Her whole face lights up when she looks in my eyes, like my eyes are the best thing she’s ever seen.
When she hears my voice, even when it’s just a whisper, she stops to hear me. And even though she can’t yet understand what I’m saying she hangs off my every word.
My body, with all its lumps and bumps is the comfiest place to sleep, better than any Premier Inn mattress. My skin is more comforting to her than the finest Egyptian cotton.
She’ll cry when she feels alone, her bottom lip will turn upside down and when I hold her close she knows that she is safe. The closer the better.
To her.. My boobs are the best boobs in town!
This baby of mine so small and new knows nothing more than me.
Soon her eyes will look far past me at this beautiful world…
She will know the mayhem of her siblings and the dog. Her face will light up when she sees them. She will enjoy colour and toys, or Peppa Pig. She will see the trees, flowers, hills and shout “I can see the sea!” With the same look on her face how she looks at me now.
She’ll get excited at the sound of her Daddy coming home from work, her siblings waking up in the morning. Soon her favourite nursery rhyme, her favourite band, her most inspirational teacher will be the sounds that grab her attention.
She’ll no longer fall asleep in my arms. She will want her space. She’ll want a big toddler bed, she’ll learn to nap on journeys in the car, she’ll want her own room. Soon sleepovers will be the best thing to do on a Saturday night.
She’ll find safety in others, her Daddy, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends. She will learn independence, freedom and will enjoy her time away from me with others she will grow to love.
She will soon be weaning and loving the tastes of things other than milk. She’ll discover the wonders of chocolate and spices and feel the excitement of going to McDonalds.
I’m looking forward to her exploring and discovering the world, watching her find wonder in it all. But for this moment whilst she’s little and cwtched up next to me I’m going to enjoy being her only world 🌍.
Soak in your little ones as well as the sunshine this weekend.
In Chinese cultures, women after giving birth have a whole month of resting. And I mean seriously resting, they have no distractions, no visitors, no chores to do. They are confined to the boundaries of their house to focus on eating, resting, sleeping and feeding their baby, having someone with them 24/7 to do things like cook, change and settle the baby so they can focus solely on recovery. In the Western culture this is something we’re pretty pants at doing. In fact, it seems to be more of a race to wipe all evidence of pregnancy and childbirth from our image so we’re back to our previous body shapes and busy lives as quickly as possible. Allowing us not much time to soak up the changes to our lives as a new mother. Even our parents generation would have had a week to 10 days in hospital as a standard before coming home. Imagine that. 10 days of meals brought to you in your room, help on tap for baby feeding problems, having not a pile of laundry in sight. My first week home, unless someone had given me a meal I was scrambling together a banana sandwich and not only that having 3 other mouths to feed oven –baked fish fingers to or another round of beans on toast. Survival was key.
I’m currently writing this exactly a month after my fourthbaby was born and I’m looking back on my first 4 weeks. This time around we tried to limit visitors. Having now 4 children in the house we wanted to adjust ourselves and prioritise our time with our children rather than prioritise other peoples time with our children on their schedule.No one ever looks back on those first few days or weeks with their newborn and wishes they did more chores or had more family over. Besides, some days consisted of me just in my nursing bra and big pants, and I couldn’t always guarantee that the nipples would have been in the bra whilst walking around the house with a newbornin my arms (trying to dodge the windows). No visitors, no matter how close, want to see that! I spent the first few days just sitting, watching her, enjoying her tucked up next to me, smelling her little round head and trying not to pick her milk spots.
You can’t talk about the early days without acknowledging sleep, or really lack of it. The standard advice to sleep when the baby sleep can only really apply to first time mothers, what with school runs or demanding toddlers, and eventhenit’s touch and go.My main saviour when it comes to sleep has been my SnuzPod3. It’s a bedside crib which means that my babyis next to me at all timeswhilst sleeping. With babies not even knowing they’re out of the womb for the first 12 weeks, having them closer to you keeps them comforted. It also means that when we do co-sleep in the middle of the night, I don’t have the worry of her falling out of the bed.Some of my best times in these early days have been sleepy morningson the weekends (this baby seems to party all night and sleep all morning),with some comfy PJs,some not-so freshbedding(from the leaky boobs and odd nappy leak)andandsomething cosy for the baby (we went for theSnuzPouchwhen baby was a big enough weight, a sleeping bag so that she didn’t kick her blankets off or pull them over her face) andwe had ourselvesanice, snugglynestIt’s moments like these when I see how important that Chinese tradition really is.
