Being a new mum is wonderful. It's also knackering! For the first few weeks and months, your newborn is designed to wake you up every 3 hours for a feed, and sometimes when they're growing (or whenever they feel like it) they'll cluster feed all night long, giving you ZERO sleep at night. Here are a few tips I wish someone had shared with me before I had my first baby.
1. Let him fuss a little bit for a little while... I remember rushing over to the Moses Basket the moment I heard my baby make any sound. At the first sign of any distress (because crying means distress right?) I'd come running, ready to fix whatever the problem was. But the truth is, babies cry, whimper, fuss and wail for all sorts of reasons, and not all of them mean they're distressed or sad. Sometimes they're just tired. Or over stimulated. And peace and quiet is exactly what they need. Babies are perfectly fine to have a little cry whilst you’re having a wee. He isn’t in distress, unless he's screaming. In fact, if he gets used to you placing him in the Moses basket when he’s drifting off, he will begin to enjoy his space, and you’ll make your life so much easier. Give him the confidence to drift off to sleep on his own, and you'll do the both of you the biggest favour.
2. Make a 'feeding station' by your bed and next to your sofa... When you're feeding a newborn, you have no idea how long the feed will take, especially in those early days. You'll find yourself asking your other half and visitors to 'hand me that muslin over there' or 'grab my water from the kitchen' - but what happens when he goes back to work and your visitors have gone home?! Well then, you need a feeding station! It needs to be within arms reach of where you sit to feed your baby, so you won't need to get up to fetch anything. In it, you need to put a muslin, a bottle of water, some baby wipes, breast pads, a nappy bag (to put the used breast pads in) a calorie rich snack, the remote for the telly. a phone charger (already plugged in nearby, with the cable long enough to stretch to where you're sat feeding.) And in the one by your bed, a mini torch, a fresh nappy ad a foldable changing mat. Everything you might need, within arms reach.
3. Prioritise your cup of tea. (Or coffee. Choose your own poison). It’s the elixir of life. Without it, you feel mortally weakened. With it, you feel comforted and sparky. So do yourself a favour and buy a decent Thermos mug with a handle and a sippy lid. Then there’s no chance of spilling it on the baby’s head when he’s feeding, and it will stay warm for ages. Win win!
4. Ask for help – This is the one I could never do. But you should... no you MUST ask for help. It does NOT make you any less of a mother. I promise. When it comes to getting a job done where a newborn is involved, two hands are better than one, and as hard as it is to believe it, people actually want to be useful to you! So when your mother-in-law comes over and offers to take your laundry basket home or load the dishwasher, do not protest. Say thank you and accept! And when your friend is on her way over and asks if she can bring anything, ask her to pick up something for lunch. She will love to feel like she’s being helpful, and you won’t have to stress about what to feed her (and yourself). Lighten the load, and you’ll have more energy to give to your baby.
5. Sleep is not for the weak. It’s essential. There’s a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture. It slowly drives you round the bend. I’ve been there and it’s horrible. At first you think things will improve soon, and then when they don’t you learn to live on broken or no sleep, and before long, you’re hallucinating and putting your car keys in the fridge, and you start to dread the night time, because it means dashed hopes and broken sleep again and again and again. This doesn’t have to be your reality, I promise you! There are people who can help you! I know it seems like a fantasy, and that you’ve heard it said a million times that ‘newborns just don’t sleep’ and as true as that statement may be, the fact is that babies over the age of 12 weeks can be taught to sleep, and with gentle encouragement from you, and trust in someone who knows what they’re doing, wonderful things can happen. I can't recommend Eve and Gemma at Calm and Bright Sleep Support highly enough for help on this. They offer real, practical and workable advice on how to help your baby learn to sleep. Follow them on Instagram as they are just about to launch a series of Live chats, offering advice on your specific sleep concerns!
(oh and a bonus 6.... Book a newborn photo shoot! Your baby won't stay this little for long. In fact, you'll probably find they outgrow their newborn clothes before you've even had the chance to put them in all of them. It goes so fast. And you'll be so tired in those first few weeks, they'll pass by in a blur of endless visitors, dirty nappies, milk feeds and cold coffees. When you're out of the trenches and through to the other side of motherhood, you'll want those photos to look back on and remember the time that you and your baby were getting to know each other, and they still hadn't uncurled their little legs from their 9 month long stretch inside your bump. I often get chatting to mums at my son's school who find out what I do for a living and tell me how they regret not having their newborn photographed when they were brand new. My photographs are my most treasured possessions, and the images of my newborn babies are my absolute favourites.
But the truth is, even armed with this knowledge, I'm sure I would have ignored the advice and soldiered on. We all do what we feel is best for our babies. That's what makes us awesome mothers. But sometimes, you have to do what's best for you, so that you can feel more human, and be the mum you want to be - not the mum zombie (Mombie) your infant newborn has turned you into!