My sister gave birth earlier this month to my first niece- she is absolutely the most beautiful thing ever!
It got me thinking back to the early days with Elliot and noting all the things I know now that I wish someone had told me back then:
1. If you’re anything like me, do not pay any heed to any Gina Ford “you must eat toast at precisely 7.48 am”/ “place the drowsy, but awake, baby in his crib in the complete darkness no later than 6.30pm” types. The Contented Baby book stays in a pile of discarded shoes/ bags under our bed in our house, only to be dragged out whenever I just need to check if E is drinking enough milk! I personally feel that trying to shoehorn your baby into that strict a routine is bound to end in tears (yours most likely!) In my limited experience I’d say let the baby be the guide for feeds etc for certainly the first few weeks. You’ll then probably find that you can keep them going for 3 hours between the start of one feed and the next, even if they start looking hungry after 2 or 2 1/2 hours- we found that jiggling Elliot around/ rocking him/ putting a clean finger in his mouth made him last that little bit longer and soon he knew that he’d be fed every 3 hours.
2. Breast feeding is really tough, and doesn’t work for everyone. I managed to breast feed E for almost 9 months, with the last 3 months down to 2 feeds a day and supplemented with formula. I may rile some breastfeeding advocates here but I was formula fed as a baby and so far have suffered no ill effects so have absolute confidence in saying that there is no need to be a martyr to the breastfeeding cause for any longer than you feel you can. It really won’t harm your child to supplement with formula or feed 100% from a bottle. After all if that means a happier mummy I think I know what the baby would choose if it could talk.
3. Regardless of breast or bottle, make sure you share the load- express and get your partner (if possible!) to do the last feed before midnight and get yourself to bed early. This worked a treat in our house. I got to sleep and my husband got to watch QI and Top Gear on Dave! Win-win!
4. Trust your instincts. The baby hasn’t read any parenting books do you can’t expect it to follow any of the advice/ routines contained therein. I definitely think there’s no harm in making it up as you go along!
5. Best bit of advice I was given: your baby needs to be left alone for a while every day, obviously in your sight – in a bouncy chair in the room with you or Moses basket with some bright toys to look at – so that it learns that it doesn’t need to be held all the time. Also gives your arms a rest and allows you to drink a hot cup of tea or type an email!
6. Keep night-time dark and day-time light – try if possible to feed in the dark at night and only change a dirty nappy, if it’s just wet then leave it be – and then mark the morning by opening curtains and singing/ chatting animatedly. Do this from an early age and the baby will soon learn about sleeping through.
7. Right from the start, if I was at home during the day I’d put Elliot down for any day time sleeps in his big cot in the nursery rather than the Moses basket in our room. I think that this helped when he came to move in there at night as it wasn’t new and scary.
8. Sleep when your baby sleeps. I was RUBBISH at this and now kinda regret it as I’ve realised that with any future babies I’ll not have that luxury as I’ll have Elliot to entertain! Make the most of any opportunity to rest.
9. Go out with your friends. As soon as you feel able to. Even if it’s just for an hour. It makes you feel human again, honestly. Do this often!!
10. Make time for your partner too. Book a babysitter (you’ll probably have people falling over eachother to offer) and go to the pub for a drink, yet again 1 hour is enough to save your sanity (though you will talk about your child for 90% of the time you are out!)
Finally, it’s always worth remembering that however exhausted you are at the beginning, it honestly doesn’t last forever. You’ll feel totally different in a matter of weeks, I promise. That first smile makes all these hard weeks worth it!
What did you wish you knew before having children?
Elliot and Mummy – aged 2 weeks