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Pregnancy | Your Personal Experience

Preparing For Your Baby’s Arrival

By Elzet Pedersen

Being pregnant is very similar to the weather in Cape Town – where you get smacked by four emotional seasons in one day, every day. It’s very possible to go from feeling all warm and fuzzy to crying over something silly, then to crack up laughing at the next moment, before having a charming temper tantrum… all in one day! Although these mood swings will keep you quite busy, it will still leave you with enough time to think, plan, rethink, stress and re-strategise. With my first pregnancy I read every book and magazine I could get my desperate hands on, and although it felt like I had never read a word in my life when my newborn started screaming uncontrollably, it did eventually start coming back to me. I am by no means an expert, but would love to share what I’ve learned and found to be important. I hope that this, along with the advice of some experts, will assist you in preparing for the arrival of your baby.

baby

Understanding your baby’s sensory needs
What I’m about to share here is the most important gift you can give a newborn baby – besides love, of course! When I see mothers that haven’t read the wonderful book called Baby Sense, my heart goes out to their little ones – I can see the “I’ve had enough” signals they are giving out but the mothers are not picking up the signals. Start investing in your child’s life from day one by giving him or her the absolute best care.
For most of us, effective sensory integration occurs automatically, unconsciously and effortlessly. Baby Sense by M. Faure & A. Richardson explains that our baby’s immature nervous system responds to the world either with enjoyment to the stimulation, or when exposed to excessive or distressing sensory stimuli becomes overwhelmed by it – resulting in a fussy and irritable baby. Unlike adults who can remove themselves from this, your baby is unable to control his world and has to communicate his reaction. An example is when your baby comes from a safe and quiet environment and is suddenly thrown into a noisy, bright world. He will feel the clothes on his skin, smell your perfume that’s too strong, be aware of the light that is shining in his eyes, the sounds of the TV, people talking around him etc. And he has to take all of this in at once!
There is no way that I can even cover a bit of this in one paragraph, so I recommend  that every new mom buys Baby Sense and reads through it in order to understand her baby better.

Learn how to swaddle
Use a receiving blanket to swaddle your baby. It’s a technique that you have to master before your baby is born, and imitates the feeling of the safety your baby experienced in the womb. It also prevents your baby’s limbs from shooting out in a startle reflex – a common cause of night wakings in young babies. When swaddling your baby, Baby Sense recommends that you make sure that his hands are near his face for self-soothing.

Ante-natal classes
It’s advised that all first time parents attend an ante-natal class. It prepares you for what’s to come, advises you on different birth and breast-feeding options, and offers great tips, advice and demonstrations. Most couples stay in touch with others that they meet through their ante-natal class and end up forming great friendships. Second timers can always join again to refresh their memory – there’s always something new to learn as well as the possibility of new friendships.

Clinic visits
I found myself in the midst of a social gathering one day and my baby was crying non-stop. We all fed our babies and all the others seemed happy afterwards. But mine still cried. And then I cried when I realised something was wrong with my child. Someone slipped me a card of a clinic close-by and I made an appointment for the next day. I never looked back, it was the best thing I could do for both my baby and myself. For a fee of only R160 I was guaranteed their time for 45 minutes – what a luxury! It turned out that my baby had reflux.
Clinics have a two-year plan for your child. From birth to one year old you take your baby for monthly visits, and after that every three months. The sisters advise you as to when your baby needs his next vaccination as well as what the feeding and sleeping routine for that month should be. They are also happy to discuss and resolve any problems you might be having. Later on the sisters will assist in the preparation, freezing and feeding process, and how to get your child of the bottle, dummy, nappies etc. It is truly a wonderful support system! Find yourself a clinic close to your house, and you are guaranteed a stable mental condition and a happy baby.

Routine
I cannot emphasise how important it is to stick to a routine. Besides the fact that a child feels safe in a controlled environment, a routine will also keep the whole family sane. Any routine should have a level of flexibility though, for those times when it’s just not possible to stick to it. It’s okay, you can get back into routine when things have calmed down! You should, however, avoid flexibility in the first few weeks, as this is seen as inconsistency by the baby. Your baby should slowly start getting into a routine by the second week. In On Becoming Baby Wise by G. Ezzo &¬† R. Bucknam, they suggest that by following a routine your baby should start sleeping through by week nine.
There are so many different options and systems to choose from when it comes to establishing your routine, which means it can get quite confusing. Everyone, from your gran to your neighbour’s aunt, will have suggestions. I personally had books that suggested different routines and methods, the clinic that punted their own and a friend with her clinic’s foreign, but interesting advice. I ended up being so confused and I didn’t know which one to choose! My husband’s solid advice was to choose one that made sense to me, one that I believed in and that would fit in with our family, and then be consistent and stick to it.

Circumcision
This is a personal choice and totally up to your husband and yourself. It is only necessary to circumcise your baby boy for the following reasons:

1. Religion (when it’s a firm believe)
2. If the father is circumcised (so all brothers and dad look alike)

My gynaecologist explained to me that hygiene has absolutely nothing to do with it and shouldn’t be a considering factor.

Baby blues and postnatal depression
When I was pregnant with my little girl depression was the last thing on my mind. I skipped all the pages on those morbid topics and went on to pinker pastures. Needless to say, a nasty surprise awaited me around day five. I was crying non-stop, felt I couldn’t cope and that I was losing track of time. My gynae prescribed something for postnatal depression – which in this case was really baby blues. Although it was a small dose and for two weeks only, it did me the world of good! I do believe that most mothers struggle with feelings like these in those first few days, so don’t wait it out. Get something from your gynae and enjoy every minute with your Pink Foot.
Postnatal depression usually only affects one in ten mothers and can occur anytime during the first year. Symptoms can include tearfulness, feeling that you can’t cope, suicidal thoughts, indifference to your baby, fears for your own or baby’s health, irritability etc. This is probably not something any new mother-to-be would like to read while blissfully planning for the arrival of her new baby, but it would be wise to read it once, let it sink in and then let it go.

Tips for new moms and dads

  • Accept all the help you can get
  • Prioritise and don’t sweat the small stuff
  • Ignore unwanted advice
  • Lower your standards
  • Don’t forget about your partner
  • Don’t feel guilty when the house is a mess
  • Sleep whenever you can, even if it’s a power nap
  • Don’t feel bad when you don’t feel up to having visitors over, be honest
  • Make time to freeze meals before your baby arrives

One can never read enough and nothing can really prepare you for this very special event. It’s natural to approach it with a sense of uncertainty. The truth is that you’ll never be a super parent, but you’ll be a good enough parent – and that’s all that is required. That and lots of love! There is nothing like a mother’s instinct, even a brand new mother, so learn to trust that inner voice and do what you think is best for your child. In the meantime, sleep as much as you can!

References:

  • M. Faure & A. Richardson: Baby Sense. 2006: Citadel Press, NY.
  • G. Ezzo & R. Bucknam: On Becoming Baby Wise. 1998: Multnomah Books, USA.
  • Berea Baby Clinic, Parklands Hospital, Durban.

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