1. Sleep whenever your baby does.
Image: Esther Anderson
I can’t remember how many people gave me this advice when I was pregnant with my first child. And for good bloody reason. Initially, I foolishly attempted to accomplish superfluous tasks like washing clothes, cleaning up the slum that my house had become or taking the occasional shower (pffft, what was I thinking?) before I came to the glaring reality, exhausted and cranky, that this stuff could wait. You getting a decent amount of sleep in the early days is your number one priority. You’re no good to nobody if you’re so tired you you’re putting your toast in the washing machine. (True story). Accept that a few months of sleeplessness is inevitable, and give yourself and your baby a chance to find your own natural rhythm, but always look for opportunities to rest or be still. Eventually you probably should also take that shower.
2. Eat well.
We all know that eating well during pregnancy is important but postnatal bodies need special nourishment too, especially if you’re breastfeeding bub. If you are feeding or expressing you might also find your appetite increases quite significantly while that little love parasite literally sucks the sustenance right out of you.
New mums need special care and really good nutrition to help their bodies heal and recover and to support a good milk supply. A great way to ensure you eat well after birth is to pre-make and freeze some hearty and healthy meals that will sustain you for those sleepless months after your bundle arrives. Baby Centre also has some great tips for post natal nutrition.
3. Get some fresh air.
A quick walk around the block can do wonders for your peace of mind and sanity. Often it also has the added benefit of encouraging that cheeky rascal baby of yours to finally nod off to sleep, in which case – quick, refer to point number 1 – get home or find a comfy park bench stat.
4. Accept help.
First things first, you are Wonder Woman – you literally just carried and gave life to an actual tiny human being person. That is mind-blowingly amazing. But even superheroes need a little help from their friends sometimes.
Before you flippantly disregard the offers of assistance from friends and family, think about some things that would actually make your life easier. In my experience, good friends don’t mind, and actually even enjoy helping out by doing things like picking up some bread and milk on their way over to visit, or hanging out the occasional load of washing so you can finally change out of the spew stained tracksuit you’ve been sporting for the past three days.
An extension of this point, when your friend/colleague/family member offers to take your bundle for a walk or mind him/her while you take that elusive shower, take the hint and say yes, for the love of all things pleasantly scented.
5. Do what feels right for you.
To co-sleep or cot sleep? To breastfeed or bottle-feed? To sleep train or soothe? Let me just prepare you for the onslaught of unsolicited advice you are about to receive from an army of well-meaning (but sometimes highly irritating) people. I know I tried way too hard to do what others told me was the “best thing” for my baby before I realised that #asamother (too soon, Sonia?) the person who knew what was best for my baby and I was, funnily enough, me. Mothers are great at supporting each other, but only you know what is best for you and your baby. Follow your heart.
6. Make time for you.
Ha! ”You” time?! What a joke. But seriously, stop laughing. This is important. You’ve just achieved this miracle of birth and your heart could possibly spontaneously burst at any given moment over the pure and unbridled joy this tiny creature has brought into your life. You spend ALL your time feeding, bathing, changing, settling, burping, cuddling, ogling, swaddling this little creature, and that’s obviously important stuff, but it’s also vital to retain your sense of self. Whether it’s as simple as sitting down and enjoying a hot (are you with me ladies?!) cup of tea, watching an episode of Game of Thrones (Just one? Really?), right up to enjoying a bit of pampering while Daddy is on duty, don’t forget that mamas need to be nurtured too.
7. Do some gentle exercise.
Image: The Yoga Tree
While most of us won’t be racing out to start training for that bucket list marathon straight out of hospital, a few minutes of gentle exercise can do wonders for us all. Gentle postnatal exercise has shown to help restore muscle strength, improve your energy levels and sense of wellbeing and even help prevent postnatal depression. Before embarking on any crazy training regime, get the all clear from your doctor or midwife and start slow: we don’t want you popping your foo foo valve now. Choose something you enjoy and don’t push yourself too hard – take a walk to the mailbox, do some gentle stretching in your living room or take junior along to a mum and bubs exercise class. Just moving will get those endorphins flowing and make you feel good.
8. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Don’t worry about how quickly that Hollywood celeb got her pre-baby body back or how immaculate your neighbour and her eleven day old in matching Ralph Lauren vests appear. We’re all on our own journey and comparing yourself to others will only make you Cray Cray with a capital C. Nobody knows the truth behind an apparently insta-perfect life, so instead, focus your energy on the stuff that really matters. Like chocolate. And Pinterest. And that gorgeous, intelligent, amazingly advanced baby of yours.
9. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
True, you’re probably not used to neglecting your personal hygiene on this scale (I once went a possible Guinness-World record breaking 10 days without running a brush through my hair), your house doesn’t usually resemble a zoo and at six months post birth you are still wearing your elastic-waisted pregnancy jeans. Sigh. This may be hard to process right now but in the grand scheme of things this stuff simply DOES. NOT. MATTER. I recall moments of believing that the sleepless nights and monotonous repetition of being a stay at home mum to a newborn could quite literally tire or bore me to death. Guess what? Just like my teen obsession with Taylor Hanson, this stage too, passed. (I still love you, Taylor). Remember that everything is temporary. Soon enough, you’ll be moving on to new and exciting phases. Like teething. And tantrums. Let go of all your expectations and be in the moment with your baby.
10. Enjoy the precious early moments.
Image: @wonderfilledworldThe life of a new mum is seldom glamorous. In fact, it can be gruelling, tiresome and even lonely at times. I once opened the door to a delivery guy with my left breast completely exposed and didn’t realise until my husband came inside 45 minutes later. Really nailed it that day. On another occasion, I ran errands feeling immense pride at how *together* I had it being able to leave the house with my baby in tow, not realising I was sporting the hugest projectile vomit stain you’ve ever seen down the back of my jumper. One day, I was so tired that I fell asleep at a table and later couldn’t work out why there was liquid all around the house. Turned out I’d inadvertently dipped my pony tail into a cup of cold tea whilst having an impromptu nap on the dining table.
Funnily enough, though, when that little baby locks eyes on yours, or smiles at you, or laughs, or rolls over, or crawls, or walks, or farts or pretty much anything for the next 20 years, everything is worth it. It is the toughest and most rewarding job you’ll ever have and a love affair like no other. In the continuum of your life, your baby will only be this tiny and helpless for a millisecond and you won’t realise how short that time is until it has passed.
Key message: enjoy the precious early moments. They are all too fleeting.