Transcript: Reflections of a First Time Mom: Lessons Learned

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called Reflections of a First Time Mom: Lessons Learned and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Helen Thompson: This is Helen Thompson. Thank you for being here today. If you’re already subscribed to the show, thank you so much, mums, you always are amazing and if you’re here for the first time, make sure you subscribe to the show. You will find First Time Mum’s Chat on all the main platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, as well as now on YouTube.

What has your experience been like with the parenting advice that has come your way since commencing your parenting journey? Have you found it helpful, poor, or a little bit of both?

Today, like in every episode, I’m bringing you an amazing woman, Jess. Jess was frustrated after giving birth to her first daughter during COVID, so much so, that it led to launching her own podcast called Modern Nurture, to help support other mums.

During our chat, you’ll hear Jess talk about her experiences during her early stages as a first time mum, including her biggest frustrations when she commenced her parenting journey, two books which helped her understand her little one better and learn about co sleeping, how massaging her daughter helped relax and relieve some tummy issues, and so much more.

Hi Jess and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you recently on your podcast about baby massage and I love how you’re supporting first time mums with what you’re doing. Can you start by telling us a bit about you and your background and what led you to hosting your own podcast?

Jess: Yeah, first thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here and I had a great time chatting with you on my podcast as well. I am an engineer by degree. I’ve been an engineering program manager for the past seven years and during COVID is when I had my first daughter, my only daughter at this point, so that was an interesting experience to go through.

I think what led me to the podcast was the, sort of what I call it is like the pipeline of parenting information that comes at you when you become a new mom. A lot of the advice is bad and you kind of have to sort through it yourself. There was a lot of pressure from my co workers too, to be sleep training and that didn’t sit right with me.

Every day they were like, you know, you gotta take care of yourself, you look exhausted and like I said, it didn’t feel right. So I went down a different path and I found like a whole different world of information and parenting styles, and I felt like I wanted to help bring information to other moms like me.

Helen Thompson: That’s fantastic, that’s a great way to start a podcast because you’ve been through it yourself, so you know what to expect. That’s great and it’s good information on your podcast too. When you first became a mum, what were your biggest frustrations?

Jess: I think feeding, I always think that it’s such a paradoxical thing that women have such a hard time breastfeeding when it’s the most natural thing in the world. So I think that was a big frustration for me. My daughter was quite fussy when she would feed and that confused me for a long time, but I got some help from a lactation consultant.

Then it seemed like she was just always having tummy problems and I was always worried about, okay, am I eating the wrong thing, cause I was breastfeeding and trying to figure all that. I think that was the biggest thing. Then there was sleep. She didn’t start sleeping through the night till she was two and even after that, it wasn’t great. So I think those were the two big ones.

Helen Thompson: And how old is your daughter now?

Jess: She’s about turn 3.

Helen Thompson: Oh, right. Is she sleeping through the night now? Is she better now?

Jess: Hit or miss.

Helen Thompson: Hmm, yeah , every child is so different and I think a lot of mums, as you say, when you first started the podcast, they think their child is going to be the same as everybody else’s child and why aren’t they sleeping or why aren’t they doing this? I think it’s important to remember that every child, and every mum particularly, is an individual and you learn your own path.

Jess: Yeah, two things that helped me, I learned this way later. The one I was going to mention first was I recently learned from the book, Nurture Revolution, that the infant brain is considered infant till the age of three and so it’s really laying all the groundwork up until then. It’s not like it cuts off at three, but you can kind of think of your child as an infant till three and it explains kind of how significantly, they still need you and are dependent on you. You know, you’d think of a three year old as quite more developed than a, than a one year old right but there’s still a lot of neurological stuff happening, so it’s perfectly normal for your kid not to sleep much, even at the age of three.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s interesting because I’ve always thought of infants as up to two, when they start really walking properly.

Jess: I’m speaking only from the brain wiring standpoint.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s interesting because I think a lot of kids are like that and it is their brain. It takes a lot to develop your brain so that doesn’t surprise me actually.

Jess: The other thing that helped me along the way was I read a book called Sweet Sleep and it taught me a lot about co sleeping and when I finally gave up the idea that I had to have her sleeping separately from me and I also gave up the idea even if she was in bed with me, I needed to push her off to the side to be really safe. You know what I mean, I just kind of like let the night flow the way it needed to, and she would nurse when she needed to and things. We got way more sleep that way. Even if she got up a few times, sometimes I wouldn’t even remember it. So that was a game changer.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I was going to ask you what were your thoughts on co sleeping? I know a lot of mums, they’re not quite sure about co sleeping. So what was your main experience of co sleeping?

Jess: I didn’t really realize that it was an option at the beginning because you’re just told, wrap them up in a swaddle and put them in a bassinet right beside the bed. So that’s how we started but I think this happens to everyone when your baby’s just getting up so many times. She would lay for 15 minutes and wake up, so I would be just like exhausted and she would fall asleep. I’d be laying flat and she would fall asleep on my chest and then I’d wake up terrified.

