Being a mum of three and having had each child in a completely different circumstance there are a lot of things I have learned about being Mum that I wish I had of known when my first was born, had of remembered when my second was born and not just realised when I was blessed with my third….
1. Every baby is different, really truly different. There is no one size fits all routine that will suit every bub. What worked for Debby next door or Lucy from mothers groups or your distant cousin Jill who suddenly is brimming with motherly advice for you may not work for your child…. in fact it probably won’t!
Not only that, but the miracle fix that you find for your first child, whether that be a routine, a wrap, a certain dummy or comforter will probably prove useless for your next baby.
2. Some babies are harder than others. Unfortunately parenting is not an even playing field. Some babies just sleep, they are just sleepy babies and they love nothing more than to give their parents a full night sleep on a regular basis from just a few weeks old. Some babies much prefer to stay up all night long screaming because of their colic, or reflux or wind or… just because. This is a sad fact, but it is a fact. And if you are the parent of one of these higher needs babies don’t ever expect the parent of an easy baby to understand… Ever. Because they just won’t, they just can’t. If you haven’t been there yourself it’s impossible to comprehend. So they will probably look at you with unsympathic eyes and try to tell you all the ways that you should be doing things to make your baby as easy as theirs… As if you haven’t already tried everything.
3. Breast is best…. Except when it isn’t. I myself am a massive breastfeeding advocate and I wish there was more support out there for new mums to help them establish and maintain breastfeeding, because here’s the thing, it’s the most natural thing in the world to feed your baby from the breast… But sometimes it doesn’t come all that naturally. It’s a learning curve and it can be difficult and painful. And even when it is working perfectly it can be trying and exhausting to ensure you are eating well enough for the two of you and drinking enough to fill an ocean and being the person solely responsible for feeding your bub. The fact is sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s all too much, sometimes Bub cannot latch properly, sometimes mum’s milk for some reason isn’t enough, sometimes the diet restrictions are too hard – because new mothers need chocolate in their life, when one isn’t getting any sleep, chocolate is an essential lifeline and some babies (mine included, much to my devastation) do not enjoy chocolatey milk. And when this happens, not breastfeeding is ok. It’s better than ok, it’s what’s best for your baby and yourself.
And on the topic of boobs and breastfeeding – breastfeeding does not always make you lose weight. I am one of the lucky ones, where breastfeeding actually causes my body to hold onto as much weight as possible. My body grips those fat stores like it’s hibernating for the winter to ensure that I always have plenty to use up to produce milk. It is a shitty reality but it is a reality so don’t bank on feeding making you drop weight like nothing else as is often implied. And if that is how it happens for you, count yourself lucky.
4. You don’t need every baby gadget in the shop… But some of them will make your life easier. Try to avoid turning your house into a baby store, you do not need a bouncer, a rocker, a swing and a baby gym, it’s just more stuff to trip over in the middle of the night. But one or two of these items can be the difference between you having a shower or not😉
5. Stress less! A happy Mummy = a happy baby
With my first I spent so much time worrying, I timed every feed and every sleep, I noted down every nappy change. I felt guilty for cuddling her too much – after all I didn’t want to spoil her and make it so that she would never ever sleep on her own, ever. I was terrified of SIDS and I watched on as she screamed through tummy time on the floor because the nurse told me if she didn’t have at least 15 minutes a day she wouldn’t be able to hold her head up.
With my second a child health nurse made me feel guilty for having my nails done – ‘you’ll scratch the baby with those things!’ And told me I was over feeding him because he was in the 90th percentile and I had super milk – ‘do you want an obese toddler?!’. I had relaxed on the sleeping thing, but I still stressed and felt guilty when I let him sleep in our bed. I was still mindful of too many cuddles or using the carrier too often in case he became too attached. I felt like I had failed when his comfort blankies that were suppose to stay in the cot started leaving the house every time we did just to keep him settled while we were out.
This time around.. I am relaxed. As I sit and type this Baby A is asleep on my chest and I don’t care. She has been nicknamed Koala because for about 20-22 hours a day most days she is on or next to me. She sleeps in my bed and I have no guilt about the endless cuddles. I am not stressed that she rarely sleeps in her bassinet and most of her ‘tummy time’ is done on me. I don’t time feeds or sleeps or note down nappies; I feed her when she seems hungry whether it’s been 3 hours or 30 minutes and she sleeps when she sleeps.
The funny thing about this is that so far, nearly 3 months in, she is the most settled by far of any of my babies. She sleeps the best, she doesn’t cry often at all. When she does go down for a play on her play mat she is happy for me to wander around the house and do chores until she’s had enough, I don’t have to sit with her and chat the entire time like with my first two babies. She is just overall very content.
Here is the thing, despite the differences in how I parented my first two kids, now at nearly 5 and 7, they both go to bed on time and usually straight to sleep and rarely, very rarely wake up during the night needing me. They can both hold their heads up straight and my little boy is a perfectly healthy weight! They are both really quite independent little humans, despite my excessive cuddling of them when they were babies and allowing them to sleep in my bed, so I wish I could go back and tell my earlier self not to worry, not to feel guilty over it and not to withhold the things that feel natural, like I did at times especially with my first baby girl, because they will turn out just fine.
So please first time Mummies, remember parenting is not a competition – even though some parents make it feel that way. It’s not about how fast you can get your pre-baby body back and stick it up on Instagram, or how far apart you can stretch your babies feeds, or how long a stretch they sleep over night and whether they sleep in your arms or in a bassinet or cot or in a swing or carrier or in your bed. It’s about you taking the time to enjoy your beautiful bundle. They are this small for such a tiny amount of time. Sometimes one night can feel like forever when they are unsettled and miserable, but really, honestly, it goes so fast and before you know it you’ll be reminiscing about the days when they needed you that much.
So ignore the haters, feel free to tell Debby and Lucy and Jill to piss off… Or smile and nod politely and file their comments and advice in the ‘I don’t give a shit pile’. As long as you and your baby are healthy and you are keeping you baby safe, just enjoy them.
Always remember to look after yourself, because no one can fully take care of someone else if they aren’t taking care of themselves and then parent how it comes naturally and keep your fingers crossed that you come out of it with some of your sanity intact. Before you know it, they will be chatting to you as they sit in their high chair munching on a rusk and you will be thinking it’s time to give them a brother or sister😉