First Time Mum: The Early Days

Today, Becky is back with another update on her journey as a new Mum. When Becky first sent me this post she told me she had left a few paragraphs out as she didn’t want to scare any mums-to-be with the changes inevitably ahead. I asked her to send me them and we eventually agreed to include them here. Thankfully, these days the challenges of motherhood are more openly discussed along with the inherent joys and so I dont think some of the feelings Becky experienced will come as a shock to many, but if you are expecting and feel like today is not the day for a dose of reality, then feel free to skip down to her tips for getting thorough the first few weeks – about halfway down the page.

During the first few hazy days of motherhood, most people tell you that the first 2 weeks are the hardest but to enjoy every minute of it. I found it difficult to understand at the time but now, on the other side of the first three months, I totally get it. I think Mother Nature’s memory loss trick has a lot to answer for, but as I fought back the tears whilst packing Connie’s newborn clothes away recently, I realised that they are tiny for the shortest snippet of time. Blink and you’ve missed it.

Being a new mum is amazing in so many ways, but it’s also a time when you feel an enormous pressure to feel completely over the moon with life. I know that not everyone feels like that as not only is it really tough physically and emotionally, I think many new mums, me included, can feel completely overwhelmed by the responsibility of getting it right. No matter how many times you tell yourself that your life is going to change forever while you’re pregnant, the actual reality of it in the early days is mind blowing. All of a sudden you realise you are never going to be the person you were ever again. There were moments when I felt as if I was mourning the loss of my previous self but also feeling guilty for thinking it at the same time as Connie was everything I’d asked for. This was a post that I read, on Renegade Mothering, that I really identified with.

Most importantly, you must trust your instinct. Even in the first few days of motherhood when you think you haven’t a clue about the best way to care for your baby, just believe in yourself. You will know your baby better than any midwife or health visitor. You will be given ‘helpful’ advice from everyone you speak to. Most of it will be conflicting and everyone will suddenly have an opinion. I’d suggest quietly taking on board what they say and then doing things the way that you feel suits you and your baby. I was given some terrible advice by a health visitor and breastfeeding counsellor when I sought support in the early days. I knew deep down that it wasn’t the right advice for Connie and I but I didn’t have the confidence to believe that I knew better. As a result, I followed their advice and fell to pieces for a week. Thankfully my Mum was able to come to my rescue and we got back on track doing things the way we’d been doing them from the start. It was a tough lesson in self belief.

For today’s post, I wanted to share some of the things that helped us through those tough early days and hopefully, they might make it all seem a little more manageable.

EATING
During the later stages of pregnancy, start cooking in batches to stock your freezer with home cooked meals that are easy to re-heat. This is the most useful thing I did on my maternity leave.

SLEEPING
Sleep when your baby sleeps – even if you have a house full of visitors. Newborns don’t know night from day and need to feed every couple of hours.

It’s common for babies to go on feeding frenzies at night time (called cluster feeding). Connie regularly fed until 4.30am. After the first few nights, I was starting to struggle as I’d been staying up with her watching TV, reading or online. On day 6, a midwife suggested I try to keep night as restful as possible even if I wasn’t sleeping and she showed me how to safely feed in bed. This was the best piece of advice I was given. It saved me from becoming nocturnal and eventually, your baby will start to recognise the difference between the bright, noisy day, and dark hushed night.

For settling your baby, I cannot recommend this advice enough. We also used a hot water bottle to warm the moses basket before placing Connie into it. White noise is also your best friend. There are white noise apps available which we used regularly, along with the hairdryer!

Make sure you’re clued up on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). You’ll find everything you need to know on The Lullaby Trust website

The long nights can get very lonely and overwhelming. Remember that everything seems better in the daylight.

SUPPORT
If you’ve attended any ante natal groups and classes and have met new mums to be, try and suggest setting up a Facebook group so you can all keep in touch. It’s invaluable to have an instant support network of people who are going through almost exactly the same thing. I regularly posted questions in the middle of the night and got a response within minutes.

Ask your visitors to run errands, help with housework, bring meals etc. Play to their strengths and you should have all bases covered.

And finally, a few things I was grateful for…
Comfy loungewear – treat yourself to some nice pyjamas and a dressing gown for home rather than the hospital – something you don’t mind visitors seeing you in.

A baby swing/ bouncy chair to give you 5 minutes in the shower when your partner has returned to work.

A minimal make up bag and speedy way to style your hair.

A repertoire of songs you can sing to your baby – 10 green bottles is always a good starting point.

So readers, do you have any advice to share that got you through those newborn days?

