1. Prepare to do nothing but breastfeed for the first couple months.
Here’s the deal: Right after birth, babies are super alert (if no drugs were involved in birth). Nature designed it that way to allow for mother-baby bonding and to initiate breastfeeding. But after that, they become sleepy. DO NOT REPLY THOSE CONGRATULATORY MESSAGES AND GO TO SLEEP YOURSELF. Because after that first 24 hours or so, they will suddenly realise what hunger feels like and that they are out in a foreign, scary world. Then they will be looking for the boob non-stop. Yes NON-STOP. After that, there will be NO MORE SLEEP FOR YOU. I mean, sure there are some newborns who follow the book and feed 3 hourly, but many don’t. 1-2 hourly is very normal for the first couple of months. Miss A was permanently on my boob for the first few days, then could feed up to 20 times a day in the first month. So get a breastfeeding pillow, lanolin cream, learn to feed lying down, and get comfy feeding in public. The plus side of having a boob addict is you feed on demand and do not supplement with formula, you will be rewarded with a monster milk supply and will never have to worry about “not having milk”.
2. Breastfed babies poop a lot.
They can poop like 10 times a day initially. But after a couple of months, they can suddenly start going only once a week as the gut matures and starts absorbing more. It’s not the frequency but the texture that matters when it comes to baby poop. They are only constipated when they are pooping hard pellets. What I love about breastmilk poop is that it is water soluble. So if you’re using cloth nappies, you can just chuck them straight in the wash and it comes off like magic.
3. Newborns don’t “sleep like angels”.
They kick, grunt, whine, toss, squirm..and will have you running to their side thinking they are in terrible pain or have bad gas. Sometimes there is a medical reason, most times there isn’t one. Just what they do and they stop doing it after a couple of months.
4. Even when babies are sleepy, they don’t like going to sleep.
Be prepared to spend hours walking in the park with the pram/carrier, jiggling the pram half-asleep with your foot, rocking the cot muttering “go..back..to…sleep…”, bouncing on gym balls, running up and down the hallways..on the plus side, you will get very fit.
5. Many breastfed babies do not take bottles, or will reject it somewhere between 2-4 months if you do not give it often.
So forget someone else taking the night shift or leaving baby with a babysitter. Be prepared to try a variety of bottles, teats, spoonfeeding etc. Sometimes perseverance pays off, sometimes it doesn’t. But if you ask me, having a baby who prefers breastfeeding to bottle feeding is far easier in the grand scheme of things- you will never have to prepare milk in the middle of the night or forget to bring your boobs with you when you go out. Note that the opposite can also happen if you introduce the bottle too early or give it too often. Babies don’t have to suck as hard at the bottle as the boob so they may end up preferring the bottle if they get used to it. Can’t win, can we?
6. Not all babies like prams and won’t sit angelically in them while you shop or have a coffee.
My bub has gone through phases where she didn’t even like the carrier or being held. No, your baby does not hate you…although it may sometimes feel like they do.
7. You can’t determine your child’s personality.
You and your other half may be zen yoga vegans and your baby turns out crazy.
8. You will blame everything on “growth spurts” and “teething”.
9. You will be constantly googling questions like “why won’t my 3 month old nap”.
Google will be your best friend in those cold lonely moments of motherhood. God bless the Internet.
10. Don’t expect your baby to take immediately to their cot.
It goes against their survival instinct to be separated from their mother. Even though you never considered it before, you may end up co-sleeping or holding your baby for naps for your sanity. If you feel guilty about it, don’t worry. It’s normal. More people do it than you think. And no matter what your mother says, you can’t spoil a baby by holding him/her too much.
11. Many babies can’t entertain themselves. And many also don’t nap more than one sleep cycle (usually 30-40min).
Leaving you wondering what on earth to do with them all the time they are awake. (It does get better when they are mobile though)
12. Your baby may sleep peacefully for the first 2-4 weeks then turn into a grizzling monster.
And savour it if your baby suddenly starts sleeping through the night at 2-3 months. They will likely start waking again at 4-6 months. Let me introduce to you the term “sleep regression”.
13. Forget me time. Just forget it.
Nothing can prepare you for how your life will change. You can no longer sleep when you want, go to the toilet when you feel like it, sit around and watch TV etc. Washing your hair and brushing your teeth becomes a victorious event. And when you fall sick and just want to sleep all day…you can’t! Although almost everyone goes through motherhood, it can feel strangely sad and isolating.
14. Everything you thought you wouldn’t do (e.g use dummies, rock baby to sleep, co-sleep), you will do. Screw the parenting books.
15. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and cry all the time and maybe even regret becoming a parent and wondering how to return them.
16. Many of your childless friends will gush over your pregnancy and tell you they will babysit anytime…but most of them will disappear when baby actually comes.
But apparently once they have their own kids, they will return!
17. You may not bond with your baby straight away.
I longed for kids, planned my baby, had a wonderful pregnancy, and still felt no bond when she was born. There is largely due to the fact that I had a very long labour. Although medically it was an amazing natural birth where nothing went wrong at all, I found it incredibly traumatic. So when she finally came, I had no gushy feelings to spare. And after that, motherhood just overwhelmed me. So I went around very numb and cold for at least the first month. Of course now there are plenty of warm and fuzzy feelings, but it definitely took a while to come round.
18. For the first few months, mealtimes will become pass-the-parcel. Bid meaningful conversations goodbye and get used to cold food.
And when they do begin solid food, may I suggest baby-led weaning (self feeding). They will enjoy it and you get to eat your own food in peace without having to spoonfeed them in between.
19. All babies are different. Do not compare.
Babies all develop at different rates. Do not worry. Some may roll at 3 months, others at 6. There is no magic timeline. Many babies also may not take to solids until well past 6 months. Many do not sleep through the night in the first year. Some don’t even respond to sleep training and will scream for 3-4 hours.
20. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to raise a child.
You’re not doing anything wrong if you don’t sleep train your baby or teach them to “self-soothe”. The only time you need to change something is if it’s not working for you. But if you don’t mind rocking your baby and feeding them through the night even at 1 year old, then it’s perfectly fine. You do what works for you. Just smile politely when people give you advice you don’t want.