I was delighted to hear that the Duchess of Cambridge had a healthy baby boy. The build-up to the royal birth during the last week has been phenomenal. Even my tiny ‘Contented Little Baby’ office has been affected by the birth of our future king — our email inbox is getting fuller by the day with inquiries from interested mothers about how I think the royal baby should be brought up — so much so that we have had to allocate a file called ‘Baby Cambridge’!
The majority of emails ask what advice I would give the Duchess to help her through the early weeks of motherhood. The truth is that I personally don’t think that the royal couple will need much advice from outsiders, myself included. Couples who have been together as long as William and Kate will usually have decided on how they want to rear their firstborn. I would imagine that they will have observed, with great interest, those of their friends who already have children and weighed up the pro and cons of different parenting methods. It is also clear that Kate and her mother have a very close bond, and that she will look for advice and support from her parents Carole and Michael Middleton, who have, from all appearances, successfully created a very loving and stable family life for their three children.
If reports in the press are true, Kate will spend some of the time after the birth at her family home and I really do hope that is the case. New parents who have a close family bond and support of grandparents generally get off to a better start, avoiding the sheer exhaustion that sleepless nights can bring.
Of the many challenges new parents face, I think that establishing breastfeeding can be the most difficult. There is so much confusing and conflicting advice on whether to feed on demand or try to establish a routine. An article in the Daily Mail this week by Claire Cisotti, who also gave birth to her son at the Lindo Wing in St Mary’s Hospital, said that ‘introducing a routine with my baby hasn’t just helped me raise confident, happy children, but has also helped make us a happy, united family’. Claire was advised by the Lindo Wing to feed her son for 15 minutes from each breast every three hours. She claims that ‘this old-fashioned routine worked like a charm. He fed easily and slept beautifully.’
I have no idea whether Kate will take the feed on-demand approach or try to establish a routine. Should she choose to ‘feed on demand’, I only hope that she doesn’t take the advice too literally. My issue with the term ‘feeding on demand’ is that many newborn babies do not always demand to be fed at regular intervals in the day, and as a result may wake up every couple of hours to feed in the night, very quickly leaving a new mother tearful and exhausted. My advice has always been to offer a newborn baby a feed every three hours. Should a baby need to feed before this then of course they should be fed, but I try to find out why the baby is not going a couple of hours between feeds. Often it is the positioning that is wrong and I recommend that all new mothers seek advice from a good breastfeeding counsellor. In Kate’s situation, she could do no better than seek guidance from Clare Byam Cook, a leading breastfeeding counsellor, who not only has an amazing success rate, but will be the soul of discretion.
My tips for Kate — or any new mother — are as follows:
— Get expert advice from a recommended breastfeeding counsellor about how to latch your baby on. Do not let your baby go more than three hours between feeds, the three hours being from the beginning of one feed to the beginning of the next feed.
— Do not allow the baby to become overtired. By the second or third week most babies can stay awake an hour or so, but longer than this can lead to a baby becoming fractious and refusing to settle.
— Keep visitors to the minimum during the first couple of weeks. Allow enough time to get used to your new baby and being parents.
— Do not skip meals: try to eat three healthy meals a day and have regular nutritious snacks and lots of fluids.
— Take advantage of any help that is offered and try to get as much rest as possible during the first couple of weeks.
Gina Ford is the author of The New Contented Little Baby Book and founder of www.contentedbaby.com