When you bring your little one back from hospital and are in the comfort of your own home, you suddenly realise that all the research and prep you tried to do whilst pregnant will only get you so far. Just like anything, learning on the job is the best way to find out what works and what doesn’t!
I’ve put together a list of things that I have learnt and hopefully will be useful in those first few days and weeks of being a new mum.
1. The Sleep Situation
Whichever sleep ‘device’ you have chosen for your baby (and I say device because the options out there really are quite overwhelming at times!) it is almost garenteed that their most preferred method to get off to sleep will be on you or your partner. I’d heard a lot about this during pregnancy, but what I didn’t quite realise is how much of a fine art it is to get them into their bed. We have a lovely Moses basket for Zac that is by my side of the bed, some people have the next-to-me style cribs, snooze pods etc. For the first couple of nights we took it in turns for baby to sleep on us whilst the other got some kip, as that was the only way he would sleep. He’d be completely zonked out on us, and purely by putting him down on his back would wake him almost instantly. They say they like the feeling of the heart beat just like they were in the womb – it makes sense. I had some fantastic advice from friends to try and make the Moses basket a more inviting place for him to sleep and so far these have been really successful:
- Heat a water bottle and place on the mattress to make it warm and cosy before laying baby down. **NB, always remove the water bottle before putting baby down and never place baby in their bed with the hot water bottle.
- Use the same blanket they sleep in to wrap round you and baby whilst they dose off so that your smell and warmth is carried over with them.
- If possible, have your Moses basket/crib with you in the lounge during the day and practise putting them down when they are sleepy, again for familiarity, to prepare for the night time.
- Place them on your chest initially to get them off to sleep, the advice I recieved was around 15/20 minutes until they are in a good deep sleep, then place in basket/crib.
- Consider using a dummy to keep them calm when they stir. This is very much up to you and how you would like to parent ?
- Sing nursery rhymes, play lullabies and find some good white noise apps to play to baby to help them settle.
These are just a few tips that we have found really helpful, and as I write this post 2 weeks in, I can say we are making real progress with night times. As they say, all babies are different and some take to their sleeping arrangements incredibly quickly, others take more time – just persevere and stay positive.
Whether you plan to breastfeed, express or formula feed your newborn, prepare to be flexible with what might happen when baby actually arrive. I read a lot of articles about this during maternity leave, and we have now adopted all 3 methods – not something I had originally planned but it’s working for us. Do what is best for you and your baby and go with your instinct. Something that I hadn’t given much thought about was expressing. I bought a Tommee Tippee manual breast pump as a bit of a back up option so that my partner could get involved with feeding too, and it was actually something that I started to use on a regular basis the moment we got home. It meant I could physically see how much milk little one was getting, it enabled us to share feeding duties, and it meant visitors and family members could help out which was lovely. For some mums, exclusively breastfeeding is what they are happiest doing, for others bottle feeding is the way forward. One thing I hadn’t realised pre-motherhood was that for a majority of bottle feeding mums, they tried really hard in the early days to breastfeed and it just wasn’t meant to be – perhaps their milk production was low or their baby struggled to latch – so in the best interests of their baby they use formula. After our first visit from the midwife Zac was showing signs of jaundice, we were advised by the midwife to do whatever we felt was the best to keep him hydrated. So we started formula feeding during the night and breastfeeding and expressing during the day. After all it is incredibly important your baby is hydrated and getting the nutrition it needs. It’s cheesey, but a healthy baby is a happy baby and whatever feeding method you choose it’s important to remind yourself that you’re doing your best for your baby and that’s what really matters.
An extra helpful tip here is to make sure you have an abundance of pillows and cushions in your house – preferably of all shapes and sizes! Small, soft cushions are best as you can stack them, squash them etc into different positions to help you get comfortable. I have a U shaped maternity pillow which is great for giving your arms a rest when holding little one and also doubles up as the perfect place to put baby down as the shape holds their head and makes them feel secure.
3. Lighting around the house
Getting this right is a bit of a fine art! We both have little lamps on our bedside tables, mine is a multi coloured pac-man light which gives off a glow more than a light. My partners is a standard reading lamp. Mine is too dull to see anything properly, my partner’s is too bright to keep on whilst asleep! We started off with the landing light on and the bedroom door open, now we have progressed to small lamp in the nursery which is not as bright. The same goes for the lounge, our spot lights are blinding, and without them you’re in the pitch black, so a standing lamp in the corner of the room has been brilliant. Long story short, lots of little lights are better than one strong light. This is something I had never thought of before, and after a few trips to the hardware store to buy bulbs and multi-socket electric extensions we’ve finally cracked the ‘baby-friendly’ mood lighting! Also on the subject of light, a friend recommended fairy lights around the car seat to keep little one entertained on journies. We tried this out with Zac’s sleep box and he was mesmerised.
