Adel, a new mum shared her experiences, the joys and challenges of having a little baby girl, Alethea, who has recently turned 4 months old.
How life changes after having a baby
I have definitely grown a lot more patient. It was never my best trait but the initial long hours of nursing my daughter has given me lots of practice. Can you believe that I have spent 90 minutes to feed Alethea! I have also learnt to procrastinate less and multi-task more so that I can get some chores done while Alethea plays on her own.
There was one evening when I reflected on my accomplishments for the day and realised all I had done was feed Alethea, put her to nap, change her diapers, bathe her and play with her. I felt as though I had accomplished nothing. I guess it is common to equate our accomplishments to having completed a tangible piece of work. Upon further reflection, I realised that though what I’m doing every day now seems mundane and ordinary, it’s part of nurturing and moulding a life, and that is more meaningful and rewarding than clinching a deal or completing reports.
My lifestyle has changed as well. My husband Byron and I used to be a spontaneous pair who would decide on our weekend activity minutes before we head out. Now, with a baby in tow, we’d have to plan a little more and limit our activities for the day so as not to overstimulate or overtire Alethea. We are thankful that Alethea is quite an adaptable baby, hence there’s still some allowance for spontaneity.
The challenges of being a mother
My greatest challenge at the start was establishing a good breastfeeding relationship with Alethea. Breastfeeding was really painful for me and Alethea has to be fed very frequently, almost every hour. I tried to switch to bottle-feeding Alethea with expressed breastmilk but saw that Byron was getting tired from doing night feeds while I pumped. I then decided to meet up with 2 lactation consultants who has helped me with getting a good latch and gave me lots of encouragement.
After a few days of enduring the pain and using lots of nipple cream, I was able to nurse Alethea painlessly. After the 1st month, Alethea also began to spread out her feeds on her own, probably because her stomach capacity had also grown. Now, nursing her is such a joy and she no longer has to cry while waiting for me to warm up the milk when bottle-feeding!
The next greatest challenge came about when I was trying to figure out how best to put Alethea down for her naps. She sleeps well at night and has been sleeping through the night since she was 2.5 months old. However, it was tough getting her to nap. I read many books and learned about the different parenting theories out there that I became confused and unsure about what I wanted to subscribe to. I started to wonder how God intended for mothers to care for their babies before these books came about before I decided to follow my own innate maternal instincts, while the books should only serve as a reference.
Following Your Maternal Instinct
Some experts advise against using sleep aids such as nursing or rocking baby to sleep. But I thought that cuddling babies make them feel comforted and mothers are given this ability to soothe and nurture their babies. Thus, I dropped these theories and do whatever comforts Alethea to soothe her to nap such as rocking, patting, nursing, singing, cuddling her to sleep. Although, it may be tiring at times, I enjoy cuddling her to sleep, knowing that she is feeling comfortable.
How being a mother has changed me
Before becoming a mother, I subscribed to the belief that I must train my child to be independent right from birth, from details like sleep training to the scheduled feeding timing.
After becoming a mother, I swinged to the other end because it dawned upon me how helpless babies are. Babies really depend on an adult for everything – getting fed, changed, or moved around. I think babies’ needs are really simple (food, sleep, clean diapers, comfort) and even if they appear manipulative, I’d give in to their needs and wants while they’re still small, helpless and so unfamiliar with this world. But once Alethea gains more mobility and understanding, I’ll try to give in less and teach her to wait.
I was mostly brought up by my grandmother when I was younger, so that might have made me less close to my parents. I guess this makes me especially conscious about wanting to form a close bond with my daughter, especially when I return to work and get to see her less. My mother and mother-in-law will take turns to care for Alethea for half a day each day and Byron will care for her till I get back from work.
A little piece of parenting advice for the new parents
Follow your own maternal/paternal instincts. Whatever you do for your child, do it out of love, and you’re on the right track.
By Crystal Tan