Transcript: Advice For New Moms Commencing Their Parenting Journey
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Advice For New Moms Commencing Their Parenting Journey and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: A recurring theme on First Time Mum’s Chat has been the lack of information available to moms to help them as they commence their new parenting journey. There is a lot of tension and insecurity around being a new parent, and this becomes even more of an issue when you are away from your family.
Ann-Christin Villegas knows all about this after relocating from her native Germany to Virginia in the US and giving birth to two girls, both in the USA and found the process frustrating and challenging finding information and resources, and she kept meeting other moms and expecting women who were in the same situation and frustrated. Ann works as a biotech engineer in the pharmaceutical industry so is no parenting expert, but she was so passionate about the difficulties she and others were facing, that it motivated her to write a book, titled Becoming A Parent: A Reality Check on Pregnancy, Birth, and Baby’s First Year, to help new parents and expecting parents.
For Ann, it’s also very important that her parents and family in Germany have the opportunity to bond with their little ones, so they visit each year. You’ll hear Ann talk in the interview about how they plan for and manage their overseas trips and overcome the challenge of flights with young infants, being confident in parenting your own way and not letting self doubt to creep in or allow others to dictate how to parent, the importance of treating each of your children as a unique individual with their own ways and time frames and not basing decisions on shoulds and have tos and so, so much more.
Hi Ann, welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. It’s great to have you here today, and I’m looking forward to hearing all about your book and your experiences of traveling with your little ones. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
Ann-Christin Villegas: Thank you so much for having me. I am originally from Germany, so born and grown up there, and then I met my husband out there and we stayed there for a while and eventually we decided it’s time for an adventure and we came out to the US, we moved over here and then eventually we started having children and we had the first one and then two years later we had a second one, both girls. They are one and almost three years old now. The older one is about to turn three and it’s been crazy, we’ve had a lot of milestones, we’ve had a lot of first ones. There’s always something new every day. It almost seems like it and yeah, you have of course you have your first big milestones of course, that everybody talks about, but then you also have those little ones, those little victories that come around the corner and you didn’t even know that you were expecting them and there they are.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, those little ones are so lovely because you suddenly see that your little baby is not sort of six weeks anymore, that they’re four or five months and they’re beginning to sit up, well, not so much at four months, but I guess at five or six months they’re beginning to sit up and start looking around and watching what’s going on, and you suddenly think, oh gosh, she’s not a baby anymore.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah, you suddenly realize that they actually notice the world around them. Initially it’s like, okay, they’re laying there, they’re sleeping, or they wanna be fed or held and that’s it but then suddenly they look around and you feel watched . Suddenly you have to be careful what you’re doing because they can see what I’m doing, they understand even though they seem so little, but they understand what’s going on around them.
Helen Thompson: Oh yeah, I know that from baby massage. I believe that touch is so important and babies learn so much by what we are doing and they learn so much by our observations and I think that helps with the milestones as well, because if they’re being cuddled and touched all the time, well then they start developing earlier.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah and it’s just nourishing them, if they feel like they’re being loved and they feel like you want to be around them, they start looking for you more and they will start seeking your presence more. They start spinning, they start rolling, they all get their own little technique for how they first move before they start crawling and yeah, just that bonding time is so important with them and it does encourage them to develop.
Helen Thompson: What would you say would be the biggest milestone that they go through as a baby between six weeks to say four months?
Ann-Christin Villegas: I think it’s probably when they start smiling at you on their own and then start laughing. So the smile would come around eight weeks and then it just feels like you get something back finally, after giving so much to them, you feel like, oh, they are happy to see me and you can feel a little bit more of a bond that’s going both ways.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, that time when they start smiling at you is just so beautiful. Suddenly you see your little baby smiling, and I can’t put words into it because you can’t, it’s just such a special feeling. It’s just that lovely sort of mushy feeling that you get when your baby first smiles at you.
Ann-Christin Villegas: You can have a really rough night, you can be up five times because they had a bad night but then they give you that smile.
Helen Thompson: And then you’ve got the one from four to six months when they get even more observant and they start being more connected with you.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah and between four and six months, some of them can start teething very early and they start teething with four months and then, up to six months you start giving them solids. So that’s a whole new level of interacting with them because you don’t just give them a bottle anymore or breastfeed. Now you start giving them actual food and maybe they already get to play around with it a little bit. It adds a whole new level to cleaning as well, for sure.