Once she got a little bigger and I wasn’t so terrified of suffocation, she was moving around more, that’s when I just gave up on the bassinet completely and started co sleeping. Like I said, that even itself was an evolution because I would sleep with her, but then I would push her all the way across the bed, that I wasn’t worried about her suffocating or whatever. Then eventually I just let her sleep, touching me on top of me, whatever she wanted, come and go and that’s how we got the best sleep.

Helen Thompson: I like that because I think co sleeping’s a good thing, it’s that nurture, you’ve got that sort of skin to skin, you’ve got that touch, you’ve got that intuitiveness that you know that your child’s going to be okay because they’re sleeping next to you and you can be there for them when they need it.

Jess: There’s a real difference arms length versus right beside you. So I’ll definitely do things differently next time around.

Helen Thompson: When I first spoke to you, you mentioned that you followed your instincts a lot when you became a mum. So, what did you do to support your instincts?

Jess: Yeah. So it started with the sleep training. If you Google anything about baby sleep, it’s always telling you to sleep train at the top. Everybody has this little voice in their head or in their gut that kind of tells you when something feels right or doesn’t and I think that we don’t listen to that enough. We kind of just bulldoze through our day. So it was really just paying attention to that a little bit more.

I had a pretty long maternity leave. I was off for five months, which is good for a US based job. So I was able to have the time with her to really start understanding her and having a rhythm and understanding her cues and I think that plus my shift to listening to that little guide inside my gut was kind of what started me down that path.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I think having that extra time on maternity leave is probably helpful. I know from what I’ve picked up from mums I’ve spoken to in the states, you don’t get a very long maternity leave normally, so that must make it incredibly hard for a mum, even if you’re a stay at home mum, going back to work, or working from home, it must be incredibly hard.

Jess: Yeah, some people don’t even have that. It’s not a guaranteed thing, it just depends on your employer. I remember sitting three months after having her and thinking, I have no idea how anyone can go back to work at three months. So I was really thankful I didn’t have to.

Some people do though, some people want to. Some people, they need to get back into adult stimulation, so I understand that too.

Helen Thompson: Oh, I understand both sides. As I said, it’s an individual preference and if you’ve got the opportunity to have that extra maternity leave and you want it, I would always say, take it. When you first had your baby, and I know she’s three now, but what did your typical day look like when you first became a mum and to add to that, what strategies did you use to support that journey? I know you’ve covered some of that already.

Jess: Yeah, so a lot of the advice that I was getting was the wake window. You know, base your day off the wake windows and those types of schedules. So I remember at the beginning I was very thoroughly tracking everything on a little app like how long she fed on each side and all of those things. Typical day she would fall asleep probably for good around 9 p. m. Sometimes it was around 7 to 9 and I would just go to sleep with her whenever she fell asleep because I wanted to take advantage. Usually would sleep like a four hour chunk for the first sleep and then it was real iffy after that.

So I always went to bed whenever she started the night and then we would get up. It changes, every few weeks they change so much. I remember distinctly a time when we would get up at like four in the morning for the day and I lived in California at the time and it was summer, so we would just go outside, we would make breakfast, we had a porch swing, spend some time out there and then we just went through the cycle of feeding and playing and sleeping, as the wake windows went. Then at some point in the day I always gave her a massage, and then we went to bed. I don’t think I did it right at bedtime, I think it was kind of early evening.

Helen Thompson: As you know, I’m a baby massage instructor, so I’m always curious to hear how moms go when they give their babies a massage. So how did you feel it went, did that help, did that relax her?

Jess: Yeah, it was really great. I would always sing her the same song when we did a massage, and it would just really relax her, so even if she was having a rough time, I would just go ahead and start, and It just relaxed her once I started and she had a lot of tummy issues and so I think it helped with that as well. We would get a lot of her gas out that way. Yeah, I did it once a day, but I think it just really does something for the bond, just like a few moments where you’re just like sitting there together, skin to skin, you know, eye contact, whatever and I liked it, I miss that, we don’t do that anymore.

Helen Thompson: If you’ve done it when they were a baby, sometimes they’ll come up to you and they’ll say, oh mum, can I have a massage please and they’ll lay all the stuff out. So many parents have told me that after I’ve taught them massage. As you say, it’s just an amazing bond and it helps to relax you as well as your baby.

Jess: It does. Now and then I’ll still, it’s not like a production. I don’t lay out stuff and use oil. There are times when I’ll give her a little foot rub for her legs or her back or something, and she enjoys that but it’s not as much of a routine anymore.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be a routine thing. So, you mentioned your daughter had reflux and tummy issues. Did you find that massaging her helped those? Did you actually massage on the tummy? Did you do a training or did you just go with your instinct?

Jess: Yeah, I lived in the Bay Area in California, and through my employer I got a free class through Stanford Health on massage and I don’t remember the class at all, but it was during COVID, so it was a virtual thing and they kind of just took you through how to give a full body massage to your infant.

