What is best for my baby?Making Choices as a New and Expectant Mother

When we make choices as new mothers, if can feel as if we are entering the “Information Forest” – we might feel lost, scared and overwhelmed. There are so many things to watch for, consider, and weigh out.

We are often told to “trust out instincts”, but what does that mean, exactly? Where do our instincts lie? There is an implication in the “trust your instincts” motto, that we have “THE ANSWER” inside…somewhere. By seeking “the answer” only, we can often miss the various bits of learning and insight along the way. Sometimes this kind of seeking can also make us feel like we are going in circles – an endless loop of pros and cons, what if’s , shoulds and maybe’s.

Instead of focusing on getting the right answer to a question or challenge, imagine that your instinct might simply be your next movement, question or breath?

 

Here are some ways to look at making decisions as a new mother:

-FEEL: What am I sensing in my body right now? Breathe into that physical sensation, and open to it, welcome it, give it a name. You might only need to do this, and nothing else. Checking in with your physical sensations puts you right here, in this moment, which can help you be more present and make clearer choices. Maybe when you visit your doctor, you feel tightness in your belly. Imagine if you knew that ahead of time and when you visited next, you chose to breathe into that sensation a few times during the visit and simply acknowledge the sensation. Suddenly, you become present and aware and more able to respond to your needs in that moment. It might be hard to feel certain things, and there might be lots and lots of distractions, so be gentle with yourself and sprinkle this process with lots of gentleness, and a dash of courage!

-EXPLORE: Learning how you make decisions: Think about a piece of advice you have gotten as a mother. Did you follow it? If so, how did you know to follow it? If not, how did you know not to follow it?

GATHER: Gathering useful details: It can be easy to get overwhelmed by information. You can ask the same question and get many different responses. Asking better questions can help you  gather information that is useful to you and your personal situation, not just a lot of details that can overwhelm you.

When you are faced with needing to make a decision (eg whether to swaddle your baby, whether to take someone’s feeding advice, whether to supplement with formula etc.) consider some of the BRAIN questions below. Solution-focused questions help you gather what you need to make the best choice for you and your baby at this given moment. Think of this process as a foraging – go into the “information forest” and take bits and pieces and place them into your bag. Remember, the bag might get too heavy if you overpack, so be selective and stop when the bag is full.

 

UNDERSTAND BIASES:

  • When someone gives you advice, what do you assume is their intention? Perhaps you think that your doctor suggested that you supplement your baby with formula because he is uneducated on current breastfeeding practices. Maybe you think he is just in a hurry and wants you to just come up with a quick solution.
  • Consider what that person’s positive intention might be: Maybe your doctor wants to make sure your baby is getting the nutrients he needs or he believes that you are very tired and might not be able to sustain the constant night feeds.
  • Check your assumption: use some of the simple questions below to check out your assumption and get clarification on what your doctor is suggesting.

B.R.A.I.N. questions *

B = BENEFITS: How would this be helpful? Why is this being proposed?

R = RISKS: What else should we know about this? Other things that might go along with this? Side effects?

A = ALTERNATIVES: What are some other things we can try first? What have other people tried that might work? Is there any reason we couldn’t try X first? (don’t ask permission or say: “could we…?”)

I = INTUITION: What is my gut telling me? What feels right? Am I deciding from fear—or courage? How might this work/not work for my partner?

N = NOTHING or NEGOTIATION: I would like to revisit this in another week. Do you forsee any problems with that?  If I don’t do x  right now, in your experience, what might happen?

*adapted from Pam England of Birthing From Within

 

So You Have Gone Through Your Mental Checklist, Gathered Information, Looked Within But You Still Feel Conflicted!

Consider these questions:

“If I lived in a perfect world where only the intention behind the decision mattered, how would my view on this question change?”

“If I spoke to a wise and loving grandmother, someone who has seen many things in her life, many turns and twists, challenges and great love, what would she say to me right now about this struggle I am going through?

 

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