I’m a new mum, second time around. Though I have some experience, it always seems like there’s a never-ending list of things to learn.
Things that I wish someone told me BEFORE the actual baby came.
So…here’s 10 of my personal tips on how to stay sane.
1. Know what to expect
Read, ask questions, and read. Arm yourself with trustworthy tips and advice from professionals / other mums (ahem) about difficult topics such as breastfeeding, sleep (lack of), postnatal depression, and so on. Attend classes on breastfeeding and baby care. The more you know, the less you will be caught by surprise. And trust me, there will be no lack of surprises.
2. It’s the people, silly
Arm yourself with people you know you can trust, AND whom you can work with, through difficult times. Whether they are family members, close friends, or paid help, make sure that their values are closely aligned with yours, that they will respect your wishes, that they won’t do things to drive you up the wall. Intentionally, or unintentionally. If you ever needed a rescue squad, these would be the people on your calling list.
3. Be confident of your body
The more relaxed and confident you are about breastfeeding, the more likely you are to keep going, even when it gets tough (usually the first two weeks or so). Read up on the topic and summarize important bits of handy information into one document – from how to store breastmilk to ways to increase supply.
Prepare your husband too; let him know specifically how he can help. He will be your best defence when you are feeling discouraged, demoralized, or just downright tired.
There will always be different views out there: feed on-demand vs scheduled feed, exclusive breastfeeding vs supplementing, etc. So, I suggest absorbing expert advice first, and then drawing your own conclusions on what might work for you.
Oh yes, arm yourself with the best tools of the trade too. I’ve known of mums whose babies have not been able to latch for various reasons who still breastfeed by expressing all the way. So invest in a good breast pump and other supporting devices.
4. Treat yourself like a queen
It’s tempting to put the baby on a pedestal and relegate yourself to maid status. Everyone will dote on the baby, but you’ve got to take care of your own needs. Post-natal massages, walks in the park, aromatherapy, whatever works for you, even if it’s just sitting on your favorite couch and zoning out for 5 minutes, do it. You’re going through what is arguably the most laborious season of your life, so go ahead, pamper yourself. Your family will benefit from a new improved you.
5. Prepare your husband
Draw up a combat plan with your spouse, list down ways he can help with the baby, so that he knows what to do when the time comes. Most hubbies love to help; they’re just unsure of what to do. I find my hubby most handy when he helps to bathe the baby, takes over when I need a time-out, and helps with diaper changing. You both may have different preferences however, so do discuss about it early.
*Note to husbands: you are your wife’s best cheerleader along this journey of parenting. So wave those pompoms and get your routine going. Your shoulder will come in handy too, for her as well as the baby.
6. Limit visitors
The home (and your heart) will be rather chaotic the first month, so even if you are a sociaholic, it’s a good idea to delay having guests over till things are more settled. Try to have small groups at a time too.
7. Hand ’em over
I remember wanting to do everything myself when I had my first child. I was exhausted and stressed out as a result. I would say, do what you can but hand ’em over to someone else when you can’t. Oh yes, the rule applies to the baby too.
8. Organize your home ahead of time
Divide the baby’s clothing by age/stage. Organize the nursery in the most user-friendly way possible. Store all the wet wipes, diapers, and other baby stuff in an accessible cupboard. That way, when you run out, you don’t have to rummage through layers of things.
9. Call for time-out
When you’re getting tense, the baby keeps crying and you’ve not able to think straight, call for time-out. I have walked away from the scene many times, only to return with new ideas and possible solutions, and I’m in a better state of mind to handle it too.
10. Let go of ideals and perfection
I had many lofty ideals and aspirations as a first-time mum. I will not do [this]. I will do [that]. (Remember all the rules that people start piling on you the minute the baby is out?) I thought I would never give my child a pacifier. I thought I would never have to rock them to sleep. But I did. And surprise surprise, everyone made it through in the end. Yes, even the baby.