The first few days of having a newborn baby are a blur of shock, excitement and awe.
And then the interesting stuff begins. As your baby starts to wake up a bit and stops being quite so sleepy, things begin to get a little trickier.
It’s normal to feel a little lost during this time, so here are some top tips for making the first eight weeks a little easier on yourself.
1. Limit the visitors
It’s perfectly OK to say no to people if you are feeling crowded. Some days you will just want to lounge around in your PJs, and that’s absolutely fine.
A lot of people may think they are helping you by dropping by all of the time. While it is nice to see fellow grown-ups while you going through this huge change of trying to figure out your baby, do not feel bad if you actually just want a day of peace.
Be polite, obviously, but if you want a pyjama day, then do it. There are plenty of other days coming up when you can welcome visitors.
2. Invest in the right products
If you’re having a really hard time with a particular issue, then see if there’s anything you can change to make things easier. I don’t mean with sleep, because that I’m afraid is not an issue that can be solved right now.
But if you’re struggling to change the baby on the floor and it’s making your back hurt, then invest in a cot top changer. You can get a simple plastic one from Mothercare for not too much money.
If you are fed up of lugging the baby up and down the stairs all day to change their nappy, then put spare nappies and a spare changing mat underneath the sofa.
If you’re tired of washing up muslins all day, but worried about running out, then invest in a spare pack. Again, they don’t have to cost a lot if you shop around. It’s a similar story with spare bottles.
The point is that if there is a matter of logistics that could be solved with an extra item here or there, then do it. Do not put off buying it until another date, make your life easier now.
3. Use your partner
If you have a supportive partner then use them! Do not think that you have to do this all by yourself just because you are breastfeeding or because you feel a sense of duty as the mother.
Everyone needs a break every now and then. Think smart and send your other half out of the house with the baby in the buggy for at least an hour. You will be amazed at how refreshing an hour in the house by yourself can be.
4. Do not put yourself under pressure
When I was just a couple of weeks post-giving birth to my first daughter I expected myself to have it all figured out. So I was of course very disappointed in myself that I didn’t. Far from it in fact.
I also tried to force myself back into my normal routine of walking everywhere every single day and seeing people every day.
The truth is that things are very different when you become a parent and far from trying to force things back to the way they were before, you need to just surrender to the change.
In the first eight weeks in particular, I think it is so important that you embrace the new life that you are getting used to.
5. Try to make mum friends
This is a really important one because mum friends can be the biggest lifesaver.
They may not have all the answers, but they will make you feel better because they are going through exactly the same struggles as you are.
I’m not a huge fan of baby groups, but they are definitely worth a try. My main issue with them is they can be really hit and miss. Sometimes you get a good group who are really chatty and other times it’s like you’ve gatecrashed a party.
If you don’t know many people in your area, then try to put yourself out there at NCT get togethers or breastfeeding groups. Your mum squad will get you through some tough times!
6. Ignore the advice
You will bombarded by a lot of advice, from all sorts of different people. A lot of it will be nonsense.
Find a phrase and a calm face that you can offer when people dole out this advice, as they do mean well. But remember that this is your baby and you make the decisions. You don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do.
7. Remember that there is no right answer
You may read a lot of conflicting opinions about how to get newborns to sleep or why you shouldn’t mix feed babies.
The fact of the matter is that you will do things right, because you are doing it with love.
As long as your baby is clothed, clean, fed and loved, you will not be going wrong.
8. Do not expect to be in a routine
I stressed about getting my first baby into a routine for weeks and it just wasn’t working. Finally at 12 weeks things clicked and became a bit more predictable. Looking back now I wish I had spent less time worrying about making a routine work and just given it a bit more time.
Newborn babies are very difficult to get into an exact routine. Try not to stress at this stage about things being regular and normal. Just go with the flow.
9. There is no such thing as a stupid question
If you are worried about something, then ask. This is your baby and you have to advocate on their behalf. If you’re worried about a rash or how well they’re feeding, then see a GP or a health visitor.
If you’re still worried after seeing them, then ask to see someone else for a second opinion. Do not feel stupid or bad for asking for help. Asking for help is the sign of a good parent.
10. Organise your nappy changing station
You need everything within reaching distance of where the changing mat is. Have cream, wipes and nappies to hand.
Although it’s rare, you never know when your baby may surprise you and start rolling over at a few weeks old, so it’s important not to step away if you have them on a changing station that’s off the ground.
You also do not want to be caught out with a bare-bottomed newborn baby. When the air hits their bum, a lot of them will suddenly get the need to wee, or fire poo, and believe me, they can fire that pretty far!
Having everything in place where you need it means you can get through every nappy change reasonably quickly.
11. Take a lot of photographs
This time will go by in a flash so take as many pictures as you possibly can.
It’s particularly important to remember to get some of you and your other half with the baby. You often find that one partner spends most of the time behind the camera, and the result is that they are in hardly any of the baby pictures.
Try to share out the photography duties so that you are both present in these precious memories.
Remember to take pictures of hands and feet too! They are so tiny.
12. Keep a record
Having a baby book is a great way of recording milestones and your thoughts as they happen.
However a notebook or scrapbook can be just as good. Remember to write down your thoughts and new things your baby does as often as you can. You won’t remember in a year’s time!
13. Tearful evenings are normal
I want you to remember this mantra and repeat it to yourself as often as possible.
The “witching hour” as it is known is common among babies. It does pass, but it is extremely stressful, especially for new parents who do not know why their baby is so unsettled.
There is no clear explanation as to why babies get so fussy after 5pm. It could be because they are overtired by this point.
This is often combined with cluster feeding, and new mamas can find themselves alternating between feeding a baby that just never seems full and comforting a baby who is wailing as if you are trying to hurt them.
It’s distressing but it does pass. If your baby is otherwise healthy, producing lots of dirty nappies and is growing, then this is just a phase that most babies go through.
14. Do not force anything
You might be wondering when you will reclaim your evenings, or how you can get your baby to sleep without rocking or feeding them.
You will read a lot of advice about how to solve problems such as this. But it’s important to remember that a small baby under three months is very difficult to convince to do anything they don’t want to do.
Yes you can start to instil consistent practices such as a bedtime routine and regular naps, but ultimately some babies are just little pickles when it comes to getting them to sleep.
By all means, try a new technique if you think it might help your baby get to sleep. However, do not expect there to be a miracle cure at such an early age. Try to stop worrying so much, and remind yourself that rubbish sleep does not last forever.
15. Take care of you
It’s very easy to forget to do things for yourself, however it’s so important to give yourself a little bit of time.
Of course you will have less time, but try to find a small amount to do something you like, such as reading a book or watching something on television.
16. Tell yourself you are a good mum
I believe that all new mums need a cheerleading squad to follow them around and chant about how amazing they are as often as possible.
Many new mamas suffer from a lot of self-doubt and we need as much reassurance and positivity as we can get. Of course, without a troop of cheerleaders (shame!) to help us out, we need to do it for ourselves.
Be your own cheerleader and remind yourself as often as possible that you are doing your absolute best. That is more than good enough!
17. Try not to hate your partner
Hate is a strong word, but you certainly may clash over your opinions on what you should be doing with the baby or because you’re both exhausted.
Try to remember that you had a baby together for a reason. Those first few weeks are tough and you won’t get much time to connect as just a couple.
Try to find a compromise wherever you can and talk about how you are feeling. It does get better!
18. Everything gets easier
You won’t always feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. Your baby will sleep more. You won’t always be feeding your baby 24/7. Everything just settles down and gets a bit easier. Try to relax and let the early weeks unfold however they will. You will be fine!