Who remembers what it’s like in the very early days after birth?
When the sleep deprivation is kicking in and you’re so tired but you feel like you’re never going to get a decent night’s sleep ever again.
When your baby falls asleep at the breast, you put her down ever so gently, and 30 seconds later she’s wide awake crying to be fed again.
When one feed just rolls into the next.
When it feels like an achievement that you’ve had a shower.
When it is a massive achievement that you’ve had a hot shower AND a hot cup of tea.
When the hormones are raging round your body and you cry at everything and anything.
As a mum, I have been through this myself. I remember the early days of being so tired that I couldn’t sleep. I remember dreaming of drinking a hot cup of tea. I remember struggling to find time to eat a whole sandwich. I remember the bliss of having a hot shower but also having to be very careful after a caesarean birth.
As an NCT breastfeeding counsellor, I am reminded of this scenario nearly every week when I talk to parents of a newborn baby. Life changes so dramatically. As one Dad said to me at the weekend “you know it’s going to be hard, but you don’t realise it’s going to be THIS hard”. Even though we try to set expectations in the antenatal sessions, parents are often so focussed on the labour and birth, and the postnatal days seem so very far away. And perhaps parents are not yet ‘ready’ to hear how life is going to be.
In recent months, I have learned more about mindfulness, especially after interviewing Lucinda Button for The Confident Mother. I am starting to realise that your newborn baby teaches you mindfulness from the moment she is born.
Your newborn teaches you to live more of life in the moment.
If you don’t take that shower right now, while she’s asleep, you might not get round to it for another few hours.
If you don’t respond to her early feeding cues straight away, the next stage will be crying and it’s trickier to get her to latch at the breast or to respond to the bottle once she’s distressed and frustrated. The newborn baby doesn’t have any concept of time or waiting. She knows she is hungry in this moment now and she wants to be fed in this moment now.
These early days with your newborn may seem long and hard. However this phase of your baby’s life is in reality very short, when you look at it as a proportion of your child’s whole life.
It is easy to practice mindfulness and being fully present in each moment when we are relaxed and calm, however mindfulness when you are with your newborn baby (or older children) is just as important and can mean so much more.
In my interview with Dorothy Marlen, she encourages us to be fully present in caring for our children and being absolutely present to what is happening as we feed or change the nappy. “By being absolutely present, you’re filling that child with love and a sense of security.”
Sitting there in that couple’s home on Sunday afternoon, it struck me more than ever.
Your newborn baby teaches you mindfulness.
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