Various posts from November 2017 - February 2018
You will be a big ball of emotions - all 3 of you - don't try to be brave, cry if you feel like it and laugh a lot, it's a very happy time!
SO, the day the baby is born is effectively day '0' and they count the next day as day 1 and so on. I tell you this becasue a) when you've jsut given birth a) your brain is scrambled, and b) they tell you they'll visit 'on day 3' etc. it's helpful to know when that is. But also, look out for day 4. I'm sure I'll tell you more about it nearer the time, but just a little head's up; it's the day your milk comes in, which means your boobs will be enormous and so tender that you'll want to punch anyone that so much as brushes past you. It is also when the hormones and things settle and the shock of it all sinks in.
I was an emotional wreck on Day 4 and Paul took me to the pub to see our friends and then to my mum's house for dinner. It was lovely. I still cried at the table and nobody minded.
Sleep - hahahahaha. You will be told 'Sleep when the baby sleeps' which will feel like a smack in the face because it will feel like your baby never sleeps. It does, just in short bursts. Do try and actually do this, though. It'll help you get through it. And remember that babies are nocturnal. It is easier in the day becuase you will have visitors (more on them later) and helpers and daylight and good tv. At night, however, it will feel lonely. Try to focus on your baby and not think about the fact it's 3am and you don't have a clue what you're doing. You'll probably want to take shifts with your other half so that you can both shower, sleep a little or just not be holding a baby for a while. I used to tell Paul i needed him to sleep at night so I could take all the sleep opportunities there were in the early morning and daytime, but i'm sure you'll work out your own system.
Being a new mum is exhausting, but going to work as a new parent is too, so remind people to be kind to your other half, he doesn't have it easy either.
The best advice I can give you, really, is not to try and push yourself to get the baby into a routine. Babies don't know the difference between day and night or when they should or shouldn't be doing things, they're learning just like you. Trying to get into a routine with a newborn is like trying to get toothpaste back into the tube, it's just not what the manufacturer's ever intended for you to do. A routine (or indeed lack of one) has driven more of my friends into a panic than I care to think about, so steer clear of any books that insist a 3 week old should be operating like clockwork - it is lying to you!
Talk about how you are feeling. Lots of people get overwhelmed and get the 'baby blues' which can be miserable if you are suffering alone, but it does happen to lots of people. I tell you this not to scare you but becuase, I gather, one of the things that makes post-natal depression is because you feel like you're the only woman in the world who does or has ever felt this way and I PROMISE you it isn't so.
Equally please don't anticipate that the few weeks or months after the baby is here will be sad because they really won't! It may be that you feel nothing but sheer euphoria, or more likely a healthy mix of happy, tired, grumpy etc. like a normal functioning human being!
Everyone will want to see your new baby because who isn't excited about the idea of a new baby? I'm already excited and it's not even here yet. This is all very lovely but make sure the visits are on your terms. If you want to go out, meet people for coffee. If you want to stay in make them come to you. When they do visit, put them to work. If it's making the tea, holding the baby (this is the bit they'll want to do most) changing a nappy (and the bit they'll want to do least - in fact you may want to save that for a select few) or even doing the washing up, they want to help you so let them. When you are tired of visitors tell them - they will go away and not be at all offended. Remember, these are the people that love you and want to help so tell them the truth, even if it is an edited version, and they'll do whatever you want. Oh, and people will say 'do you need anything?' and to this you can and should say 'YES!'
The great breastfeeding/ bottle feeding debate!
This will rage on entirely regardless of what you decide, what you try and what you end up doing, so you may as well do what works for uou and accept that some people will feel differently. Most people - midwives and older parents, although i am generalising somewhat - will extoll the virtues of breastfeeding. They aren't wrong it's an amazing thing to be able to nurture your baby using the equipment you were born with.
However, just because it's natural doesn't mean it's easy. It is painful at first, can be hard to get the baby into the right positon, know when they have had enough and tricky to remember which 'side' they fed from last (I found a hairband on the wrist helped with this last one). If you are breastfeeding, drink lots of water, you need to keep hydrated. It's a really good time to sit down, rest and marvel at your baby. It's a nice bonding time.
Often mums like to express breastmilk into a bottle so that one feed can be done by dad and means you can sleep through a feed. You may want to do this right away, or wait a few weeks, or not do it at all, but it's an option.