Chinese culture isn’t the only tradition which makes sure that new mothers look after themselves. You can’t pour from an empty cup after all. But you know what we, in the UK, tell our new mothers about this time? In the UK some of the symptoms of post natal depression are classed as still experiencing “baby blues” passed 2 weeks after birth, unable to function day to day life, unable to look after yourself, tiredness, inability to concentrate. Ummm… NEWSFLASH I think that counts for about 90% of mothers still at 2 weeks, 3weeks… 6 weeks after birth. I’ve cried everyday since I’ve had Delphi, from tiredness, from sore nips, from feeling lonely, because she’s so vunerable and I have the responsibility to keep her safe, from guilt for my other children. It’s a foggy newborn haze and that’s mainly because life is lived through tear-filled lenses. I cried because she yawned, when she sneezed, when she makes dinosaur noises and when she had her blood spot test. I cried because I got flowers delivered to the door and because my sister bought me coffee over. It’s an emotional time
And an ability to function and look after yourself??? Bloody Nora, I’d be more worried if I WAS functioning after the sleep deprivation and looking after a small human. Most days, if I do get dressed, it’s been way past midday. Even then, I shower just to put back on my PJs. That counts as getting dressed, right? It’s inadvertently telling new mothers that they should be functioning after 2 weeks with a baby and they shouldn’t be feeling teary. And if they do then they may have PND. It’s funny that in this culture we expect functioning after 2 weeks, where as in other traditions you would be actively encouraged to NOT function.
These early days as parents we’ve become even more disheveled and even more sleep deprived. It’s been all boobs and baby (and lots of pastries) over here and although it’s tough it’s also very amazing. What I wish I knew first time around is that it’s ok to lower your expectations in the first month to do nothing but enjoy your baby and look after yourself, limit your visitors and accept help. It’s ok to give time to adapt to this new life. These early days are over in a flash, so let the world wait.
At The Bump to Baby Chapter we have your back with your post natal recovery where on our online antenatal and hypnobirthing course we provide you with post natal cheat sheets for The New Mum, The New Dad and of course The New Baby. We also have post natal online sessions (FOR FREE – limited time only) for all couples who do our antenatal and hypnobirthing online course. These cover baby sleep, colicky babies and weaning. Being midwives and mothers, we know how important this time is and the knowledge and support doesn’t just stop at birth. We have your back
Your mum squad. Your sisterhood in motherhood. Your tribe. Your village. Your 3am crew.
Being lonely was the one thing I worried about in pregnancy. One of my friends had told me it was the loneliest thing she had ever done. I’ve always had a good group of friends but we are all at different stages of our lives or too far away from each other that I wanted to meet new people that I could share my new journey with. Which is why I signed up to The Bump to Baby Chapter antenatal classes.
Four weeks after giving birth I went to my first buggy walk, and that’s how my mum Squad started forming. I arrived on my own, not really knowing anyone. I was terrified. I got talking to another new Mum and we realised that our babies were born on the same day. Birthday twins. We also realised that we lived round the corner from each other – it was definitely meant to be. We agreed to go to our local baby group together the following week. On our walks to and from the baby group we started getting to know each other and realised we had a lot in common, same age, same university, similar degrees, been with our other halves for the same amount of time. I felt so lucky to meet someone that I felt so comfortable with so quickly.