Love,
Becky
x

PS Some of Becky’s previous posts:

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34 thoughts on “First Time Mum: The Early Days

  1. Everything you said, spot on! I always tell new mum friends that the first six weeks are the hardest but to treasure every second!

    In terms of breast feeding, it’s no wonder we have terrible rates in this country, my experience is that there are many women who really want to succeed but are not given the support or advice they need. I’ve known lots of close friends who have reluctantly given up after just a few days because ‘he/ she is a hungry baby’ or they’ve been told to supplement with formula which has affected their supply. Often the baby is just behaving normally but people seem to think that they should be going three hours between feeds which is very rarely the case.

    The reality is that breastfeed babies feed constantly for the first few weeks and it needs to be said that this is normal and natural and unfortunately you just have to roll with it! Again though, it passes and suddenly times between feeds get longer and you get to be able to eat/ have a shower/ venture out and then it goes from being extremely restricting to positively liberating! If you can get through the first few months of breast feeding you are laughing as after its a doddle, no sterilising, no warming feeds in the night, no running out of formula.

    Looking forward to reading more about your journey!
    X

    • You are so right re breast feeding, at 4 months most mums I know at this stage have quit due to poor advice and support and old wives tales from well meaning relatives. To be honest I am personally yet to come across a gp or health visitor with decent breast feeding knowledge as well, and have been given terrible advice by them, and had to resort to paying a private lactation consultant and going to la leche league for proper support. I would really welcome a breast feeding specific post, as I feel there is a lot out there to tell people the benefits but very little to normalise the act itself and to let mums know the common issues and solutions. Would recommend any pregnant lady or new mum to find their local la leche league group and get hold of book the womanly art of breast feeding.

      • Yes Holly, excellent advice, exactly how I feel. I live in a major city and even struggled to find a private lactation consultant with the specialist knowledge I needed. Will get writing the next post ASAP x

      • I paid for a lactation consultant too – cheaper than formula in the long run! I don’t think anyone is really unable to breastfeed but you do need the support quickly or the milk supply may never recover if you’re supplementing with bottles early on. I think the advice given is patchy at best and incorrect at worst. I don’t think there is anything wrong with formula if that’s what is right for you but I think in the eagerness to not make formula feeding mums feel guilty there isn’t quite enough support for those who are finding breastfeeding tough but really don’t want to give up.

        • Kate, as a GP I’m going to go right out there and agree with you (and some commenters above) that advice from health care professionals is patchy at best and at worst an uneducated guess. The best GP’s I know for BF advice have personal experience of breast feeding as mothers and even then, it’s so person dependent that people in general are afraid to speak up. As a GP who has no children, I feel useless and the best of my experience comes from close personal contact with friends who are new mums and the help I sought for them. Unfortunately we’re taught little about it and BF is seen as the preserve of Health Visitors and Midwives. Personally I think their advice can be biased towards BF at whatever cost, inconsistent (and therefore confusing,) depending on who you consult. There is such a no-judgement attitude though that it’s easy to stop and I don’t know a single mum personally or professionally that has found BF easy from day 1. I also think a generation of women are coming up against a lack in support from the most natural source – their own Mums, as is wasn’t as popular a choice 20-30 years ago. It’s no wonder that BF rates are so low.

          All that said however there is a cohort of women whom BF is not right for and I wholeheartedly believe that a happy mum makes a happy baby, and it did very few (of the majority) of us any harm for not having been breastfed. Also, the advice from La Leche, or Breastfeeding cafe’s can be confusing and misleading too. I wish there were a set answer and sadly I think this is the problem and reason that’s to blame for people not going out on a limb and offering their own advice. I have friends who felt the BF cafe’s were (in their own words) ‘a bunch of earth mothers with their wap’s out‘! I think everyone just needs to find the advice that’s right for them, it’s just unfortunate it feels like a very desperate situation when you’re looking for that advice. As a GP I take it as my responsibility to advise on all the options for support that there are out there and often you can tell a lot from the personality of the person in front of you as to what support they need, so unless you find your GP particularly unsuited to you as a person, don’t completely discount them 🙂

          Whoa! That was a long comment!

          • LOVE that description of the bf cafe’s!! Fabulously put Rebecca. I must say that out of all of the professional help I sought, my GP was by far the most supportive of my efforts. And even though she didn’t have the answers, she went out of her way to try and find them for me. I switched GP’s just before I had Connie as I didn’t have a great relationship with my previous GP and now I’m so pleased I did.

