When we encourage new parents to ‘treasure these moments because they don’t last forever,’ we need to remember to also reassure them that they will survive these moments because they don’t last forever.

L R Knost, award-winning author and social justice activist

My wife is the kind of person who starts foaming at the mouth when a relative goes into labour. She starts counting the potential hours until she gets to meet that new baby and hug that new mom. This time, it was her cousin who gave birth to a baby girl.

I know how exciting new babies are. I know how much people want to see and smell them when they are brand new. I also know that being a good friend to many new parents means taking the utmost care with a new and very delicate situation.

At least in my experience having two children aged five and eight, I understand the physical and emotional challenges of childbirth and its aftermath. I want to start with the issue of breastfeeding.

The thing is that, for men or women who have not had children, we just assume breastfeeding is easy and natural. And yet, it is not so straightforward which makes this conversation uncomfortable in some ways.

It is not that easy for a lot of women. Certainly, I observe many women struggle with breastfeeding. At the beginning it’s actually hard to kind of figure out how to do it.

Your baby has never done it before, because they’ve just been born. And so, they are kind of figuring it out. Particularly if you are a first time mom, you are figuring it out.

And people are often quite delicate with their baby, but it turns out you kind of have to just do it. The milk doesn’t come in. And then this adds societal pressure around breastfeeding.

My mother, for example used to say to my wife “Don’t you want to give your baby the best start? Breastfeeding is the best start.”

I thought this is difficult for my wife. It is like “Here’s this thing. It’s the best start. It’s the first thing I can do for my baby. And I’m failing her. I’m just a huge failure.” There’s such a lot of pressure to put on moms in these very first moments of life.

I told my wife, if it doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work for her, it isn’t the thing that’s going to make our children successful, adult. “You know, it’s okay. You are not failing. You are not a bad mom, three minutes in, if it doesn’t, the baby doesn’t immediately crawl up your belly and start nursing. That’s not the thing that’s going to make you a good parent or good mom”

There is nothing wrong with formula too. It is all about the preferences of the parents. What works for your family?

Some of my friends ask me like, we have a four-week-old, and my wife is trying to breastfeed all the time, and it’s going really badly, and I feel so terrible for her. And I don’t know how I can help.

And if only I could tell her like this wasn’t the most important thing that she could ever do, and it was going to be okay if she didn’t do it, like I think that would really help.

Fortunately, she was not very emotional at that time. She was very calm instead. As a young father back then, like all new fathers, I was just clueless. And of course, most women, are unprepared for it as well.

But when you see that your wife is not the person that you know that she struggles to be in the first days, sometimes longer after childbirth, I have zero idea what’s going on.

I suspect, it’s the hormonal insanity of the first days. Or the gentler phrase is “baby blues”. This is quite common and not something to be worried about. But if that continues and she doesn’t have interest in the baby, in particular, then she is moving into depression. 

I think being able to see some of those things and recognise them could be really valuable for a lot of families.

As for the practice of having baby sleep in the bed with us, I don’t like it simply because when I sleep I need as much personal space as possible to get a good sleep, I don’t share pillows, blankets and I don’t compromise on how much space I will give up.

Not only that, babies cry a lot. Some sleep through the night; most of them don’t. You get cranky trying to deal with it; you don’t sleep so well.

OK, I know this will get very controversial and highly emotional at the same time. Some parents think this is the natural way to sleep with your baby and this is the way people have been doing for millennia.

It’s totally fine. Nothing is right or wrong there.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.