We were both keen to talk to and make friends with other people. Enter the next two people to join our Mum squad. One of the Mum’s walked into the babygroup on her own, and I immediately spotted her and asked if she wanted to be my friend (I wish I was exaggerating). We were sat next to another Mum who seemed a bit quiet so I asked her the same thing. I then did this again with two new Mum’s who came together with their tiny babies. It was then that the Mum squad fully formed and we created a WhatsApp group. It was after this that we decided we would try and make friends with a new Mum every week and there are now twelve of us. Twelve truly amazing Mumma’s. (They reassure me that they love how bold I was and that they enjoyed being taken under our wing).
We buggy walk together, we go to babygroup together, we support each other, we reassure each other and we laugh with each other. These girls are one of the best things about being a Mumma.
One of the things I love is that all our stories are different. From our age and our background, to our pregnancies and our births. None of that matters, what matters in that we are all on this crazy rollercoaster together.
Get out there. Go to baby groups, go to the buggy walk. Talk to new people. Find your tribe.
You can catch Sam at EVERY buggy walk as she is a push it real good buggy walker through and through. She’s always a friendly face to look for if you’re new. You can also hear more from Sam and her ramblings of Mum life over on her blog…
For the purposes of this mini-piece, I have tried to imagine that I am a bearded, 5’9”, slightly-introverted, new father. I will be channelling my husband and trying to see the last 11 weeks of our baby feeding experience from his perspective. There are lots of blogs out there on the impact of breastfeeding on mums and mammaries … I wonder if any of this rings true for the dads out there?
Firstly, we made the decision together that we wanted breastfeeding to be the aim for the baby I was growing. We made sure that the right bras and pads were bought and invested in a pump for those times when it may be needed. What else was there to do? Wait for the baby to be born and then start the milk-to-baby process. How hard could that be? It’s been happening that way since the primordial soup and it’s what my breasts were designed to do. Of the endless decisions we had to make, this one seemed like a slam-dunk! Hi-la-ri-ous! We definitely encountered some unexpected snags along the way.
The gadgets suck – every time we hit up a Mothercare or went to a baby event, I could see his eyes light up a little when we passed the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine. Here was the wonder-gadget for the modern parent. A way to make feeding your baby a shed load easier with buttons and lights and beeps and science and EXACT QUANTITIES, and this poor soul had to march past it EVERY TIME! There just isn’t quite the same appeal in discussing milk pouch systems – he doesn’t get to play with those!
The boobs are off limits – so no, he couldn’t have an array of fancy bottles and machines to play with, but the original fun bags he did have access to had taken on a life of their own since about about week 7 of the pregnancy. They had swollen and plumped and filled and after birth, they ballooned and bulged and here was my husband watching as before his very eyes, the sensible Ford Focus he had invested in, morphed into a Mustang. Itching to take it for a spin, the answer was a repetitive and monotonous ‘no’. No touching, EVEN accidental. No interfering. No cuddling too tightly. No sleeping in the same way. No pressure. No contact. There are few passion killers quite as effective as ‘mind my boobs’.
A baby’s hangry cries may as well sound like Mummeeeeeeeeeeeee – when you have useless man nipples. No matter how much you may want to help, a hungry baby gets passed to its mother to be fixed! Your job then consists of: repeatedly getting up from your comfy seat on the other side of the room and … topping up the water flask required to refill the boobs, passing pieces of cake that are JUST out of reach, cutting food into fork-sized pieces, reorganising the support cushions (wrong normally), passing the remote control, plugging the mobile in to charge (but making sure it’s within reach) and, once the farmyard noises have finished, burping and changing afterwards. I, on the other hand get to just sit there and plug in the baby and then pass it back as if I were a glorified charger. It doesn’t seem like a fair division of the work. Emphasis on ‘seem’.
