Hello there! This is the follow up instalment to Mums share part 1: An A-Z of things mums wished they been told before motherhood (read it here). This time, we flip things round and ask – what one piece of advice would women who have been there done that give new or expecting mums? A veritable treasure trove of wisdom, check out what essential nuggets of advice participating mums dished out here:
A for ADJOURN
Forget all the seemingly ‘urgent things’ like tidying or cleaning, or responding to emails, or thinking about others outside of your little nucleus – all things which can quickly throw your balance which is then hard to regain. It’s ok to do nothing with your baby in the first few weeks and months. Lay on the sofa, eat the cake and watch TV whilst he or she sleeps on you. You’ll never have that chance again.
B for BREASTFEEDING
Don’t expect that you will be able to simply pop your baby on the boob from day one and have a swimming start – breastfeeding can be one of the most challenging things about new motherhood. Go into it with both your eyes and mind open.
C for CREDIT
Take credit for your own parenting, don’t give it to someone who has never met you or your child and has no idea what you each need.
D for DIFFERENTIATE
Don’t get too hung up on comparing your baby’s development with others. Don’t worry if your friend’s baby sleeps loads, is sitting up, can hit that toy on the baby gym as yours will also achieve those things in their own time. Some won’t sleep, some won’t eat, some just won’t potty train, they are all different but believe….. if you have a “good eater” then you can bet your life something else will be an issue! Don’t compare with other mums – it’s a nightmare for all!
E for EMPATHY
Spend as much time as possible with other mums or sympathetic parents who can support you or just listen to your woes. A kind audience is the best thing to get you through the first part of motherhood! Surround yourself with other honest, straight talking mums – they’ll keep you sane and make you realise everything you’re feeling is totally normal and you’re not alone!
F for FLEXIBILITY
Be flexible and forget perfection. I was blessed my pregnancy, child birth and being mum has been great. Not because they were problem/pain free but purely because I chose to accept that I have no control over anything other then the willingness to embrace it all. I allowed my body to do as it needed and my baby to grow as she felt fit.
G for GO WITH IT
No two days will be the same, you will face constant changes, challenges, frustrations and surprises and the only way to not have a meltdown is to go with it.
H for HEALTH
Health comes first in that sacred first 40 day period. The only thing you really are expected to do, is to feed your baby, and to be fed/nourished and healthy yourself. During the day, go for walks, move your body, stretch, because the more you move and do during the day, the better you will sleep at night.
I for IGNORE
Ignore the experts. Or at the very least pick and choose and be critical in your reading. Expert books that claim to have the answer in how to bring up a baby can be damaging to mothers.
J for JUDGE
Don’t judge yourself, put a stop early on to the should’ve, could’ve, would’ves.
K for KNOW
Know in your head and heart that babies will only be babies for a short amount of time. And that whatever challenges you are presented with, that this too shall pass.
L for LESS
Don’t expect too much of yourself. Pre kids, everyone has an idea of what kind of mum they’ll be and it’s very easy to look at motherhood through rose tinted glasses until you have one! The reality is that you get a lot less done that you think you will and that’s ok.
M for MISTAKES
Everybody makes mistakes with a new baby, and all throughout motherhood, and that is absolutely fine. Don’t beat yourself up about them.
N for NEVER
Never doubt and always trust yourself. There is a reason you will regularly hear the phrase “trust your instincts” and that’s because you know your baby better than anyone.
O for OKAY
It’s okay not to ‘enjoy every second’. There are many, many precious, beautiful, amazing moments but there will be seconds, minutes, hours and days where it’s hard to find much to enjoy…when you’re stuck indoors trying to soak poo stained baby grows in a bucket while your baby just seems to want to cry and not sleep. It’s about having realistic expectations of parenthood.
P for PANIC
Don’t panic! I spent a lot of time being anxious that I wasn’t good enough, that our baby wasn’t getting enough food from me that someone would come and take my baby away and say ‘you’re not grown-up enough!’ So: don’t panic and give it time.
Q for QUIT
Quit thinking about when your baby will sleep through the night. At the end of the day, your baby will sleep through the night when it is developmentally ready to, not when you want it too!
R for RIGHT
Ignore the health visitor (mostly) and what other people are doing. Do what feels right for you and your baby. Whether that’s feeding for an ‘extended’ time, co sleeping, not doing controlled crying even when you are advised to.
S for SLEEP ROUTINE
Figure out a sleep routine, napping and nights ASAP. It took me 8 months to get a napping routine and it made my life so much more bearable. 8 hours of sleep a night should be within reach for a new mum to be able to function. And if at all possible, try to encourage your baby to self settle as early on as possible, to avoid the pressure and angst of sleep training later on.
T For TONGUE TIE
Check your baby for tongue tie (and don’t leave hospital until it’s sorted). With all the pressure you get these days to breast feed, it’s a wonder it isn’t mandatory because it’s SO prevalent and the effects on breastfeeding can be devastating.
U for UNIQUE
Your experience of becoming a mother, motherhood and your baby is unique to you and your baby. All of the advice from friends and family and all of the books, websites and blogs is exactly that, advice. They act as a guide but are never gospel.
V for VAGUE
The early weeks can be a blur and everything will feel vague. If at all possible, try to retain some vague sense of reality – whether that means ducking into the shower, or getting out once a day when you’re ready – small things that will help you feel better ‘connected’.
W for WEIGHT
Do not think about you weight, at least not for the first 40 days, because if you limit your eating or don’t take that warm glass of milk just before bed, etc, then again it can affect your sleep, energy levels, ability to think clearly and feed.
X for X-PERTS
Experts can kill self-esteem and create unreasonable expectations and don’t help mothers learn to become mothers. We all start from the same starting point as new mothers: zero. We each learn what kind of mother we are, and what kind of mother our baby needs as the days and weeks go by.
Y for YES THEY’RE ONLY HUMAN TOO!
Sometimes babies and toddlers don’t sleep well, don’t feel hungry or wake up feeling grumpy for no reason and other days we could sleep all day, eat a horse and be on top of the world – babies and toddlers are only human too!
Z for ZZZZZs
Sleep sleep sleep. There is nothing more important, and if you loose one or two nights of good sleep it can spiral out of control really fast because you become anxious about not sleeping even when it is night time, and genuinely there is nothing better to do.
With many thanks to all the mums who contributed including Sonya D, Karima EH, Joannna H, Margot S, Claire A, Anna CC, Zoe MM, Mandeep R, Kate F, Annabel U, Suzie J, Lisa B, and all those others who chose to remain anonymous – thank you for time and thoughts!