WOW! So many of my friends are expecting babies soon. Another one of them, this time a guy, shared the good news with me yesterday. He was funny! "What should I prepare for? What do I need to get ready? I haven't done anything yet." He suggested I should have an entire post on the subject as he reads my blog every day and needs pointers now.
Perhaps in a very general sense, parents-to-be need to discuss the type of parenting style they think they'd like to adopt. Thats a very broad term so I'm going to focus on the two areas which were the biggest issues with us - Breastfeeding and Sleep.
Most people know that exclusive breastfeeding is what's recommended for the the first six months of a baby's life. The WHO also recommends extended breastfeeding for the first two years. I think the majority of people have the intention of breastfeeding but only a minority realize that it can be quite hard (and painful, and frustrating). If I knew how hard it would be, I wouldn't have focused all my reading on labor and delivery. Kellymom is a great site to get some background knowledge, find out about potential problems and also refer to when you have problems. I wish I studied that site before stumbling and crying through the first month of nursing.
Off the top of my head, I would tell the new parents (both mom and dad) hoping to establish a successful nursing relationship to :
1) Nurse as soon as possible after delivery.
2) Understand that it will be colostrum for the first few days before your milk comes in. Colostrum is liquid gold in terms of nutrition for your newborn. There is "stuff" coming out even if you can't see it happening. Trust yourself.
3) Do not let your baby be bottle fed for at least 6 weeks. Babies also need to learn how to nurse so it is important that they become experts at this before being introduced to the much easier way of drinking from a bottle.
4) Nurse on demand. There is no sense in trying to schedule breastfeeds. Breastmilk is also much more easily digestible than formula so breastfed babies may need more feeds than a formula fed one. Don't question it or count the number of times, just nurse.
5) Have the number of a lactation consultant ready so you can run over there at the first sign of trouble. Also, bring some breastfeeding cream along to the hospital and use it from the start. Thats what I'm telling myself anyway.....I don't ever want to see cracked and bleeding nipples again. Prevention is definitely better than the cure here.
The other problem we had was sleep, or lack of. Everybody expects this but I found it to be something that differed greatly between babies. Just comparing notes with some of my friends, I found that many other babies were sleeping through the night at 3 or 4 months. Aaron didn't for nearly 2 years. Also, some babies slept for stretches of 2, 3 or 4 hours within a couple of weeks. We were still on the 2 hourly wake up calls for the entire first year I think. My point here is that there were huge differences but all are normal.
So whats my point here? Have zero expectations. Thats how I'm going to approach baby No. 2. I found that once I accepted Aaron's sleep habits, things just seemed a whole lot easier. I didn't feel that I had a dud baby, or that I was a weak mom for not training him better. He was just who he was and I could adapt to it.
My final piece of advice is that I believe baby-led breastfeeding is the key to a good night's sleep for all. At the start, I worried that I was creating a bad habit when Aaron used to want to feed to sleep. I fought it for as long as I could but gave in. Can you imagine how much easier it is to just feed a baby to sleep rather than rocking, walking or doing some other funny dance till it dozes off? I'm hoping that this next baby will figure our feeding to sleep as soon as possible. Also, once the baby is able to feed with the mom laying down, use that position. Baby wakes up at night, just roll over, feed while you snooze. Once the baby has had enough it will fall asleep and fall off the breast. EASY! No more getting out of bed, setting up for a feed and then walking the floors to put the baby to sleep afterwards.
So, seeing that my friend is a guy but he'd have to be actively involved in both these aspects of a new baby, I think he needs to talk to his wife about what her thoughts are. You'll notice the bulk of the work is on her. Having said that, his supporting role is crucial in the success of both.
That was two cents. With only 3 years of experience mothering, I'm far from the expert but these two points are foremost in my mind as I prepare for the next baby.