A little help from my friends…
When moving to Hong Kong, many of us leave family and friends (aka our support system) behind in our home country. So when babies are on the horizon, many of us will have family and friends come visit us during that time to help. It is always so nice when extended family or friends offer to help and spent some time at home with you and the new baby. Luckily for most new parents, the support is genuine and as needed.
Last month, I was seeing a woman at home to help her with breastfeeding as part of the services at Annerley. She was having a hard time adjusting her sleep to the baby and breastfeeding was more tiresome than she had expected. I guess we have all been there at some stage. What caught my attention was that she kept repeating to me how supportive her family was and that she really should be grateful.
She had a little bit of (what most of us have unfortunately)… a good girl syndrome. She felt as though she should be grateful, even if the support she was getting was entirely on the terms of the givers and not the receiver. Comments like, “He is just hungry, I really think we should give him some formula, you have had no rest.” or “You really should go out more, it will do you good, plus we have not seen any of Hong Kong during our stay here, let’s go for lunch.” and “A baby should self settle, crying does no harm to them.”
The thing is, all of the above can be said and may sometimes be appropriate, but it is not supportive when it is given in this format. It is actually not helpful, especially in a case like this, where the mum was actually just in a very normal situation, baby was sleeping well but waking up reasonably often, gaining loads of weight and nothing wrong with him. But what has got to be remembered is that our parents grew up in a different environment to us. They received different instructions and sometimes, despite their best intentions to support, their comments may not be what we need. So it is important, before inviting them, to ask yourself, if they will actually be helpful. For example, are they happy to just hang with you on your terms and expectations for the baby.
Another comment I had from a lady not so long ago threw me completely: “My husband is so happy with how everything is going but he really thinks that I should stop breastfeeding.”
The couple had a 2-month-old baby that was happily breastfeeding with no problems at all. The opinion expressed, was because the husband was uncomfortable with his wife breastfeeding right from the start. His opinion was that it was inappropriate and unnecessary as he was formula-fed himself so he did not see the need for it. In our opinion, this is something that no one should have a say in except for the mum, let alone express it to her!
However, a part of me remembered that this is actually all about how people are raised and what information they’ve been given. When talking to the dad later, I found out that he simply thought that breastfeeding should last one to two months only and he and his wife could have some semblance of what life was like before. For example, without waking up at night, the flexibility to go out for dinners etc. However, once expressed the reasoning behind why it’s beneficial to continue breastfeeding, he was supportive. Communication is key to making sure the support you’re getting is the right kind of support you need.
And when we grow old ourselves, let’s try and remember, when our kids have children, it is not our role to tell them how to do things, but rather ask them what kind of support they need.