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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thoughts on Confinement #5: Preparing for the long haul

I believe that it is very important for parents to make their own decisions in how to raise their child and to apply these principles in a consistent manner. The first month is often a sensitive time for new mothers who tend to have high anxiety levels, especially first-time mothers who may also be feeling awkward and inadequate. These emotions can lead to tension between the new mother and any secondary caregivers who are helping out at home (e.g. mothers, mothers-in-law, confinement ladies, domestic helper), especially if their beliefs on child-rearing differ.

In order to mitigate these problems, it is advisable for potential mothers (and fathers) to discuss their views on child-rearing with the secondary caregivers, especially if the designated caregiver will be taking over after the mothers return to work.

Personally, I found this particularly difficult as my own mother had volunteered to help me during confinement and everytime I tried to talk to her about baby-related issues, she would wave me away saying, "Aiyah, when the baby is here, then we can talk about it.". Now, I really felt that the time for discussion (or argument, as the case may be) should not take place over the cradle of a squalling newborn, so I persisted and in the end we did manage to have a proper talk.

After chatting with some other mums who have had secondary caregivers during the confinement month, I realised that most of us had to deal with similar issues. I have consolidated these issues into the following categories:
1. Feeding
2. Sleeping
3. Soothing

Here are some things that expecting mums might want to ponder over with their husbands and their secondary caregivers (this is by no means an exhaustive list - there are other issues that will be specific to each family):

1. Feeding
- Will you be breastfeeding, bottle feeding or using a combination?
- Will you be expressing milk or using formula or a combination for bottle feeding?
- What kind of bottles/teats will you be using?
- If you are bottle feeding, who gets to feed the baby?
- Who gets to feed the baby at night?
- How often will you be feeding the baby?
- How long will your feeding times be?
- If the baby is sleeping, will you wake him or her for a feed?
- Do you plan on supplementing your baby's milk feeds with rice cereal, water, vitamin drops etc? When and how much?
- What will you do with the baby directly after a feed?
- What will you do if the baby falls asleep halfway during a feed?
- What will you do if the baby appears hungry but cries when put to the breast?
- What will you do if the baby has finished a feed but starts crying a short while later?

2. Sleeping
- How do you plan to put your baby to sleep?
- When will you put your baby to sleep?
- Where will the baby be sleeping during the day/night?
- In what position will the baby be sleeping?
- How do you plan to ensure the baby's comfort whilst sleeping?
- How long will you allow your baby to sleep in between feeds? Any change during the night time?
- What will you do if you put your baby to sleep but he or she is still crying?
- What will you do if your baby wakes midway through a nap and is crying?
- What do you do immediately after the baby wakes up from a nap?

3. Soothing
- When the baby is crying, who picks up the baby first? What happens if it is nighttime?
- What methods of soothing will you use?
- Do you plan to allow pacifers, finger/thumb sucking, gripe water, medicated oil, swings, brandy etc?
- What will you do if the baby is crying but is clearly not hungry/uncomfortable/sick?

Read the rest of the series here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


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