If there’s one common thread among parents — especially new parents — it’s how they wish they had known some very specific things about parenthood. Like it’s this club that you can only talk about once you’re in it.
Our modern lives have made us both closer and further apart than ever before. We can fly to another country in a matter of hours, yet speaking about the pain and difficulty of breastfeeding is something only spoken about when a new parent is in the thick of it.
So today we’re going to break the silence on all sorts of things you might want to know. Things we wish we had known before having a baby. Before becoming a parent. Because there’s nothing like preparation, especially for this: the most incredible adventure of your life.
If there’s one resounding sentiment echoed across class, country, and gender, it’s that parenting is harder than it looks, especially at first. On Instagram, or on that casual visit you paid to your newly postpartum friend, may look like matching outfits and sweetly sleeping babes. But in reality, there’s a lot more screaming, quite a lot of crying (on everybody’s part) and not a lot of sleep.
And in truth, there’s nothing that can prepare you for that. Lee-Ann, new mom and social media manager, says, “you "know" it's hard, but you will only grasp the extent of it when you're in it. Every experience is different and "hard" is a relative term. Different people struggle with different things.”
In the movies and even when seeing a seasoned mom feed her babe, it can look as though breastfeeding is as natural as walking. But the thing is that you don’t remember learning to walk, do you? Once upon a time, you were a stumbling toddler falling on your bum and knocking your head. To extend the metaphor, you also have to learn to breastfeed, just as your baby has to. You have to do it together.
“Breastfeeding can be really hard and doesn't always come naturally. It takes patience, practice and some days sheer determination. But it's also so amazing! “ says Kirsty, a KZN mom of two. Mom and writer Shameez says, “I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and was irritated by every word (it was too rigidly pro-breastfeeding and natural birth) but I ended up learning a lot and subsequently had a successful breastfeeding experience.” So learn all you can about it, but also prepare to ask for help. Lee-Ann recommends, “Find a lactation consultant! Even if you don’t think you’ll need one.”
There are books and experts who have opinions every which way when it comes to infant sleep. “Sleepy but awake just doesn’t work for every baby,” says Shameez, “even though every book says it’s the right thing to do.” And although it might not feel like it — and it can take years — you and your baby will sleep through the night one day. We promise.
“Babies can't tell time so keep that in mind with the "routine" you want to create. Babies can be taught certain patterns to recognise for sleeping and feeding to a point, but no one will ever react exactly the same way each day. Give yourself time to get to know your baby,” writer and mom of two, Tami, reminds us.
The books all recommend sticking to a routine, but often there isn’t much of one to be had. Fighting that, and trying to stick to feeds at certain times and naps at others, will just frustrate you. Let yourself go with the flow as much as you can, and as your baby grows and you get to know each other, a routine will emerge.
“There’s no such thing as spoiling a baby, and there’s no such thing as too much love. Your baby cannot manipulate you, no matter what anyone tells you,” marketer and mom, Sarah said. And she’s right! It’s completely natural to want to hold your baby. It’s where they are happiest, and you’ll probably feel the urge to keep them in your arms as much as you can.
But also remember that “it’s OK to want — and to take — a break from your baby when you need it,” research professional and mom, Cassey mentions. You’re new to the job of parenting. It’s alright to need a break from the relentlessness, so take one when you can
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but we hope that it lifts the lid on the secrets of parenting. We hope this gives you the confidence to talk to your parents and your parent friends and ask the questions that get you the real account of how it feels and works. But also remember that there are some experiences that it is very hard to describe. Like bungee jumping, parenting is something you have to jump into with both feet and your whole body. And you’ve no idea what your experience of it will be like until you do it.