To mark the launch of The New Mum’s Notebook (woohoo!), the sanity saving journal for new mums, I’m writing a post for all you new mums out there. Those of you drifting between sleep deprivation, dipping in and out of any number of conflicting parenting books and wondering what the hell you’re doing. I hope this little guide helps. Because it really is true that ‘Mum knows best.’ That’s YOU by the way, new mum. YOU. There’s NO ONE that knows your baby like you do. (Not even Gina Ford.)
- Follow your baby’s lead. Routine is all well and good (my personality has always been much better suited to a routine parenting style than an on demand, earth mother type) BUT it has a time and a place. And those first three months (at least), that glorious fourth trimester, are NOT the time to be stressing about sticking rigidly to a routine. Because unless your baby conforms exactly to what you’re asking them to do, that’s exactly how you’ll end up. STRESSED.
- Work out why your baby’s crying. I’m no baby whisperer and I was actually pretty terrible at working out WHY my babies were crying. I just shoved a boob in their mouth and hoped for the best (it was my boob, incidentally). Thankfully, Daddy Pig was much better at this than me. But, good news! There are, in fact, an infinite number of reasons why your baby’s wailing. Hunger. Tiredness. Dirty nappy. Thirst. Heat. Colic/reflux. Illness. TEETHING (if in doubt ALWAYS blame teething). Heat is the one I ALWAYS missed, even though it was 70 degrees outside and my baby was wearing several layers, a gilet and a bobble hat. No one wants their baby to be cold, do they? HAHA. Thirst is another one. Even now, the boy gets really, really grumpy if he’s gasping. Once you’ve figured out the cause, you can go about making your baby happy again. This takes time and practice because it takes a while to get to know your baby. Don’t panic. You’ll get there. It’s really a process of elimination.
- You cannot spoil a newborn. It’s just not possible. Despite what I thought when my first daughter was 6 weeks old, she wasn’t trying to ‘play’ me because she wouldn’t nap. She was just being a tiny baby. I probably should have cut her some slack. But I was under the spell of Gina. And I didn’t have anyone to knock some sense into me. Although my poor mum did try. (Sorry for shouting at you, Mum, when you dared to look in the buggy.)
- Having a small baby is unnerving. It doesn’t matter how much we go on about going with the flow and listening to our babies blah blah blah. There’s no getting away from it. Having a new baby is unnerving. Most of us are much more comfortable being in control. Being at the mercy of this small, unpredictable being who gurgles one minute and wails the next whilst you have no idea of what’s happened in between is going to freak you out. Especially when you’re tired. And your blood sugar’s low because you haven’t eaten or drunk much (water, not gin). If someone dumped a baby on me right now (no one get any ideas, please), even though I’ve had three of them, I know I’d still feel slightly out of my depth. I’m not sure that feeling ever really goes away, because every baby is so different.
- Your baby, your rules. Never let anyone else tell you what to do with your baby. They’ve probably known your baby for 15 minutes, You’ve known your baby FOREVER.
- Cuddle your baby AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE. I can’t emphasise this one enough. Fortunately, I’ve had three kids (also unfortunate in other ways HAHA), so I was able to do things a little differently with baby no. 3. Mainly because he didn’t want to do things Gina’s way. And I’m grateful to him for that. Because we had so much time together, flying by the seat of our pants, that I just didn’t have with the girls. He laid on me. He slept with me every now and again (whilst I prayed Gina wasn’t watching) and even now, at aged two, his favourite place to be is sprawled out all over me with at least twenty points of bodily contact.
- It takes three days to change a habit. Whilst those cuddles are amazing, you just can’t help those killjoy, anxious thoughts that pop into your mind and try and ruin the moment. ‘What if she NEVER settles in a cot?‘ you think. ‘What if he sleeps on me for the rest of time?‘ ‘ARGGHHHHHHH! Someone call the Sleep Police. NOW!‘ Well, it only takes three days to change a habit. So if you do create habits you want to change later on, you’ll be able to. In three days. When you’re ready. When you’re strong enough. When it matters.
- It does get easier, it does go quick. If you had 7 minutes sleep last night, I totally get that none of this feels true right now. I promise you I’ve been there. I have the bags to prove it. Yet somehow, I have a 7 year old, a 4 year old and a 2 year old. I’m not altogether sure where they came from (or when), which suggests to me this motherhood lark goes pretty damn quick. Whilst I’m not going to tell you to ‘enjoy them whilst they’re young‘ (people who wish that on others are sociopaths), I’ll just say this. The biggest cliché of all, that time passes so quickly, is not a cliché at all. It’s the truth.
All the love to you today and always. Motherhood IS hard. But most of us do ‘survive’ it.