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life after baby

9 game-changing pieces of advice I wish I'd been given as a brand new mum

First up, throw all expectations of a newborn sleep routine out the window, writes Chrissie Russell.

AS REACTION TO any celebrity birth has proven, everyone has an opinion on just what new mums should be done once their baby is out of the womb.

“She should be in flat shoes!”

“She should be at home with the baby”

“She shouldn’t be worrying about how her hair looks right now”… and so it goes.

Most of us out there don’t have to worry about looking on top form for the world’s media within hours of giving birth, à la Meghan Markle. But as an expectant or new mum, you’ve probably still experienced some level of scrutiny or expectation, be it from yourself, from those around you, or from the media.

Having been through the birth process a couple of times, I’ve come up with a few shoulds of my own – the ‘shoulds’ I wish I’d been told in my own early days as a mother.

After bringing a new human into the world, you should…

1. Stop comparing yourself to others

Just because there’s one born every minute and having a baby is the most natural thing in the world, doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s called labour for a reason, right? Forget comparing yourself to anyone else, forget worrying about what you should be doing, forget about Sandra down the road who was back at spin classes three days postpartum and just take it easy on yourself.

Some cultures having the idea of ‘lying in’ after having a baby – a period of bed rest and postpartum confinement where the only thing mama has to think about is bonding with the newborn. If that’s an option for you, it’s worth considering, even just to have a set response to hold off the onslaught of visitors.

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2. Listen to your body… but also know that it might be fooling you

It’s generally sound advice to listen to your body and do what you feel able for, rest when you feel you need to rest and all that. But post-delivery, be aware that you might be full of happy hormones, and so will feel like you’re able to do more than you really are.

In my case, I felt euphoric after the birth of my second child and rushed around thinking I could do everything (including making beds and baking buns with my eldest) only to seriously tire myself out, ending with a nasty chest infection. 

3. Wear whatever you want to wear, stretchy or otherwise

Maybe that means glamming yourself up and feeling like the ‘old you’ or maybe that means living in your maternity leggings for the next six months (I know which of these two camps I fell into). Your baby will think you are the most radiant thing in the world whether you’ve a Kate Middleton-esque blow dry or hair that hasn’t been washed in a month.

4. Hang up on anyone who asks, ‘Are you getting back to normal?’

There is no normal. Or at any rate there’s a new normal, one that may not quite fall in with friends’ expectations of having you back on boozy nights out and leisurely brunches. People who love you should accept that your life and social diary has changed for now at least.

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5. Banish all fretting about ‘a routine’

I curse every baby book pushing the notion that newborns operate like a programmed digital device, playing, sleeping and eating in a specific pattern at specific times of the day. In the early days (and weeks) at least, the myth of a routine is a nonsense and, I feel, puts parents under undue pressure. Especially if breastfeeding, where you should always watch the baby – not the clock – and feed on demand.

6. Get outside, even for an hour

Even if you’re giving “lying in” a go, if you stay in the house uninterrupted for six weeks, there’s a danger you’ll never want to leave it again. When I forced myself to get out in the air and the sun, even if it was just walking to the end of the road, I always felt the better for it.

7. Accept help. And ask for it

If someone you trust says, “let me know if there’s anything I can do,” then do let them know. That could be something as basic as going to the shops for you, or holding the baby for ten minutes so you can shower and take some time to yourself. It really does take a village.

8. Tell someone if you’re not coping

New parenthood is not easy, no matter how much mental preparation you have done beforehand. Real life is not all adorable onesies and beaming babies, sometimes it’s cracked nipples and three-hour howling sessions. So no, you shouldn’t feel guilty for not loving it 24/7. And more importantly, if you feel like you’re struggling, then you should say so and get the help and support you need.

9. Kick anyone who asks, ‘Is he/she sleeping through yet?’

Only kidding. Of course you shouldn’t kick people. You don’t want to tear any of your stitches, so headbutt them instead.

More: Here’s the real difference between having one child and two – by someone who’s just found out>

More:  10 body parts that take on new significance when you’re pregnant>

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