Becoming a mother changes you profoundly. It changes everything in your life, your relationships, your bank account, your priorities and your whole outlook. Nothing can ever truly prepare you for becoming a mum, especially the first time round. That said listening to the wisdom of other mums is an invaluable resource. These broads know what they’re saying! They’ve lived it and learned so many things along the way, more often than not the hard way.
I remember from my own experience how overwhelming those first few weeks of motherhood can be. How exhausting and all consuming. So with that in mind here are my ultimate top tips for new mums to help you survive this, the most magical and daunting time of your life.
1. GET YOURSELF A MUM TRIBE.
This one is non negotiable, especially if your usual group of friends don’t have little ones of the same age. The fact is that your social life will change. You won’t be able to go out as much as you perhaps once did and all of your focus will be on your new baby. It can be a lonely experience. When I was pregnant I connected with a group of women local to me who were also pregnant. In the 2 years we have now been friends we have built up a strong relationship. We “chat” every day via a group Whatsapp message. We meet for play dates, walks, sledging, dinners/drinks, rant at each other, laugh, swap advice and are unfalteringly there for each other during hard times. In the early days we would silently message each other in the depths of the night when we were up feeding our babies. It felt like everyone else in the world was sleeping soundly (and selfishly!) but we were there together. There’s a special empathy between a group of mums. An understanding that your existing friends and even your partner might, through no fault of their own, just not ‘get.’
If you are not by nature a sociable person, online groups can be just as lovely. I have 2 friends in particular that I met online when I was pregnant that I would be lost without. We bonded through our shared experiences and are now friends for life. I highly recommend getting on Babycentre to connect with women in the same stage of pregnancy as you, aswell as for great infromation throughout.
Trust me, with a strong, supportive group of mum friends behind you, you really can get through anything.
2. BAN VISITORS STRAIGHT AFTER THE BIRTH.
I didn’t think to do this when I had Ayla. It might be more problematic to do with subsequent babies as you might need help with your existing ones. But if I was to have another baby I would still try and stick to it as much as possible.
For a week or even two after you get home from the hospital keep it to just you, your partner, and your baby at home. Tell your family and friends in advance so they’re not disappointed, the good ones will understand. It’s a beautiful time of getting to know your baby that passes so (too) quickly. But you’ll also be learning to feed, navigating your new family dynamic and surviving off next to no sleep. I know how irresistibly exciting it is to introduce your amazing new creation to family and friends. But in the frenzy stirred up around the baby you can sometimes get forgotten. Suddenly you’re limping around, likely still sore from the birth, making people cups of tea and sandwiches whilst they sit comfortably on the sofa and cuddle your baby.
Instead, why not keep those precious first days or weeks just for you and your partner. Take the time to recover from the birth, to bond with your baby and partner. Cuddle up on the sofa in your PJ’s with your boobs out without feeling uncomfortable. After a couple of weeks you’ll be feeling a bit better and stronger. You’ll have established breastfeeding (if you choose to do so) and be in a vague routine.
What if it’s not an option to hibernate for a week?
If you understandably can’t resist showing off your little one, or need help with your other children, I heard a great top tip for new mums on a Louise Pentland podcast. Have people over BUT stay in your pyjamas. I highly recommend getting up and showering every morning. It mentally prepares you for the day and stops the days from blurring into one. But just put fresh pyjamas back on. People are less likely to treat you like a host or overstay their welcome if you’re not properly dressed. It’s a little nudge to remind them what you have just been through. And you know, any excuse to spend all day in your PJ’s.
3. ESTABLISH A ROUTINE.
If there’s one big take-away I learned from my years in childcare that getting into a solid routine equals a happy baby/child and a happy family. Babies thrive off of routine as it makes them feel secure. For us as the adults, a strict schedule can admittedly be limiting, especially at first. The logistics of working around when baby needs to eat and sleep whilst trying to do other things too can be challenging. But if you are determined to keep your life as it was before, thinking the baby will just quietly fit into it without a fuss, you are in for a rough ride.