Helen Thompson: Oh, definitely. Yes, but it’s a fun experience cuz you’re both learning together and you are learning about them, you are learning about what they like to eat and they’re learning about you, they’re learning about, oh, mommy likes this I’ll give it a try or throw it on the floor thinking, nope, I don’t want that.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah and it’s interesting because initially they cannot really chew much, so they get more puree or very soft foods, and then they see you eating other food that they cannot handle yet but that’s exactly what they’re gonna want so they start complaining that they’re not getting the food from your plate, but you’re giving them something else.
Helen Thompson: I believe in baby led weaning where you put a bit of broccoli. When I say broccoli, obviously it’s not really hard, something that’s really soft, but not so much pureed, but just something that’s really soft that they can suck on it and then actually enjoy it.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah, I, I think there is both ways, right? Some say definitely no baby led weaning, we’re gonna start with just the purees and then eventually a little bit more chunky and then we’ll transition over and others just start straight away with the baby led weaning. For us, it was an in between, we did both. They got the purees and then we slowly started introducing some of the soft finger foods and the purees were boring very fast. Maybe three weeks, four weeks and then they just wanted to feed themselves.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think it varies from each baby. I think as a mom, it’s really just a matter of trial and error and seeing what your baby wants and let it be baby led rather than what you want to give them. Your baby will tell you what they want and what they don’t want.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah and if they’re ready or not, I think that’s a big one. In my family, food is very important. We love to cook, we love to eat, it’s a family event and I was breastfeeding, so I always said, okay, at six months, that’s when we start introducing solids, not earlier and not much later either. But my first one, she was not too interested. Of course it was a little bit upsetting after spending time in the kitchen to prepare fresh food for her, that then she just spit it out but at the same time, they have to get used to a consistency. With my second one, she was such a hungry baby. We had to start feeding her solids before six months because she would just get angry at the dinner table and she started eating super well, very fast. It just depends from baby to baby.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, exactly and I think every baby’s an individual and that’s important because just because one baby’s doing one thing, it doesn’t mean that your baby’s doing anything wrong because it’s not doing that. We’re all individuals, including little babies.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah, one of my friends, her son didn’t take to eating solids right away, and eventually they said, we’ll take a break, we’ll give it a week and I guess that was the week that the baby needed, because afterwards he started eating solids without a problem.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, which I think is good just to let your baby do it when they’re ready. I thought that it might be a good opportunity to talk about your book cuz that’ll include the traveling with the baby and everything else.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah, thank you and it was born out of frustration. To be honest, I had such a hard time as a first time mum finding all the information and the resources. I spent so much time looking on the internet and still couldn’t find what I was looking for and meeting other moms or expecting women, but also new parents, they all went through the same and they just couldn’t find the one book where they had all of the information they needed that would just give them that confidence of doing it your own way, that that is the correct way because you have so many people telling you, you should do it this way, you should do it that way, this is better for your child when they’re not even the parent! And just giving them one tool to use, just that motivation and that thought of, what I’m doing is actually good because I know as a parent best what my child needs. So that’s why I decided to write the book and I hope it helps the new parents and expecting parents out there.
Helen Thompson: I think that’s so important because I come from a childcare background and I always try not to give parents advice because as you say, every parent is different and you know your child. You can be practical and you can say, have you tried this or have you tried that but if it doesn’t work, that’s okay and I think so many people give so much advice and at the end of the day you’re the one that’s got your baby, so you are the one that’s got, so take the advice that you want, you don’t have to take all the advice that people give you.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Exactly, for me I always thought, okay, I’ll listen to it just in case I run out of my own options and nothing is working, maybe I’ll try theirs, but in the end, as you said, you just take what works for you and you leave out the rest. I try to be patient about it because in the end, people who give you advice, they really just want your best and they want to help you, but it can get a little bit annoying.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, it can get a little annoying, especially if you are really stressed. In a supermarket, for example, I’ve seen this so many times, parents are really stressed cuz the little ones crying or the little ones doing whatever they’re doing, they’re having a temper tantrum and you want to help but at the same time, it’s better just to let them get on with it because if you try and give them that advice, it just doesn’t work and I must admit, I’ve done both in saying, oh, sounds like he’s having a tough time, is there anything I can do to help but then other times I’ve just smiled at them and just had a little chat to the baby or something and said it’s not that bad. I’ve been guilty of both of those, so I can’t say I’m Miss Perfect cause I’m not!
