You’ve either just become a mother or you’re about to, and right now you’re possibly feeling lost and are definitely feeling tired.
Here are 20 things you need to know:
1. You DO know best
Advice, remarks, helpful pointers and old wives’ tales will be thrown at you from every direction after having a baby.
From whisky in the bottle to help sleep to giving formula to make a child sleep through the night, there are a LOT of inaccurate and downright bonkers pieces of information that will be given to you, whether you ask for them or not.
Trust your instincts. Listen to all of that information, or tune it out if you want, nod along and then do whatever you want to do. You will have your baby’s best interests at heart and you will make the best decision for you and your child.
2. Be kind to yourself
New mums tend to be exceptionally self-critical. I thought I was a terrible mother and felt a total failure in the early months with my first baby.
The fact of the matter is, if you care that much then you cannot be getting everything wrong all of the time. We all muddle through those sleep deprived early months as best we can.
Give yourself a pat on the back every now and then. Just managing to get the baby dressed in a clean onesie can be a monumental effort on the toughest of days.
3. You can say no
When you have a baby a lot of people will want to visit and wish you well. That’s great, but do try to manage these visitors so they aren’t lined up outside your door all day long.
Try to only have one visitor, or small group of visitors, per day so that your entire morning and afternoon isn’t filled with entertaining people.
Some visitors will be really helpful, others will just want to hold the baby and be made cups of tea. It’s important to put yourself first and remember that you need time alone to bond with your baby at this crucial early stage.
Saying no and putting off visitors for a few days is OK.
4. Being in your PJs all day is NOT a bad thing
Who says you have to get dressed every single morning? Your primary job as a new mum is to ensure the welfare of your new baby.
This job is pretty damn tiring, so give yourself a break. If you don’t feel like getting of your PJs or just don’t have the time, who the hell cares?
Get cosy indoors, stick on a boxset or just have a chat with your baby. This is definitely something to be encouraged!
5. Sometimes you will cry
When Rachel cried because she had put her slippers on the wrong feet shortly after giving birth to her baby in Friends, it was definitely a moment that would have had all parents chuckling. But the baby blues are real and hit us all.
You may find yourself literally crying over spilt milk, particularly if you’ve just been using a breast pump for the last 30 minutes and lost the 30ml you managed to squeeze out of both boobs.
The baby blues are normal and don’t last for long. Let it happen and try not to worry, the hormones will settle down and you’ll be feeling brighter soon.
If the blues do last for longer than a few weeks and become worse, contact your health visitor or GP to discuss how you’re feeling with them.
6. The early weeks are the toughest
Mother Nature was really having an off-day when she came up with the physical process for giving birth. She made it so physically traumatic for new mums that they need weeks to recover, and yet they have a totally helpless newborn to care for in the meantime!
The feeding schedule is relentless and the crying shreds your nerves. I believe the early weeks with your first child are the absolute toughest bit of parenting physically and mentally.
Yes other challenges will come your way as the years go on, but the fact you are also getting used to this parenting gig makes it an exceptionally challenging time.
7. It IS normal
I remember relentlessly Googling many things after my first was born. One of the main ones was not being able to master the whole “put them down drowsy but awake” thing.
My baby was having none of that, so I was sure I was doing something wrong. But my second child was just as resistant to this theory as my first.
If you think you’re the only one struggling with a particular problem, think again and do a quick forum search. There are thousands of mamas going through what you are right now, you aren’t doing anything wrong.
8. Fellow mummies are a lifeline
Connecting with other mamas is one of the most important things you can do. You not only learn a lot from fellow mothers, but you also have someone who just gets you.
No-one understands hardcore sleep deprivation unless they have lived it. Having another mum to talk about how utterly rubbish you feel is so therapeutic.
9. Do not compare
If Sonia from down the road’s baby is sleeping through already at four weeks, good for her. That doesn’t mean she’s done anything particularly right, or that you’re doing anything wrong.
Having babies is a bit of a lottery. They’re all different and some are just do things at a different pace.
The same goes with meeting milestones such as rolling over. Don’t panic. All healthy babies get there in the end.
10. New babies do not need piles of stuff
Yes the cute clothes are so very cute, but your baby doesn’t really need a whole lot of stuff.
Of course you need some clothes, but don’t buy every baby product you come across! I have a checklist of what you really need for your newborn just for you – these are the items I actually needed when I had my two! Save yourself the stress, time and cash.
Pop your email address in here and you can get access to your freebie:
11. You are not alone
When you’re wrapped up in your own little post-birth bubble it can be easy to imagine only you are facing these challenges and worries.