4. Looking after yourself
Set up mini stations around the house that consist of bottles of water, somr snacks e.g biscuits, fruit, cereal bars, muslins and phone chargers if possible. Keeping yourself hydrated when breastfeeding is really important and when you are tired making sure you drink lots of water will help you feel a bit more perky in general. A variety of snacks at arms length will also help to keep you going. We quickly realised that once you have a feeding or sleeping baby in your arms, it’s best to have everything you need around you as getting up isn’t easy when your trapped under a baby! Always have a muslin at the ready for dribbles and burping, and if you can keep the tv remote close by as once you are settled you’ll be grateful you thought about this before you got comfy with baby ?
5. Bath time
The aim of this Takeshi’s castle style challenge is to get your baby from smelly to clean overcoming all obstacles that you will face. Firstly, getting the water temperature right. We have a little thermometer that came with the Mothercare tub, and every time I run the bath it always feels so cold. But that’s because I always have my bath very warm – guilty. The next is stripping down your baby avoiding the fountain of pee (boys particularly prone, I hear girls more of an unexpected dribble) and hope that this isn’t the moment they choose to poop. I caught it all in my hand the other day, it was not a pleasant sight. It was either that or the fluffy rug…you choose. Once you and baby are ready, the moment of truth will be how your baby reacts to the water. Now I was praying that I’d have some sort of water-loving fish baby, but alas I do not. We have a flannelette deck chair bath aid (that’s not the technical name, it was given to us by a friend) and I would advise having a look at products available on the market as they are great for keeping your baby’s head out the water and supporting their head and back so you are able to wash their little bodies safely. Our method of getting through the next step of the challenge is to use a sponge and jug to constantly pour water over little one’s tummy. We find he is happiest when doing this and keeps him warm. After a good wash, we transfer our slippery worm into a hooded towel and quickly rub down to keep him warm. I like to take this opportunity for a bit of skin to skin time before getting him changed into a fresh sleep suit. It’s upto you when you want to put on a clean nappy, I’m fairly prompt as to avoid the inevitable…others give their babies some naked down-below airation. Again, fate is in your own hands with this one! I look forward to being able to use some bath toys as he gets older and make this part of our bed time routine, but during these early days just making sure they are happy and clean is the main aim whatever the time it is.
6. Socialising & getting out
Although this is the last on my list, it’s also one of the most important. Having family and friends around you in the early days can really help when it comes to both emotional and physical support. Equally, you can end up with half the village visiting the house if you’re not careful so bare in mind it is perfectly OK to say no or postpone visits if you want. Whether you’re new to an area, or simply want to meet other parents-to-be who are in the same position as you, there are a handful of ways you can go about making new ‘mum friends’ (best said in an inbetweeners voice). First tip is to sign up to an antenatal classes during pregnancy. It could be NCT, the free NHS classes or independent companies that also run courses. Although we only opted for the NHS ones, I started to go along to coffee mornings at the local village hall (run by an independent baby group) from about 28 weeks pregnant. This is early days for some people, but as I had moved to a new area and it been so long since I interacted with newborn babies I was keen to stuck in. I felt like it was my first day at big school as I sat in the car park, incredibly nervous about the unknown. There really was no need, a smiley face greeted me at the door and I was introduced to the other bumps and new mums. I was surrounded by lots of little babies and this gave me the chance to just watch how the mums held and played with their little ones. I also got to talk to them about how my pregnancy was going so far. I even got to hold and cuddle a gorgeous little girl and this gave me so much confidence. I came back feeling really positive about motherhood and have been going to this group every week ever since. We managed our first outting as Mum and baby this week and Zac loved taking in the atmosphere. The same ladies meet for coffee in town on other days of the week so this gives us something to put in the diary and is a great chance to have a chinwag with other slightly sleep-deprived mums!
Another way of getting to know other mums and babies is Mush. Mush is an app that helps you connect with parents in your area with babies of a similar age – Tinder for mums if you will! I have my first ‘Mush date’ coming up with two other mums next week. We were all due around a similar time (you can join whilst pregnant and there is a little stork icon that tells you how far gone a person is!) and we would talk about our pregnancies, how the midwives appointments were going and how we were feeling. The app notifies you when new people in your area have joined and I find it incredibly easy to use. Really worth a go especially if you’re a tad apprehensive about throwing yourself feet first into village hall coffee mornings!
Previous Princess and the Sprog post(s):
Princess and the Sprog: Welcome little man – my birthing experience
For the Princess and the Sprog blog, click here.