The first month of a newborn’s life is a very precious time, it goes by so fast and before you know it your little one has grown from a very newborn looking baby, with rashes and wrinkles, to gaining weight and smiling back at you. Suddenly you can find you can breathe again and see light at the end of the tunnel, or sleep enough, so it no longer feels like you live in a dark tunnel.
To all the new mums out there, it does get easier. Each mum and newborn will experience their own hurdles to jump over, as each baby is different and there is no one way to get anything right. Every parent will have their own means to get through these first few days and weeks. I wanted to share my experience with you, as it might help another mum if you feel you are struggling through this time of great change for your newborn and yourself.
After the birth of the new addition to your family, not only does your baby need you for everything, but your body is also recovering, you need to give yourself time and permission to heal and take care of yourself.
The birth of my first child was very different from the birth of my second child, quicker, less painful but with a much longer recovery time of around 3 weeks. As for my second child, with no medication, this was the most painful experience imaginable, but to my surprise, a much quicker recovery time and I was able to take my little one out for a walk in the pram within a few days.
When I arrived home, and it was then just my husband and I, I found it important to remember that my little one needed me, he needed me for everything. So any plans, projects or me time were off the cards until I knew all my little one’s needs were meet. So really, at the start there is no extra time, it’s just you and your baby learning the ropes together, as he doesn’t know what to do either.
The most frustrating, time-consuming and challenging task for me was breastfeeding, this was the case for both of my little ones. Both lost weight after being born, which is perfectly normal, however, they then didn’t gain it back. At least with the second one, I was aware of this issue, and quickly spoke to the pediatrician. We were soon on to a mix of breastfeeding and formula to get his weight up and under control.
Breastfeeding is best, and with the Covid-19, it’s good to know the vaccine antibodies are passed to your newborn, so I feel it really is important to breastfeed if you can. But I would empathize on the if you can. It’s hard, painful and very frustrating for your little one to always be hungry. The best piece of advice I received was to be patient, really patient.
Keep at it, as it does become easier when you and your newborn are on the same page, remember you are both learning and need to get in step with each other.
My first little one slept through the night, from midnight until 7am, for most nights from the word go, after we brought him home. Other parents teased us, and said we didn’t know what parenting was really like. But along came my second child and boy do we now understand.
Nighttime feeds, colic, endless walking around to help him sleep at night, and he also has a strong dislike for the pram, only wanting to be held. In all, a much bigger challenge… who also wriggled a LOT!
Needless to say, the first month was hard and tiring. People said leave them to cry or they’ll become use to your arms, but really, he’s so little and defenseless, it’s hard not to comfort them. I feel they will also grow out of wanting to be held in my arms, you don’t see many 15 years olds clinging on to their mothers, so it won’t last forever.
If you can create any routine for the first month, you are a super mum. I didn’t manage this with either of my little ones. Some days my only goal was to take a shower, and I often didn’t even manage that. However, to help me keep sane, I found it good to write out three goals for each day. This could be putting a load of washing on, going out for a walk, or doing the online grocery shopping. Keeping track of what I wanted to accomplish each day helped me still get things done even if I was tired, and helped me focus on what needed to be done when I did have 5 minutes between a nap and baby gases.
I love the app Todoist, and this is where I added my three goals for each day. Also, any other task that came to mind, I would jot them down to get them off my mind, but not forgotten, so I could come back and schedule them into my week at another time.
Include other children
If you have other children, it’s good to get them to help out if they can. I had my toddler throw nappies away, take empty baby bottles to the kitchen. These are only little tasks, but things that I knew my 3-year-old could do, which are not only helpful, but it also included him with the baby and made him feel useful and not left out when the attention is all on the newborn.
Having a toddler and a newborn can also be chaotic and stressful, and sometimes I didn’t know which way to turn. Some issues were when trying to breastfeed and the toddler comes running over needing a wee (still needing help to get his pants down to sit on the potty), or the baby is crying while you are making a bottle and the toddler falls over and starts crying as he hurt his leg or hit his head. I found it best just to take a deep breath and priorities the situation, keeping calm throughout the ups and downs can be the best way forward.
At the end of a day, if I wasn’t too tired and actually made it to bed, I found it helpful to reflect on the day, what went right, what went wrong and how I could have avoided the chaos. Looking back over the day to see how I could have made it easier could then help the next day. Small things, like identifying when the baby will need his next bottle and preparing it before a melt down, or encouraging the toddler to sit on the potty himself, could all help towards future smoother days.
It won’t last forever
Through all the endless days and sleepless nights, remember it won’t last forever. Your little one needs to adjust and get use to this big new world, so really try to embrace this special time to bond with your newborn and create memories to cherish, it will all be over far too soon. So sleep when you can and get in all the hugs and kisses while they are small!
Top tips for the first month
- Don’t listen to everyone’s advice, listen to your gut instinct about how to care for your baby.
- If you don’t want visitors, say so. Be strict and clear, you have enough to do.
- If you are breastfeeding, really try to stick with it, above all else, be patient with your little one as it’s new for them too and know that it does get easier.
- Weigh your little one each week, they could lose weight the first weeks and then gain it back, so it’s important to keep a record. To track feeding, nappies and other activities, I recommend the app Baby Tracker by Amila.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps, you need to refuel as well to be able to look after them. So when ever you can, get in 40 winks.
- Drink lots of water, this is important when breastfeeding, but in general, it will help you feel better.
- Don’t rush back into doing exercise or sports, your body took 9 months to create a life, it needs time to recover.
- Reach out for help with questions you have, either to your pediatrician or friends and family. There are no silly questions, just questions you don’t know the answer to yet, that someone else has already asked in the past.
Remember, you’re doing great and are being the best mum you can be for your little one!