My life has changed. It has changed absolutely and completely, I realise it is probably unnecessary to use these two words together, but at least you get the gist of it. I got married, and before we could embark on a honeymoon, there was a sprog on the way. Hurrah! The sprog is now five months old and has turned our lives upside down.
Nobody tells you how hard it is to look after a baby, nobody tells you about the love that almost overwhelms you at times and makes you question if you are doing enough. Nobody tell you about the exhaustion; mental and physical, that comes due to the sleepless nights, the crying, the breastfeeding, the not knowing, the 5 seconds showers (or not 🙂 and the raging hormones and pain in your body. I always saw childbirth and the looking after baby that comes with it, as a walk in the park (perhaps on a mildly rainy day). I suppose it could be a bit easier if you had a lot of family members around you to give you a break and a chance to catch up on sleep or something else.
Anyway, I did read a few books, but too many of them had photos of perfect mummies with their shiny teeth, shiny hair and perfect babies. Lies! I love lists, so here are a few things I have learned since welcoming our little star into our lives, particularly for a first time mummy.
1. You can never be ready enough, be flexible enough to accommodate and bear the fact that upon waters breaking or however the baby comes, you will need something that was not in the bag or you forgot to park. Your partner can be on had to solve that problem.
2. The first night with baby, outside the hospital is nerve wracking. Babies breathe funny, sleep funny, or not. For the first few nights, you will peer at this little thing in worry and concern. Is he breathing well? Has she got enough milk? Is he warm enough?
3. Babies eat, cry, poop, sleep, rinse and repeat. They may decide to sleep only in your arms, in which case you really cannot do anything else. They feed 12 to 14 times daily (breastfed babies) and they poop after every single feed until they get to 2-3 months. So you will be busy. Babies are so new and used to the situation in the oven, that they mostly like to be cocooned and held. This can pose a problem for a mummy by herself, forget the TV shows or books you bought, you will be too exhausted for any of those. Try to sleep whenever you can manage it. My baby refused to sleep anywhere else except in our arms for the first six weeks! It was insane! She refused to sleep in her Moses Basket. I was out of my mind with exhaustion. Every time we put her down, she would startle herself awake because we put her down on her back per the Sudden Infant Death (SID) prevention protocol. All I can say is make plans to have help; your mum, a relative, a friend, a paid Doula, if you can manage it.
4. Many babies are very windy or have colic. Their little tummies hurt and they pull their legs up to their stomachs and cry and cry in pain. That keeps them awake and noisy, and keeps parents worried too. Gripe water or Infacol typically helps and putting them down on their stomach while you watch can also help.
5. Babies have no sense of day and night, they sleep and wake at the oddest hours and sometimes cry for hours on end, and sometimes they have been changed, fed, winded, warm and they still cry. Something I found to be the answer to that? Skin to skin. Take your baby’s clothes off and leave only the nappy on, take your top off and put baby to your skin. It works wonders.
6. Going out will become a pain and a pleasure all at once. A pleasure because babies tend to fall asleep once they feel the fresh air and are rocked in either a car seat or pram. That doesn’t necessarily give you the gift of rest or sleep for yourself, but at least it gives you a chance to meet up with other adults, have a cold or hot drink in peace, or just breathe in some fresh air. It will be a pain because you have to carry your baby gear. Changing bag with nappies, wipes, muslin cloths, change of clothes, food warmer or breastfeeding cover (if you use one), and the list goes on.
7. You will probably be in pain from your childbirth depending on what kind of birth you had. Be aware that you could be in pain for a few weeks and never hesitate to seek medical advice, a well mummy is the start to a well baby.
8. Your baby will poop once you are all dressed up, changed and ready to go. The sprog gave her Papa and I a few explosive surprises just as we were about to get in the car, our clothes were ruined and so were here. This happened on different occasions to both of us. At least she shared the love equally.
9. Research shows that breast is best, but be aware that you could have latching problems and excruciating nipple pain for the first few weeks. The good news is that it gets better, I found that myself. Make sure to seek knowledgeable help if you are struggling with nipple pain, latching or even baby getting enough milk or not. Sometimes there are medical and biological reasons why baby is not getting enough milk, the professionals will recommend an appropriate solution. For nipple pain, Lanolin nipple cream by Lasinoh was my saving grace and after an agonising 4 weeks, we began to flourish. The sprog is still being exclusively breastfed, hopefully we can carry on until the UNICEF recommended 6 months.
10. Babies have relatively problematic skin and scalp in the first few weeks to months of life. There is cradle cap , eczema (and no, eczema is neither infectious, nor caused by dirt), baby acne, and some other rashes. If in doubt, have it checked out by a professional to rule out meningitis. The best way to care for newborn skin according to my GP, is to bath in warm water once a day and moisturise with simple hypoallergenic moisturisers such as vaseline, coconut oil, shea butter. These will also ensure moisture is not stripped completely from the skin and cause dry skin conditions.
11. Nappy rash is quite common in babies. It is caused by exposure to urine and poo for long periods of time. The best way to avoid it is by regularly changing baby’s nappy, cleansing baby’s bottom with cotton wool and water, and rubbing a barrier cream regularly such as sudocream.
12. Nothing prepares you for the cry of pain your baby may have during immunisation. Give baby 2.5ml calpol (baby paracetamol) straight after and put baby on the breast. That is very comforting. Be aware that your baby may have a temperature after immunisation or the next day. Keep an eye out for temperature above 38 degrees and crankiness. The sprog was quite warm and cried a lot the day after her 16 weeks shot. Luckily, she was fine by the following day.
I want to write a few more things, but I can hear her over the monitor. She is chewing her legs ( she hit that milestone, yay!) and that’s a prologue to crying. All I can say is that it gets easier as they get older, I could never have dreamt of sitting down and writing at this time, a few months ago.
In conclusion (albeit rushed), it’s the best gift, but it is equally difficult, particularly if you do not have help, or if your baby is one who demands constant interaction and attention. Have your baby with some support for the first few months, you will be better off for it.