Parenting is one of life’s greatest adventures! Starting out on that journey is exciting and scary in equal measure. There are so many things to learn and remember, and many people are quick to offer advice and opinions on how you should be raising this tiny new person you’ve brought into the world.
But there are some things people don’t tell you. Maybe they think it will scare you, maybe they’ve just forgotten because it’s been so long since their children were tiny. So I’ve compiled a list of ten things every new parent should know.
1. Meconium sticks to EVERYTHING!
Seriously, you think you’ve got it all ready. Nappies sorted, wipes on hand. But then your baby does their first poo. And you realise you could never have been prepared. This substance is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Thick and black, like something from the depths of hell. My husband described it as like melted licorice, a sticky black mess. You’ll be there with your cotton wool balls and water, and all it will do is smear it around and make a bigger mess! Don’t worry, after that first one it gets easier!
No one will tell you this. It’s not something people like to admit to. But babies don’t really do much. They eat, cry, sleep and poo. And they look adorable. They will run you ragged, and sleep deprivation is an absolute killer and makes you feel like you are constantly on the go in those early days. But when the novelty, for want of a better word, passes, you will find yourself suffering from periods of boredom. They are beautiful, fascinating, wonderful little people. But the days can very easily all run into each other. Like Groundhog Day, except with less sleep and a snuffling, rooting baby instead of an alarm clock. Go out, see old friends or make new ones at Mummy groups. Or just go for a walk. Break up the monotony. You will both feel better for it.
3. Cluster feeding
You may have read a hundred parenting books, perused a thousand breastfeeding forums. But nothing can prepare you for the reality of cluster feeding. Most breastfed babies will do this in the evenings. Some can start as early as 3 in the afternoon. But you can pretty much guarantee that you will end up sat on a chair, or on the sofa, with a baby who just feeds and feeds, maybe naps for 5 minutes, and then feeds again. On repeat. For hours. This isn’t a sign that you have no milk. It isn’t a sign that your milk is “no good”, as well meaning friends or relatives will tell you. This is completely normal newborn behaviour. It’s basically baby signalling your body to make more milk, putting in an order for later if you like. It’s tiring, and can be frustrating at times. But it’s a necessary part of most breastfeeding journeys. So just make yourself comfy, get a good supply of snacks and drinks and grab the tv remote. Now would be a good time to catch up on all those favourites you’ve recorded, or start binge watching a new show on Netflix.
Oh, and just when you think you’re past the cluster feeding hell, bam! Growth spurt. The first 6 weeks are pretty much one big growth spurt, but they don’t stop there. Buy new cushions. You’ll be spending plenty of time on that sofa 🙂
4. Flashing the postman
Or the Amazon delivery man. Or the Myhermes courier. We’ve all done it. You’re feeding baby, boob out as you’re at home right? No need for discreet feeding here! Baby falls asleep. You sit, enjoying the brief respite, or just finishing up watching that episode of NCIS you’d started. Then there’s a knock at the door. You quickly but carefully lay baby down, and hurry to answer before they decide you’re not in and leave you the dreaded “While you were out” card. You just make it, opening the door just as they’re reaching for their pen. They look up, their eyes widen and then they hurriedly look away, shoving your parcel at you whilst mumbling something incoherent and then practically running back to their van. You close the door, wondering what had got into them, how rude! Then you feel the draft. In the rush to answer the door you’ve forgotten to put your boob away. You’ve treated Postman Pat to a view he’d have to pay good money for at Spearmint rhino. The shame. Next time he knocks at your door, assuming you haven’t scared him away for good, he will probably make some half-hearted attempt at humour, telling you he didn’t recognize you with your clothes on or suchlike. Thus cementing your embarrassment, and you vow never to order anything again, ever. Until you see that new sling that you have to have. And then you pray for a different courier.
5. They sleep through. You don’t.
You pray for sleep every night. You reach a point where you would literally give anything for a full nights sleep, or even a few hours more than you’re getting. But then it happens. Your body wakes you from a deep sleep, telling you it’s time baby was awake for a feed. You sit up abruptly, your heart pounding. Baby hasn’t woken. Your boobs feel like they’re about to explode. Why hasn’t baby woken? You look over to where they lie. You can’t just about make out their little profile. You watch them for a minute, trying to see the rise and fall of their little chest. It’s too dark, you can’t see! You reach over, rest your hand on their chest. Hold your breath so you can better detect any movement. You feel their little heart beating under your fingers, feel the reassuring up and down movement of their breathing. You breathe a sigh of relief, try and slow the beating of your own heart as you lie down and try to make the most of this unexpected turn of events.
