Instagram vs Reality... why too many women weren't prepared for bringing their newborns home

I was in a book store the other day searching for books to recommend to my clients. There were two books front and centre on the display shelf of the parenting section and this really caught my eye. Here were two books with similar themes about having a regimented ‘routine’ from birth. One, urging mothers to get their babies into a routine as early as possible, and the other recommending giving baby a big bottle of formula before bed so both Mum and baby can have a long, uninterrupted sleep.

It made me feel for the women who are pregnant and preparing to have a baby as these were two very popular and commonly recommended books (usually from well-meaning friends and instagram celebrities).

As I searched through more book stores, I realised these books were featured at eye level on display in all of them. So pregnant women will no doubt be buying these books and going into parenthood with the mindset that they will have their baby in a strict routine and will get uninterrupted sleep at night, believing that these things are actually the norm! I thought to myself… “why does this sell?”, and I realised… because it’s what women want to believe! These authors and “experts” aren’t selling reality, or facts, or genuine support, they are selling the dream!

It’s like when you see the ‘Instagram vs Reality’ posts… it’s the dream, but it’s not reality… it’s edited, filtered and the absolute perfect version. I know I sound like the bad guy saying it, but I’ve heard too many women say; “I wasn’t prepared enough for this” about bringing their newborns home from hospital.

I was talking to a woman recently, she was pregnant with her second child and had an almost two year old. In her first pregnancy she was adamant she would have a routine. She had planned that when she got home from hospital she would go to sleep at night, her partner would bath the baby and feed the baby a bottle of formula, and they would all sleep peacefully… she said ‘It doesn’t work’! It really doesn’t!’ She also said a pregnant friend of hers has an excel spread sheet of her unborn baby’s strict routine… and that she is actually worried about her friends’ mental health when she has her baby and realises that babies do not follow spreadsheets.

After hearing over and over from women at home with their babies, saying they weren’t prepared enough for life with their newborn despite reading all the ‘books’, it has made me ponder how as midwives we can better prepare women for success. When writing down my purpose recently, I wrote;

‘To prepare women in pregnancy for life with a newborn and support couples after birth in their most vulnerable time’.

It breaks my heart visiting new parents at home and seeing women in tears saying ‘I wasn’t prepared for this, I didn’t know how hard this would be’.

So to pregnant women/ new mothers; your newborn will wake and feed frequently, it will be hard and you will have broken sleep, but try to remember that this doesn’t last forever and try to enjoy your precious newborn moments. Soak up all of the cuddles that your baby is endlessly wanting, without being fixated on the lack of ‘routine.’

Prepare yourself in pregnancy for this messy, unscheduled moment in time with your newborn, instead of drawing up a spreadsheet for your baby to abide by. Set up your support network! The modern mum now, thinks she has to do it all on her own, and so many women struggle to ask for help as they see it as a sign of ‘weakness’. I love the saying ‘it takes a village’, we need to bring back the village!

With postnatal depression rates rapidly rising, we need to prepare women more than ever for reality with a newborn baby. We need to teach women in pregnancy about breastfeeding, normal newborn behaviours, nutritional depletion, postpartum recovery and SO MUCH MORE!

So if you are pregnant or know someone who is - ask your midwife for recommendations on books that will help prepare you, invest your time in antenatal classes, not only for birth preparation but for baby preparation, stock your freezer full of healthy meals, remembering how much having a baby and breastfeeding depletes you nutritionally. Ask for help! Book one-on-one midwife appointments to find out what to expect and how to transition at home with your baby!

Find your loving, supportive, encouraging friends and family and call on them when needed to help you… whether that be bringing you groceries, doing the washing, cooking you healthy meals or just cuddling your newborn in between feeds so you can have a nap!

Remember if you’re home with your newborn and you need support, call a midwife to come out to your home to help you!

A x