It’s a similar story with feeding. Parents are naturally concerned about caring for their baby and ensuring they receive enough nutrition to grow and thrive, and not every baby cooperates by feeding on demand.
There are also a variety of views about the ‘right’ way to settle babies. And just as many about the ‘best’ way to feed them. Many parents come to parenthood with fixed ideas or particular expectations about settling and feeding, and these do not always match the reality once it arrives. These challenges can add to the burden of simply learning to be a parent and can negatively impact on new parents’ emotional and mental well-being.
Settling your baby
Some babies settle naturally, quickly and easily. Others don’t. Some settle easily as newborns, then are more difficult to settle as they get older. Some are difficult to settle during the early days, then get the hang of things and are easier to get to sleep later. In short, all babies are different.
Getting to know your own baby takes time. Part of that is understanding the signs of tiredness and learning the best way to settle the little one. When both parents are tired and stressed, and the baby won’t cooperate by going to sleep, anxiety can build up. This can lead to tension between the parents, especially if you have differing views on how to settle your baby.
Friends, family members and even some health professionals can offer a wide range of diverse opinions on how to settle your baby. Sometimes these views are strongly felt and strongly expressed to you. When you’re anxious and fatigued, this often-well-meant advice can add another layer of stress.
You might also be told by friends, family members and even some health professionals that babies are always hard to settle. That being tired is normal. That you need to toughen up and get used to it.
This type of advice is unhelpful and can cause new mums and dads to minimise what they are feeling and push the feelings deep down inside.
If you are having difficulties settling your baby, and it is taking a toll on your mental health to the point that your ability to function is impaired for more than two weeks, then you should seek support.
Unsettled or crying babies
Becoming a new parent is hard enough. Having a baby that is really hard to get to sleep, wakes often, sleeps for short periods, or cries excessively, makes the transition to parenthood even more challenging.
It’s important to remember that any difficulties your baby is having is not your fault. Babies come into the world with their own personalities and characteristics, and learning about these is one of the challenges of becoming a new parent. Some babies are born with physical or medical complications like acid reflux or colic that affect their ability to settle or to feed. Many of these types of conditions can be treated, and having them addressed can often help with other issues like sleeping and feeding. If you suspect a medical issue might be affecting your baby’s ability to feed or sleep, then talk to a health professional.
Feeding your baby
Like many aspects of parenting, the issue of how best to feed a baby generates many strongly held views in the community. However, the most important thing is that the little one receives the nutrition he/she needs to grow and thrive. Whether your baby receives that nutrition through a breast or a bottle is entirely up to you.
Many new mums and dads bring their own personal views and expectations to the table. These may differ between parents. How these pre-held ideas are matched by their new reality once they become a parent can impact on their emotional and mental well-being.
Here at PANDA we try to encourage new mums and dads to be as informed as possible and make their own choices about feeding their baby. Sometimes the decision is taken away from them by circumstances, meaning formula through a bottle is the only option.
Early parenting centres: support in settling and feeding your baby
Early parenting centres are designed to help new mums and dads who are having difficulties looking after their babies. Staffed by health professionals including maternal and child health nurses, early parenting professionals, social workers and psychologists, these early parenting centres can provide support for a range of issues including settling your baby, breastfeeding, infant behavioural issues and emotional and mental well-being.
Some early parenting centres offer overnight residential stays (sometimes called sleep schools) where parents and the new baby can stay for a night or several nights, while others offer day programs.
Many early parenting centres require a referral from a health professional for admission and support. To find your nearest early parenting centre speak to a health professional or call the PANDA National Helpline.