As with everything first-time around, being a first-time mum is a little daunting – you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing and you have a lot to learn. You can ask for all the advice in the world (and will no doubt be given it even if you don’t ask), but the only way you’re really going to learn is once you’re actually ‘on the job’.
Yet once on the job parenthood tests us – we suddenly have a real human being who we are completely responsible for, and the pressure (along with hormonal urges) to be the perfect parent can sometimes get the better of us. We’ve hung on to every word in the antenatal classes, we’ve read up and watched videos about everything we’re going to need – and we’re ready to put it all into action. But after a couple of months of finding your feet, you soon realise that what works for you and your baby isn’t necessarily what you’ve been advised ‘is best’ – and it’s your right to throw the rule book out of the window.
I feel that I’ve already learnt such a lot on this crazy journey of parenthood and here are some of the things I won’t be doing if I have a second baby.
1. Stress out about breastfeeding
Throughout pregnancy I felt I was constantly educated about how breastfeeding will give my baby ‘the best start in life’ – with every leaflet, antenatal class and visit from my midwife there was another reminder that ‘breast is best’. And I really did want to make it work.
Yet when Taylor first latched on I couldn’t quite believe how painful it was – and with every feed I got more sore and the pain became more and more unbearable. In the end we introduced a couple of bottles as I was so sore I couldn’t bear the thought of Taylor latching on again, but then my milk production slowed right down and I ended up expressing alongside feeding to try and increase it again – meaning that I hardly got a minute to myself (day or night).
Not being able to breastfeed made me feel like a failure and like I’d let my daughter down. I kept thinking (and was advised) that if I kept at it, the pain would get less, and the production would come back. But neither happened and one day I just decided to stop. Once I made that decision it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I’ve never looked back since. I like to think that I might try it again, but I certainly won’t beat myself up if I can’t.
2. Try to maintain a tidy house
When you’re the one at home all day whilst your husband is out earning the dollar, it’s difficult not to feel a little judged when he walks through the door at 7pm to a bomb hole. In those early months I couldn’t grasp the fact that I had absolutely no time to ‘get things done’ – pretty much every minute was spent holding, feeding, or rocking to sleep a screaming baby and any time I did have was spent madly dashing around the house trying to clear away the carnage we were leaving in our tracks. At the time you can’t imagine this is ever going to end, but it does – a few months in and you’ll have a much more content baby who is happy to be put down and take a nap. Housework can wait until then – embrace the moment, cuddle up and realise that your life isn’t yours for the time being.
3. Worry about establishing a routine early on
At some point during the first couple of months I started to try and get Taylor into some sort of routine with her feeding a sleeping. Endless times did I try and rock her to sleep in her crib, only to give up 45 minutes later, put her in her bouncer and watch her fall asleep straight away. We made up endless bottles of milk that went to waste, convinced that she must be either hungry or tired, ‘why won’t she stop crying??’ Around three-four months something just clicked. Perhaps Taylor finally got used to being on a 24 hour clock, or I just got to know her better and read her signals, either way I hope I’ll be less frantic if there’s a next time – babies will find their own routine eventually, and it’s very little to do with you.
4. Care what people will think when she’s making a scene
As a new mum I often felt as though I was surrounded by ‘perfect parents’ with ‘perfect children’ and when Taylor would have one of her hissy fits I did feel as though I was being judged by those around me for not being able to comfort my baby. I’m sure this was entirely nothing to do with other people, and everything to do with my own lack of confidence in what the hell I was doing.
At every postnatal class I attended with her, it seemed as though she was the only baby ‘acting up’ and would scream the place down until I finally had to leave. I did feel as though other mums were probably thinking ‘she’s obviously tired, hungry, wants a cuddle’ etc, but I soon came to realise that when Taylor was like that, nothing at all would calm her down. She was diagnosed with a kidney infection at 11 weeks and had to stay in hospital for three nights for intravenous antibiotics. After she came out she was so much happier. She still of course has the odd meltdown but I’ve learnt to deal with the fact that babies often disturb the peace – and other people will have to deal with that too.
5. Have baby sleep in our room until six months
I know that the guidelines tell us six months, and I would’ve stuck to this had Taylor not been such a restless sleeper. It was either us waking her up, or her waking us up – either way, none of us seemed to be getting any sleep. Taylor would thrash around in her crib bouncing her arms and legs off the bars like a caged animal.
I started to put her into her cot in her own room for her daytime naps (as she refused to go down in her crib) and she seemed to instantly prefer it. She then went through a phase at night of constantly spitting out her dummy and crying for it back – I would be up all night putting in back in to try and prevent an all-out melt down. We endured this for a couple more weeks until our health visitor suggested we try her in her own room at four months. She seemed so much more content from day one. And I am a much nicer person now that I get to sleep.
6. Buy a separate changing bag
Don’t get me wrong, I love our changing bag and I do use it all the time, but I love my leather handbags more. I now realise that my changing bag is just a big bag with lots of pockets – of which I already own plenty. I don’t even use the bottle warmer/cooler compartment which came with it as it’s pretty rubbish compared to my separate AVENT one which was bought for us as a present. I could be £70 better off.
7. Buy lots of newborn clothes
There’s nothing quite so tempting as browsing cute newborn clothes when you’re nine months pregnant and super excited about the imminent arrival of your little one (apart from perhaps a box of Krispy Kremes). But trust me, you really don’t need much.
Aside from the fact that your newborn will live in nothing other than babygrows and vests for the firsts few months of his/her life, your family and friends will have it covered. Yes, everybody else loves cute newborn clothes just as much as you do and you’ll be amazed at the amount of gifts you’ll receive.
Okay, so I’d be fibbing if I was to say that I don’t do this anymore – at seven months I still do. But this is really because I find the steriliser a good place to keep all of those ugly bottle parts which would otherwise be making a mess of my cupboards.
I do however struggle to see the logic in sterilising the feeding bottles of a baby who is now deemed okay to drink tap water from an unsterilised beaker – and I won’t be judging anyone who has done away with the steriliser altogether. I’m sure I’ll be doing just that next time.