Nothing can truly prepare you for the arrival of a newborn. In the beginning the most mundane things are complete conundrums: where exactly do you put a crying baby when you need the toilet/a glass of water/a wash?!
Add to this the inability to sit down without wincing (even with a pretty straightforward labour) and each day feels like a mountain to climb! You come to realise that all those tick lists you went through over and over again during your last trimester (15 fitted sheets, 25 cardigans, Ewan The Sheep…) aren’t actually much use in helping you with the real day to day care of a tiny helpless alien being.
But somehow Dougie and I made it through! Here are a few tips that helped me and my little one through the first 6 weeks:
Don’t underestimate the Dad
You are a little team now and fathers play a vital role in those first few weeks. So make sure Dad takes as much paternity leave and holiday as he can afford. My hubby took three weeks (we could have done with three months) and by the time he went back to work I felt like I had found my feet and established some form of (apologies for the taboo) “routine”.
Dads needn’t feel at all left out that they can’t breastfeed. There are so many other things they can lend a helping hand with (like nappies, night shifts, cooking, cleaning, bathing, cuddles – the list is endless). I can’t thank my hubby enough for taking charge on our first night back from hospital – he stayed up with Dougie all night and brought him into me when he needed feeding (this ended up being every 45 minutes but I really did appreciate those sweet seconds of rest).
Batten down the hatches
Don’t feel guilty turning away visitors for the first few days/weeks/months (delete as appropriate). You need time to bond and to get to know each other. Endless streams of visitors will just make you and the baby exhausted. There will be plenty of time for visitors in the coming weeks and you will be more grateful for their company and extra hands by then.
An essential part of my first six weeks! I had attended numerous antenatal classes and read countless books yet they mysteriously neglected to mention cluster feeding sessions (i.e. those times when I would be resigned to the sofa for 24 hours alternating from one boob to the next and back again).
The sceptical side of me thinks that the promotion of breastfeeding has gone a bit OTT and is neglecting to disclose anything that might put pregnant women off trying to breastfeed. These extended feeding sessions are nothing to be concerned about, they pass and things do settle down; it would just have been nice to know in advance that it is all totally natural and there is nothing wrong.
I even came to enjoy these sessions– a great excuse to kick back and binge on Orange Is The New Black. The enticement of watching the next episode meant that getting up in the wee hours of the morning was bearable. It even got to the stage where I had a fleeting moment of disappointment when I woke one morning to find Dougie had cut down his night time wake up calls and I had missed out on watching the final episode (note to self: be careful what you wish for!). So my advice is to pile up those box sets so you always have something trashy on stand by for 2am feeds.
There really is little point getting dressed some days. I used to make myself feel bad if I hadn’t got out of my dressing gown by midday but I learnt to embrace it when necessary. I invested in some gorgeous Victoria’s Secret PJs to make me feel less of a slummy mummy, which are also really practical as they have button down shirts for night time feeds.
Also get some super comfy cushions – you will be sitting down A LOT! The Dreamgenii cushion was a great investment, which took me through from those uncomfortable pregnant nights to breastfeeding sessions.
Brave the outside world
That said, don’t just stare at the same four walls all day. Getting out and about will give you more of a spring in your step and fresh air should help the baby sleep better! Sign up to a baby group, as this means you are committed to getting out. Baby massage classes work well for the early weeks even if (like me) you do just end up paying £10 per session for the privilege of feeding the little gannet in a different venue.
Although leaving the house can be a challenge, babies are pretty transportable at this stage. We went to a friend’s wedding when Dougie was only 4 weeks old. It was a daunting prospect, as it meant travelling across the country and staying away from home but we were so glad we made the effort. The fresh air and change of scenery meant he slept most of the time and we were able to grab a piece of normality.
Fill the freezer
Get your freezer stocked up with wholesome meals. Dougie HATED supermarkets when he was tiny and he let the whole of Waitrose know it, so I struggled to shop let alone cook in those first few weeks. The last weeks of pregnancy are a good opportunity to cook up a storm and I was really grateful for the additional family donations of soups, lasagnes and veggie bakes.
I also set up a regular Ocado order, so I knew there would always be food in the house. And COOK is great as it sells ready prepared meals with no nasties that you can put in the freezer. It even cleverly has a new mums’ discount scheme where you get 10% off for your first six months.
Most importantly try and enjoy those first six weeks and rest as much as you can – the housework really can wait until later!