How to survive the first few months
As you look around your house you are confused – surely this isn’t where you live? There are mountains of dishes to be cleaned, baby bottles litter you kitchen table and there are deflated ‘congratulations’ balloons drooping from your ceiling. We all know that the first few months are tough and keeping on top of the housework and your life can seem like an impossibly difficult task. Yet these top 7 tips for new mums should help you feel a little saner. We’ll show you how to take time out, how to handle the endless stream of guests and how to get through life with a baby.
- Who are you? Becoming a mum is hard, not only physically but mentally. Amidst the night time feeds and the lack of sit-down meals you might feel like you don’t know who you are anymore. Most new mums feel this way, so don’t panic. The key to finding yourself is to take some time out and do something that is part of your identity. So if you like reading, buy a book of short stories and have a sneaky read whilst your baby has a nap. Or if you prefer to pamper yourself, buy a new nail polish and give your talons a makeover. Doing small tasks that mean something to you will help you feel like you again.
- Breastfeeding Who knew those bouncy things under your t-shirt could cause so many problems? Breastfeeding can be painful, upsetting and a major worry for new mums. If feeding your baby hurts then make sure your child is latched on properly. Their mouth should cover the underside of your nipple. This should hopefully ease some of your pain. You can also prevent cracked nipples with lanolin oil. If your baby won’t take to your breast try to relax. You can also try out different breastfeeding positions, use a breast guard or seek a specialist breastfeeding councillor. There are also breastfeeding classes that may offer tips and support. Remember that being unable to breastfeed does not mean you are a bad mum and thousands of women go through the same situation every day.
- Manage the guest list The arrival of your new baby inevitably means that you will be inundated with friendly visitors. Long lost cousins from far flung places might suddenly pop in to have a cuddle with your son or daughter and impart some (often unwanted) parenting advice. The problem with guests is that they interrupt your routine, prevent you from getting on with other jobs and they often require food and drink, which leaves your house in a pretty dire state. To manage your guests, feel free to ban visitors for the first week or two (unless they bring home made meals for you to re-heat and don’t expect you to run around after them) and when you are both feeling ready arrange meetings with friends and family at their homes or in a café. This will give you a break from your house and you won’t have to clean up once they’ve disappeared.
- Heal yourself As you know, labour is strenuous and your body may be feeling sore and painful in the first few weeks. If you have had a caesarean section you need to clean and dry your wound daily. Although gentle walking is good for you, try not to climb the stairs too much in the first few weeks. Tea tree oil is thought to help speed up the healing process so add a few drops to your bath. For vaginal deliveries and those who had an episiotomy, eat a healthy diet and up your intake of garlic. Garlic is a natural antibiotic and one study found that the allicin present in garlic was effective against the most antibiotic-resistant strains of ‘superbug’ MRSA. To relieve the pain, you can apply ice to the cut; make sure the ice is covered using fabric though, because ice placed directly on to the area may damage your skin.
- Getting out and about Although being a new mum is hard and there are times when you’ll question whether you’re up to the job, there will also be times that you enjoy being a mum and it is these moments that will help you through those 3am feeds. To make the most of these early weeks and months, try to get out and about with your baby. To help you get out more, pack up a rucksack with the following items and leave it by the door until you’re ready to head out: two nappies, a blanket, a spare sleep suit, a bib, baby wipes, nappy rash cream, a changing mat, some energy snacks for you, a full bottle for your baby if they are bottle fed, some spare nursing pads if you’re breastfeeding and some sunscreen. You can also try out the pram or baby sling in your garden to help you feel confident when out of the house.
- Feel beautiful When there’s hardly enough time to grab a decent meal for yourself, your beauty regime will definitely slip. Yet feeling good about yourself will give you a much-needed confidence boost. To keep on top of the way you look without investing huge amounts of time in your appearance you should blitz your hair with dry shampoo and use a simple tinted balm on your lips and cheeks. Also keep on top of your eyebrows and give them a quick pluck after your bath or shower. If you can, pop to the shops to buy some comfortable clothes that fit. After the birth your body will have changed again and your clothes won’t fit you. Buy some light cardigans or sweaters, some pretty t-shirts and a skirt or two. You may also need some sandals or trainers that are a size larger than you normally take because your feet tend to swell after the birth.
- Be easy on yourself So what if you forgot to pack nappies or thought that a walk in the wild wind and rain might persuade your newborn to sleep? Be easy on yourself because when it comes to parenting none of us are experts despite what the books may say. You may not think it at first, but once you get into your stride, you’ll find yourself going into auto pilot with much of the basic stuff. Sleep deprivation and the novelty of these new situations will make you do odd things and you will make lots of mistakes. Remember that you are new to this and think of your baby’s first year as a learning experience and also as time you don’t want to miss. Give yourself time just to hold them, sit and stare at them; there’s plenty of time to do chores but these precious moments are just that. And then at least by baby number two you’ll have ironed out most of the issues!