When you become a new mum, your self confidence and self esteem can quickly take a dive, particularly when things don’t go quite as well as planned. One of the major issues new mums face is shifting from being in control of your child during pregnancy to feeling completely lost as your child begins to develop and grow into this new life. When things such as breastfeeding and regular sleep do not go well, new mums often begin to question their parenting methods and begin to assume they must be doing something wrong. Add to this the opinions of friends, other mothers, family members and health professionals, it’s no wonder so many new mums begin to feel like failures.
So what can you do if you begin to feel like a failure, or begin to self criticise yourself?
Reduce the pressure you are placing on yourself.
One of the first big mistakes new mums make is to stop listening to their instincts and to begin listening instead to everyone else’s advice and opinion on how best to parent their new baby. As a new mum, it’s very easy to begin to doubt yourself when things you try (like breastfeeding or placing a baby in a swaddle to sleep) simply do not work, particularly when you have been told by experts that these are the best ways to feed or get your baby to sleep. What no-one seems to tell new mums (or perhaps as new mums it’s hard to believe), there is no 1 manual of parenting that works for every child. Each baby is different and also has a mind of his/her own. Some babies will easily soothe, for instance, whilst other will not. Some babies will sleep for 2-3 hour stretches at a time, whilst others will only power nap for 30 minutes at a time. If you begin to place too much pressure on yourself to be perfect, you will quickly begin to start feeling overwhelmed and self criticism will begin to seep into your mindset and quickly reduce your self confidence. So, the key is to have a parenting plan and then to just go with the flow. Sometimes your parenting style will work wonders, but other times it won’t (for instance if your baby is feeling overtired or unwell). These are the times to take a break and just try something new when you are feeling more calm and rational.
Trust that you know your baby best
As a primary carer, no-one knows your baby better than you. Other experts and parents can provide you with support and advice as to what they have observed or perhaps trialled successfully with their children, but ultimately, you know your child best. You will know if your child will respond well to new environments, people and parenting styles. you will be able to assess whether sleeping methods such as controlled crying are right for your child and your family. Trust that you have your child’s best interests at heart and always look at things from the perspective of ensuring your child is safe, healthy, happy and secure (eg living in a harmonious environment).
Catch yourself in moments of negative self-talk
If you begin you hear yourself speaking negatively about your parenting style, try to catch yourself in the moment and refrase your words. For instance, if you catch yourself saying things like “I’m never going to get my baby to sleep”, alter this to “Every baby eventually sleeps, we just need to keep adjusting things until we get things working well for our family”. Reducing negative self talk will go a long way towards boosting your confidence and ensuring you maintain a healthy self esteem throughout motherhood.