Before Toby was born I read loads of pregnancy and baby books, I went to antenatal classes with my husband, I signed up for all the ‘your baby this week’ emails…basically I did my research. That’s just the kind of person I am; I liked to be informed and therefore hopefully be prepared. But it turns out no amount of research can actually prepare you for that first night at home with a brand new baby. As you sit next to your husband on the sofa at 3am, not daring to move in case the baby you are holding (because every time you put him down he screams blue murder) wakes up it hits you like a tonne of bricks – what the hell have we done?! Life will never, ever be the same again. In the 15 weeks that our adorable baby boy has been on this planet I have learnt an awful lot. Some of the things I’ve picked up and worked out as we’ve muddled along would have made life a lot easier if I’d known them from the beginning. So maybe these 5 things might help some of you out there who are expecting a new arrival.
1. The First Nappies
I knew about meconium. I knew we would be cleaning up that tar-like poo for the first few days. I also knew that the recommendation is that you only use cotton wool and water to clean your baby for the first 6 weeks. What I didn’t realise is that trying to get meconium off the underside of a tiny baby’s scrotum using only cotton wool and water is almost impossible! When Toby was about 4 weeks old we started using Cheeky Wipes reusable baby wipes. We now use them with a solution of essential oils to keep them fresh but you can use them with plain water and I’m pretty certain they would have made a much better job of those first nappies than the cotton wool did. If I’d have known how great they are I would have bought my supply before Toby even arrived. Not only do they do a great clean up job, they’re cheaper than disposable baby wipes in the long run and they’re better for your baby’s skin and the environment too. What more could you ask for?
2. Breastfeeding is hard. Really hard.
I’m sure there are some lucky ladies out there who manage to breastfeed their babies from the word go without so much as a cracked nipple. But I wasn’t one of them. I’m planning on writing more about my breastfeeding story in a post of its own but suffice to say this was another area where no amount of research prepared me for just how hard it would be to get my baby to latch on and feed. I also found that despite their best intentions, when every midwife gives you different advice it can get very confusing and frustrating. What I will say is trust your instincts – if something works for you and your baby then do it. And if you want to then stick with it as long as you can. I only managed 5 weeks of combination breast and formula feeding before switching to formula full time and at the time it was the right thing to do. But with hindsight, and every time I see another mum breastfeeding her baby, I wish I’d made more of an effort to carry on.
3. Nobody follows the formula instructions.
To continue on the feeding theme, it took about two or three weeks of following the instructions on the box for making up formula before realising that it was stupid, unnecessary and unsustainable. That is, making up a bottle fresh every time you need one, boiling the kettle, leaving it to cool for half an hour (with a screaming baby in your arms) then trying to get the milk to a temperature that is drinkable, is absolutely ridiculous and no-one does it. We did go through a phase of putting the half-hour cooled water from the kettle in a flask and then using that to make a fresh bottle when needed, but even that was time consuming and annoying. So now we do what I imagine most people who are formula feeding their babies do – we (well, I, usually) make up the bottles for the day in the morning, stick them in the back of the fridge then warm them in the microwave (which you also are not supposed to do) when needed. Then I night I make one or two bottles in case my baby wakes in the night, which luckily he rarely does now, and if they don’t get used in the night they are ready for the first feed of the morning.
4. If you think there is something wrong with your baby, there is probably something wrong with your baby. (Unless you are prone to excessive worrying).
When Toby was first born I had real trouble trying to breast feed, he wouldn’t stay latched on, would arch away from me, he would seemingly feed for hours but then still be hungry. He was sleeping in our room and was really really noisy at night, making all sorts of weird grunting and choking sounds in his sleep. As the weeks went by feeding was still a struggle with feeds every hour and a half or so. I knew that this wasn’t just normal newborn baby behaviour but even when I explained what was happening to the health visitor I was told that it was. It was only when my little bear started projectile vomiting up whole feeds (once managing to vomit up my dressing gown sleeve all the way up to my elbow as I burped him!) that I did some research of my own and decided he probably had reflux. Again, I plan on writing a post about reflux as it’s quite a big topic but my point here is that even if someone, whether that be your mum, your friends or even a health professional is telling you something is normal but you really don’t think it is then trust your instincts. If after further investigation it does turn out to be normal then there’s no harm done, but if it isn’t then you’ve done something about it. Nobody else is with your baby 24 hours a day like you are, nobody knows them better than you.
5. Pay attention to which way your baby faces when he sleeps
Toby has developed quite a flat head on one side (or plagiocephaly to give it its proper name). I didn’t notice it for the first 6 weeks or so and then one day just realised his head was wonky. Apparently it’s quite common and the condition is much more prevalent since the introduction of the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign to reduce the risk of SIDS. Thinking back, Toby always looked the same way when he was lying in the crib or the pram or his car seat. Now we are aware of it we always try and make him put his head on the other side to even things out. The health visitor reckons that this, along with plenty of tummy time, and as he starts to sit up and roll over himself and his head should even out on its own. I’m still worried that my adorable little baby is going to end up with a weird shaped head for life though and I wish we’d noticed sooner so we could perhaps have done more to avoid it.
So that’s my 5 things. I’m sure I’ve got a few more but that’s more than enough for one day. If you could pass on one thing you wish you’d known before having a baby what would it be? Or for those of you with older babies – what should I know as my little bear heads towards 4 months?