If you could give new mums one piece of advice, what would it be?
Here are some of the pearls of wisdom we have all received when pregnant that really stuck. Hopefully they will remind you just how important this new role is and just how amazing a job you are doing, cracked nipples, bags under the eyes and all.
1. Babies need you – and sometimes only you
Newborns have nine months to eat, sleep and poop whenever they want. They are constantly warm and as close to you as possible and it will take some time for them to get used to this new world where you are close, but not surrounding them 24/7.
Sometimes your familiar smell, your soothing voice and your gentle touch is all they want. When only you will do, delegate the other tasks or leave them. One day your baby will be happy to be away from you for hours, days and even weeks at a time.
2. Sleep doesn’t always come easy
Sleep routines take time and every baby will be different. Try not to focus too much on sleep schedules in the first few weeks. Let them get used to it. When you do choose to sleep train, make sure you and your partner are on the same team and ready to work together to help baby learn to sleep.
3. Babies don’t mean to frustrate you
You know those days when your baby won’t stop crying, when the moment you put her down she wakes up and screams, when she fusses at the breast, at the bottle and at the dummy, when you want to scream the house down or crawl into the corner and cry?
Stop. Look at your baby. Tell yourself, “She doesn’t mean it. She doesn’t know. She only wants you”. Because this is the honest truth.
4. Take all advice in stride
Some tips and tricks may work for you and your baby. Most won’t. Trust your instinct and keep these tidbits of advice in the back of your mind just in case.
5. Babies cry. And that’s okay.
It can be distressing to hear the sound of your baby crying, but it’s their only form of communication. When my daughter was born she cried and cried and I tearfully asked the midwife, “What’s wrong with her?” She replied, “Nothing. Some babies cry when they are born. Some don’t. Either way it’s completely normal.”
You will learn the difference between hunger cry, wetness cry or cuddle cry. But this takes time.
6. Your partner is just as tired as you
It’s natural to feel resentment towards your partner. They leave the house. They socialise. They get to shower in peace. But, remember, they are probably just as tired as you. And, they are also most likely battling other concerns – they’re probably worried about whether they are spending enough time with the baby, if they are managing at work, if they are supporting you enough. They are (hopefully) trying just as hard as you, even if it seems like they get to escape the chaos.
7. Babies will make all kinds of sounds
Grunts. Farts. Hiccups – often in their sleep. It can be concerning to listen to your baby making these sounds and moving in funny ways, but these noises and refluxes are completely normal. Loud, yes. Weird, yes. But normal.
8. If you like an organised household, plan ahead
Budget for a cleaner. Make pre-cooked meals for the freezer. That way you can remain in control without feeling stressed. If you don’t mind chaos and take away food every so often, then you will be right.
9. Skin-to-skin contact is a great soothing tool
Get used to having no shirt on. Babies love feeling the warmth of your chest.
10. Create a feeding space
Pull up a little table beside your feeding chair and have everything you need close by – the remote, a glass of water, your phone.
11. Try not to stress about not sleeping
“Sleep when baby does.” Except baby only sleeps for 40 minutes at a time. Rather than stress yourself out over not sleeping, simply relax. Don’t sleep. Just rest.
Close your eyes, lay down and relax. Or, make a cup of tea, put your feet up and relax. Relax when baby sleeps. If you don’t sleep, due to stress, adrenaline or whatever else, that’s fine.
12. Feeding can be tricky for both you and bub
Breastfeeding and bottle feeding both take time to get it right when it comes to supply and demand or choosing the right formula or bottle. Be prepared to feed often and to feel like baby is eating way too much. This probably means you are doing it right. After all, babies are used to eating whenever they want in the womb. So it’s only natural they expect the same when they come out.
13. Go outside
A breath of fresh air and Vitamin D will work wonders for your mental health. Even if you just walk around the block or sit outside for ten minutes with bub in a carrier.
14. Buy wipes in bulk
Store a package of wipes in every room. And carry at least one spew rag with you at all times. The moment you leave the burp cloth in the other room is the moment bub will decide to spew all over your shoulder.
15. Allow yourself time to recover
You just had a baby and this is not a small feat for your body. It will take time for your breasts to settle, your stitches to heal, your stomach to go down and your pelvic region to stop aching.
16. Every baby will be different
My first baby (son) was as chilled as they come. My second (daughter) has been fussy, demanding and high-maintenance from day one (Yes, I understand the irony that she is just like me). Babies’ personalities will develop in time. But their temperament is already here. Some babies are easy-going and some are not. You can’t choose your baby’s temperament but you can adapt your parenting style to their personal needs.
17. There is no right way to do sleep, feed or care for baby
Whether you choose to co-sleep, to swaddle, to put bub in the cot from day one, to breastfeed, to mix feed, to bottle feed, to use a baby bath, to let bub shower with you – it doesn’t matter. If it feels right to you, then it is right.
18. There will be good days and bad days
Some days nothing will go right. Some days everything will go right and you’ll try to repeat the schedule the next day only to be left with a completely different outcome.
At the end of each day, before you go to sleep, recall at least one positive thing that happened. Even if the house is a mess, the baby hardly slept and you didn’t eat a single meal sitting down, you may have enjoyed a smile, a giggle or a coo. This is what you need to remember.
19. Find humour in the situation
When you are covered in baby poop, you’ve spilled breast milk all over the lounge and you’ve got nothing but cabbage in the fridge for dinner, just remember, it won’t be like this forever. You will look back at these moments of pure exhaustion and smile. One day.
20. They are only this little once
Kiss them often. Cuddle them always. Tickle their teeny toes. Hold their little hands. Dress them in adorable outfits. Take millions of photos. Never apologise for being “too busy with the baby”.
And cherish this time. People will tell you that these moments will go by so fast. It’s cliche. It’s annoying. But it’s also true.
21. And, finally, try not to doubt yourself
Look down at your little one. To that little baby you are the most important thing in the world. Even if your hair is a mess, your t-shirt is stained and you haven’t brushed your teeth all day, to that baby in your arms, you are perfect.
And your baby’s opinion is all that matters.
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