It can be hard to know what to read as a pregnant first time mum. Many new mums want to be as prepared as possible which is absolutely wonderful and I fully support that. You’re already a great mum in my eyes if you’re caring for your baby before they’re even here.
However, there is SO much information available online and in baby books and the advice is often conflicting and confusing. Everyone makes a great case for their point of view and there always seems to be some study somewhere that will back up their opinion (not mentioning who that study might be funded by of course).
Researching can become demoralising. It can make you defensive as people appear to dictate how to raise your child, and just as you’ve read something that sounds like it will work for you, you read something else that tells you that’s absolutely to worst thing you could do.
The truth is, there is no ‘one size fits all’, no matter what the baby books peddle. No one can definitively tell you how to raise your child.
As a volunteer breastfeeding peer supporter, we’re not allowed to give advice because we’re not qualified to do so. Instead we say “some mothers find that…(insert potentially useful info here)” and really, that’s what all this advice should start with. Of course, whatever that advice happens to be, it has worked for someone somewhere otherwise no one would be sharing it, but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone, or that it’s the right option for everyone.
To help navigate the hoards of information available, I’ve compiled a list of 5 really great posts every pregnant first time mum should read, that give you some excellent information without, I hope, being overbearing.
1. The dangerous game of the feeding interval obsession – Emma Pickett Breastfeeding Support
I discovered this post after my daughter was born but really wish I had read it while I was still pregnant as it would have saved me a lot of worry. Emma Pickett is an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and really knows her stuff.
This post is a great introduction to what is ‘normal’ when breastfeeding. She’s got lots of other posts worth checking out too but this one really struck a chord with me.
2. Newborn Nursing – Kellymom
Kellymom is again run by an IBCLC so you know it’s evidence based breastfeeding information and can therefore be trusted.
This article gives a really great overview of what to expect in the first few weeks, and again there is a wealth of information available on the website if you want to explore further. A great resource for when your baby is here too and you have breastfeeding questions.
3. Fetal Programming – Begin Before Birth
This is a really interesting website created by the researchers of the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College London.
This article explains how much of an impact a mother has on her child’s physical and mental development when they are still in the womb, and how factors such as a mother’s mental state, diet and substance abuse can have long term effects.
If you are worried about your mental health whilst pregnant or when your baby is born, speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP. If you need urgent help, support is available by calling one of these numbers:
- Samaritans – 116 123 (24 hrs a day)
- Mind – 0300 123 3393 (9am – 6pm Mon-Fri)
- NHS Choices – 111 (24 hrs a day)
4. Where Babies Sleep: Parent’s Bed – Infant Sleep Information Source
There’s so much noise about the dangers of bed sharing, but actually, done right, for the right families, bed sharing can be really helpful to get more sleep and sustain breastfeeding for longer.
I spent weeks stressing about falling asleep with my baby, but I needn’t have. When I discovered safe bed sharing techniques it was a revelation.
Arm yourself with the facts so that you can make a safe and confident decision when the time comes.
The Infant Sleep Information Source is another evidence based website with a lot of useful, reliable information – just forgive the unfortunate acronym.
5. Care After Birth: Different Moms, Different Realities – Linda Murray, Huffington Post
Unlike the other posts here which are evidence based, this one is more just an overview of how mums are treated after birth around the world. I wish I’d read this when I was still pregnant because it might have encouraged me to chill out a bit when my baby was born.
I remember seeing a friend post pictures of herself, her partner and new baby at the pub enjoying a meal on a sunny afternoon a mere 3 days after she gave birth. She looked great, and happy, and I remember thinking, “Wow, good for you, I’m going to be that mum too. Up and at ’em, no nonsense”. At the time, staying home in pyjamas all day felt like failing because as far as I was aware, most mums brought their baby home from hospital, pulled on their jeans and got on with life as usual.
I therefore put pressure on myself to return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible after birth, but in reality, things were as far from ‘normal’ as they had ever been. A new baby shifts your focus, and becomes the centre of every thought and action. Especially, I think, for first time mums, because you’ve got to figure it all out as you go with no real life training.
If I’d known that other cultures encouraged mums to take it easy, and actively looked after them during that first month or so, I might have felt less pressure. I might have been less concerned about getting dressed and out of the house, and more concerned with taking time to get to know my baby and learning how to look after them, whilst only allowing visitors who came armed with healthy meals! I figured it out eventually and spent the best part of 3 months nestled on the sofa with my baby, surrounded by healthy(ish) snacks and drinks on both sides, with Netflix and my phone for entertainment when the bub was asleep. I did go out, but took it a day at a time and didn’t worry if we had a couple of pyjama days in a row.
I hope you find these posts helpful if you’re expecting your first child, and have found some good resources for when your baby does get here and you have questions.
My final piece of (unsolicited) advice for you would be to check the validity of your sources when you are researching. Just because someone has published a book or an article and calls themselves an expert doesn’t mean they are one. Look for evidence based parenting information – the websites above are fantastic resources for a start – and form your opinions from there.
Every baby is different, every mother is different, every family is different. There is no definitive ‘How to: Babies’. The best any of us can do is to seek out the most reliable information, and utilise the parts of that that work for us and our situation right now. If you’re doing that, you’re already a fantastic parent.