But one of two things happen. Either you get comfy and start to doze off, but you have disturbed the baby! Soon that familiar snuffling sound and fist chewing start. You were so close to getting more sleep! But you had to ruin it. Now you’re awake for the next two hours as baby makes up for the missed feed, and you curse yourself. Or baby sleeps on soundly, but you just can’t get back to sleep. You lie awake, expecting baby to wake at any moment. You could have had two extra hours. Instead you have a headache, and you’re hungry, and damn it, now you have to pee. Sigh.
6. Snoring husbands make you homicidal
You’re sleep deprived. You’re awake for the 5th time, feeding the baby. Your nerves are frayed, and you just want to sleep for goodness sake! And what is that noise coming from the other side of the bed?! It sounds like a warthog has escaped from the zoo and found its way into your bed! The longer you lie there, the louder the sound gets. You give his leg a little tap with your foot, hoping to get him to turn over. He snorts like a pig hunting truffles, and then settles back into his rhythm. Resentful thoughts start to enter your head. Why does he get to sleep, when you’re awake for hours on end? Look at him, all peaceful and shit! How dare he even breathe, let alone snore! You contemplate putting the pillow over his head, just to muffle the noise a bit of course 😉 But you content yourself with shoving your elbow into his ribs instead. He wakes with a start, gives you a hurt look. “What was that for?!”, “You were snoring.” “I don’t snore!”
Then he turns over, goes back to sleep. And for a little while there is blissful silence. But now you think about it, even his breathing is annoying……….
7. Bottom sniffing
Before having a baby you would have turned your nose up at the thought of sniffing another human being’s backside. Its something dogs do, not people. But when you have a baby you find yourself doing it far more regularly than you care to admit. There is a suspicious smell in the air. You pick the baby up and sniff their bum. Baby passes wind. You pick them up and sniff their bum (to check for follow through). Butt sniffing is your new reality.
8. Hot drinks? Don’t make me laugh!
Pre-baby you probably liked nothing better than to sit down with a nice hot cup of tea or coffee. You took it for granted. But when you have a baby, drinking or eating anything whilst its hot is an almost unobtainable luxury. Baby is sleeping peacefully. You put the kettle on. You pour the water into your cup, and at this point you start to think that maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to enjoy this while its hot. You finish making your drink. You sit on the sofa with a sigh of contentment. And baby wakes up. Your drink is put down whilst you settle your precious little one. By the time you get back to it its cold. You play out a variation of this scenario every single time. Its like your baby has a sixth sense and knows just when you are sitting down with something hot. Steam radar. You learn to eat quickly, one handed. Sometimes whilst feeding. Sometimes dropping food on baby’s head. But thats ok. Mama got to eat!
9. A towel is your best friend in the middle of the night
Picture the scene. Its 2am. You are awoken by the sound of retching. Your baby or child is liberally painting their cot, or your bed, with vomit. You comfort them, clean them up. Change the sheets and trudge downstairs to put them in soak, or straight into the machine. 2.30am, and you finally settle back down to go to sleep. 3am the cycle is repeated. This time, you throw a towel over the sheets and go back to sleep. Towels are easier to change than sheets. You tend to have more of them too. They work great for vomit, pee, middle of the night water spillages. They save your sanity, and your sleep. Non-parents will sneer, think its disgusting. Even other parents may try to act horrified. But we’ve all done it. Long live the midnight towels!
10. You won’t remember your name half the time. But you’ll know every word of the Peppa Pig theme tune
Pregnancy kills brain cells. This is a fact. Baby brain is a very real phenomenon. Add sleep deprivation into the mix, and you’re basically a zombie (or a “mombie”, as its now known). Putting the milk in the cupboard and your car keys in the fridge will become second nature. You essentially turn into Dory, suffering from short term me-memory loss. But that damn Peppa theme tune just keeps getting stuck in your head! You find yourself singing it to yourself. In fact, kid’s tv theme tunes in general seem to be made to be as catchy and irritating as possible. Even if you limit screen time, and they only watch once in a blue moon, you will still find yourself humming along to Thomas and friends as you cook dinner.
“Darling, where did you put that important letter?”
“I’ve no idea Dear. But I can tell you what Nanny Plum and the Grand Old Elf have been up to and how to make Easy Peasey Pasta like Bing!”
Parenting is a roller coaster ride for sure. But those early days pass in such a blur. Thats why what I do is so important. Capturing those memories, so you can look back on them and remember those days with fondness.
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