This is a post for any first time or expectant mothers out there; some tips that I wish I’d known when I was having my first baby six years ago.
Information is power – that’s an inarguable truth. But where to get the information? How do you know if it’s the right information? And where to find the time to trawl through endless sources of information? Here are three tips, based on my attempts to navigate the confusing path of first-time-motherhood:
1. Just because it’s in a book, doesn’t mean it’s true
When I was expecting my first child, I bought two pregnancy books – possibly the two with the most attractive covers or the two that were at eye-level in my local bookshop. I was given two more books as gifts after Clara was born. Four books – sorted! Surely between them they’d cover everything.
There was a lot of good information in these books, and one in particular was great when I was pregnant. However, I assumed that everything in the books was true and correct; that every page contained widely accepted wisdom. It sounds naive, but I had no idea that there were different parenting methods, and that these methods can in turn vary greatly from family to family. I really thought that if something is in a book, it must be true.
Sadly, this led to great frustration for me when my four-month-old wasn’t sleeping through the night, One book advised that once a baby reaches a particular weight, there is no further need for night feeding. My baby had passed this milestone but was still waking, and the only way I could get her back to sleep was by feeding her. I wondered what I was doing wrong – why wasn’t my baby doing what the good baby in the book was doing? I was cross and frustrated and even more tired than I needed to be, because instead of relaxing into it and accepting that small babies don’t necessarily sleep through the night, I wasted energy worrying and beating myself up over having somehow failed.
It was only when I read a piece in one of the books about how to get toddlers to stay in bed – by tying a rope across the door so that they can open it a couple of inches to peep out but not enough to squeeze through – that I thought “hang on a second”. That was my Eureka moment – not everything written in a parenting book is true. So, don’t let this stop you reading books – just know to question what’s in there, especially if it doesn’t feel right, doesn’t suit your family or involves tying a rope across a toddler’s door.
2. Just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s not true
We’ve all been there – googling a seemingly innocuous symptom and coming away from the screen paralysed with fear about a life-threatening disease.
“Never google illnesses” say our friends. “I know! I should have known better!” we reply. Then we do it again.
And heaven forfend if the GP gets wind of online self-diagnosis – medical eyebrows will be raised.
Though doctors don’t always treat the internet with disdain – I took my daughter to a doctor about a sudden rash all over her body once, and she used Google to diagnose it. At first I wondered why I was paying €58 for something I could have done at home, but realistically, it was a smart move to look for information in the biggest database in the world. And the doctor earns her money by knowing the right places online to look – that’s the bit that we non-medics find most difficult.
There are some great parenting websites out there. Here for example you can find a link to many breastfeeding websites – all of which provide good, accurate information on breastfeeding, and links for connecting by phone or in person with peers or professionals who can help if needed.
So don’t be afraid of the internet – just know the reputable sites to use.
3. Facebook is your friend
I was a Twitter girl – I spent many night-feeds looking at my phone, scrolling through my Twitter timeline. Facebook was somewhere people posted pictures of themselves on nights out and I wasn’t having many of those.
Then I discovered Facebook groups. This was a new concept to me – I think everyone else in the world already knew all about them, but in case you’re like me and not clued in: here’s how it works:
There are (many, many) closed groups on Facebook, which you can request to join if you have a Facebook account. Once you’re in, you can read other posts without writing a word for as long as you like, or you can dive right in and start posting your own questions. With closed groups, nobody outside the group can see your question, or your comments on other discussions. There are groups for everything – pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, sleep tips, weaning onto solids and beyond.
On a practical level, it’s a means of asking questions or reading replies to other people’s questions. The advantage over a standard website is that it’s dynamic – you can watch questions and replies, get a feel for the ethos of the group, get a sense of whether it’s for you or not. You can pick and choose which pieces of information to take on board.
Beyond the practical: it’s a really lovely way to connect with mothers. I mean, really, really, really lovely. Since discovering Facebook groups nearly two years ago, I’ve made true friends online whom I’ve met in real life. And many whom I’ve never met in real-life – but when you chat late into a night-feed or connect daily in a closed environment over shared experiences, not having actually met becomes irrelevant. Women are innately communicators – listening and talking is what keeps us going. And at this key stage in life; the not-having-a-clue-what-to-do-with-a-newborn-stage; communicating and connecting and sharing information become more valuable than ever. Because connecting keeps us going and information is power.
Just make sure you know when you’re in a group and you know when you’re on your own personal timeline – you don’t want to post a photo of a breast pump in a breastfeeding group, only to realise you’ve put it in your newsfeed. But sure nobody would do that …
The theme “Information is Power” is inspired by the upcoming Babytalk Festival, taking place in O’Reilly Hall, UCD, Dublin on the 22nd and 23rd of February. This is a new pregnancy and baby festival with a focus on empowering families and parents-to-be with information, in a fun relaxed environment. There will be expert talks, entertainment, service demonstrations, and very importantly, a cafe and play-area 🙂
There will be some Irish Parenting Blogger participation in a panel discussion on Sunday 23rd at 4pm from MindtheBaby and Mama.ie (so that’s what I’ll be attending!) and all of this takes place in a family-friendly environment. You can find full details about the festival below.
The event organisers have kindly sent me two tickets to give away, so if you’d like to go along, why not enter this competition in any one of the ways below.
Enter as many times as you like; just make sure to comment here or on the Office Mum Facebook page so that I know you’re entering, and I’ll choose a winner using a random number generator on Wednesday February 12th.
- like and share this post on Facebook & like the Office Mum Facebook page
- or subscribe to Office Mum by email (see right-hand side-bar of the blog)
- or share this post on Twitter
Good luck and maybe see you there!
From the organisers:
Babytalk is a fun new pregnancy and baby festival taking place on the 22nd and 23rd of February 2014 in O’Reilly Hall, UCD, Dublin. We hope to empower families and parents-to-be with information in a fun, relaxed environment.
You can find full festival details on our website – www.babytalkfestival.ie. I’ve also included a quick overview of the festival for you below:
• Comfortable, fun, family-friendly event
• Approximately 5,000 visitors expected over 2 days
• Approximately 60 high quality exhibitors
• Series of talks from expert speakers including David Carey, Genevieve Becker, Sue Jameson, Fiona Rea and more
• Music, comedy & entertainers including RTE’s Reuben and Irish Mammies comedy show with comedian Colm O’Regan
• Product & service demonstrations
• “Information Station” with representatives from parent support agencies
• Reading and storytelling area with readings by authors and children entertainers
• Cafe and play area
• Free car parking
• Buggy parking, baby changing & feeding areas
• WHO code compliant event with ethical event policy
Update February 12th: The winner of the Babytalk tickets is Anna Murphy!