It is YOUR prerogative where / when / how you breastfeed. I chose to cover up and do it at home or in private whenever possible, but some women are less conservative about it. Neither thing is wrong, it's just about whatever makes you comfortable. I got myself some giant muslins which i used to cover my modesty when feeding and it made me feel better about the idea of doing the needful in a cafe or park or whathaveyou, but I was always enormously impressed with those women who were so confident and able that they could just get the baby to latch on no matter where they were or who they were with and not even break stride in their conversation!
Bottle feeding is easier in that anyone can feed the baby and it doesn't have to always be you, but it comes with a lot of paraphernalia and involves a lot of prep work; sterilising bottles, warming milk, making sure you always have enough on you, even chosing the brand is hard work! When we moved to bottles i used the brand my sister had becuase I knew the name, but there are hundreds out there and they all do the same thing.
Also Dummy / no Dummy - totally your choice. I have known babies to use the breast as a dummy to fall asleep (and wake up once they are put down!) so I can see why the americans refer to them as 'pacifiers'. Sometimes they won't take one, sometimes they like ones with a different shaped teat... have fun finding out! People will always be people and no matter how you chose to feed your baby someone will have an opinion on it.
I always presumed that i would be under scrutiny for bottle feeding but I had a few aggressors who told me i should be bottle feeding rather than breast feeding to make it easier for people to help me. You literally cannot win. This is where all that practice smiling and nodding then doing it your own way will come in handy.....
Stuff you need (WAY too much stuff!)
Yes, you do need to buy stuff. A LOT of stuff. I'm sure cave people didn't need this much crap and we all still evolved into human beings, didn't we? Still, in this day and age, this is the sort of paraphernalia you'll need to arm yourself with in order to feel equipped to deal with parenthood;
- A 'Travel System' That's a buggy or pushchair to you and me. These days you need essentially a chassis which can house a car seat (sold seperately, of course) and then either one or two click-in options; one that creates a bed/cot style arrangement in which the baby can lie down and one that is more of a seat so when the baby is a bit older and spends more time awake it can be angled in various different positions. Some models have seperate segments but most are adaptable so you just change a few things about and it can swtich between the two.
My advice? Go to John Lewis where they have incredibly wise and reassuring people who will answer all your questions and offer you some sage advice about what sort of bells and whistles the various makes and models have, then go and buy it somewhere second hand as it'll be a fraction of the cost.
- A car seat that can, ideally, clock in and out of the car and buggy relatively easily. The baby will, with any luck, fall asleep often in the car - it's handy to be able to transfer him/her to the house or pushchair wihtout having to lift them out of the seat or spend ages tugging and heaving at a clunky contraption.
- Cot. There are a couple of types; a cot which does pretty much waht it says ont he tin, it's stationary and is a bed for the baby to sleep in. If you're lucky it might have 2 different levels for the bed bit so when the baby is able to pull him or herself up to a standing postion you can lower the bed so it can't also throw itself out! There are also cot-beds which are a little more expensive but convert into toddler beds when the time comes. Seems far more cost-effective if you ask me.
- A moses basket. Not really an essential buy i suppose if you have the cot or cot bed set up and used from the get-go, however what i did (and what i think most people do) is use a moses basket next to your bed for the first 6 weeks - 3 months or till you're ready for them to be in their own room, some people do this almost immediately which is also fine, but given you'll be up and down at all hours of the night it makes sense to have them in a moveable basket so if they fall asleep downstairs you can put them in the basket (hopefully!) and carry it upstairs when you're ready.
- A monitor, so that when you do manage to get the baby to sleep and you want to be awake and not in a dimly-lit and deathly-quiet room you can move to another room and still hear the baby. Some have video monitors - i felt that was a bit unnecessary but different strokes and all that. Ours also had a motion sensor mat that will sound some sort of alarm if it can't detect the baby breathing, but we never connected it becuase i just knew i would forget to disconnet / turn it off and lift the baby out of the cot and all hell would break loose.
- Formula - if that's the route you want to take. Many manufactureres these days have smaller bottles with disposable sterilised teats that you can arm yourself wiht in the event of a baby-freak out emergency away from home.