          • You’re right in that advice from everyone is tainted by their own experience. I went to my GP to request a referral for tongue tie something my HV had refused over and over again to deal with telling me its time to switch to FF and my GP just said well I couldn’t feed my 3 and they’re fine, formulas not poison you know! I don’t think formula is poison (at least in countries with clean water supply) but there does need to be an overhaul of training and support given to mums as sadly most miss out on the family support following generations of formula being normalised. In any event it wasn’t her place to tell me her opinion, I was seeking support and she, the HV and other GPs just didn’t seem to get why at only 6 weeks old I was bothering to persist at breast feeding. When your mother and mum in law is telling you that your milk isn’t enough as your baby isn’t in an old fashioned feed for 10 minutes every 4 hour routine I can see why most mums give up. On the plus side persistence paid off and now we have a great breast feeding relationship 🙂

    • Couldn’t agree more Vicky. I’m going to attempt to do a post on breastfeeding next. Even after attending a couple of sessions at the hospital and with NCT I still had no idea what was in store. It’s almost as if the professionals are scared to tell you how hard it is in case rates drop even more. I don’t think I’d have stuck at it without the support I had from Ed and my family & friends and there are many people who don’t have support like that and are reliant on healthcare professionals for support.

      I don’t think it helps that with our careers and fast pace of life that many of us also feel we need to be starting up new businesses or cottage industries whilst on maternity leave. Maternity leave is there so we can care for our babies. No need to become superwoman at the same time!

      • Ditto. It is hard. At the 6-8 week checks I do (and I do one almost daily,) I would say only 30% of BF mums say the BF was an easy thing to pick up. On the whole BF babies are smaller (don’t be concerned about this it’s actually healthier, long term studies now show) less settled and feed a lot more. It’s natural and normal and the biggest thing is the way that often professional, in control, working women lose their locus of control and as a result start to panic because they think it’s NOT normal. There are nearly always big turning points however at around 6 and 12 weeks. Hang on in there if it’s something you really want to do. If not, I say don’t feel guilty.

        • My mum, granny, aunties all breastfed. I’d been told what to expect, and encouraged to bf. My sister in law tried breast feeding, struggled, and mother-in-law encouraged her to give nephew a bottle. My mother-in-law formula fed. I do think bf is probably easier when you have a mum who bf. I’m in no way militant about bf, but my mum is, extended bf three children, and would not have allowed me to do it any differently.

      • Tomorrow’s another day. The Husband’s on baby duty whilst I get a couple of very much needed sleep. Ive had a very grumpy baby this evening but a bath and a bottle has put us back on track, hopefully I’ll be in for an easier night.
        I know it will get easier, and he is so definitely worth it!! We had some special little moments in amongst the stress of the day. I think it would all feel a little bit easier if I didn’t feel so caged due to my lack of car access as I had to have an emergency c-section. Currently I feel like a caged animal and just want to be able to pop him in a car seat and get out and the lack of being able to do that, especially when the husband can still go swanning about as he pleases, does not help me emotionally. Two and a half weeks……

        • That will fly by Anna. You’re on the home stretch now.
          I sometimes felt the same when Ed went off to work like life hadn’t changed but then I imagined how it would feel to only see your baby first thing and last thing at night and realised how lucky I was to be spending all day with her – grumpiness and all.
          Hope you get a good night x

  2. I love reading these posts and going to book mark to come back when my baby is born. I’m 23 weeks now and it’s so nice to have an honest account. Great to hear all the breast feeding advice too. I truly believe forewarned is forearmed but I have to say I am a little bit scared by those first three months and beyond xxx

  3. I’m 9 weeks into being a mum now and would echo all the above advice. Also, be prepared to be bored. Now I’ve got the hang of breastfeeding and have a routine to be able to get out of the house in the morning (oh how I love you bouncy chair) I find myself a bit aimless on days when I don’t have baby groups. Everyone keeps telling me to enjoy it whilst he is so easy to take about and doesn’t need much entertaining but it’s easy to say that when you’re not sitting in a Starbucks day in day out just for something to do.

    Also, from about 7 weeks my son would stop crying the minute I take all his clothes off – loves the nakedness. Granted not always a practical tip but other babies might be the same so worth a go.

    • Wow, well done Kate – we still don’t have much of a routine! I agree that it’s good to plan stuff but having to walk the dog twice a day was a godsend for getting me out of the house…..although I think it’s created a motion addict for naps out of Connie. I must admit, I do sometimes miss the hours of feeding now she’s much more efficient. I don’t even get a chance to put the tv on now!

  4. Brilliant post and comments – I love how Beckys posts and all the comments are always so honest. Will defo come back to all these when I start a family….ps perhaps the 2 of you should write a book, both your perspectives as a new mum and a GP and blogger would make for a great read for expectant/ new mums x

  5. Great post Becky & great timing. We went on our hospital tour/open evening last night & were given, what feels like good advice when pregnant. To go to the BF drop ins before you give birth to talk with mums who are BF at the moment. The Health Visitor we spoke with was very honest in saying they know a lot as she last beast fed 30 years ago. Those of you who paid for a lactation consultant how did you find one?