Helplessness in the face of the pain. Fierce animal instincts kick in at a variety of points throughout the process of new human production and one of those, especially for fathers is an intensely protective one. His aim is to prevent harm to me and his offspring. The speed at which that man moved when I squealed after a particularly nasty toe-stubbing incident in week 14 of the pregnancy proved that his instincts were sharply honed from the beginning. Watching me in the first weeks crying with pain over our inability to nail the ‘latch’ with or without a shield made him leave the room several times. Watching me sob as I couldn’t feed the baby enough in the first weeks and we were put on a feeding plan left him devastated. Watching me wipe my blood off the baby’s face because a mistimed cough had resulted in a very unfortunate nipple clamp, made his toes curl. Watching tears stream down my face as the now ‘fixed’ latch occurred on a nipple cracked and broken by the efforts made him angry and frustrated, especially when it was my Mummy that I cried to about it. The problem is that in all things related to the pregnancy and birth, we’d been a team but for this he was helpless, on the outside, just watching the two people he loved most in the world struggle and suffer and it truly sucked.
Bed space usurpation. The purchase of a pregnancy pillow in the second month of the pregnancy marked the beginning of this process. Bed was not for us as a couple any more. At least 60% of the surface area was taken up with pillows and support. Then my ever-expanding form was wedged into the carefully padded nest and finally he got to cling onto the edge of the mattress alternating between having the entire duvet because I was an oven and having none because I was freezing. The arrival of the baby made that arrangement look palatial! Her own sleeping space in the form of a snüzpod was firmly clamped to the side of our bed. This increase in the surface area SHOULD have made things easier. It didn’t. There were ‘the feedings’. Elbows and knees and pillows and iPads and snacks and muslins and water bottles and changing mats and wipes and shields and nipple creams and accessible tops … these all took priority over him. Who cared that he had work in the morning, the baby must be fed and that process inevitably involved me putting my most pointy joints wherever he was busy being comfortable. There have been a number of nights when we reached dawn ‘topping and tailing’: each of us in a prime position to feed or rock or change or sooth the teeny tiny human who now took up an entire king size space in our lives.
Imprisonment: the fact that the baby’s food supply is firmly clamped to my torso means that any days out, or in fact any excursions longer than 3 hours require my presence. In the early days before we introduced a bottle for expressed milk, this meant that even a trip to the supermarket was either a solo affair or a full-blown outing. It’s a lonely process for both partners. Things you used to do together with ease take on a whole new significance when you have a baby in tow. A simple ‘let’s pop to the shop and see what we fancy for dinner’ now involves a trolley and a pram and timing around feeds and the detour via Home as the muslin wasn’t picked up (despite ‘someone’ being reminded twice). The result is that one of you goes. Alone. This also means that any chance of me getting a break for more than 3 hours is not possible. A little soup of joint resentment builds up when all he wants to do is take the baby out and give me a break and some space AND all I want is for him to take the baby out and give me a break and some space and yet we can’t. So he either feels trapped in with the baby and a mildly resentful wife OR the hassle of getting everyone loaded up for a trivial task is not worth it OR he ends up flying totally solo. Not great choices!
Feeling shunned. No matter how hard breastfeeding is, there is a moment when these little hungry eyes lock with yours and stay fixed on almost like a targeting system. It’s incredible. In fact, babies seem to do that with anyone who feeds them – possibly part of their secret plan to make sure they’re always too cute not to feed? Lots of our new parent friends shared pictures of this awesome moment with partners and new babies and bottles. Dads looked besottedly into the eyes of these wrinkly little humans whilst they fed. He didn’t get that moment. As previously ‘touched’ on, boob holding was a no-no so that wasn’t going to happen. It was six long weeks before he gave our daughter her first expressed bottle. She gazed at him in total adoration (she does that a LOT) and he melted. But a month and a half of waiting for that was still hard. It still depends now on supply and expressing and sterilising not only bottles but all the pumping malarkey that goes with it. It means that he gets those moments only when the stars align and we time everything JUST right! That said, I doubt I’ll get much of a look-in at tea-time when we’re weaning!