I didn’t think she particularly liked the face. She was little, so she didn’t want to be on her stomach. I just did, chest and tummy and legs and feet and arms. Then I would give her the tummy massages mostly the ‘I love you’ type of thing I could tell she was having issues with gas. She wasn’t particularly fussy, but she did have, she just seemed to have a sensitive stomach.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, the ‘I love you stroke’ is lovely, I like that one, because it’s nurturing and supportive as well.

Jess: I know it’s effective because you can just feel the bubbles too whenever you’re doing it.

Helen Thompson: Yes, when I teach massage I always teach them on a doll, so I don’t actually have the opportunity to feel the bubbles moving, but when I’m watching other mums doing it, I can actually see the bubbles moving out and moving down.

Jess: It definitely works.

Helen Thompson: Thank you, when you teach it, it’s actually good to get that feedback from other mums as well. So, when you were struggling being a first time mum where did you spend most of your time, Instagram or Facebook and did you find anything that you picked up there helpful?

Jess: I didn’t have social media. Sometime after college, I just deleted all of that. I remember I used to scroll Facebook mindlessly once I graduated and I was like, okay, I’m just going to replace Facebook with my Kindle app and I started reading books instead of having social media. So I just deleted all of that. Then once I got the podcast, I had to start on social media. So I’ve been having to figure all of that out again. I mostly read books. I would look up on forums and things, what people’s favorite books were and tried them out. I read a lot of books because I didn’t get a lot of sleep. So I read thousands and thousands of pages those first probably four or five months.

Helen Thompson: I think that’s great that you didn’t spend a lot of time on social media. I think social media is very informative, but it’s also not very informative, if that makes sense. I think people spend too much time on it. From my experience, first time mums spend a lot of time on social media. They’re scrolling on social media and posting, oh, my baby’s not sleeping, my baby’s not doing this help, what do I do?

They’re not using their own instincts, they’re just listening to what other people are saying and not follow their own instincts.

Jess: I think honestly, COVID lockdowns, they had all kinds of impacts, but the thing that it did for me being a first time mom was that I was just not allowed to go anywhere. I lived out of state, so you couldn’t travel, couldn’t do any of these things, out of state for my family, I should say.

So I was just day in day out, alone with my baby and my husband and I think that’s kind of what gave me the space to do that.

Helen Thompson: I think COVID probably had a good effect in that respect. It gave people more time to be with each other and having a baby in those times probably gave you that extra support to have that time with your baby.

Jess: And I got to nurse her exclusively. I didn’t have to pump. So it was a silver lining for me about that time.

Helen Thompson: What are three tips you would give to a mum who’s going through a similar experience to you?

Jess: So obviously don’t go on social media as much as your brain is trying to get you to do. Slow down and just let yourself melt into the rhythm. Those days they’re kind of like a haze, you know. They’re kind of tough, but they’re also just beautiful if you just sink into them, you know, so that’s probably another one. Then, you gotta go with your gut when you’re getting advice because every baby is different and no one knows their baby like their mother does. So I’ve seen a lot of parents get advice from doctors or whatever and just have huge scares or go down a wrong path when they finally just said enough is enough, so I think going with your gut, trying to think through what is the biological norm for how your baby’s supposed to develop and just try to stick to that as much as you can and only deviate when it’s a good reason. I think those are my tips.

Helen Thompson: Those are good tips. Go with your gut feeling and follow your instincts and most of all, just go with the flow and enjoy motherhood. I know it can be tough, especially when they’re young and you’re exhausted and you’re overwhelmed and all those things. It’s important to really try to just, as you say, sink in and just enjoy being with your baby and learn your baby’s cues and learn what your baby wants and what you want as well. It’s a completely new change. You’ve been a person who doesn’t have anybody to look after for all those years and then suddenly you’ve got this little being that is yours.

Jess: Yeah, and the thing to remember is that they are hardwired to communicate everything they need to you and you’re hardwired to understand them. So as long as you give it the attention and time you’re not going to fail.

Helen Thompson: Well, thank you, those are great tips, Jess, and thank you for being here on the podcast and I know that you’ve got your own podcast. So if anybody wanted to find out more about you and get some further tips from you or listen to your podcast, how would they go about doing that?

Jess: Yeah, they can subscribe to me wherever podcasts are available. I’m also on YouTube. My podcast is called Modern Nurture and I’m also on Instagram at Modern Nurture Pod.

Helen Thompson: Well, thank you, Jess, for being here. I’ve really enjoyed having you on the podcast and you’ve shared some wonderful tips, so thank you, I really appreciate it.

Jess: Yeah, thanks for having me, this was great.

Helen Thompson: Thanks mums, you’re amazing and I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. If you’re seeking answers on conception, childbirths, toddler nutrition, sleep routines, creating a toxin free home, or how to nurture yourself, then subscribe to Modern Nurture right now. I’ll include links to it in the show notes.

In the next episode, I’ll be chatting with author Susan Vaughan Krantz, an occupational therapist with 40 years experience about body work for babies. So, if you haven’t done so already, make sure you hit that subscribe button.