There’s nothing quite like learning that you’re going to become a mother. Of all the titles you’ve held up to this point in your life — sister, daughter, friend, co-worker — you’re about to take on the most important one of all. It’s joyous, exciting and insanely overwhelming. To curb this sense of “fear of the unknown,” we often throw ourselves into the preparation process, readying the nursery, stocking up on nappies and reading every book we can get our hands on.
But no matter how many books we read, there’s always going to be something that little one does that will take us completely by surprise. We’ve scoured the mummy blogs and forums to bring you the most insightful comments from real mums about things they wish they’d known after giving birth for the first time.
1. Don’t panic if your newborn loses weight
When the little bundle of joy arrives, expectations are high that they’ll start getting bigger with each passing day. But according to the Baby Centre Canada, it is normal for a newborn to lose between 7 to 10 percent of their birth weight in their first week. They should start to gain weight again after this though; by then end of the second week, most babies will be at or above their birth weight.
2. Keep the labels on new clothing
After that first week, your baby will grow at a crazy rate, so don’t rush to take off labels or wash brand new clothes just yet. Many families report that their baby never needed to wear most of their newborn clothes.
3. Expect more feedings than you’d anticipated
Newborns just don’t stop feeding! We all realise that part of growing is eating, but your little one will undoubtedly stun you with how much they need and want to feed. They only feed a little at a time, so expect many, many feedings each day and night.
4. You’ll quickly learn their likes and dislikes
While they might not be able to communicate with words, babies definitely establish clear likes and dislikes early in life. For instance, some babies will love being stimulated with lights and play, while others won’t be too fond of so much animation. Luckily, your baby will give you non-verbal queues on their preferences earlier than you might think possible.
5. Crying won’t be the only noises you’ll hear over the baby monitor
If your baby moves and makes noise a lot, especially after dozing or sleeping, have no fear. This is completely normal newborn noise, even in the middle of the night. Just let them get on with it, and after a few weeks they’ll stop.
6. Study up on sleep
Your new baby’s sleep patterns are established early, and the more you know, the easier it will be to develop healthy sleeping habits. A very popular book on the topic is Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Even if you decide not to do cry-it-out, his does such a great job of explaining the biology of infant sleep and how it develops–that naps take longer to develop than night sleep, how many naps babies of different ages typically need, optimal wake times, etc. Knowing these things makes it so much easier to come up with a plan that really works and makes the whole thing a lot less overwhelming.
7. Sleeplessness isn’t just for the babies
While everyone encourages new mummies to sleep when the baby does, that’s not the easiest advice to follow. For instance, many face the irrational fear that their baby will stop breathing as soon as mum closes her eyes. While it may be hard to get some shut eye, mummy is at her best when well rested. Ask for help when you need it. Needing a break from your baby does not mean you are a bad mum.
8. Learn about poo
Newborns may be small, but my goodness they can poo! Wiping the baby’s bottom stimulates the colon, which explains why babies always make a mess after you’ve just changed them.
As we’re on the topic of poo: a newborn’s poo is often all kinds of colours, especially if you breastfeed.
9. Figure out the best way to change your son’s nappy
This one is for all the mummies out there who have never put a baby boy in a nappy. You don’t want them playing “fireman” at changing time. If he’s ‘au natural’, their member should be pointed down inside the nappy. If he’s been circumcised, it should point up and you should rub a little dab of Vaseline on the inside front of the nappy to prevent him from sticking. When you put the nappy on him fold the top front flap down and inside. This will keep it away from their belly button fuss and keep him from peeing up their front. Always wrap him tight when you affix the tabs. If the nappy is too loose it will leak.
10. Expect rashes, acne and skin irritation
Acne doesn’t wait until your child is a teenager; they can develop spots all over their body as a baby. Keeping their pores clear by gently wiping them with water will help. Baby acne will go away quickly and you should just leave it alone. Check with your paediatrician if you’re concerned about any rashes or marks on your new baby.
11. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy
Although people say it’s the most natural thing in the world, for many new mums, it can actually take a while to get the hang of breastfeeding. You will need to learn how to guide your baby to latch on properly, learn how to tell the difference between ‘eating sucking’ and ‘comfort sucking’, learn about getting the right nutrition for yourself, and learn how to take care of your nipples after all that sucking. It definitely gets easier, but lactation consultants are an amazing resource for those mummies looking for some help.
12. Babies change your body
Even after you start losing that baby weight, you’ll lose it differently than you ever did before, and so your old clothes probably won’t fit properly. It’s hard to work on yourself when you are busy with a new baby and everything else that comes with it
And that goes for your breasts, too. Not only will they grow in size since they’re full of milk, but also they’ll leak. That was certainly a big change in the routine, having to change nursing pads and shirts — seemingly all the time.” In fact, if you’re going to be away from your baby for anything longer than two hours, be sure to have your breast pump with you.
13. Trim those nails
Lots of mums get nervous about trimming their newborn’s nails, but if it’s not done, the babies can easily scratch and hurt themselves. The safest way to keep a newborn’s nails short is to just file them and not cut them at all. Once baby is a little older (18 months), you can cut their nails with special baby nail clippers or round-tipped cuticle scissors while they’re asleep. Cutting the nails is easier after a bath because they are even softer and have loosened a bit around the edges. Distractions also work wonders.
14. It’s okay if your baby cries
The truth is, that sometimes your baby will cry even after they’ve been fed, changed, cuddled, and had a nap. This is normal. Many newborns have a hard time adjusting to the world outside the womb, and sometimes, there’s little you can do to comfort them. Swaddling helps some babies, since the tight wrap of the blanket approximates the tight fit inside your womb at the end of pregnancy.
15. Trust your instincts
Once your newborn arrives, you will get a lot of advice — whether or not you asked for it — from parents, friends, blogs and random annoying strangers on the street. Everyone has different parenting styles, and while people online might argue about what is the “best” parenting style, it comes down to trusting yourself. After all, you’re the one who will be spending most time with them and know them best. Trust your instincts and your little one will be fine.
But possibly the best advice of all is to enjoy time with your newborn while it lasts. You will be amazed at how fast time will go by. Once they are mobile, it will be hard to get them to sit still long enough to be held. Once you heal, you will forget all pain or problems and want to do it all over again.
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