And I had a baby. Almost 7 months ago...
I’m pretty sure everybody who follows my blog also follows me elsewhere so this may not be such a surprise. After posting on my experience of anxiety just after my little girl was born the other day I realised I have quite a lot of thoughts that I should be jotting down, mostly things I wish I had been told before she was born, particularly surrounding breastfeeding and the 4th trimester.
We did free antenatal classes and NCT isn't available in our area so I'm aware some people may have better experience of this but i found ours pretty useless. I remember a whole section where the teacher told us it was okay to leave the baby to scream if we really had to, but nothing on normal newborn behaviours and actually helpful things about breastfeeding.
Things I wish I'd known:
Your baby is not broken if they don't want to be put down and you can not spoil them.
This is us at about 5am the day after she was born, I remember the midwives asking me constantly if I'd maybe like to pop her in the crib, but every time I did her eyes pinged awake! What was wrong with her? Why wouldn't my baby sleep in this fish tank thing that was designed for newborn babies?! Answer: she just spent 9 months inside a temperature regulated actual hot tub where she was never hungry, alone and it was always dark and cosy. You are not going to spoil a baby by letting them sleep on you. I'm being realistic and after a 24 hour labour and c section i did at one point let the midwife take her off for a cuddle so i could snooze but there's nothing wrong with your baby if this is the case.
The fix for this came from 2 of the best ladies I know who clubbed together and bought us a 'you had a baby' congrats gift in the form of the Boba wrap. I loved this so much and the majority of those first few weeks was spent wearing it! This is our first proper venture out for Sam's birthday when Eleanor was almost 4 weeks old and she snoozed the whole time. I even had her in it to get ready:
My biggest piece of advice now to all new parents is to find a way to make baby wearing work for you. It's a real lifesaver and there are sling libraries in most towns so you can try lots of different kinds and find what suits.
Cluster feeding is totally normal.
Cluster feeding is a totally normal aspect of any breastfeeding journey in the beginning. I remember a comment "oh is that baby eating again??" which really knocked my confidence until I did some of the dreaded googling and found out about cluster feeding. In the beginning pretty much every evening looked like this (with the pizza as its very easy to eat one handed!!) and we had some days where I didn't leave the sofa either. Its about so much more than the milk baby is getting. They're establishing your supply, seeking comfort etc as well. Skin to skin at this stage is amazing, those snuggles will be some of my best memories forever and all the time it was helping Eleanor regulate her temperature, helping us bond and she was getting liquid gold milk :)
Shock horror! You bedshare?! Do you want to kill your baby???? This is something I was so so adamant I wouldn't do because I had heard AAAALL those horror stories and while the above picture isn't a particularly safe example (I was staying awake at this point and watching a film so I could monitor everything) we have used safe bedsharing guidelines and done it exclusively since Eleanor was around 10 weeks old. It's the best thing we ever did for our sleep and our breastfeeding journey. I'm not going to list all the research and guidelines here as I don't feel comfortable offering bedsharing advice but the Safe Sleep 7 is a good place to start with your own research.
You will cry, oh boy, you will cry.
I don't think I've ever cried as much in my life as the first few weeks of Eleanor being here, I was suffering badly with anxiety in the start but I think even if you're not its such an emotional and hormonal time that its totally normal! Of course seek help if you feel you need to or if it's more than a few weeks. I've detailed more about how I felt in this instagram post and this instagram post.
The smiles make it feel so much better.
Don't put pressure on yourself.
There will always be people who do *something* if not everything "better" than you. DON'T LISTEN. So some people need to go to a million groups to stay sane, it's totally okay if thats not your thing. I personally haven't enjoyed them, Eleanor hasn't missed out. I used to do baby massage when she was super tiny, it cost £8 an hour and she almost always fed for over half of it. Some people will be out doing their weekly supermarket shop a week post partum, I personally have still not done that alone! Some people's babies will sleep through from 10 minutes old, I got much happier when i accepted it is biologically normal and healthy for a baby to wake regularly and no amount of lavender and strict 'routine' was going to change the biological norm. We are baby led hippies and I am totally okay with that now. Comparison is the thief of joy, so as long as you feel happy (mostly) and your baby is doing well you are absolutely smashing it. Who cares if Geoffrey's mum from baby sensory can shower and style her hair everyday and has a house like Mrs Hinch. She's not you and she doesn't have your baby.
Trust your instincts.
I'm not advocating going against medical advice, we never did that, but we had some issues with weight gain in the start. Eleanor was born on the 91st centile, lost a lot of weight in the first 5 days and only got back to her birthweight on week 5. Eventually she was hovering around the 25th centile. We had lots of 'if this continues' etc from health visitors and GPs who kept calling us back for weigh ins, however, Eleanor was happy and hitting all her milestones so I couldn't let myself get too worried! She eventually started gaining properly and is now all the way back up at the 91st centile! We may never know why, but I'm so glad we trusted both my body and our baby to carry on without too much fuss. I had some panics about it of course because I'm me but it worked out!
I think I've probably written enough now! I could talk about this for hours and hours, I love the psychology of the 4th trimester and find it fascinating how as a nation we seem to have deviated so much from biological norm. I feel like theres a real shift coming again now though and it makes me so happy. This unicef leaflet is a major win in my eyes, as well as the fact I've now been informed there are posters containing the same words in the hospital waiting room. We already have enough to worry about as new parents without also panicking that we're ruining our baby and wondering why they don't love the moses basket we've lovingly prepared for them! We're having stone age babies in a space age world.