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Sometimes We Need To Prepare Not To Prepare

We’ve all heard that one, right? Mostly in relation to sport or exams, but it applies to so many things in our lives – including many aspects of parenting. Equally though, there are parts of parenting – and specifically of mothering – that sometimes we think we have to prepare for, and literally beat ourselves up about, that are just a waste of our energy and usually our tears.

Where am I going with this? Well there’s the standard things we hear about like:

Preparing for pregnancy: the number of articles you can read about preparing for pregnancy when trying to conceive would scare the bejesus out of you if you find yourself up the duff unexpectedly and you see the list of things that never even crossed your mind. Preparing for pregnancy is probably a “nice to do” if you have the time and the foresight but not necessarily the biggest of deals once you get onboard with the idea of having a baby after you’ve peed on a stick.

Preparing for birth: listen if you’ve been here before you’ll that know my stance on this one is birth preparation is an essential part of having the best experience for you and your baby. In fact I’d go as far as to say you’d be foolish not to. I’ve reached a stage now where I just don’t understand when people say things like “I’ll see how it goes on the day” and “I’m better off just not knowing”. In fact I get upset about it, especially when I see statistics like this published today. Do yourself and your baby a favour – it’s a cliché for a reason: information is power. You just need to make sure you apply it.

Breastfeeding: there’s a big yes and a big no to preparing to breastfeed. Here’s all the big yes’s. And here’s all the big fat no’s:

there’s no need to prepare your body by toughening up your nipples or other some such;
there’s no need to hire a hospital-standard breast pump for a small fortune in advance of your baby arriving; and
there’s no need to buy formula “just in case” if you’ve done the positive preparation I’ve linked to above.
That kind of negative preparation you don’t need.

And negative preparation is kind of what I’m getting at really. Positive preparation for parenting is never going to do you a bad turn. But negative preparation is probably going to hurt someone somewhere, and it’ll most likely be you.

I’m talking about things like preparing to go back to work after maternity leave and believing you have no choice but to stop breastfeeding. You can stop if you want to obviously, but going back to work and still breastfeeding is easier to manage than you think and in many ways is a godsend for when childcare germies and separation anxiety kick in. Jack Newman has some excellent information about managing breastfeeding and working, and how our perceptions around how it may or may not work are often wrong.

Even if you are definitely planning to continue breastfeeding after you go back to work, another thing you’re probably thinking about, but you also don’t have to do, is “prepare your baby” by doing things like practising spending extended time away from them so that they can get used to you not being there, or spacing out feeds so that they can get used to that also. The reality is your baby has no idea you’re going back to work and they also have no idea what they’re being prepared for so why break your own little heart? You can read my own experience about this here, in which I learnt the hard way but then found the easy way.

They’re sharp as pins, babies, especially yours. When you’re not there, they adapt themselves to the new situation and make up for the lost time when they see you. It’s going to happen anyway so there’s no point in starting it sooner because you think you have to “prepare”.

While we’re at it, you also don’t need to prepare for how your baby will sleep without you. They’ll figure it out and they’ll be fine! If you’ve discussed with their caregiver your do’s and don’ts about managing sleep, they’ll figure it out together. You might even find that they’re a little surprising angel for going to sleep either without boob or without your arms when they’re with someone else, while continuing to act the maggot when they’re with you.

I’m not saying changes are a walk in the park. Of course there’s bumps in the road. There always is when there’s a change in routine. I’m just saying don’t kill yourself by prolonging the change by starting it sooner and making yourself miserable when it’s going to happen anyway. Sometimes there’s a different way to the way everyone else is telling you you have to do it. It could be this way.

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