If you are expecting for the first time you may have a thousand questions, secret worries and be feeling bogged down with information coming from all directions. Suddenly everybody is a baby expert and thinks they know best. There are hundreds of baby books in the shops, classes to attend and health visitor leaflets. How can you take it all in? Well, here’s my little bit of advice for first time parents on how to get through it all and which parts actually may work for you:
Enjoy your sleep whilst you can
People are going to repeatedly tell you to get your sleep in now and to enjoy it. This will drive you completely barmy and you will smile and nod as though it is the first time anyone has ever said it, BUT… oh my goodness is it true! I am almost 3 years in and am still shattered. I miss the long lie in’s at the weekend, I miss feeling wide awake and I miss the days where I knew I could go to bed and not have to worry about whether I was going to be woken at some point. I have a sleep thief which is here to stay it seems! So, do enjoy.
Are you using your bio-oil?
Again you will hear this a lot, however, do use your bio-oil/coconut oil it does work and it will help. Apply liberally once or twice a day. The massaging will help with the tension in the skin and the oils will help with reducing the chances of developing stretch marks.
During your pregnancy you will ‘bloom‘
Oh yes, that age-old saying of how all pregnant women ‘bloom’. Forget it! You are not alone if you feel exhausted, sick, have heartburn, are uncomfortable and having a hormone ‘explosion’. Your body is going through an enormous change– in more ways than one- and everyone reacts differently. I personally carried the biggest bottle of Gaviscon in my bag everywhere I went!
*And on a side note to this whoever named it ‘morning’ sickness had clearly never been pregnant! It can occur any time of day and even last for the entire pregnancy.
Don’t spend a fortune
Have you noticed that as soon as you add the word ‘baby’ to a product the price seems to immediately triple?! Yes, you could buy the top of the range pram, the baby monitor with all the added specifications and the car seat that turns 360 degrees but I can tell you now that the simpler versions do still work. A baby is going to cost you money for a long time after and a lot of these ‘first’ items only last them a short amount of time. Most people end up switching their pram/pushchair as the child gets bigger and the family’s needs change. We swapped ours before our son was 2 years old because he could escape from the first one, it was large and bulky, taking up most of the boot space and was also heavy. The car seat needed to be changed once he had reached a certain weight, the baby monitor was removed once he could talk and shout for us, the steriliser was a waste of money because I breastfed for so long and it spent most of the time in a cupboard. When purchasing things also consider storage space especially once you no longer need it – believe me, space quickly runs out once you have a baby. If you can borrow items then opt for this, that way not only are you saving money, but also space because you can just hand it all back!
Plan carefully for what you actually really need and not what is just a fad at that time. You need your money for nappies, wipes and clothes, not gadgets. Or just ask for the top items as gifts at your baby shower.
Boy or Girl?
If you want to find out the sex just go for it but do be prepared for some people not liking this, oh and they will tell you so! Don’t worry about it, if you want to be prepared for colour schemes and don’t want the surprise then that is your decision to make and no one else’s. (see next pointer)
You’re not going to do it like that are you?!
People will voice their opinions from now on in and they will not care. Suddenly you have a baby and what you do, how you dress them, how you feed them, how often you feed them, how you burp them, even how you change their nappy will come under scrutiny. Learn to nod and agree very sweetly… then continue to do it the way you know work’s best.
The hospital bag
Do not panic over what to pack it is not the end of the world if something is missed. You are never in hospital long anyway and someone can always pop out to bring it to you. As long as you have some vests, bodysuits, hats and nappies you are pretty much ok, plus the hospital will have some bits for you to use. Just don’t forget to pack essentials for yourself. Extra nighties, knickers, your deodorant, a toothbrush etc are your must-haves. You can even take in food you like if you are concerned about the hospital food.
Plus remember the car seat, you can’t go home without one.
The perfect birthing plan
Now I could be a little cynical here and say rip it up, throw it away, there is no perfect labour but that’s purely because of my own personal experience. Of course, there are people out there who have a truly natural labour, enjoy it, are overwhelmed by it all and hold their babies immediately etc. You are told to write a birthing plan which is all well and good but please do keep your mind open to the fact that anything can happen during childbirth. Be prepared for the birthing pool not being available on that day, the gas and air not being enough, the epidural being offered and you wanting to take it, the emergency c-section being the only option and possible problems after birth. I sound pessimistic but I wish somebody had said this to me and that is what I am basing this on. After experiencing a very scary emergency c-section I was affected by the fact I didn’t hold my son immediately, I was surprised at how much I couldn’t do afterwards and the numbness I still feel in my abdomen even now. I was not mentally prepared for a difficult labour.
Giving birth is a big deal and no matter how your little ones come into this world you need to feel proud that you did it. A birth plan can be changed, your labour may go differently to how you imagined but the most important part is that your baby is delivered safely.
Fed is best
Time and time again you are told breast is best. Yes, yes it is, this is a proven fact, there is no argument here. However, if you struggle, if you are in pain, if your baby cannot latch on and if your baby is very hungry then moving to formula may be best for you. Do not make your life harder, it’s already changed so much. You will be tired and emotional so make a choice that will benefit both yourself and baby. You are not a failure, you are not a quitter, you are choosing the better option in order to care for your baby.
Nap when they nap
Another favourite saying you will hear. It may seem like the simplest thing but have you ever tried napping on demand?! I found it so hard to switch off on cue with the baby AND even though hubby may believe the cleaning fairies do exist, really they don’t, and when you have piles of washing, washing up, hoovering and so on it can be hard to ignore it all and take that well-needed nap. I wish I had learnt to ignore it more often. Do not feel guilty about not being able to get all the housework done, your job is now taking care of a baby and in order to do this well you also need to take care of yourself.
Sign up for it all?!!
So you have a baby and suddenly you discover that they can have a better social life than you! There are classes for everything going and a whole new world is opened up to you. Sing and sign? Baby massage? Baby sensory? Swimming lessons? Messy play? Playgroups? Music classes? Groovy movers? PEEP?.. which ones to sign up for?! (the list goes on by the way)
Baby classes are great for you to get out of the house, meet other people in the same situation as you and for your baby’s development. If you like routine, meeting people and singing a hell of a lot of nursery rhymes then fab, but what if it’s not your cup of tea? Do not feel pressured. Give some a go, have a feel for what they are like and definitely try the free ones on offer and just see how they go. If you can’t stand them that is ok. Others may make you feel like it’s not, the health visitors may bring this up at your baby’s reviews but, again (and I am all for this), you need to do what makes both you and your little one happy. As long as you are getting out and about, seeing people, chatting to adults, seeing other children so that your baby can socialise you are doing fine. Groups are not for everyone, some of us cannot bear singing row, row 3 days a week, walking into cliques already in place and not all of us can afford swimming lessons. There is no rule to say you need to sign up for every class on offer.
Whatever will be, will be
You could read every baby book going but at the end of the day every single baby is different. Each develop at differing times, some may walk before they crawl, some will cut their first tooth at 3 months and others won’t until a year old. Some babies suffer from colic, some have silent reflux, some will always sleep right through the night and others will wake for years. The one thing a book cannot do is predict the type of baby you will have. You need to learn about your baby’s needs and work to these in a way that suits you. Do NOT compare yourself or your baby to others, what works for them may not work for you. Do not get disheartened if a friend’s baby talks before yours, or crawls first or walks, we all learn at different rates and there is no competition when it comes to your child. At the end of the day your child WILL do all of these things eventually.
Enjoy your baby, enjoy your time with them and always listen to yourself and not necessarily always to other’s opinions.
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