Often, we’re quite unprepared for the experience of new motherhood. While having children is a blessing, the postpartum period is one of adjustment. Our expectations are often quite different from the reality. Many women 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 her baby cries for hours at a time, it can put strain on her relationship with the baby’s father and undermine her 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. A baby sling can certainly be helpful. Research shows that babies cry less when they are “worn” close to the mothers’ bodies.
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. 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.
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. 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 infants. 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 practice babywearing. The sling 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.
Breastfeeding challenges—Breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience, and for some mothers it comes easily. Others experience difficulties. 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 mothers’ groups that a new mom can reach out to in order to get the community she needs.