Although I had attended all the antenatal classes during my first pregnancy to learn as much as I could about the birth and my new role as a mum, there were still a lot of surprises in store for me in the first few weeks following the birth of my child. The biggest shocks were how much I loved my new baby and the complete exhaustion I experienced. I also wish that I had realised in advance the physical effects the birth would have on me and how these could last for weeks.
Tips for New Mums
Now I have more experience of being a mum I know there are steps you can take to make those first few weeks a little easier so you can focus on bonding with your baby, getting into a routine and enjoying those precious first few weeks. The first tip is to rest whenever you can. If your baby is asleep, then you should rest too regardless of the time of day. Another good piece of advice is don’t be afraid to ask. Your midwife and health visitor will have been asked all sorts of questions so you must not be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for their advice and support. Finally, accept any offers of help you can and don’t try to be superwoman. If your partner offers to make the tea, let him. If your mum volunteers to clean the kitchen for you, then don’t be offended just take her up on the offer.
Tips for New Dads
Becoming a dad for the first time is sometimes an overwhelming experience. The pregnancy and birth are more about the mum than the dad and men are often surprised by the overnight impact that their little bundle has on their lives. Make the most of your new baby by booking time off work. This will give you time to bond with your baby and also makes you available to help and support mum. Another tip for new dads is to be patient and tolerant. The whole process of being pregnant, giving birth and adapting to becoming a mum, combined with exhaustion, invokes both physical and emotional changes in women. Your partner may be tearful and moody for a while but it will soon pass.
Tips for Friends and Family
The birth of anew baby is also an exciting time for friends and family. However, it is also important to remember that it is a special and private time for the new parents. Offer help and support but only give it if your offer is accepted. Telephone before visiting to make sure it is convenient and don’t stay too long. It is important that mum gets her rest.
What Mums Should Expect
From my experience I would say that new mums can expect a roller-coaster of emotions in the first weeks of being a mum. Everything is new and sometimes difficult, but learning how to look after your new baby is a wonderful time that you should make the most of. It can take time to feel confident of your skills as a parent, but caring for your baby soon feels like the most natural thing in the world.
Becoming pregnant for the second time was just as exciting as the first time. I expected that everything would be just the same as my first experience of motherhood. However, I was surprised to find that although some things were the same, other aspects of being a parent were easier and others were harder.
Things That Are Easier Second Time Around
By the time you have your second baby you already have experience of caring for a new baby. You feel better prepared and know what to expect. It is much easier because you are not having to learn how to do each task from scratch. Another reason it is easier is that you worry less and feel more relaxed. With my first, I worried about all the different types of crying, every time my baby was sick I worried they were ill and if they held their breath when they were sleeping I completely panicked. Second time around I know all the little scary things that babies do and know that they are not really scary. I also knew more tips and tricks to cope with the difficult parts of parenting second time around, such as different ways to get a restless baby to sleep.
Things That Are Harder Second Time Around
The biggest difference I found with my second baby was that I had less time to rest or just sit nursing my newborn. With my first I could devote all my time to the baby and take naps whenever they did. When I had my second baby I had the additional responsibility of a toddler to care for. While my baby slept I would be feeding my toddler or trying to spend time with them so they would not become jealous of the new baby and feel like their mum was giving all her attention to someone new. This was particularly hard in the first week because I was still sore from giving birth. With a second baby people sometimes assume that you will need less support because you already have some experience of being a parent. The reverse is actually true because you now have double the responsibilities.
Things That Are Exactly the Same
I was worried when I was pregnant that I couldn’t possibly love another child as much as I loved my first-born child. I am happy to say that I felt the exact same surge of love when I was handed my second baby and an instant bond, just as I had with my first. The same feelings of love have continued for both children. The duties you have to do as a mum are also the same with your second baby. I found that I had a very similar routine of feeding, changing nappies, cuddling and trying to get the baby to sleep. These are the type of activities that are uniform whether it is you first, your second or even your sixth baby.
Shortly after the birth of each of my babies, my health visitor popped round to introduce herself. It was during this visit that I was told all about when my child would be due for their vaccinations and what they would protect my baby against. She also gave me some leaflets that outlined both the pros and cons of each of the vaccinations, so that I could make an informed choice about whether to vaccinate my child or not, and my baby’s health record. This record is used for tracking the babies weight and for keeping records of vaccinations and developmental checks.
Getting Your Baby Vaccinated
Your doctor’s surgery send you out an appointment letter for vaccinations several weeks in advance. These appointments are usually with the health visitor who will discuss the vaccination and any side effects with you, administer the vaccination, check on the general health of your baby and give you advice about care of your baby in the 24 hours following a vaccination.
A baby’s first vaccinations take pace at two months and three different vaccinations are administered. The first is a five-in-one vaccination that protects against tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, polio and haemophilus influenza (Hib). The other two vaccinations are the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines. At three months the five-in-one and rotavirus vaccinations are repeated along with a vaccination meningitis C. At four months the final dose of the five-in-one vaccination is given along with a repeat vaccination for pneumococcal.
A baby does not need a vaccination then until they reach their first birthday when they will have boosters for Hib and Meningitis C. They will also have the final dose of the pneumococcal vaccine and a measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR). At two and three years children are invited for an annual flue vaccination. The final vaccinations are given at 3 years and 4 months, or around that time. These are the second MMR and a four-in-one vaccination for polio, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.
