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I never knew there were so many rules in newborn parenting.

Being a first time mother is scary. You seek advice from friends and health care professionals. But can too much advice work against you?

Photo of Alyssa
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I wasn't one of those women who knew they wanted a baby. I only babysat a handful of times, never cared about other people's babies, never wanted to hold them, didn't think most were cute. As I got older I decided that I'd have a baby if I found a partner that I wanted to have and raise a baby with.

I found that partner later in life, at 32, and we got married when we were 41. Then we decided to try to have a baby. After a miscarriage at 9 weeks, I was lucky enough to get pregnant again and carry that baby to term. I delivered a baby girl at 40 weeks and 4 days. 

As a woman in my 40s, my life was pretty set. I had a wonderful husband, a dog we treated like our first-born, a fulfilling job, a community of friends, and ample time to follow my passion of trail running. All of these things were about to be disrupted, but I didn't know how. And while I wanted advice from friends and medical professionals, I couldn't have predicted the rules and should's and never's and do's and don'ts that came at me. 

While pregnant - I was told that I probably shouldn't run as much as I do. I should swim instead. I should have my parents come stay with us for the first few weeks. 

And once our baby was born, the advice kept flowing, but this time from the professionals and "baby industry". Never fall asleep with your baby lying on you. Breastfeed as long as I can. Rent a hospital grade pump. Don't give her a pacifier before 2 weeks old. Don't let her sleep in her car seat too long. Practice tummy time at least a few times every day. Don't run with her in the baby jogger until she can hold her head up. 

I would often times think about a documentary we saw called Babies. It profiled couples in different part of the world who had children. The African newborn babies played in the dirt while flies swarmed overhead. The Mongolian mother got on the back of her husband's motorcycle after delivering their baby and drove home over the bumpy terrain. The Bay Area couple kept their child clean and safe inside their victorian flat.

When we met with our pediatrician for the first time, we arrived with a long list of questions and sleep-deprived anxiety-ridden bodies. How could we remember all of the rules and what if we did something wrong? As it turns out, rules are meant to be broken. Or, as our amazing pediatrician believed, rules will realistically be broken, so instead of focusing on the rules, let's focus on how to manage the reality of what's going to happen. You ARE going to fall asleep with your baby on you, so let's talk about how to do it the safest way possible. The dreaded nipple confusion happens in 1 in 10,000 babies, so don't even think about it. And if you want to start running, just make sure her neck is supported.

What a relief. We walked out with a renewed sense of ability - we could do this parent thing! All we needed was a little encouragement and reassurance, and a little laughter and perspective. 


What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

There are too many rules when you leave the hospital with a newborn. Let's change the conversation to how to handle certain situations should they arise (which they inevitably will).

How does this research relate to our use cases and personas?

More and more women are waiting to have children, which often times brings more complexity to the birth process. Everything from conception to carrying a baby to term, the way society views and treats "older" mothers, the workplace and it's changing views on maternity/paternity leave. Medical professionals need to educate new parents but rethink the way they go about it so that it's more realistic.

Tell us about yourself:

I love developing and marketing new food & beverage products in the (sports) nutrition space. I moved into tech 5 years ago and am now in digital heath.

Are you currently an employee of Sutter Health or UCB Pharmaceuticals?

  • No


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Photo of Gayanjith Premalal

Hi Alyssa 

This story is inspirational and this aligns with the story i posted South Asian Way - The extended helping hand from the extended family where the story comes from a South Asian context. It is interesting to see that in your context also the parents of the mother come and stay with the mother in the first few weeks. This again shows that the parents trust the relatives a lot when it comes to taking care of the babies.

Can you tell me how you're going to take care of the baby when both parents have to go to work? With whom will you let your baby stay while you and your husband are away?

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