I’m sure you’ve all heard stories about the treacherous transformation one must undergo to become a parent. The sleepless nights, the screaming baby, never even having a minute to yourself and the list goes on. But if you are prepared, it doesn’t have to be such a shock to the system and guess what… You might even enjoy it!
Here are my hopefully helpful hints for your first few months as a mum (obviously also useful for dads or any other full time carers):
It is inevitable, even with the sleepiest of babies, that your sleeping patterns will be disturbed and changed (possibly for a long time). This doesn’t have to be all bad. I remember putting my first son to bed for the first time and telling him “it would be really nice if mummy could get 2 hours sleep in a row tonight ok?”. I was so unbelievably stoked when I woke up to find out it was 3 hours later. So, step one, don’t have high expectations. My sister’s first baby was awake the entire first night, continually breastfeeding. I think she had 4 hours sleep in as many days. Every baby is different.
You need to sleep when you can. If that means telling your visitors that have only been there for 5 minutes to leave because the baby has finally fallen asleep, then do it! Better still, have them stay and mind the baby so you can sleep for as long as you need to without being woken by the baby (unless s/he is hungry of course). You might think “hey I feel fine without sleep”, for the first few days, but it really does catch up with you. Sleep deprivation is a very common cause of the 3rd day blues. It can also lead to postnatal depression. So don’t ignore your tiredness.
Recovering from pregnancy and birth takes a lot of work. You need a good diet to help you get all the nutrition you need to repair and recover well. You may find yourself being really hungry all the time, especially if you’re breastfeeding as you require an extra 500 calories a day.
In the weeks leading up to birth, cook large meals for dinner, eat half then and freeze the other half for after the baby comes. You might like to cook and freeze a big batch of your favourite easy meals like spaghetti bolognaise, apricot chicken, soup or casseroles. It is so much easier dealing with an unsettled baby in the afternoon if you don’t have to also think about cooking dinner.
If anyone asks what they can get you for a present, tell them to bring a meal in a disposable container (so you don’t have to run around returning dishes) or a fruit basket. If you know you’re having visitors and you’ve run out of something, ask them to pick it up at the shops for you. Most people are more than happy because they love the fact they’ve been able to make life easier for you.
It is vitally important to start some kind of gentle exercise routine a few weeks after birth. You must rest first and get used to your baby’s rhythms, but when you feel strong enough, try and get out into the sunshine every day. Go for a walk around the block, or join a pram walkers club. Try a mums and bubs yoga class. Have a swim at your local pool or beach (only after your bleeding and discharge has stopped). Even just sit on the balcony and have a cup of tea. The vitamin D, endorphin rush and increased blood flow will make you feel like a new woman. Exercise can help prevent depression, deep vein thrombosis and high blood pressure, just to name a few.
What housework?? Please please please do not be one of those people who cleans the whole house when baby is sleeping during the day. You will miss precious sleeping opportunities. Just leave it. The housework can wait.
Hopefully you got that nesting bug before you gave birth so the house will be relatively clean anyway. Even if you didn’t, don’t worry. Just do the bare minimum you can to feel ok about it. Delegate to parents, partners or friends. The people that love you will more than likely ask what they can do to help. Don’t be shy in asking them to do the dishes, take out your garbage or hang out the washing. Trust me, they won’t mind. They will be super chuffed that you consider them close enough friends to ask to do chores!
Most important of all, take time. Take time to enjoy your baby. Sit and look at every piece of skin on their body. Look at the different flecks of colour in their eyes. Take lots of photos. They change so quickly.
Take time to enjoy the good times and all the firsts. The first smile, the first time they look into your eyes, the first time they hold your finger, the first time they sleep in the cradle, the first time the grandparents see them. They are all priceless memories and can help you through the tough moments.
Take time for yourself. Get someone to watch the baby while you have a nice long, hot, relaxing bath. Light some candles and add a few drops of lavender and tea tree oil to the bath to aid in perineal healing. Read a great book while giving your little one a big cuddle. Get your hair cut or a manicure for a treat. You need to nurture yourself and be gentle with yourself.
It takes a lot longer to do everyday things when you have a baby. Give yourself time. Don’t rush. Don’t think “I’ll just pop up to the shops and back” if you only have a spare 10 minutes. It will take you that long to just get baby into the car. I remember thinking how everything was so slow with a baby. It takes time to adjust. For a while you might feel jittery and impatient but soon enough you will enjoy taking each moment as it comes.
Don’t expect too much from yourself. Accept help when it’s offered or ask for it when it’s not. This is an amazing time of your life and you will remember it forever. Cherish every moment and enjoy your new life as a parent!