But you’re not. We’ve all wondered why our baby won’t nap even when they’re so so tired. We’ve all worried about not being able to breastfeed. We’ve all wondered if that poo is normal. We’ve all felt that panic when we spot a scary-looking rash. We’ve all had days on end when the only other person we have communicated with face-to-face is our baby.
Motherhood is a pretty universal experience. While some things a different, in many of the biggest respects so much of it is the same.
Remember that you are not alone and instead of suffering in silence, reach out to another mummy or a friendly group to talk.
12. Your relationship may be put on hold
There is no greater test for a couple than becoming parents. Suddenly it’s not just your feelings that matter anymore and the baby is at the centre of everything.
Once your child and getting to grips with how to cope with it becomes your main focus, your relationship can go out of the window for a while. Remember that this is normal and will not last forever.
Bickering is common when you’re both tired, try to take a deep breath and remind yourself why you’re driving each other bonkers. You’re both tired and stressed out.
While there’s no doubt this phase is tough, remember that as you find your feet in your new roles it will become easier. Once everything becomes more routine, you will be able to focus on you and your other half as a couple a little bit more at least.
13. It’s OK to have fun
If you get a chance to have an hour out with a friend or to get your hair done, take it! It’s OK to have some you time in the early weeks. It can do wonders for your sanity!
14. Squash the mummy guilt
There are a number of things you might feel guilty about. Returning to work, not breastfeeding, not having a bigger house, not managing to take your baby swimming because you can’t face the idea of their cries echoing all around the pool.
Whatever you beat yourself up about, stop it right now!
15. You are still you
A feeling of loss of identity is really common among new mummies.
You’ve gone through a massive change in your life, and despite knowing it was coming for the last nine months or more, nothing can really prepare you for it.
Because your entire being is now centred around caring for a baby, who never says thanks, you may feel utterly lost, like you don’t recognise yourself and like your personality has had a total change.
This is all normal and as you get used to your new role, things will settle down. Your life is permanently changed now, but you are still you. You will find your way back once the shock of becoming a parent dies down.
Getting out and about with old friends can really help with this. For me, I didn’t start to feel back to my old self for a whole year after having my first, so try not to fret. Things do change remarkably quickly as your child grows and you will get time to reconnect with you again.
16. Asking for help is not a crime
As a new mum you think that you have to do this all, because we put lofty expectations on ourselves. We think we need to be the supermama that can change a nappy, clean the house and cook a delicious meal from scratch in the blink of an eye.
There is no such thing as a supermum and we need to realise that the earth will not stop turning if we ask someone to take the baby out for a walk for 30 minutes.
It’s also OK to leave the housework to your other half or just ignore it for a couple of weeks. Looking after your baby and you are the priority.
17. It’s emotionally draining
The mental shockwaves last far longer than the physical ones in my opinion.
Becoming a mum is hard and nothing can prepare you for it. With sleep deprivation playing a heavy hand in keeping you physically exhausted, the worry, stress and relentlessness of it all plays havoc with your emotions.
Mindfulness can be a wonderful way of dealing with the emotional overwhelm. It teaches you to live in the moment, to try to focus on what you are doing right now rather than allowing your brain to be crowded by multiple worries.
18. Fed is best
Breastfeeding does not work out for everyone, that is a fact! Members of the breastapo like to harp on about what a “natural” act it is. If it’s so natural, why does it cause so many women stress and heartache?
The truth is, breastfeeding hurts, is hard to master and for some is impossible.
If breastfeeding does not work out for you, it can be upsetting. Remind yourself that fed is best and the vast majority of British babies are raised on formula for most of their first year.
19. Some days you may think it was all a big mistake
Confession time, at times with my first baby I thought I had made the wrong decision to have kids. Not because I thought my baby was a mistake, but because I thought I wasn’t cut out to do the job.
I felt in over my head and like I was never going to get the hang of this parenting thing. Turns out I did and went on to have baby number two.
20. It all gets easier
You may feel like your baby will never sleep through the night, you will never get them to take three separate naps a day instead of a dozen tiny ones and you’ll never make it out of the house again.
All babies eventually sleep through the night, all babies eventually reach some kind of workable nap pattern and leaving the house will get easier.
Not only will your knowledge and confidence grow as you get to know your baby, but your baby will become easier to manage as they gain neck control, become more interactive and spread out their feeds.
I hope these 20 things make the early weeks of motherhood that bit easier for you fellow mama! Congratulations and keep going, you’re doing a fabulous job.