57442204‘Grandmothering’

“It’s such a grand thing to be a mother of a mother – that’s why the world calls her grandmother”. Author Unknown

Whether or not this is your first baby, your mother and your partner’s mother will no doubt be very proud and excited at the safe arrival of their grandchild! Grandmothers are usually generous in bringing gifts for the new baby as well as, offering you their advice from their own experiences. Whether this input is welcomed or appropriate can, however, be an entirely different matter.

“Becoming a grandmother is wonderful. One moment you’re just a mother. The next you are all-wise and prehistoric”. ~ Pam Brown

If this is your first experience of parenthood, it is likely that you will welcome advice and support from you own mother and your partner’s mother After all, their experiences can’t have been all bad as you and your baby’s father are living-proof that they did a pretty good job! Accepting their offers of help during the early days after the birth is a matter of personal choice. It was the right one for Melanie… “Having my mother-in-law come to stay during the first week after Alfie’s birth meant that I didn’t have to worry about keeping on top of the housework, cooking or laundry. Instead, me and my hubby could just focus on our new baby and getting breastfeeding established. Mum-in-law never once interfered, but she was always there quietly in the background making sure that we felt loved and cared for and, generally, keeping things ticking along nicely. This gave my hubby and I the time that we needed to get to know Toby and life as a new family”

But not for Sue: “Jessica’s grandma came to stay for a month after she was born; I know mum meant well, but in fact, we just wanted to be alone with our new baby”.

“Grandmother: a wonderful mother with lots of practice”. Author Unknown

There’s no denying that grandmothers have the ‘lived’ experience of being a mum but this was some time ago, and what was acceptable then may now be seen to be harmful. Victoria’s mum suggested that she drank stout to help her recover quicker from her baby’s birth. Yet, research now shows us that drinking alcohol while breastfeeding alters the taste of the breast milk; diminishes milk production and interferes with breastfeeding. Similarly, there was a time when babies were routinely put to bed lying on their tummies (ie prone); however, research has found that this practice increases the risk of cot death (also called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – SIDS) and it is much safer to place babies on their backs (ie supine).

Dealing with advice, however well-meaning, but particularly where it appears to stem from old wives’ tales and traditional practices can be very tricky; you don’t want to seem ungrateful or over confident. This is also a period of change in the relationship you are now going to have with your own mother as well as, your relationship with the mother of your partner and their (your partner’s) relationship with their own mother. One way to avoid friction is to listen first and then if you are unsure to seek further advice. The first resource should be your midwife, health visitor or GP, as they are there to offer you information and advice about all aspects of yours and your baby’s care, health and wellbeing, which is based on research evidence. Where this differs from the advice your grandmother or partner’s mother has given, you can share this advice/information with them so that you can support each other in giving your baby the best start in life. There is a wealth of information available from websites and books as well as, local postnatal support groups. Gaining additional advice can help you make the decisions for yourself that will ensure both you and your baby receive the best care possible and are helped to make healthy lifestyle choices.

“A grandmother is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.”  Author Unknown

In the time following the birth, grandparents, family and friends can be a bit intrusive on the time you and your partner want to spend becoming a family. It can sometimes be easier for your partner to act as gatekeeper and moderate grandparents’ diplomatically. Media facilities such as; webcams, Skype and email can help to keep grandparents in touch and ensure they have ready access to the very latest photographs of their grandchild, without having to visit in person. Where tensions and difficulties do arise, this can very easily dampen all the joy and excitement that a new baby brings. There may be times when you and your partner will feel that you have to ‘bite your tongue’, but we’re sure that these mothers will soon prove what amazing grandmothers they are and offer you all a great deal of love, support and encouragement.