25 things every new mum needs to know
Mistakes will be made and tears shed, but there are some pointers that can help
You will become obsessed with nappies (about 2,500 a year) and their contents.
Becoming a mother for the first time can be wonderful but overwhelming. Despite daily visits from a community midwife team, and 24-hour phone access to their sage advice, I didn’t fathom which end was up for quite a while. Mistakes were made. Tears were shed. Soothers were boiled in the middle of the night, despite smug pre-baby vows never to use one.
Everyone will have their own list, but here’s 25 of the many things I’d tell a new mum.
1 Stop shopping Back away from all those tiny baby outfits – babies grow fast. For weeks you will just need vests, babygros, a few hats, and something to keep her warm in the car and pram.
2 It’s not all about baby Regardless of how you gave birth you will be tired and in pain. Rest, painkillers, good food, and self-care for your sore bits will speed recovery. The better you feel the easier the mum stuff becomes.
3 Get medical advice immediately if you feel unwell.
4 Share the load and don’t hog the hugs. It’s likely you and your partner will start at the same point on a massive learning curve. You may have given birth to this tiny miracle but that doesn’t mean you are better equipped to hold, change, or intuit what she needs.
5 It’s hard work, but it gets easier There will be many days in the months ahead when getting dressed is beyond you. So what! However, you will be amazed at how quickly you hone your baby-care skills
6 Get a room thermometer Debating whether your baby is too hot or cold will be a constant theme. Even a cheap paper one will suffice. Cellular blankets prevent overheating, and once he’s big enough use sleeveless sleeping bags.
7 You will become obsessed with nappies (about 2,500 a year) and their contents. And those contents will leak. Envelope necks allow dirty vests to be pulled down the body, not over the head.
8 Don’t be freaked by the umbilical cord stump It’s not the prettiest baby feature, but it will shrivel up and fall off in 10-14 days. Don’t try and remove it early. You must wash around it at each nappy change to prevent infection, but it won’t hurt your baby.
9 You can never have too many muslin cloths They take the chill off the changing mat, swaddle (though some babies don’t like to be wrapped up tight), wipe, dry, and protect your shoulder and clothes from possets and pukes . . .
10 Baby doesn’t need a daily bath – but you do Until you are more confident a weekly dip is enough. Put the basin or bath on a table, not down into your own bath. You, however, will benefit from a daily soak (add Epsom salts and a few drops of tea tree oil) to help healing and for “mammy time”.
11 Breast is best, but formula is fine If you want to breastfeed seek out support (eg breastfeeding.ie, a lactation consultant, Cuidiú) and if feeding is painful have your baby checked for tongue-tie. However, do not allow anyone make you feel guilty if it doesn’t work for you and your baby. If bottle-feeding formula or breast milk check out “Responsive Bottle Feeding”.
12 Babies aren’t designed to “sleep through” Their tummies are so small they need to wake for food during the night for a few months – at least.
13 Tired is too small a word Depending on when you went into labour you may be sleep deprived even before night-feeds make an impact. Think extreme jet lag and start multiplying.
14 When baby sleeps you should . . . Sleep, eat, shower, take a walk, watch Netflix, call a friend . . . whatever is of most value during those minutes/hours.
15 The smell of a new baby is intoxicating If you are feeling low, inhale deeply at the top of her head to trigger an oxytocin hit. Your baby will love your scent too, so don’t mask it with perfumes.
16 Colic is survived, not cured Nobody has yet found the cause or cure for colic – regular patterns of prolonged crying and apparent pain. Some parents find craniosacral therapy beneficial, and you will probably try anything. However, it’s likely to only end with time. Bring in the cavalry to share the holding, and allow you some rest while your baby screams.
17 Consider baby-wearing If you find a sling that suits you and your baby this is a great way to keep him content when not being fed or held, especially if he has reflux and doesn’t like lying flat. It also gives you free hands. Avoid carrying baby around in a car seat. It won’t help your recovering pelvis.
18 Start your pelvic floor exercises You do want to be able to run, jump, dance, laugh and cough again without emitting fluid, don’t you?
19 You know your baby best As a first-time mother expect some eye-rolling as you worry about symptoms, real and imagined. However, if you think there is something wrong, it’s likely you are right. Persist if you feel you’re not getting answers. I still wish I had followed my intuition and ignored the GP who insisted that breast-fed babies didn’t get reflux.
20 Postpone major decisions In the first weeks after birth your brain may feel like a slow churning mush, not a great time to make life-changing choices. If you need to remember something make notes – “now who gave us that lovely crib mobile?”
21 Mind your mind Ongoing anxiety, sadness, troubling thoughts, or anger require attention and assistance. (See pnd.ie, aware.ie and nurturecharity.org)
22 Take all the help you can get Sleep deprivation can stop you seeing when you need support. Turn to family, friends and your public health nurse. If you have health insurance check if post-natal nursing or home help is provided. However, learn to filter the unrequested “advice” you will get from all directions.
23 Life with a newborn can be lonely Put off visitors for the first weeks, especially any who will want to be entertained. However, when it’s just you and baby invite callers, and find new mum friends at local breastfeeding and baby groups. Avoid the competitive “mum-shamers”.
24 Make the most of your six-week check-up Don’t presume you will be asked anything. You need to tell your doctor, and seek referrals, if you have concerns about your baby, or are still experiencing backache, incontinence, depression, pelvic pain or other postnatal problems.
25 Don’t get hung up on finding ‘a routine’ Live in the moment. These are precious moments.