The new mum’s first-month survival guide
So you’ve survived pregnancy, bringing your little one into the world and getting them home… so now what? Those first weeks can seem like a long, daunting and super-steep learning curve, so here are a few of our favourite tips to help make any new mum’s life that little bit easier.
Eat for you
There’s a reason many new mums lose their baby weight fairly quickly, even when they’re not breastfeeding. When there’s an important, endlessly hungry new addition to the family, it’s all too easy to forget to feed yourself. It goes without saying, though, that to be fighting fit for whatever motherhood throws your way, it’s vital to eat as best you can, when you can.
Quick-to-prepare meals you can eat on the go (and preferably with one hand!) are the order of the day. Simple smoothies are a great option; just blend a banana, milk and dollop of peanut butter for an instant energy boost. Or if you’re reading this before baby has arrived and are feeling organised, why not bake a few batches of wholesome muffins and keep them in the freezer until you need them?
If you’re breastfeeding, staying hydrated is just as important – you’ll feel thirstier and will need to replenish all that fluid. Keep a large bottle of water within easy grasp at all times, especially if you’re spending hours a day on the sofa and aren’t moving a muscle in case you wake a certain someone…
Sleep like a baby
When mums who have done it all before advise you to sleep whenever baby does during the day, it may seem counter-intuitive – ‘so much to do! When else am I going to shower?’ – but it’s with good reason. Those few, peaceful minutes may seem like the perfect chance to do something you’d absolutely love to (or just need to), but come the 3am feed you’ll be glad you caught 40 winks when you had the chance.
Of course, in the early days you’ll have no idea how long they’ll be sleeping for, but even if you just catch 20 minutes to reboot, it could be the little lift you need to rise to the next new-mum challenge.
Try the oldest tricks in the book
Having trouble getting your little one to sleep at all, especially at night? For the first few months it can take a lot of rocking and soothing to send them off. That’s where the age-old practice of swaddling can really come into its own. Newborns’ arms and legs have a habit of flailing around and waking them up, which isn’t surprising given that they’ve been all curled up in the womb for so long.
Swaddling your baby with a large muslin or swaddle wrap helps recreate that secure feeling and is great for calming a distressed baby. It can take a few attempts for them to get used to being swaddled, but persevere and within a few days they’ll grow used to it. Once they’re happy to be swaddled, it can make a real difference to how long it takes to get them to sleep at night, and – even more importantly for you – how long they stay asleep for. We particularly like the small SwaddleMe wrap, which is designed to be used from birth. If you’d like advice on how and when to swaddle, talk to your health visitor.
Forget everything you know about packing
Getting out and about? You may have learned to edit, edit and then edit some more when it comes to your own luggage, but little ones have a habit of working their way through a dizzying amount of daily supplies. When it comes to a fool-proof changing bag, pack more nappies than you thought it was possible to poop through within the space of a few hours; take several baby grows (because aforementioned nappies sometimes can’t quite handle the, ahem, full force of a brand-new digestive system).
In short, pack heavy! Because there’s simply nothing worse than finally making it for that walk in the park, then having to head home early because your last nappy has been filled. To hold it all, choose a roomy changing bag with enough pockets and compartments to store everything you’ll need and more. Muslin squares are your best friend, too, whether it’s for wiping baby’s milky face, mopping up spillages, as a comfort blanket or nursing cover. We find that packs of muslins in assorted colours are a great way to help you remember to swap to a new one every day.
Do one thing for yourself
We know that this is much, much easier said than done. As a new mum, priorities shift and time no longer seems your own. But remembering to treat yourself every now again can make all those sleepless nights easier to handle. Go to a mum and baby yoga class or cinema screening (you’ll be amazed by a newborn’s ability to nap right through an entire action movie in surround sound); make it a priority to get their first passport so that you can book a well-earned holiday, or simply take yourself for lunch at a favourite café. In those early days it’s all about having something to look forward to.