can and feel comfortable with it. We shared a bed and even though I was terrified at the start, a lot of Googling made me feel more comfortable and its still the go-to move when our guy can’t settle during the night (and I honestly quite love it).

Invest in what you think might help. We got a love-to-dream swaddle because my gut feeling told me that’s what he needed. It worked like a charm. We got him a bouncy chair at one month: and it worked like a charm. We got him a soother at 1 week: and it worked like a charm (no nipple confusion for this mister). Do what feels right for you.

"Trust your gut feeling, even if others don’t understand or agree with it. Momma knows best."
"Trust your gut feeling, even if others don’t understand or agree with it. Momma knows best."

Live day by day. Don’t expect routine and simply enjoy the moment. It’s okay to be exhausted. Don’t fight it!

Don’t take on extra responsibilities. I started working again at two weeks (I’m self employed and work from home), cleaned, cooked, washed dishes and regret it massively.

Accept that others may not understand. Again: you know your baby and you will often feel what might be the right move. Trust your gut feeling, even if others don’t understand or agree with it. Momma knows best.

Use the hive mind of moms! You can’t know it all, and some extra opinions and advices can be more than welcome. Even if it’s just words of encouragement.

Look into craneology. If it’s something you might be interested in. It helped our little man massively with issues that we didn’t even know were there (tight muscles, flat headm etc).

Be aware of the hormones. You can go from up all the way down within a day when hormones are in play. Don’t get scared when you feel down, it’s often just the hormones doing their thing. Do be mindful that the ‘baby blues’ doesn’t stick around for too long.

Be kind to dad. He doesn’t know what you know. He’s always playing catch up and might feel incredibly incapable compared to you.

Focus on you and your baby. Enjoy this time, even though it can be incredibly challenging.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Myra first shared her three month journey on the Cork Cuidiu Facebook page.

A freelance copywriter, she was born and raised in the Netherlands and moved to Cork four years ago when she met partner Borko, in Macroom. She is also stepmom to her partner’s 15 year old daughter and a first time mom to a three month old little boy, called James.

She says she is in the process of buying a house, writing a book for a publishing house in the Netherlands and when there’s any time left: cleaning, cooking and washing dishes.

See www.lemoustache.nl

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