Visiting my sister and my 1-1/2-week-old niece this past weekend, I was reminded about the early days of infant-rearing (hate that word: it reminds me of farm animals). So many people tell you to "trust your instincts," but so many things fail to come naturally.
As I held that tiny sweetie with her rounded cheeks, small bright eyes, and soft blonde mop-top, I remembered the heartbreak of trying to nurse my own Kung Fu Panda once my milk came in. My breasts were swollen, and his little mouth bounced off like a turtle trying to nom on a balloon. I wailed to my husband, The Gryphon, "My breasts are too big to feed my baby!" Fortunately, I had the phone number of a lactation consultant and had taken a breast-feeding class (a class no doubt taken by all ancient mothers). I took a hand pump and pumped enough to relieve the swelling so he could latch on.
Is mothering ever instinctive, or does each new batch of mothers need guidance from the experienced moms and wise women who came before (these days, including doulas and lactation consultants)? My sincere advice to new moms: stay away from the Internet. Opt instead for trusted sources: family, friends, and doctors. Don't believe me? Just Google "infant gas pains" and you'll discover the baffling array of advice and fear-mongering we encountered when our KFP suffered that in his first week of life. Turns out it was just the growing pains of his digestion system coming online. And, being sensitive, he was probably swallowing a lot of air from crying.
By contrast, my new niece is mild-mannered. She mews like a wee kitten when she wants something, is easy to soothe. I told my sister how lucky she is -- my wee niece even likes being strapped into her car seat! But then, the afternoon we left, I had to knock on the nursery door to say good-bye. "I hope she's done soon," my sister sighed, as the demanding little one fed. It had been an hour.
I suggested stroking her hair to wake her in case she was dozing off. "Eat, eat, eat," I used to urge KFP. My sister said she was already doing so. In that moment, I knew that, whether she and her husband do everything "by the book" or not, they'll do fine. As they'll soon discover, their instincts will catch up.