Choosing to Consent to Vaccinations
I read through all of the information given to me by the health visitor about potential side effects associated with each of the vaccinations. Generally, these included a raised red lump in the area of the vaccination, irritability, fever and feeling generally unwell. I also read about the suspected link between the MMR vaccine and the development of autism. The potential side effects of the vaccinations seemed trivial when compared to the severity of the illnesses they would protect my baby against. When I looked into research about the link between vaccinations and autism I discovered that there has been no scientific evidence to prove this, only the opinions of individuals. The doctor who made this claim has since been struck off as a doctor and scientific studies into the claims his paper made found no link. I decided that the benefits of the vaccinations far outweigh any potential risks and consented to the vaccination of my baby. I’d encourage everyone to vaccinate their new born baby.
Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world and I was keen to breastfeed with all three of my children. However, even though it is natural, that does not mean that it comes easily to many mothers and there are many difficulties you can face as a new breastfeeding mum. Thankfully, there are always people on hand to help you solve these problems and make your breastfeeding experience a good one. My experience of breastfeeding three children means I have learned some useful tips along the way.
Useful Breastfeeding Tips
- It is important to sit or lie comfortably as this means you will get a better breastfeeding for your baby and avoid problems with your back.
- Bring the baby to the breast, never the breast to the baby.
- The baby’s mouth should be opened wide to latch on properly and there should be more of the lower part of the areola in their mouth than the upper part.
- Hearing and seeing your baby swallowing rhythmically are signs that they are latched on well.
- Make sure the baby gets the hind milk (hind milk is milk at the end of a feeding), as this is a nutritious part of their feed. Your baby will start off by sucking quickly and then move into a slower, longer suck. They may stop for a rest occasionally before continuing with their feed. When they stop, wind them and then try latching the baby back on to make sure they have everything they need.
- If you have concerns about breastfeeding or are experiencing pain then speak to your midwife, health visitor, doctor or a breastfeeding advisor as they will be bale to give you pointers and support you.
My Experiences of Breastfeeding
As I have now breastfed three babies I have mixed experiences of breastfeeding. With my first baby I had some problems with latching on and because I did not seek help I ended up with mastitis, an infection of the breasts and nipples, that needed treatment wit antibiotics. My experience of breastfeeding with my second baby was completely different. The baby latched on straight away, feeding was completely pain free and I had no problems. All in all it was a complete breeze. When I had my third baby, there were no problems at first. Then my baby got thrush in his mouth. Not only did this pass through my baby’s digestive system giving the baby thrush in the nappy region, it also passed on to my nipples. This made breastfeeding extremely painful but I persevered while we were treated. The baby needed oral medication and a cream and I also had an anti-fungal cream for my nipples.
Diet While Breastfeeding
Even though I know it is hard to find time to eat properly when you are a busy new mum, it is important to make sure you have a healthy, balanced diet. I tried to make time to make sure I ate three meals a day and ate healthy snacks if I was hungry. I also made sure that I drank plenty of water to encourage my milk supply and stay hydrated. What you do not eat is almost as important as what you do eat when you are a breastfeeding mum. I tried to think of it as though I was still pregnant and thus avoided harmful things like drinking alcohol.
Bathing your baby can be nerve racking the first few times you do it. However, it will soon become a fun part of caring for your baby. I love bath time, as my children all seem to really enjoy it. So, it is not just about keeping them clean, but also about having some fun interaction with your baby.
Bath Time Tips
- Get everything ready beforehand. There is nothing worse than having a wet slippery baby in your arms and then realizing you do not have a towel to hand.
- Involve your partner and older children. It is a great time to bond as a family.
- When your baby is small, make sure their head and neck is fully supported.
- Only use bath products intended for babies to avoid irritating the skin and eyes.
- If possible, when the baby is newborn you should use a baby bath rather than the family bath. This will avoid straining your back when leaning over.
- As your baby grows they will probably enjoy having some bath tops to play with. Make sure you buy age appropriate toys by checking the packaging. Most babies will enjoy toys that pour or squirt and are colourful.
- A non-slip mat can be useful, especially when your baby starts sitting or trying to pull themselves up against things. Similarly, a baby bath seat can be useful as your child can sit up independently in the water.
- Of course you still cannot leave them alone in the bath, but it does free up your hands to play with them or grab any equipment you need.
- Once you have a baby you have a lot of extra equipment and accessories that need storing. In terms of bath time, a bath tidy that sticks to the wall is a good way of keeping toys tidy. A cupboard or small shelving unit is ideal for keeping your baby’s towels and toiletries on.
The safety and well-being of your baby is paramount at all times and bath time poses a number of risks. Here are some tips to keep your baby safe;
- Put cold water into the bath first as this will reduce the risk of your baby or toddler being scalded.
- Never under any circumstances leave your baby alone in the bath, even if they are able to sit up unaided.
- If you have forgotten to fetch a towel, then take the baby with you. Far better the baby is wet and cold than drowned.
- Do not leave the water running once the baby is in the bath, especially the hot tap.
- Do not add too much water to the bath. A newborn only needs about five inches of water and once a baby can sit up they need it no higher than waist height.