• Catrina M.P.

Dear Mamma

Updated: Jun 11

Motherhood may look completely different from one woman to the next, so please know that whatever decisions you make for yourself and your child are unique to your situation. Only you know what is best for your family.


Feel free to expand your book collection and watch every documentary about pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and parenting so you can learn all about what great changes are about to take over your life. Remember to always be kind to yourself as your individual journey unfolds. You may not have all the answers, and at times you may even feel totally alone, but this is about to be the most enriching experience of your life.


Photo of from my maternity shoot by Nicole Leigh Photography

From the moment a woman becomes pregnant, she is a mother. Everything she feels and does affects her baby one way or another, which is why it is so important to be mindful of all aspects of a mother’s health. Being pregnant is such a beautiful time in a woman’s life. To know that a human is growing inside of another body is so magical in every way.


The doctor suggests working until the day of delivery because of your good physical health. But what about your emotional health? He doesn’t know that you’re anxious because you were recently told that you were at risk of losing your full-time position at work over the next few months. He surely has no clue that you are devastated because that job is your whole life and you believe you need to depend on it in order to support a growing family. He has no idea what the stress is doing to your body.


Please mamma, work for only as long as it feels right for you. The fear of missing out on one last paycheck during your maternity leave is certainly not a reason to stay at work for longer. Professional development courses on the weekends are definitely not as important as the rest you need to catch up on. Instead of spending whole class periods crying in the bathroom, take a day off to focus on your transition into motherhood while living with a high-risk pregnancy. Be optimistic and know that you are about to go through a massive transformation, for the better.


“The electrical circuitry of a child’s brain is programmed by the mother's emotional state.” -Dr. Gabor Maté

After each long day at work, be sure to really appreciate unwinding and changing into pajamas as you throw yourself into bed right after you walk through your door. Growing a baby is beyond exhausting! If you thought you knew what tired felt like before being pregnant, you were wrong. Getting enough sleep is one thing that must be prioritized.


Keep your desk drawers at work full of snacks so that you can eat something every hour. Don’t forget to bring your 36 ounce container every day so you have a reminder to drink enough water throughout each day in order to stay hydrated. You really need to pay attention and take better care of yourself in order to avoid another visit to the emergency room like the time when you fainted and had a scary fall during your first trimester.


I know your delivery is not happening the way you had hoped for, but you must accept that it is out of your control. Luckily, you have a caring and loving support system by your side as you prepare to deliver your baby, including your amazing husband. Don’t be afraid to question everything you are told about your delivery so that you can understand exactly what is happening and why. Waiting until after everything is done will only drive you crazy. Meditate so that you can stay calm and present during your baby’s debut into the world.


Photo of me with my newborn baby by Nicole Leigh Photography

So your perfect little boy is born! Naturally, you seek advice before beginning your breastfeeding journey. You inquire about “preparing nipples” or what to do if you don’t get any milk for the first few days. First of all, no, you do not need to do any special nipple "prepping". Secondly, you may only have colostrum for a few days before your milk comes in, which is probably just enough for your baby’s marble-sized tummy. If your baby absolutely needs extra fluids in addition to the colostrum for any reason, you can always supplement in the beginning if your milk has not yet come in.


Spend as much time as possible enjoying skin-to-skin contact with your newborn baby and trust your body.

Hold and cuddle your baby as much as you can. Keeping him close will not only relax both mother and child, but it is the best and most natural way to stimulate milk production. You can never hug, kiss or breastfeed your baby too much, so soak it all in. Your baby is going to be attached to you at least 500 times more often than you had anticipated prior to breastfeeding. Try to always remember that a baby nurses for various reasons, whether it be for nutrition or for comfort and connection, which is equally important. It is completely normal for him to "cluster feed" for hours at a time in the early days or fall asleep at the breast only to wake up and breastfeed all over again.


Breastfeeding on demand is essential in the beginning in order to maintain your supply and to fulfill your baby’s needs. Stop watching the clock every time you nurse your baby; he is producing enough wet diapers and is healthy. Clear your schedule and take in these precious moments as you both learn this new skill while bonding with one another. Go ahead and lock yourself in your bedroom again so that you can connect with your son and learn how to breastfeed together. It might be the hardest thing you will ever do in your life, but I can almost guarantee with the proper help and information, you will get it. Nothing will be more difficult than the first few months, but I can assure you that the pain of the early days will quickly become distant memories.


An image describing the fourth trimester from www.carryingmatters.co.uk

I know hospital staff and doctors tell you to force your baby to sleep alone in a crib. The truth is, your baby needs to sleep wherever he is safe and comfortable, as long as you are also getting enough rest. As a breastfeeding mamma, keeping your baby close at all times may work best for you. Don’t worry if that crib that was gifted to you will solely be used as a stuffed animal holder in the nursery which functions as a diaper changing room. You can continue enjoying safely contact napping and co-sleeping with your baby because not only does it encourage breastfeeding, it provides you with perfect opportunities to meditate, read and write. You even sleep better when you feel, hear and see your baby next to you at night.


