The first few months of your baby’s life can be a real mixed bag of emotions. One minute you’re elated and buzzing with energy and love for this squidgy bundle you created, the next you feel sad and deflated, sure you’re not doing a good job. It can be tough, really tough. Whether it’s your first child and you feel completely clueless (aren’t we all?) or it’s your third and you have two other kids to run around after (like me, this time) – it’s no easy task looking after a new baby around the clock and balancing other things in life too. Add to that the fact that you are healing after birth… I mean, when you lay it out like this… basically us mums are bloody superheroes.
It’s a tough time – and one that is hard to navigate. As well the hard stuff there is that love story between you and your baby. Every day you get to know him or her a little bit more and every day you fall deeper. There’s no love like it; there’s no feeling like it. Just looking at Stanley, deep into his eyes whilst I’m bathing him or feeding him or singing to him (Let’s Stay Together is the current fave) I can just start blubbing happy tears at how lucky I am.
It’s a rollercoaster! Non-stop highs and lows. And there is no getting away from the ebb and flow between those two things. It is what it is. If you do feel the lows are very low, do seek help from your GP. Please do not hide away in silence as there is so much help nowadays.
How can we make the ride through the first 3 months a little smoother, a little less swinging from one extreme to the other, a little more calm???
Well, after 3 kids I have learned a few things – mainly from making ALL the mistakes myself! I am no expert, I am a mum just like you. Here are some tips for surviving – and hopefully thriving (on some days) – in the fourth trimester.
1. Slow down.
I never learn. Even this time I raced out the house too soon and hastily regretted it. Don’t feel like you have to do a supermarket shop on day 3 (like I did with Bea, only to flee – well more like hobble – Morrison’s in tears), or take the kids to Pizza Express also on day 3 (I did this with Stan, and then wailed later at home as my milk came in). Take it from me, no one is going to give you a medal for rushing back into life. I get it, I hate sitting around and being ‘slobby’ too, I find it really hard, but slow down as much as you can, and allow yourself and your baby time. Enjoy the newborn bubble as it goes so fast.
2. Take a good supplement
I decided to go for it when Mandala Birthing got in touch to see if I was interested in having my placenta encapsulated – and I don’t regret it. Not only did it keep my iron levels topped up without constipating me like ferrous sulphate does, it honestly gave me so much energy. This time round, without a doubt, I got my mojo back quicker than ever and despite being a lot older too. I highly recommend placenta encapsulation – the process is so easy – see the video below for more info. As well as replenishing your iron levels, placenta encapsulation can help avoid PND, will support a strong and healthy milk supply, helps to balance hormones, and could help you recover from your birth faster.
3. Drink all the water
It’s so important to avoid constipation and especially if you are breast feeding (I did, but I’m now bottle feeding – more on that below). I highly recommend buying a big bottle and filling it 3 times a day and just ploughing through it. You will really feel the difference – and I promise it will help with that first poo!
4. Please, please don’t fret if you can’t breastfeed (and if you can – don’t despair you will get your life back!)
Yeah, yeah we all know by now that breast is best. Of course it is. But not everyone finds booby feeding easy. If you haven’t managed it, and you are beating yourself up… STOP. As a mum of an 8 and 6 year old I can reassure you that there is a whole lot more to mothering than breastfeeding. At the time it can feel like your world is ending but in a few months baby will be eating mushed up bananas and porridge and you will forget all about it. Seriously, babies can and do thrive on formula so don’t you be hard on yourself. If you managed to breastfeed, then GO YOU! You are a legend and even though it’s so hard (you never get a break and no one can feed baby but you – it’s so tough) you are doing something very special for your kid. You will get your life back. I promise.
5. Get out the house and into the fresh air!
I had barely any sleep last night. Why? Because I had coffee too late in the afternoon the day before. It wasn’t even the baby keeping me up! This morning it felt like swimming though treacle. But after a coffee (just the one in the morning – that’s the key!) and the kids were dropped at school, I went for a good, long, very brisk dog walk and I felt so much better. A bit of exercise really does you the world of good. Then once it’s done, you don’t feel bad when you watch that extra episode of Real Housewives whilst feeding baby later…
6. Don’t feel pressure to exercise or lose weight
At this stage, just walking is fine. Do wait till after your 6 week check (mine is coming up soon) before doing any proper exercise. A brisk walk, timed with baby’s nap, is just the thing. I find doing it first thing means I can’t talk myself out of it. For me, doing some housework and walking the dog most days has been enough to get back to normal just about (I will always have a squidgy tummy and that’s fine), but everyone is different. Now is not the time to be hard on yourself about what you think you should look like. Eat 3 meals a day and be as active as you manage. Anything else can wait.
7. See friends, but don’t overdo it
I was feeling so good last week thanks to the placenta pills that I was seeing someone socially every day, as well as having friends to stay and even a night out (one upside of bottle feeding!). Safe to say I suddenly crashed a little and decided to cancel a few meet ups the following week. I love seeing friends for coffee and having people over for wine and chats, but don’t get that you are running on adrenaline. You will burn out quickly. I also advise not signing up to loads of classes in the first trimester, or at least the first 6 weeks. There’s plenty of time for that when they will be much more awake and get more out of it when they are older.
8. Cancel when you need to – and take the easy options
You are never going to have a better excuse to cancel stuff, so use it when you need to. It’s easy to arrange things when you feel good and baby and you slept well the night before. But then next week when that date comes round, after a bad night sometimes you just can’t face it. Don’t worry, just cancel and rearrange. People understand. At the moment it’s best to make flexible plans that can be changed last minute. And when you have cancelled, then take all the easy options. Let the baby stay in his sleepsuit all day; cook beans on toast for tea (or order a takeaway). You get the picture.
9. Online shopping is your friend
Whether it’s your weekly shop, or stuff for the other kids, online shopping is a lifeline right now. Every day there is something from Amazon (never a better time to trial Prime by the way) and the Tesco shop is still proving an essential even though I am shopping locally in the village too. I just can’t face a big supermarket shopping trip with Stanley yet – I’d rather focus on his routine. Which leads me to…
10. Routine, routine, routine! (But when it goes tits up, don’t worry)
I know not everyone loves a routine, and not everyone wants to parent like that. But in my experience this is the biggest thing that makes a difference in terms of surviving or thriving in the first 3 months – and beyond. It’s so very hard in the first 6 weeks to actually nail a routine, as newborns can’t be forced to stay awake, no matter now much Gina Ford says they should do! Saying that, I swear by her routines (I just go by the times and amounts etc – ignore the rest as it’s a bit daft and too granular in detail for me – e.g. “now have a glass of water”). Stanley is just getting to the stage now where he can do the routines, staying awake and napping / feeding at roughly the times she suggests. For the first six weeks it can seem like a routine is impossible but I would advise any mum to just keep at it, keep moving towards a routine (if that’s what you want to do). So, for example when it says baby must be awake now etc etc and your baby isn’t playing ball (i.e. he’s fast asleep) then simply fake it till you make it. ‘Awake time’ is loud, radio on, lights on, lots of noise and activity. And ‘sleep time’ is dark room, quiet, etc etc. They gradually get the message and actually do stay awake or go to sleep. It makes your life so, so much easier when they sleep through (usually at 12 weeks or earlier), have predictable nap times, and are just generally very contented as a result. Doing a routine means planning your life around it, so you will have to miss out on the odd class that clashes with your schedule or time a car journey to fit in. It takes effort, but the results are so worth it.When the routine goes out the window, don’t worry, just get back on it the next day.
What do you think? What have I missed? Or maybe you disagree with one of my tips? Let me know!