So what do I take from the process? This wonderful partner, man and father felt incredibly left out by the joint decision we’d made. We weren’t expecting that at all. We made the best decision for the three of us and yet it bit us on the bum in ways we weren’t prepared for. So we introduced and engineered bonding experiences for the two of them. Bedtime stories are predominantly a Daddy zone – we don’t care that she doesn’t understand them yet (or that they evolve into Dr Who re-runs sometimes!). Bath times often don’t involve Mummy taking the lead, there isn’t a soother like her Daddy if the baby is over tired or fractious; the way he can breeze in and laugh at her whingeing for food an hour after her last feed is enviable. He can also distract her wonderfully and remind her that she is full and dry and loved and wouldn’t she rather spend time making silly faces with him or playing aeroplanes or hearing him narrate a mission on the X-Box while she’s transfixed by the colours and sounds than crying. And then I sit there, feeling useless, wondering why I couldn’t get her to smile at me first and why I can’t settle her to sleep like that and why I am so inadequate. Or I spend some time on me – staring blankly into a phone or dozing in a bath or re-stocking my bedside snacks basket. And then eventually, she does need feeding again and I’m back in the picture. It’s actually worked out pretty well – it turns out that we absolutely need one another to parent our daughter. He cannot cope with an interrupted night’s sleep like I can. I cannot convince her to settle when I smell like an ‘all you can eat buffet’.
So did we make the best decision? There have been top-up formula feeds, expressed feeds, easy feeds and painful feeds. There have been days in bed and whole days out. There have been emergency feeds at the side of the road and planned feeds in relaxing family rooms. But the baby is fed and that is what is best!
My Scarlett squidge is five weeks old and we’ve navigated our first month as mummy and daughter together. The changes she’s gone through already are just awe inspiring and we’ve really been getting to know each other and how the both of us are going to work. Essentially that’s what motherhood is, for so long this little bundle has been nurtured within me and now I have the honour of learning what every little twitch, flail and grumble actually mean, as she desperately tries to help mummy get her shizzle togehter! So here are my top ten tips for surviving one of the hardest but most precious months of my life, and the only month this little miracle has ever known.
No matter how well meaning people can be, there is inevitably going to be someone who says the wrong thing at the wrong time and the wrong place when you are literally at your lowest ebb, sore and aching after birth, despairing at lack of sleep with throbbing nipples that feel like they’re going to drop off, and a baby who you love so much but are struggling to understand. My advice…. you can either smile and nod, whilst your inner monologue is hurling expletives left right and centre, or instead be strong and do yourself a favour and remove yourself even if only temporarily, from these voices for you and your newborns sake … if they are worth it these people will totally understand, if they are not then they you don’t need them anyway.
There will be days when for absobobbinglutely no reason your gorgeous angel will turn into psycho demon and there is literally nothing you can do. It is ok to not be ok. It is ok to walk away for ten minutes shut the door and cry. Cry because you feel like a failure, cry because you can’t bear that you don’t know what to do, cry because life has suddenly turned upside down and it’s scary. Then wipe those tears and get back to being a mummy, because even though you’re crying you wouldn’t change a thing.
If you are breastfeeder you will experience a new novelty, the older generation of man … most likely in his eighties, balding, incontinent with rotting teeth, will be irrevocably drawn to your alluring nipple as you sweaty faced, sick in hair try to feed your writhing child. If the older man is your thing then this could be your moment, if not stare them out, keep feeding but use the death stare … and as a sleep deprived mummy this one should be pretty powerful right now.
Don’t even bother to put your little one in your favourite baby grow at the start of the day… like seriously… they know. It’s like newborns are programmed to soil, sick or snot on your beloved faves, so if there is a special occasion that you want your bonny babe looking stunning for, it is literally a whip it on two seconds before said occasion job.
Buy snacks and have them stashed like a squirrel with it’s nuts around the house. You will be ravenous from feeding but will also have a little one hanging on to you like a baby monkey so you need to be prepped. Think easy tear packaging… I’m learning how to use my teeth to tear those packets open or unscrew bottle tops!
Master that sway, that rock, or that swirl… this is your signature dance move for the rest of your life. You will find yourself doing it ALL the time even if little one is fast asleep on daddy in another room. I was in a queue doing the crazy Mumma rock when I was asked if I was trying to get past… just had to explain, that no, I was just in fact one of those mummy deranged creatures.
