Going from pregnancy to having a newborn is a massive change. The end of pregnancy leaves you tired and labour and birth (however kind to you) is a huge undertaking. And then when you’re at your most tired and vulnerable you have a baby who needs you, really needs you, for their very survival, 24/7. Our babies need a gentle transition into this world and you need a gentle transition into parenthood.
I’ve been through this 4 times, and having developed some pretty serious post-natal anxiety, (like I freaked out that my husband had left me because he took slightly longer to take the bins out one day) I wanted to share my top tips on surviving and actually enjoying this most intense time of life. I didn’t want to wish away the days until it because easier, I wanted to be able to cherish these days and weeks because they go all too fast.
There is a massive (and I think unrealistic) pressure to get back out and carry on as normal days after baby is born. For me though, I needed to hide, I needed to stay with my baby chilling out at home. Protecting her from the big wide world. Getting used to her. If that’s how you feel, go with it. You will want to emerge from your hibernation eventually.
I read something recently that a sling should be considered a vital piece of newborn baby equipment rather than just a nice optional extra. The thing is, babies really don’t like being put down. They are meant to be carried, it is good for them. They cry less, settle more easily, and sleep better on you. So, don’t worry about putting them down, just pop them in a sling! Babies don’t need to be cured of their craving for closeness. They don’t need to be put down, or at a young age learn to self-settle (in fact they can’t genuinely do this for some time). Submit to the cuddles and let the oxytocin flow!
Being up during the night, feeding around the clock, having a baby attached to you all day is, lets be honest, draining. Helpful visitors may say “oh he needs a rountine” or “you look tired” or “why don’t you have a night off” or “you need to do x, y and z and then the baby will sleep longer”…I always found that I didn’t really want advice on how to fix my baby (they don’t need fixing, they are just babies who are meant to feed and sleep, often around the clock). I just needed someone to say, you’re doing great and make me a cup of tea. I need my tank filling up. For me this is words of encouragement and little moments throughout the day that will give me a boost. My husband is amazing at getting me little treats that help me get through the toughest of days. (microwave chocolate fondant cakes yum) and a special mug to have my tea in can make me feel cared for while I am so busy caring for the baby.
4. KNOW IT IS NORMAL AND RIGHT
“Is she a good baby?” YES! All babies are inherently good. What people normally seem to mean when they ask this is “are they sleeping through the night yet?” Thing is, it really is totally normal and correct for babies to wake through the night for feeding. It is also totally normal for a baby to not want to be put down. Repeat with me, totally normal!
5. EAT WELL
I know that when you’ve got a newborn the very last thing you want to be doing is slaving away making meals to then not be able to even eat it warm because baby needs feeding right when you put the first forkful to your mouth. But good food is vital to keeping your energy levels up, your emotions on track. (hunger and tiredness is not a good combo for a new mum). My advice is
- to batch cook and fill up the freezer. Check out my pinterest board for ideas. Do this before baby is born or when you’ve got someone else around who can give you a hand. Then during the week you can pull out something easy to just reheat which is yummy and satisfying
- ask visitors to bring you a home cooked meal rather than a present.
- get visitors to make you some lunch!
- load up the freezer with smoothie ingredients and grab a good smoothie maker. These are my favourties: these are really great for a good energy boost that is not a chocolate bar!
6. ACCEPT YOUR BODY
2 weeks post partum is NOT the time to be worrying about your new body. It will be different, it will have changed. That is ok and it is good. Your body has done the most amazing thing (and still is, it’s no mean feat readjusting all those internal organs and muscles, getting hormones back on track, nourishing a baby if you’re breastfeeding, and sleeping all over the place), be grateful to it, kind to it.
7. DITCH THE PHONE GUILT
The days with a newborn can be long. There is a lot of time spent feeding and cuddling. Gaze into their eyes and chat with them. But then if you need and want to zone out on your phone, while the baby is guzzling away again…if you need to reconnect with other adults, do some shopping, go for it. Don’t feel guilty about looking at your screen. I agree that we shouldn’t always be attached to a phone but the guilt put on parents who are simply trying to stay sane is not cool.
8. DON’T CLOCK WATCH, BABY WATCH
Carol gave us all some great advice at Riding the Waves (of the 4th Trimester group). She said she unplugged the clock in her bedroom because it was too depressing being reminded of what time it was in the night when she was up yet again. I’m all for this. Watch your baby not the clock. Babies don’t pay any attention to the time of day.
9 GET SUPPORT
If you need help, please seek it. There is no shame in asking for help. If that help is asking someone to hold the baby for you while you go to the toilet – ask! If you need babywearing advice, come and see us. If you need breastfeeding help please get in touch with La Leche League. If you are worried about how you are feeling please contact your GP or health visitor.
10. TRUST YOUR BABY AND TRUST YOURSELF
My husband is always saying to me “trust your instincts” and actually “trust the baby”. While you are pregnant you and your baby are a beautiful biological partnership, working together for growth. This carries on when the baby arrives if you trust yourself and your baby. If you feel like the baby needs feeding, go for it, if you feel like the baby just needs cuddling or just needs mummy, trust. If there is something you’re worried about, trust that instinct too.
Finally, cake and a good chat about this crazy time of life really help too. You're very welcome to come along to our fourth trimester group - more info here