Updated: a day ago
by Alissa Pemberton
Midwife, IBCLC & Gentle Sleep Coach
1. Get a Baby Wrap & Use It! The key to soothing baby when they're fussy is to mimic the environment they feel most comfortable in - the womb! Using a stretchy wrap (like the Moby Wrap) is the perfect way to keep baby safe & cocooned in a womb like environment whilst also allowing you to have your hands free. You can use your wrap out on walks or just around the house, and even put them in the wrap skin to skin. You can even pull out that birthing ball you spent so many hours bouncing on during pregnancy and bounce your baby off to sleep in their sling! 2. Take It Easy on The Visitors It's so exciting when your baby first arrives - and you feel like you want to shout it from the rooftops! Some parents find having family and friends around is great, but there's a definitely a limit. It's easy to underestimate how exhausted you will feel in those first few days and weeks. You're feeling slightly like a deflated balloon that's been hit by a truck, plus you're trying to figure out breastfeeding and that's so much easier with a bit of privacy rather than having Aunty Doris on the couch next to you ogling your every move. Try to limit the number of visitors in the first few days, and make it really clear to people that you're happy for them to pop in for a quick cuppa. If you need to - use the excuse of the midwife/health visitor/lactation consultant coming at a certain time and ask that they leave by then. Some parents choose not to announce the birth for a week or so except to close family to take the pressure off and avoid feeling bad saying no to visitors. 3. You don't have to 'get back to normal'
There's a huge push for mums post birth to 'get back to normal', there's even a huge industry of products and services that promise to help you do it. But what really is normal? Let's face it - your life is never going to go back to normal. Normal was probably working full time, seeing friends on weekends, spontaneous trips out for dinner or to the cinema, weekend getaways with your partner - and that normal, that one ain't coming back! But this isn't a bad thing - your new normal is going to be the craziest and most wonderful journey of your lives. So focus on defining a new routine and a new dynamic in your life, rather than feeling like you've got to reach some pinnacle of normality which is pretty much unattainable. Take some time to find your new normal, whatever that might be. Embrace the changes to your routine, take things at your own pace. 4. Be like a baby - reset your body clock This is possible the best piece of advice I give to families I'm working with - in those first 6 weeks, be like a baby! What do I mean by this? Reset your body clock. Rather than trying to continue to live by your previous rhythm of rising at 7am, eating breakfast at 8, lunch at 12, staying up in the evening watching TV or reading a book and then going to bed at 11pm, try instead to be just like a newborn - ignore what time the clock says it is, and really listen to the signals from your body. Tired at 10am? Great, tuck yourself up in bed and have a sleep. Hungry at 2am? Cool, grab a bowl of cereal. There will come a time for every new parent where you can start to gently help your baby into a routine (and believe me, I'm a mama who loved my routine!) but it's easy in those early weeks to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to get up and dressed in the morning, eat at mealtimes and function like a regular adult. If this works for you great, but if you're really struggling riding the sleep deprived train try tuning into your body and allowing yourself to go with your instincts for those first few weeks.
5. Find a rhythm with your partner To all the partners/second parents out there - shout out to you all. As a mum who had the joy of having my lovely husband by my side throughout my journey into parenthood it made me appreciate just how important second parents are (and hats off to any mamas or papas who do it on their own!). Talk to your partner before your baby is born and discuss how you’ll both be involved. You may find some of the duties you normally take responsibility for round the house are just not sustainable once you’re dealing with a newborn, so chat to your partner about how you can divvy up some of these tasks and what your partner would like to be involved with. Breastfeeding is really only one part of having a newborn, so just because you’re breastfeeding doesn’t mean there’s not lots for your partner to do – bathing, swaddling, baby wearing, skin to skin cuddles are all beautiful ways for your partner to bond with baby.
Help them to feel confident in putting on your sling/carrier so they can settle baby or take them for a walk while you rest. Why not purchase them a cute story book that they can read to baby? Encourage them to sing their favourite song, or tell stories to bub. Dad's are great at the nappy changing and bathing and lots of these little duties, but it's good to also give dad some special fun time with baby too. Often - when babies are distressed and overtired, and already have a tummy full of milk, it can be hard to settle them on mum because they will instinctively look for the breast, but they're no longer hungry, so they'll fight it, and passing them over to dad can be the magic trick that helps them settle (and there's nothing more beautiful than a dad skin to skin with his newborn son or daughter!). 6....but let them find their own way of parenting To many dads, baby care doesn't come naturally (and this definitely applies to some mums too). Partners often stand back and don't get involved because they're not sure what to do, how to do it, or they're worried about getting it wrong. It can be very intimidating to your partner if it seems like you know what you're doing or that you're able to do things so easily and keep baby happy in the process. It's important in the early days to help build their confidence by stepping back - they might not do things the way you do, but that doesn't mean they're wrong. Try to resist giving tips or criticising and let them come to you if they need help. 7. Make a helpful favours list... You will hear so many people say to you 'Let us know if there's anything we can do to help' and some may just be saying it out of obligation, but close friends and family will genuinely want to feel helpful. Why not make a list to pin on your fridge with suggestions of things they could do for you? Run the vacuum around, make some yummy snacks or prepare a dinner for you, pick up some food shopping to bring over when they visit. Make the most of any help that's on offer - people will genuinely feel good when they know they've been super helpful. 8. Seek help early... On the subject of help - it's never too early to ask for it. Whether it be needing some extra support from your midwife, struggling with breastfeeding, looking for support with sleep or your own postnatal recovery - everything is better (and easier) if dealt with early so do not be afraid to reach out for help. Resources like the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM) or the Breastfeeding Network Helpline are brilliant for some quick breastfeeding questions and free support, you can find specialist breastfeeding support from Alissa Pemberton IBCLC on our page here or by visiting www.lcgb.org to find an IBCLC local to you in the UK. There are many great services out there helping new mums in the recovery after birth. For mums in Essex/Suffolk some of my lovely colleagues listed below are brilliant resources - check out Suffolk Women's Wellness Centre for great support with postnatal recovery, fitness, birth trauma and recovering from caesarian sections or Niki Rajput Family Osteopath for specialist support for both mum and baby which an assist with postnatal recovery, improve breastfeeding and help your little one recover after a traumatic birth or tongue tie division.