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah but I think everybody’s just going to do their best. When I was in the situation, I would get stressed out, I would get hot, I start sweating, I get nervous, I’m just like, okay, I don’t wanna be bothering people around me so much, my child is getting on my last nerve right now I just need to finish this shopping because we need to eat as well. They have the reasons why they’re crying so you can’t really be mad at them. You just have to get through it. You gotta grow a thick skin and move on.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, absolutely. So in your book, you also talk about traveling with your baby when they were six weeks old. Is that something that you did with your baby? I think that sounds like a challenging, interesting, and fun time as well.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah, so with the first one, with me being from Germany, if I want to see my family, I have to fly out there and for us, it was always very clear when we were moving to the US that we do want to see my family once a year, especially once we had children, I want that bond also between my mom as a grandmother and my children to be there. So with my first one, we traveled at three months old and we flew to Germany and then we did another short trip to Portugal and then back to Germany and then back to the US and it was great because she was a great sleeper at that time, she ate well, I was able to nurse her without the problem and that was the best time to travel with her because she was such a good travel buddy. You know, they don’t need much, they just want to look around and they see something new every day. So she was just curious, taking it all in, being happy.
Then we traveled again when she was four and a half months old, five months old, we flew to Colombia and Peru. If you want to know how much of a bad parent you are, go to Peru. So we went there during rain season, which for us, it was so pleasant, we could walk around in our long pants, but then a t-shirt, because for us it was relatively warm considering where we’re coming from. For them it was cold, so they were wearing thick jackets and they were all, oh my God, your baby’s so cute. Cause they hadn’t seen necessarily pale skin babies before and then immediately afterwards, oh, but your baby’s cold, you need to dress your baby warmer and it wasn’t just once in a while, it was every five minutes and people telling us, oh, you have to do this with your baby, you have to do that with your baby. At one point we did a day trip with a travel group and we just had to say Can you please stop telling us what we should be doing with our baby, we are the parents, the baby has survived the first five months with us, it’s still alive and so we must have done something right. So please just let us enjoy our time here. We appreciate you caring, but we really don’t care what you’re saying because this is going to happen our way, not your way and I think that’s when they realized, oh yeah, maybe we should tone it down a little bit and let them have their vacation and so there was the extreme end of this advice giving and then the pandemic hit, so then we stopped traveling for a while and then we didn’t travel again until she was one and a half and that’s when I was pregnant with the second one and then with the second one, we traveled when she was six weeks old, we flew again from the US to Germany and then did another trip to Croatia and that also worked out just fine. I think the younger they are in that sense, the easier they are because they’re not moving yet. Once they start crawling or walking, that’s when it gets a little bit more difficult because then they really want to move around.
Helen Thompson: And an airplane is a very small space, so it’s a little bit hard for them to crawl around.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah, and also, all these people are walking over the carpet area and you don’t know all the dirt that’s there, and they always find the smallest thing and put it right in their mouth, so it’s also not necessarily what you want them to eat. You could find some peanuts there and that’s a choking hazard, so, you have to be a little bit more careful when they’re out and about on their own there.
Helen Thompson: So with all your traveling with your kids, what would be the tip that you’d give to a first time mom who’s traveling with the small baby?
Ann-Christin Villegas: Definitely planning your time and do pre-planning for everything. You go to the airport and your baby still wants to eat or needs a diaper change, so I would just go with a little bit more time. We made our life easier with taking the stroller all the way to the airplane instead of checking it in, so it just helps you get around a little bit faster and yeah, we had diaper bags. Diaper bags are very important on the trip, but then the airplane restrooms are very tiny, you don’t have a lot of space. So what we did there is we had a small pouch with just a few diapers and some wipes in there, and then we brought a foldable changing mat, and then you could just carry that easily while carrying the baby and then change the baby there in the restroom without having too much trouble with the space there.
It was really just all the pre-planning is making sure you have everything in your diaper backpack. If they’re a little bit older, maybe a special snack, a new toy. Just trying to take their mind off of things and a carrier and sometimes they are going to cry and what we did was, if they have to cry, that we take them to the restrooms so that the other people could sleep because usually the long flights are overnight so we didn’t want to necessarily keep the whole airplane awake either and we started planning on sleeping a lot less on the flights.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I guess you probably don’t get much chance to sleep cuz you’ve got to tend to your baby. It must be hard for a baby with all the different noises and everything on the plane that they’re probably not used to. I mean, as an adult I find that quite hard.
Ann-Christin Villegas: It can be difficult, but what also helps is when you book your flight that you follow up with a call to the airline and request the bassinet because certain seats have that option where you can put the bassinet and then it’s so comfortable for the baby to lay in there and you actually get some rest for your arms as well, so that has always worked well for us.