- Bottles - for either formula or expressed breast milk. Again if you're exclusively breast feeding this is a bit moot.
- Steriliser, for bottles and dummies, or expressing bits and bobs, but again only if this is something you're doing.
- A bouncy chair / seat - again not really an essential item, althought for my sanity i'd say it probably did fall into the 'essential' category. Bascially babies like to be held, and becuase they can't hold their own heads up they are either being held or lying down flat. This offers them (and you) and in-between option and can be a godsend as let's face it, sometimes you need your arms for other stuff. Our sister-in-law bought me a great one, it had a little battery pack on the front so would vibrate and not rock the baby but jostled him a bit, sometimes he would fall asleep in it. It might be a nice new baby gift you could ask for, lots of people will ask you what they can get for you, it doesn't have to be costly (i think ours was about £30 but they can go up to £100) but if it is a group present or vouchers for the same might be a good answer.
- An interactive playmat is also quite a good idea. Not for right away, obviously, but for when they're about 6 weeks. There are some that are a bit cushioned but in my opinion they aren't as good because i think the baby thinks you're trying to persuade it to sleep and will, by murphy's law, become more awake and agitated. Flat and square always worked best for me and if you can get one with some bars that suspend little toys or mirrors above it then all the better. But again, not really an 'essential' item.
- Blankets for swaddling, but in a short space of time you'll want to put the baby in a sleeping bag (or grow bag i think they're called, which sort of makes you think of growing potoatoes, but try not to let that put you off!) as it stops the baby being able to kick the blankets off itself in the night and waking up cold.
- A small bath tub - saves you filling your whole bath for a tiny little being, but then again if you really wanted you could wash your baby in the kitchen sink, it was good enough in the '80's!
- A bath thermometer so you can check the temperature of the bath water. It's a little over-paranoid perhaps, the elbow test is i'm sure just as good, but as a new mum i just found it reassuring to know there was an actual range that was appropriate and a testing mechanism. So few things are that easy to check you're doing right when it comes to parenting!
- Cotton wool. The first few weeks you only wash them with warm water and cotton wool anyway, even bums, it's not recommended to use wipes right away) but after a month or so a very mild bath wash is handy.
- Baby nail clippers. Their nails grow crazy long crazy fast, and they can scratch themselves and you very easily.
- Muslins: these things are a godsend! They can be used to mop things up, cover your decency when breastfeeding, as a comforter, chew toy, tissue, all sorts.
- Nappy bags; you can get very cheap ones. Don't. It's to hold poo. those few extra pennies are worth it!
- Sudocrem - to treat / prevent nappy rash, but i think only once you're using wipes? There's also a very thick, yellow cream called Metanium that's good if the nappy rash is very bad, but it's a bugger to wash off.
- Oh, and one more thing; babies don't drink water till much later, usually when they're weaning onto proper food, at which point a sippy cup with handles is a good thing for the baby to hold on their own.
And Finally.... stuff that YOU need
Okay some of this sounds horrific, but i promise you need it, and I promise you'll thank me for telling you (even though when you first read it, you'll hate me for).
- Pads. Like sanitary towels, but SO much thicker. You'll basically be on your period for about a month - maybe more - after the baby is born.
- Breast pads - because you'll produce milk, a LOT of milk, even when you aren't thinking about it. The longer the baby sleeps the wetter your t-shirt will be when you wake up. Seriously, it's weird but it's true.
- Nipple cream. Sorry for TMI.. but breastfeeding? It HURTS! Cream will help, and if you get the good stuff you don't have to wipe it off before feeds.
- Bio Oil is meant to be good to treat and prevent stretch marks, so start using it now.
- Dry shampoo - seriously it's your friend, there will be days when a shower is an elusive and impossible dream. This way you can at least look like you're clean.
- A changing / nappy bag - make sure it's one your other half is happy carting around town, some of them are a bit girly.
- Arnica. It's a homeopathic remedy for aches and pains and is very good for post-birth breastfeeding mummies who can't have the strong painkillers they would so very much like to have. Personally, I don't usually go in for the whole homeopathic concept, but I found it helpful. Possibly because it comes in tablet form so i could pretend i was taking something a bit stronger, the placebo effect clearly works on me!
- An app to time contractions. I found it useful and also it gave me something constructive to focus on.