You devoured Gina Ford, read The Baby Whisperer from cover to cover and even dipped into Doctor Spock, but now your little angel has arrived, you’ve realised your well-rehearsed textbook tactics have gone awry. Real mums reveal the success secrets the parenting guides don’t tell you.
“What works for one baby may not work for another so there’s no point in comparing milestones with friends’ babies i.e. taking first steps, weaning, potty training etc, as they will all get there in their own time and in their own way,” says Claire Westhead, a radiographer from Rugby and mum to Max, six, and Maisie, two. “Instead, enjoy the uniqueness of your own baby and don’t put pressure on yourself or them to be to doing anything faster or slower than they are.”
1. Stop worrying about those milestones
“Don't worry about ‘making a rod for your own back’ – you will not be rocking your teenager to sleep!” says Emma Scobie, a speech and language therapist from Sutton Coldfield and mum to Mia, three, and James, six. “What really worked for us was making decisions that were right for me, the baby and the family.”
2. Rock your baby to sleep if you want to!
Blogger Erica Price agrees and advises a pram walk to soothe them to sleep. “You could even seek out some up-hill walks so you can get some exercise, and quickly walk back (downhill) when baby is asleep,” says Erica. “Combine the walk with a shopping trip and you can pile up the bags underneath for even more of a workout!”
“Don't be shy about opening up your home,” says blogger Becky Goddard-Hill.“Meeting up with other parents in coffee shops is expensive and can be boring for babies, and chances are your parenting pals will do the same so you’ll save yourself a shed load of money. And don’t worry about the state of your house, everyone will be in the same boat and just grateful for a chance to chat and relax.”
3. Save cash by turning your house into a baby drop-in
“After feeding the baby I found they tended to nod off on my chest,” says award-winning blogger 'Guilty Mother'. “But after a short while, you’d have to transfer them to the Moses basket so you didn’t get stuck there for hours – only to find their eyes ping open as soon as you move them! My mother told me this is because the Moses basket is cold and as soon as you lay them down, they instantly know they have been detached.
4. Warm the Moses basket
To resolve this, before you start your feed, lay a hot water bottle in the middle of the basket wrapped in a blanket. When you think it's the right temperature, check to ensure it’s not too hot, and delicately complete the transfer. It worked for me and I could then go and make myself a celebratory cup of tea!”
“When I was preparing to become a new mum, I read all the baby books, blogs and magazines, I exercised regularly, lathered myself up with all the anti-stretch mark creams, ate the right foods and took all the right vitamins. But my preparation was all based around my physical wellness – not once did I consider my mental wellness,” says Olivia Siegl, founder of The Every Mum Movement, which aims to empower mums to take care of their maternal mental health. “I was never made aware of the importance of being mentally prepared and mentally strong for becoming a mum, and yet when we have a baby our body and mind go through a monumental change.
5. Take care of your mental health
As one of the ‘one in five’ that suffered with Postnatal Depression and Postnatal Psychosis following the birth of my two girls, I wish someone would have told me that I needed to look after my mental health; I would have been diagnosed earlier and claimed back my right to enjoy motherhood sooner. I encourage all mums, and their partners, to empower themselves to be ‘mentally buff’ for parenthood; read up on maternal mental illnesses, recognise the warning signs and be assured that if you do suffer, with the right support, you will be well again.”
“Once both my babies were over six months old they would regularly sleep in bed with me at night,” says Claire Westhead. “While this seems to be against most mummies’ rules, it meant we could all get a good night’s sleep and function for work the next day. I would also cuddle them for their day naps because this time was so precious when they are that young. It meant I would get an hour’s rest too, rather than racing to do chores whilst they were asleep.”
6. Enjoy night time cuddles in your bed
“Nothing came particularly naturally to me as a new mum, which is something the books definitely don't tell you!” says Emma Scobie. “We didn't always get it right first time, or even second or third time; it was a learning process. When you're a new mum, all the other new mums look like total pros, with textbook babies, but actually once you get to know them you realise all of them struggle in some way. It’s great to share your problems with other mums and while they won't always have the answers, it's good to know you're not on your own.”
7. There’s no such thing as a ‘natural’ mum
“Babies love white noise! From a baby’s perspective they have spent the last nine months in your womb where everything is loud!” says one blogger. “In fact, life outside the womb is uncomfortably quiet, so, after testing a few white noise albums, we found a rainforest and nature album was the most calming for our baby as well as being easily downloaded to a Smartphone or tablet. The best part is they’re extremely portable, so you can take the music with you, wherever you travel – and you never know, it might just help you drift off too!”
8. White noise for a noise-free night
“Before going to bed I used to get everything ready for the nighttime wakes – nappies, bags, wipes, cream, a change of sleepsuit in case of a leak,” says customer services advisor Claire Buswell, from Northampton, mum to Henry, seven, and Freddie, nine. “Having it all prepared and ready to go in one place saved many sleepy fumblings trying to find things.”
9. Prepare ahead for leaks
“One thing that’s always worked for me when it comes to the toddler tantrums is to take a video on them on my phone and play it straight back to them,” says Claire Westhead. “This always seems to turn a difficult situation into a giggle!”
10. Turn tantrums into TV
“Breast feeding in the very early days can be a very painful process, especially as your baby’s appetite grows bigger each day,” says 'Guilty Mother'. “One friend suggested putting cabbage leaves into your bra to help ease the soreness and I think it’s definitely worth giving that a try!”
11. Sore nipples? Visit the grocery aisle
“Go with your gut,” says Alison Feetham, a Northampton teaching assistant and mum to ten-year-old Ben. “I tried so hard to do everything ‘by the book’ but what worked best was when we just did our own thing. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to babies, or indeed mums, so don't worry if the latest advice and guidelines don't work for you. If something everyone is advocating doesn’t feel right for you, don't do it – use the bits that feel right and forget the bits that don't. It doesn't make you a failure and doesn't mean you are doing it wrong, the best thing for both mum and baby is to be happy.”
12. And finally…throw the baby book out!
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