Everyone from your boss to the postman has told you what to expect when your baby is born. But here are some things that might just take you by surprise…
1. Leaving the house can feel daunting at first
Before you had children, you wouldn’t have given popping out for some milk a second thought. But in the early days, getting your baby fed, changed, dressed and into the buggy, while simultaneously getting yourself ready, might seem like a mission of Everest-surmounting proportions.
Many mums don’t like the thought of navigating the buggy onto a bus for the first time, or going too far from home in case their baby needs a change or a feed. But as soon as you’ve done it once or twice, you’ll feel a sense of achievement. Most importantly, you might begin to feel like you’ve got a bit of your independence back. See our top tips on travelling with a baby on public transport.
If you’re worried about being out and about when your baby needs a nappy change, try to find the nearest baby changing facilities wherever you are. Looking for NCT Parent Friendly Places badge in cafés can help if you need to stop off to give your baby a feed.
2. You’ll never travel light
Even when you’ve got into the swing of getting out and about, leaving the house for any amount of time is not going to be the simple feat it once was. Not only will it take you forever to get yourself ready for an everyday trip to the park, trying to get packed up to go away for the weekend seems like you have to take everything but the kitchen sink. And then, you’ll always be late.
Vicky Dawson, mum to Jack and Matilda and member of NCT Chiswick & Hammersmith, says:
‘Leaving the house takes 30 minutes longer than it used to and I’m in a permanent rush!’
When you do find you’re hurrying everywhere, try to leave a bit earlier than you normally would, so you don’t stress yourself out by racing around. But also remember that you’re a new mum and people will understand if you’re not on time. Chances are, you’re more worried about it than they are!
3. Sleep is elusive
In your pre-baby life, after running a twelve-hour marathon (especially one starting at 2am), you’d be forgiven for wanting an early night and a long lie in. But immediately after they’re born, your baby might have other ideas!
Even when you’ve hopefully caught up on sleep from the birth, during those first few months you might be woken up frequently in the night for feeds.
Lack of sleep is very common amongst new mums, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when you’re having to get out of bed for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night.
Try and grab some shut-eye when your baby does during the day, or enlist friends and family to help with childcare while you get some rest. Here are some other tips on coping with a lack of sleep.
4. Your time isn't your own
Going from a busy, independent life to catering to the every need of a newborn can be frustrating at first. Cups of tea go cold as you never get those precious few minutes to drink it while it’s hot. Or you get to midday and feel like you haven’t had a chance to do anything but feed, clean and soothe your baby all morning.
It can be hard to find five minutes just to get simple things done. Karina Cochrane, mum to Jasper and Evalina and member of New Forest NCT branch, says:
‘People never tell you that after you’ve had kids, your house will never be tidy again.’
Remember, it doesn’t matter if all you’ve done is look after your baby – that’s an achievement in itself. This time is about your baby, so don’t feel pressure to do it all. The very dependent phase will pass, and in the meantime accept any offers of help you’re given. Believe it or not, there will come a day when you miss them always wanting a cuddle. And who cares if you haven’t been able to do the hoovering?
5. Strange things can happen to your body
Having a baby can change your body sometimes temporarily, and sometimes for good. Some developments, like stretchmarks and extra tummy wobble that just won’t go away, you might expect (and you’ll still cry at a sad story on the news, even when the pregnancy hormones have gone).
But mums have also reported weird and wonderful changes after having children, a few which stay with you. Research by the University of Iowa shows that your feet can get bigger as the arch height decreases. Denise Van Outen said she had to give away all her designer shoes after having her daughter Betsy, as her feet went up a size.
Other changes that mums have talked about – although they haven’t actually been proved by science – include noticing more freckles and moles on their skin, or being increasingly prone to motion sickness.
And bodily functions that you hadn’t thought twice about since your own childhood can feel like a big issue straight after having a baby.
When you’re still sore after labour, and especially if you’ve had stitches, you might be worried about doing your first poo in case it hurts. Take your time, and regardless if you’ve had a tear or not, it might help to hold a sanitary pad over your perineum to give yourself some support.
Make sure you’re drinking enough water, and eating high fibre cereals and food, as well as plenty of fruit and veg, could help move things along. Read more about recovering from perineal tears here.
6. You’re now a member of a secret club you never knew about
Once you’ve had a baby, you’ll have a new-found respect for what a woman’s body can do by growing and bringing a little human into the world.
Remember that everyone is rooting for you. No one is judging the way you do things, so just relax and enjoy the time with your baby
You’ll never look at other women the same way again. It can make you feel like you’re a member of a secret gang, where you all know the amazing process you’ve gone through.
What’s more, many new mums are also touched by the kindness of loved ones and even strangers. The simple act of giving you a bag of hand-me-down baby clothes, returning a toy thrown out of a buggy or a kind word when you look like you might need it can lift your day.
7. Breastfeeding takes practice
Thankfully, loads of mums seem happier to feed their babies in public than ever before. What’s more, celebrities like Gwen Stefani and Tamara Ecclestone proudly post pictures of themselves breastfeeding on social media. And so they should.
But for many mums who want to breastfeed, it is still a process that can take a little, even a lot, of practice before they get the hang of it. There are loads of breastfeeding support drop-ins out there, including NCT groups with breastfeeding counsellors. So pop by to get help and talk to other mums if you’re struggling.
8. A natter over a cuppa (or a glass of something) is essential
As a new mum having been through one of the most incredible feats your body is capable of, it’s a great idea to talk to other mums about what you’ve been through.
Try meeting up for a cup of tea with your new NCT friends to swap birth stories and talk about the myriad of new experiences you’re going through. It can really help give you a boost, plus you’ll feel supported and could make new friends for life. Don’t be surprised if half your conversations are about the contents of your babies’ nappies, though!
9. Trust your instincts...
When you’re bombarded with advice from well-meaning relatives, or confused by the plethora of baby books out there, it can feel overwhelming. One of the most important things to remember is that you know what works for you and your family better than anyone else.
Take suggestions from sources you trust as a guideline, but don’t get stressed out if you don’t follow them to the letter. After all, all babies and families are different.
Kate Goldsworthy, mum to Corinne and Mara and member of Clapham & District NCT branch, says:
‘No-one tells you just how individual all babies are. Don’t try to conform to anyone else’s idea of what’s best for them. You’ll know.’
10. ...Because you don’t have to be perfect
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel like you’re getting it right all the time. No-one is – whatever they say. Becoming a new parent is a rollercoaster and there are bound to be days when you feel loved up with your baby beyond belief and others when you wonder what you’ve done.
Try and be open about how you’re feeling (remember that natter over a cuppa?) Your baby isn’t judging you so relax and take each day as it comes.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of NCT's New Baby groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.