Many mothers have commented to me that they were given masses of information and preparation for labour, which was over in a relatively short time, but almost no preparation for what to expect after the baby was born. Unlike a profession or trade where we have a period of training to equip us for the job, with parenthood we are often just thrown in booties and all! We learn on the run and often without expert advice.
Bringing a child home from hospital has its challenges. You no longer have the security of the nurses being at hand, although I realize not everyone has a good experience during their stay in hospital. Many first time parents have no idea what to expect. Some have never handled a small baby let alone a newborn and feel awkward and clumsy. Many parents have no family support, while others would rather not have the unsolicited advice from family or friends.
I compare parenthood with a job interview where the employer asks: what training or experience do you have, what skills do you bring to this job, do you have qualifications in this field? With parenting you could well ask similar questions and find yourself lacking. Nobody can really prepare you for what to expect once you leave the hospital after the birth! Babies don’t come with instruction books? Because of this parents can become overwhelmed with the responsibilities, uncertainties and difficulties of parenthood.
The majority of my home calls are from sleep-deprived parents whose babies are ‘catnapping’. Those babies have not learned to sleep for long periods of time between feeds—either during the day or night, or both. This obviously affects not only the baby but the whole household - especially mothers. A tired parent may be tense, impatient and frustrated. They may then take this distress out on their partner, their older children and even their young baby. The quality of life for the family with a grizzly, sleep-deprived baby is far from optimal. Your baby, who was initially the joy of your lives, has now taken over the routine of the house and demands constant attention and pacifying.
Research indicates that twenty to thirty percent of babies, toddlers and their families are affected by sleep problems of one sort or another. Sleep problems often occur when there is a confusion of signs given by a tired baby. Babies may appear to be wide awake when they are actually overtired. Over a period of time, the baby develops a habit of not wanting to settle when put to bed, or not wanting to resettle when waking after a 45 minute catnap.
Tips: Skills taught to parents when their children are still young can help prevent and overcome common behavioural problems.
Remember: Wanting to know more about how to care for your children doesn’t make you a ‘poor’ parent. It may just indicate a further need for knowledge and understanding about your child’s needs.
If you would like more information on this and other topics related to newborn care our e-book 'The Cradle Will Rock' is packed full of practical parenting tips. Download this and other Publications here.
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