Newborns have their own -very loose- ideas on routine and of course every baby is different. But there are plenty of great ones to be found online. This one from ‘a mother far from home‘ is a great example. Don’t expect every routine to work for your baby. As with so much in parenting it’s a case of trial and error. So if something isn’t working for you, let it go and try something else.
Have a go at sleep training.
Of course one of the most important things to establish is a good sleep routine. Being well rested leads to a content and healthily developing baby. It’s also absolutely paramount to your own mental and physical health. Unfortunately, babies are notorious for not getting the memo on this. For the first few months when your baby needs regular feeds throughout the night you’re just going to be tired. Beyond tired! But from around 4-6 months you can start training your baby to sleep better and for longer. Sleep training is somewhat controversial but worked wonders for us. See my article ‘Sleep training; the Ferber method for more information.
4. FEED YOUR BABY HOWEVER IS BEST FOR YOU.
Everyone and his dog seems to have an opinion on how you should feed your baby. I live in France where the general attitude is very “breast is best” -except, you know, in French. I was shocked by how many people, strangers no less, asked whether or not I was breastfeeding my baby.
When out for lunch once when she was a few months old I had the mother of a vague acquaintance approach me. She cooed over my baby, then asked me how I was feeding her. I found myself explaining why, on that occasion, I happened to be feeding her with a bottle of pumped breast milk. It caught me off guard but the more I thought about it the more irritated I became. What right did this stranger have to question me on that?
Even worse, friends who for one reason or another physically couldn’t breastfeed were being questioned the same way. It made them feel horrible, as though they were somehow falling short. On the flip side I had family members from back in the U.K. questioning why on earth I was breastfeeding her. They claimed that formula fills them up and makes them sleep better.
Do what works for you.
My point is, ignore other people’s opinions. Do what is best for your baby AND FOR YOURSELF. Some women and babies take to breastfeeding like ducks to water. There’s no doubt that it can be the most wonderful, fulfilling journey. But for many others it is far from easy. There are many potential issues you might face. Problems with your supply, latching difficulties and the relentless task of being the only person who can feed your baby. Some women simply find that it takes too much of a toll on their mental wellbeing to be worth it. It’s so so important to recognise and accept when that is the case. It’s all very well taking on board peoples opinions, but a stressed and burned out mum is bad news for everyone.
Repeat after me, “FED IS BEST!”
5. COOK IN BATCHES.
Whenever you or your other half cook something, make double the amount. Stash it in your freezer for the following week. There will be days when you just can’t muster the energy to make something from scratch. But it’s especially important on those days that you still have something nutritious to keep you going. If you’re stuck for ideas check out my family friendly recipes page.
6. ACCEPT HELP.
I was terrible with this one, so pig-headedly determined to “handle” everything myself. I hardly ever accepted help when family and friends offered it when Ayla was tiny. Unfortunately it was a skill I was forced to hone when I was going through cancer treatment. If people are offering to help, it means they want to help. It’s nice if they suggest a way in which they can do that as it removes the discomfort you might feel about asking. But if not you could suggest something as simple as hanging the washing out, watching the baby so you can have a soak in the bath, having a quick tidy of the kitchen or cooking you a homemade meal. Anything that makes your life a bit easier. Don’t be afraid to accept it.
7. DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH OF YOURSELF.
This point ties in with the previous one. You’ve just gone through a life altering event. You’ve grown and birthed a human life (or lives) and now you are learning all about this tiny miracle, and plenty about yourself along the way. You’re sore and healing, however you gave birth, your womb is heavy. Your boobs are tender and leaking, you’re more tired than you ever knew was possible without dying and all you can think about is this breathtaking human that you love more than life itself. Who cares if your hair is a bit of a state and your house is untidy? Let me answer that for you; absolutely noone! Go easy on yourself Mama, be kind.
8. MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT.
Literally every other parent will tell you this one, but my god is it true. Drink in every wonderful moment of your gorgeous baby, because it goes so fast. Too fast. As the profoundly true saying goes “the days are long but the years are short.”
They really are.
I hope this article has been helpful to you. I’d love to hear your own top tips for new mums, so don’t hesitate to follow me on Instagram or send me and email.