I was at my anti natal class last night and we were talking about any worries or questions around giving birth, and one mum-to-be said that she was more concerned about what to do with the baby once it arrived! And that got me thinking; what would I honestly say to any friends setting out on this crazy journey of motherhood.
1. Firstly, you will get A LOT of ‘advice’ and opinions from others. Some will be decent stuff you can use, lots will be complete toss. Some will come from friends and family and much will come from people on the street, the checkout lady, old Mrs Whatsherface down the road. And a lot of this advice you will not have asked for! At first I found this hard, and with every new piece of advice I spend ages reevaluating how I was parenting, and thinking I should be doing x, y or z. But I’ve since learnt that everyone parents differently, and just because it worked for your mum, or your best friend, or some know-it-all on net mums, it doesn’t mean it will work for you and that you need to try it.
Instead, trust your gut. When your baby cries, pick him up and give him a cuddle. Do what feels right to you, that motherly instinct kicks in for a reason and it knows far more than you realise!
A great skill to master is the ‘smile and nod’ and the mental face punch. Outwardly accept the unsolicited advice, internally ignore it and if needs be give them a mental punch in the face. Trust me, it will make you feel better.
2. Chuck out those baby books that tell you how to parent. They’ll just make you feel like you’re failing if your baby doesn’t follow this unknown script. And remember that people like Gina Ford and Supernanny have never actually had their own babies, so when they’re telling you to leave them to cry their little hearts out- they’ve never experienced that as a mother, only as an employee.
If you want some books, go and buy The Unmumsy Mum and read that cover to cover- that woman tells it like it is! And if you still want something more ‘parenty’ then get the Wonder Weeks (book or app) which talks about mental leaps your baby regularly goes through- so when you think your baby is broken and you’ve driven yourself insane trying to settle her but to no avail- the app will probably say, yep- completely normal at this age, do not panic!
3. Take the advice of health visitors with a pinch of salt. Yes, they are great; they come to you when you can’t face leaving the house, and they spend the time seeing how you’re doing. But personally I found some of their advice to be pretty outdated. Remember, you know your baby best and if they’re suggesting something that doesn’t sit right with you, just ignore it. Nod and smile, let them go, then push the comment out of your head and crack on as you were.
4. Breastfeeding can be hard at first, but it’s so worth it. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I just thought I’d latch my baby on and be away. Things were trickier, things were more painful, but the benefits last much longer than any of that. But breastfeeding doesn’t have to be the be all and end all: Do it for as long as is right for you. If you’re finding it all too much (hello, who isn’t, motherhood is hard work and 24/7!!) pump some milk and get your baby used to bottles (if you want) so that you can have a break. Get your partner to give some formula and go get some much needed sleep or get out of the house. Alone! Nothing bad will happen, look after yourself as well as your baby!
5. Some babies just don’t sleep well! Some babies barely sleep at all!! My son finally slept through at 21 months and for the first half of that period I drove myself insane, crying to myself and anyone who’d listen “what am I doing wrong?! Everyone else’s baby sleeps now!” And that’s truly how it felt. But there’s so much more to it. Just know, your baby will sleep eventually, and it is not your fault. I repeat, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!
In the end, the aim of those first few weeks is survival. Get through each day; keep yourself and your baby alive and enjoy those gorgeous tiny baby snuggles- but don’t put any pressure on yourself to do anything more than that. Get help wherever you can, whenever you can. And no guilt, ok?!