By doula and IBCLC, Aimee Sing – Birth Aims
The preparation for welcoming a baby to the family is typically portrayed to involve a flurry of activity, painting the room in blue or pink, filling it with stuffed toys and all-the-things (i.e. bulk consumerism), baby showers and excitement. Pregnant women are presented either as glowing, healthy women being loved on in all directions, floating happily through life, or extremely uncomfortable women shovelling pickles and ice cream into their mouths while furiously ‘nesting’. Is that accurate? Well, no, not really!
So, what does getting ready for a baby actually look like, and what do you need to do exactly?
As a doula, I’ve witnessed this question be answered in so many different ways by many different families. For some, the above-described scenario is exactly what is involved and is what serves their family best. For others, it can look quite a bit different. I encourage all the families I support to focus on a few key things, because these are the main things I’ve witnessed as being helpful for new parents:
Work on your own head and heart-space and eliminate expectations
Wait, what? That’s a weird thing to put at the top of the list, right? Honestly, the major difficulties I see families having revolve around differences in expectations vs. the reality of having a baby. Some babies sleep all night, feed in the day, are happy and content (otherwise affectionately referred to as ‘unicorn babies’), others wake eleventy-billion times a night and seem to need to be cuddled ALWAYS, and still others are somewhere on the spectrum in between these two extremes. My best suggestion for every family is to look at your expectations and really try to release them from your mind. Take each day as it comes – one day isn’t going to be the same as the next, especially with a newborn. Also, just because your baby was settled yesterday and isn’t today, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them (or you!) – we can drive ourselves entirely batty trying to recreate the perfect situation in which our baby slept for 3 hours at a time, didn’t have wind or was settled and happy in the day, but babies are human! They change, they have preferences and feelings, and sometimes we aren’t happy, but…
Learn to listen to your intuition
Again, that seems like a strange to put on a ‘to do’ list, right? It really isn’t. The most incredible, important and effective parenting tool I know of is, you guessed it, intuition! Parents have an innate ability to connect with their baby, know what they need and when. Yes, it can sometimes take a little time to develop, you have after all only just met this little person, but parents pick up on such subtle cues and language changes, they know their babies best! Accordingly, if you feel like something is off, it probably is, so learn to listen to that intuition.
Do your information gathering/research
About prams? No…about everything (and yeah, that can include prams if you like too…). Work out exactly what you feel comfortable doing with this little one – after all, you’re the responsible person. If you want to follow your intuition, go for it, but know that it is going to be challenged sometimes. What are you going to do about your baby’s healthcare? Do you want to breastfeed? How would you like to birth your baby? Without looking into what options are available to you, and why you might like to do one or the other, you can’t make truly informed decisions. We do the best with the knowledge we have at the time, and society is constantly growing and evolving with not only the information we know, but what’s actually available to us. Look into it, you’ll thank yourself for it later.
Buy the ‘stuff’
Why is that one way down here? Isn’t that the first thing we think of when preparing for a baby? Well yeah, some would argue that’s all part of the consumeristic plan! But it’s also the least important in my mind, dependent of course on how exactly you’re parenting your baby. A newborn wants a pretty short list of ‘stuff’ – warmth, snuggles, food of some description, and the ability to eliminate waste (whether that’s in a nappy or elsewhere is your choice, check out Elimination Communication if you’re interested!). Notice that there is pretty much no ‘stuff’ included there? Maybe some blankets or clothes would be nice, though they aren’t totally essential – skin to skin with your baby is heaven in those early days! But truly, if you’re buying clothes or blankets, pick them up from the op-shop! They’ll be in perfect condition because babies often wear their onesies a grand total of 1 time.
Yes, I hear you asking about the car seat, the pram, the dummies and bottles, white noise maker, baby swing, movement monitor, breast pump and a million other things, but the reality is that you don’t really need most of this. Sure, if you want it, go grab it! If you’re planning to breastfeed, don’t be fooled into thinking you need anything besides you, your breasts and your baby (and maybe a good lactation consultant…that comes in below). Some mums do choose to feed their babies artificial baby milks, and so sterilisers might be helpful (by the way, the necessity for a bottle is arguable in itself, because you can feed a baby with a cup!). But in those early days your baby just wants YOU. Which leads us to our most important point:
à Rally your support network – Assemble your village! ß
This is the key. However, wherever and whenever you’re going to parent your baby, it is easier with good support. That might be in the form of family, friends and online communities, or it could be hired support, in the form of a postpartum doula, a cleaner or someone cooking your meals. It may look like mental health and emotional support, in the form of your psychologist or counsellor, a robust mental health plan and people you can rely on speaking to, or it might involve medical or specialist support in the form of a paediatrician, a lactation consultant or a women’s health physiotherapist (seriously, don’t put it off, just make the appointment!). It can look SO different for every different family, but support is a massive thing, and it really can’t (and shouldn’t) be overlooked, particularly in our society of isolated, nuclear families (we were never meant to do it alone!). Have you ever heard, “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well it’s true, and you shouldn’t feel bad for wanting (rather needing) that.
Aimee is a pregnancy, birth and postnatal doula, lactation consultant (IBCLC), consumer advocate, infant massage and baby yoga practitioner and birth educator in the Blue Mountains. She is passionate about supporting families through birth, breastfeeding and baby-raising with compassion, information and community, enabling transformational experiences and empowered transitions. You can find her on:
Website – https://birthaims.com.au
Facebook – www.facebook.com/birthaims
Instagram – www.instagram.com/birth_aims
Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSSf5Ii60HJ6DYaQhjcTA1g