    • I looked at the website for the IBLC (International Board of Lactation Consultants) and they have a list by area.

    • That is a very good idea Rachel. The one piece of advice all of my new Mum friends echoed was to find out where the bf support is before you have your baby as if you need help in the early days, you need it immediately. I’d even suggest you find out about more than one group so if you have a problem, you can seek help immediately, no matte what day of the week it is.

      I used this website for my failed attempt at finding a lactation consultant….
      http://www.ilca.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3432

      • I should add it was not a failed attempt as a result of the website, just that I needed someone with specific specialities. Fortunately, I discovered the team of midwives at Stepping Hill hospital are lactation specialists so managed to get the right support from them for free. I don’t live in their ‘area’ but was never refused help so it’s worth checking out all of the hospitals that you live relatively close to.

  6. Bravo, Becky – great post. So refreshing to read an honest take on the first few months of motherhood with a focus simply on coping with the craziness rather than trying to get your baby to “sleep through”. My top tip for coping is Netflix – I watched dozens of shows (including the BBC’s classic Pride & Prejudice) and movies on the iPad while my cot-dodging second child slept on me from midnight to 6am each night!

    I was just about to recommend the Stepping Hill midwives for bf support – and there’s also an amazing bf specialist midwife based there called Sarah McKie who runs a drop-in clinic and will perform tongue-tie separations there and then.

    • Sarah was my saviour Alice! Connie had tongue tie but it took weeks to get an appointment for it to be seen, diagnosed & finally cut. We went to Stepping Hill for the cut but my problems continued after that so I went back and Sarah watched a feed and diagnosed Connie’s silent reflux too.

      • Blimey, Becky – bloody well done for keeping going though that. You should def do a feeding post at some stage – the right help is out there (even in the NHS) but it can be really hard to find, especially when you’re battling intense sleep deprivation.

        • When we eventually got the help we needed, the NHS was great. It just took too long in coming. In fact, we paid to see an ENT specialist privately to speed things up but he gave her the all clear. It just shows going private doesn’t always get the right results and there are still gaps in the knowledge of even experienced medical professionals.

  7. Thanks for this Becky – personally I definitely don’t want it sugar coating with just four and a half weeks to go! To be honest, the one thing that’s surprised me the most is how different the accounts of those first three months are – which just goes to show how right you are that only you can know your own baby. I have a tendency to over-educate when I go into a new situation, so the thought that I can let some of the “rules” go and trust my instincts is enormously liberating.

    I also love the FB group idea – our NCT group have got on fabulously and this would be a really good way to get that support in a way that doesn’t clog up everybody’s inboxes (the inboxes are already getting a bit clogged and there aren’t even any babies yet!)

    Great post, I always look forward to them and I inevitably come away with something useful!

    Px

    • Wow Penny, where did that time go?!
      Our NCT Facebook group feed is so random but amazing. We post photos, terrible thoughts, tales of bad mothering, nappy contents, organise weekly get togethers and sometimes just discuss The Real Housewives series. Even the men get involved now and then too.
      Wishing you all the best for the next few weeks xx

      • My 4 big tips to new mums…

        1. Be strong and limit visitors- you need time to recover and chill with your new baby, get your oh to keep visits to a minimum and if people offer to help with housework etc say yes!!
        2. Get a sling- they are lifesavers, baby wants nothing more than being snuggled up to mum or dad and you get two free hands to make a sandwich and cuppa and they are lovely to go for walks. After some practice you can even breast feed in them. Look on Facebook and contact nct for local sling libraries where you can go along and borrow them to test different ones very cheaply.

        3. Loads of skin to skin in early days for breast feeding works wonders, snuggle in bed and in warm baths- will need partners help to pass baby for that one!! Even if not breast feeding, it is just lovely!!!

        4. When in hospital I found some of the midwives were great but they were so rushed off their feet that they didn’t have time to give lots of breast feeding help. They would help me latch baby on and then disappear, you then go home and are lost. Say no, and ask if you can latch baby on whilst they watch and give advice rather than do it for you. Also buy a tube of Lansinoh and use after every feed for first few weeks and when you no longer need it its lovely for dry skin patches on elbows, knees etc!! If you feel things aren’t right or comfortable week further advice as soon as possible. Try health visitor, midwife, GP, peer support, la leche league, look up an ibclc accredited lactation consultant- as above health care advice can be hit or miss but someone will be able to help. Kellymom is a great website too for information on breast feeding, but obviously not as good as decent medical advice.

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