By Clea Sherman
New babies do come with instruction manuals – but they are instructions for the parents – instructions that parents follow to the letter – but often these meticulous instructions have very little to do with the actual baby that is screaming in front of you. Granted – it is impossible to create a one-size-fits-all way of looking after new babies, and there are a few things that are often left out completely. As a new mother, and one who read copious amounts of advice and best practice manuals before baby came, here are a few things that just weren’t in the books…
Baby sleep patterns are non linear
You’re totally new at this, so you’d be forgiven for having the impression that babies start off waking often in the night and this gets gradually less and less until they’re sleeping through till morning at just a few months old, thanks to your disciplined application of sleep training and routine.
Not so. The baby that sleeps beautifully at six weeks old can easily turn into the horror four month old that barely sleeps a wink from sun up to sun down. Babies have good weeks, bad weeks, good months and bad months. You can spend an hour getting them to fall asleep one night, only to have them stir an hour later, and the next night they can drop off with no fuss at all and sleep a very decent six hour stretch.
One thing to remember when you’re struggling with a baby who is reluctant to board the train to the land of nod – if any mother smugly tells you that she used self settling techniques from three weeks old and she never hears a peep between eight pm and six in the morning console yourself with the fact that her miracle child probably would have done that anyway. The much talked about self settling can be hit and miss for months on end so do not beat yourself up about your baby doing what is in reality totally natural.
Hair growth is also non linear
Gorgeous little bald babies actually stay that way for a really long time. You might not even be able to say what colour hair they have for a year or even longer. It’s really frustrating because you’d think baby hair would grow like normal adult hair, i.e. slowly and constantly but it just doesn’t.
Summer or winter, if you’ve got a little baldy you’re going to need hats. And definitely more than one because they disappear ALL THE TIME.
Breastfeeding is the ultimate love/hate relationship
Have you ever watched that ridiculous show True Blood, where humans willingly give themselves up to be food for vampires who don’t kill them but certainly leave them looking a little drained?
You’re going to completely understand what that would feel like.
Being a food source for another human being is the most amazing bonding experience you’ll ever have. Watching your little darling suckle as you stroke his or her head in the still of the night will bring home to you a complete understanding of what love really is.
Breastfeeding is free and it benefits your baby no end so it makes sense to do it if you can but there will be times, especially during growth spurt weeks, that you feel like you’re literally having the life sucked out of you. It can be completely exhausting, and while all the campaigns tell you “Breast is Best!” none of them mention that there are going to be days where you’re so thirsty and tired that you’re going to see the tin of formula as salvation.
It’s worth persevering if you can, but a lot of mums find that supplementing with formula from time to time will take some of the pressure off.
If breastfeeding is really getting you down speak to your doctor or a lactation consultant.
The Poo. Oh the Poo.
A liquid diet means some sloppy nappy action. In the beginning bubs will dirty up to a dozen nappies a day. It’s a bit of a shock to discover that often, especially in the early days, those nappies don’t always contain the waves of effluent.
So if you’re going out, take along more than one change of outfit, and three times as many wipes as you think you’ll need. If you’re carrying baby you might even want to throw in a spare top for yourself just in case.
To anyone else all that stinky goop is beyond disgusting, but this is your baby, and lots of poo means a healthy digestive system, so bizarrely you’ll actually be happy to see it. Well, sort of!
Not everyone will care that you’ve had a baby
A triumphant return to work with pram in tow will definitely draw a crowd to begin with, but if you’re sitting down to lunch with some colleagues it might come as a shock that they don’t really want to hear the latest on teething or car seats. In fact, they might not want to talk about your baby at all!
Believe it or not, the world is still spinning without you there and just because you can’t watch the tv news anymore because it makes you so emotional doesn’t mean that everyone else has tuned out as well.
Instead of pouting, enjoy this time to reconnect with the old you for just a little bit and talk politics, pop culture, anything other than nappy brands and puree recipes.
The big, overwhelming NEED
You knew your baby would need you 24/7. But nobody prepared you for how much you will need your baby. When you were pregnant you blithely talked about hiring baby sitters so you can still get out to that yoga class / bike ride / session at the pub. Now, the very idea of leaving your child with someone else just seems like a joke, and not because you’re worried he or she won’t be ok, but because you actually don’t think you can handle it.
If that’s the way you feel, then go with the flow. The time will come when you’re ready for a little break, but don’t let people bully you into doing it until it feels right.
Clea Sherman is a regular contributor to The Family Beast. She also writes for Mouths of Mums.
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