Here are my personal Ten Golden Rules for all brand-new mums in the early days and weeks. I am not a big fan of the Internet obsession with numbered lists – there are far too many and most of them are bossy and prescriptive. But just for today, I’ve tried to distill what I believe mums need to know into ten bullet points – I hope you find them useful! Please drop me an email if you have read this post and enjoyed it.
Rule Number One….
Give it time!
Your body is going through tremendous changes and you are accustoming yourself to the biggest change in your life. Making milk is a new function for your body; feeding is a new skill of tremendous importance. You may be recovering from major abdominal surgery as well. Meanwhile your baby, too, is going through enormously rapid changes – to talk about “getting into a routine” at this stage is a bit like trying to issue speeding tickets at a Formula One event.
Rule Number Two…
The time your baby sleeps is your chance to sleep, or at least to sink into rest, and not to rush about the home doing chores. Not everyone finds dropping off easy so focus on lying down, preferably near your baby, with your eyes closed and allow yourself to sleep if sleep comes. Alongside cots are fantastic: always use in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, and if obtaining a second-hand cot contact the manufacturers for use advice.
Rule Number Three…
Skin to skin contact is not just for the first hour. Take all opportunities to spend time naked with your baby, allowing your baby to experience your touch. Bath together (watch the water temperature), do baby massage, with a little oil if preferred. If you feel your baby has stepped up a level in terms of feeding needs, strip off and spend a day in bed together just cuddling and feeding.
Now put Rules Two and Three together – get horizontal AND naked
You won’t want to do every feed in the buff…but lying back on cushions while your baby nuzzles and finds her way to food in her own sweet time not only feels luxurious and relaxing, but also may improve the start of the whole magical process. It certainly beats the way we used to feed: sitting tensely in a chair, shoulders hunched and arms aching, anxiously watching the clock.
Rule Number Four…
Visitors should be helpers, not spectators
You are in no position to play the hostess. Any visitors should be there to support you, not drain you of energy. Don’t allow anyone in the house unless they either bring something nutritious to eat (Great Aunt Sheila) or do a domestic chore (Penniless Student) or both (everyone else) You may find that remaining in your dressing gown and slippers helps to enforce this rule…even if you do not feel like an invalid, encourage others to treat you like one.
Rule Number Five…
Avoid having more than one visitor or visitor family a day in the early days, and lengthen the intervals between visits if you can. If possible have a true “babymoon” – switch off the phones and hang a sign on the door saying “Gone to BabyLand” for up to a month while you and your partner just eat and cuddle. It is an irony of new parenthood that visitors may be too numerous in the first two weeks, yet after the initial thrill has worn off the mum can find herself isolated.
Rule Number Six…
Avoid Pass the Parcel games.
Your baby is not ready to be handed around for a cuddle. He or she is connecting with your smell, sound and touch and your arms are where he feels comfortable.
Rule Number Seven…
There may be deadlines you cannot move and everything will seem a bit more complicated to achieve than it was before you had a baby. That’s life! It is normal for once-efficient parents to find themselves registering their baby’s birth on the very last day of the six week legal deadline. Be amazed if you can achieve anything substantive or non-baby-related in the day – growing and loving your baby are such massively important tasks that everything else must move over.
Rule Number Eight…
Enjoy the moment!
Take each day as it comes…Carpe Diem…you’ve heard it all before and it is truer than ever now, because you are under such pressure to fret about whether your baby is sleeping for too long or too little and whether the last feed was too long or too short or too soon or too late. Just enjoy your baby, play with him or her and delight in every little change day by day. Now my kids are taller than I am, this is the rule I most regret often breaking when I was a new mum.
Rule Number Nine…
Delegate and handover
Anything that can be done by someone else should be. If you have tasks which you hoard for yourself – walking the dog, for example, because he won’t go out with anyone else – use your pregnancy to start inducting someone else – usually your partner – into the job. This is what many women have to do at work as their maternity leave approaches – it applies at home as well.
Rule Number Ten…
Be very, very careful of your information sources
Looking after a new baby is daunting and we all need support and knowledge. It may be tempting to seek guidance from the nearest person, or from a book you’ve seen advertised all over the place. It is best, however, to stick to sources which are based on up to date scientific research into baby development and needs. Please take a look at my list of favourite books and be careful of accepting handed-down “wisdom” – some of it is good, some of it is not. Perhaps think about enrolling on an NCT Postnatal Group.