Be mindful of how your body feels.

Breastfeeding should not hurt. Pain indicates that the baby is not properly latched or there may be another problem. An improper latch will also prevent the baby from getting the milk he needs and could consequently result in low supply. You will need to detach and try again several times during each feeding until you master a deep latch. If pain continues while breastfeeding, call that lactation consultant your friend recommended.


Regarding pumping, do it often since you are unable to nurse your newborn baby for now. As an exclusive pumper, do not waste your time with the little breast pump your insurance plan covers. Use the hospital grade pump your mother so generously rented for you for a few months, because it makes such a difference as you are pumping every 2-3 hours. A smaller, less powerful pump may be efficient once you reduce your pumping sessions. After a while, you'll only be using the silicone breast pump to catch any extra milk that dropped while breastfeeding with the opposite breast. Eventually you will only use your manual pump as your baby gets older and you spend a few hours away from him.


My pumping and feeding accessories

Also when pumping, be sure to use the correct flange size. You will have to change sizes throughout your journey as your body adjusts after the trauma and stress. An incorrect fit can not only hurt you but also negatively affect your supply. You can apply a bit of organic coconut oil around the rim where the nipples meet the plastic as it helps them glide more smoothly and reduces painful friction.


Hand expressing is your new best friend. This is your secret to relieving engorgement, which is easily done in a hot shower. Hand expressing for several months as you mix your baby’s first foods with breast milk is also especially useful. By hand expressing the milk directly into his food, there is less clean up afterwards.


Finally, a breastfeeding mamma always must keep food and water nearby. Since you will be pumping in several different rooms, keep a bottle of water and snacks in each room. Maybe next time you will have a portable pump or a fancy wearable pump so you won’t be stuck in the same spot for at least 15 minutes at a time.


Me nursing my baby at the beach

One last thing about breastfeeding: don’t be afraid to breastfeed your baby any time, any place. Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed babies and is obviously legal in all states! Again, I know this is easier said than done, but have no fear and always respond to your baby, no matter where you are. As your baby gets older, nursing sessions will most likely become shorter because he will be more efficient at getting the milk out. So, it’s okay if you only feel comfortable going to certain places in the beginning of your breastfeeding journey while you’re both learning.


I promise it will get easier and your confidence will grow.

Okay I lied, there’s one more thing I have to add that’s sort of breastfeeding related: pictures! Take plenty of pictures in the early days. Looking back, you will wish you had more photos of you (trying to) breastfeed your newborn baby.


As for parenting, it does take a village. But, not in the way you think; the village helps to take care of you while you take care of your baby. The best part about finding your “village” is, it happens naturally. You will start to realize just how amazing your colleagues are, as well as all the fellow moms around you. Nothing will compare to the help from your baby's grandmothers, and the breastfeeding support group at your local hospital will be your ultimate savior and will introduce you to some incredible women. You’ll run into plenty of fellow neighborhood parents at the park and library too.


My family: The heart of my "village"

Parenting is not easy because there are so many decisions to make and you will feel like one mistake can ruin your child’s life. Remember how you obsessed over not allowing any screen time until your son turned two years old? How long did that last? Your colleagues probably thought it was so cute that you were asking them about television limitations during your lunch breaks when you were pregnant. So yeah, some days you will watch a half hour of a movie or music videos. Other times your baby will go weeks with no television at all. Let go of trying to be perfect and accept that it’s okay if mommy needs a quick mental break every once in a while.


The greatest parenting advice you will ever hear is to trust your maternal instincts. Do not listen to everyone else when it comes to raising your child. Respond to your baby, every time, no matter what. Don’t be afraid to spoil your baby, because a baby simply cannot be spoiled. As a new breastfeeding mother, you will need to be there for your baby almost every second of every day for at least the first few months of his life. Before you know it, that baby is walking and talking and you’ll be wondering where your tiny infant went. You will never look back and regret spending your time kissing and cuddling your child.


Babies don’t cry to disturb or inconvenience their caregivers. They cry because it’s their only way to communicate that they have needs which they cannot fulfill themselves. As parents it is our responsibility to respond every time.

Finally, please don’t ever stop creating. Yes, I know you created a human being and mothering through breastfeeding requires most of your time and attention. But when that baby is asleep, or whenever you find a moment to yourself, use that time to create something. Whether you decide to write, sing, paint, draw, sculpt, design or cook… create it and share it with the world.


References:

  1. “Educational Resources for Professionals; Mental Health, Babywearing Safety and More.” Carrying Matters, www.carryingmatters.co.uk/educational-resources/.

 

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