If someone tells you they’retired, and they don’t have children… Calmly pick up your MUSLIN filled with sick, remove your feeding bib, put your screaming baby in the pram as they fart and you realise they have done an explosive poo and walk away. It is not worth it!
People will now think that they have the ability to touch your baby or comment on the way they are behaving. What have I learnt… they don’t. Be polite if you can, snarl if you can’t.
Your baby is always crying for a reason, you just need to figure it out and remember cuddles are always the best. I have never had so many cuddles in my life and every single one of them are so, so precious and special.
Your mummy friends are your lifeline, they are the 3am whatsappers, the spare nappy lender, the shoulders to cry on… I’ve literally never felt so supported and it’s just fab. Then there’s your own mother … she can be your guardian angel, she’s been there before, she loves you and wants you to be ok, she will help you through those long nights, those screaming fits (yours and babba) and will never ever judge you for what you say when you’re tired and stressed. It is at this point you will realise that a mother’s love for her child is unconditional and this you one day will do exactly the same for this little one you sway, rock and bob in your arms right now.
And there you have it, the first month and it’s nailed.
Lottie Keble- Wyatt a.k.a Just The Girl Fitness is bringing a new exercise class called BABIES AT THE BARRE to Cheltenham. She will be hosting a Barre exercise class for all mamas who have young babies. Cheltenham and Gloucester Sling library will also be there to provide you and support you with choosing a sling that suits you and your baby. The launch of these new classes is on 25th June at the Wholefood Market Cheltenham. For more info or to get your tickets visit here.
In response to your ‘Ask A Midwife’ Qs we have put together a few of our favourite ‘Yes That Exists’ myth busters…
Baby brain.. You’re swearing at your husband for drinking all the milk (see below ‘hate your husband’) he swears blindly he hasn’t drank it all. Then you find it in the cupboard where you left it after making yourself a bedtime brew. My baby is now over one and I still find myself asking silly questions and saying daft things like, “Does Ireland have beaches?” Your mind is so full of important things like keeping a human alive that Geography, kitchen orientation and other unimportant information just falls straight out.
Night sweats… Around night 2 after having baby, I woke up thinking I’d peed the bed my mattress was so wet. However the smell of BO was unquestionable. Change in hormones around day 3 are responsible for this (and many other things nb… see ‘hate your husband’)
After pains… These are the feelings you get after baby is born and your uterus is contracting down to its pre-pregnancy size. can get painful the more children you have but they are normal. Just stock up on your Paracetamol and Ibuporfen, especially while breastfeeding as this can trigger them.
Under rib pain… During my pregnancy, especially during my third trimester I would always get this same pain underneath my rib. I also hear lots of other expectant mamas talking about it too. It gets worse in the evening and the only way to relieve it is by stretching out on the floor. It’s annoying but not serious.
Breastfeeding can hurt… Breastfeeding isn’t suppose to hurt? Who else calls B@*$@*??? Your nipples are a very sensitive area and unless you are use to something attaching onto your nipples at least 8 times a day then of course you are going to have some level of discomfort. Pain can sometimes be a sign of poor attachment (and other complications) so always ask a midwife or feeding consultant to watch your feed. Otherwise time and plenty of Lansinoh will be your healer. It does get easier!
You may hate your husband.. Showers on his own, toilets on his own, gets a hot cup of coffee to drink on his lunch break (whats that again?) at work. Although your hormones may be telling you to throw the towel (or kettle) in/at him, guys also need encouragement and support in their new roles after having a baby as it’s a major life change. Although they may show their struggles in different ways, it can be apparent nonetheless. Make time for yourself as a couple, even if it is something as small as eating dinner together or popping out for a coffee or walk together whilst baby sleeps in the pushchair. And just like breastfeeding, time and plenty of lansinoh will be your healer. It does get easier!
If you have a question that you want answering or a childbirth rumour you want to know if true or not then you can ask us here… Ask a Midwife. All posts will be anonymous and we will answer your questions in a similar format as above so follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep an eye out for your answer.