Helen Thompson: So is there any other tips that you’d like to pass on to first time mums?
Ann-Christin Villegas: I think what you have to be aware of is just managing your expectations. We like to see a lot of things, everything new if possible, and so we think about what is it that we wanna see, what is a definite must, what would we like to see and we make a list and then we cut that list in half and then we get about what we can do just because you cannot just move at the same pace as you used to, especially if they’re eating solids and you have to take a break and cuz they need their first breakfast and their morning snack, then lunch, afternoon snack, then dinner. It can be a little bit more disruptive to the whole planning, especially if then you also want to be driving anywhere.
You have to see, is it during the snack time, then you have to take a break somewhere and you just don’t get to see as much but if you go in there knowing you’re not going to see as much, then you will still be happy with all the things that you will see. For me, I strongly believe that having a child doesn’t mean that you have to stay in your house or you have to stay put all the time.
Helen Thompson: I agree with that, cause I was brought up to travel.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah, it’s definitely stressful the first time. I mean, every time it’s a little bit stressful, but the first time is the one where you’re probably more nervous about because it in that sense, it is another milestone, the first trip with the baby but once you’ve gone through that and you just go for it, you let it happen. If issues come up, you just deal with them on the spot and you’ll get through them because if something like that happened at your house, you would also just deal with it and get through it and all the people who are on the airplane with you, for example, they didn’t pay for a private jet. They paid to be on an airplane with over a hundred other people so just don’t care about them, don’t worry about them.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think that’s an important tip because I think some people get very frustrated with babies crying. Did you find the staff on the plane, did you find them helpful, cause I know sometimes they are and sometimes they’re not.
Ann-Christin Villegas: I’ve only had very good experiences where they were super happy to see the little ones. They even gave little gifts to them. My older daughter’s favorite stuffed animal is a small airplane that has Lufthansa written on it because she got that on her first flight.
Helen Thompson: That’s lovely. I think that’s good that they do that. Being supportive of you rather than giving you a negative experience because it’s better for the baby and it’s better for you too if the staff support you as well.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah, because the babies can tell if people around them are in a bad mood or if they’re friendly. They will pick up on those cues so if people around them are friendly and then they will give them a smile and they’ll be happy but if people around you are going to be mean or trying to make it even harder on you then the baby can pick that up as well but in the end, you’re on that flight for a few hours and then you’ll never see these people again, so doesn’t matter.
Helen Thompson: I always like talking to babies on flights and cheering them up a little bit and supporting the mom as much as I can, but also being aware of the fact that she might need her own space as well and I think you’ve gotta get the right fine line between being there to support the baby, but you’ve also gotta think about the mother and the parent as well. They may just want to chill out and be themselves with their family.
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah but at the same time, I think that any parent will always appreciate understanding seat neighbors, might be just like, oh, this is a cute one and oh, this was a very nice travel buddy, didn’t really cry much. I’ve had that a lot just getting dirty looks when I got into the airplane and then at the end, the babies behaved better than some of the adults in that sense and then people saying, oh yeah, she was so good, that was very pleasant.
I would just say you can find the book on Amazon, it’s available worldwide. I have it there as an ebook, print copy and a audio book. I would hope that it helps out people, that’s what I wrote it for. I really hope it finds the right audience and people can take away something and I wrote this in the book. If you read it and you don’t like anything, that’s also a win for you because you know what you don’t want to do with your child, and that’s equally important. But I really do hope that it helps some of the parents out there.
Helen Thompson: And if anybody wanted to get in touch with you about your book, how would they go about doing that?
Ann-Christin Villegas: Yeah, so in the book, I have my email address in there, so anyone who wants to chat about something or has other questions, they can reach out to me via email. I am not the biggest social media person. I am on LinkedIn, you can probably find me a little bit on Instagram, but the email would be the best way to reach me.
Helen Thompson: Okay, thank you so much for being on the podcast. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you and I’ve really enjoyed hearing about all your travel experiences with kids. It’s been an eyeopener for me, so thank you for being here.
Ann-Christin Villegas: No, thank you very much for having me on your show. I’ve really enjoyed it and yeah, I hope that maybe in the future we can do this again.
Helen Thompson: I hope you found Ann’s experience of raising her two children interesting and if you are either a new or expecting parent, then I highly recommend checking out her book. You can get it from Amazon in Kindle, ebook, printed or in audio formats, and Ann has got many wonderful reviews of her book. Ann has also put together a free memory box checklist, and I’ve included links to these as well as her social media in the episode show notes which can be accessed at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/093.