Ah the newborn weeks…magical, precious and really, really hard! Here’s a glimpse into the wonderful, but utterly exhausting, initiation into being a mum.
I’m mum to two girls. My eldest is three and a half, and my youngest is seven months. With my first daughter, the newborn days passed by in a blur, or should I say, a haze. Preparing for baby number 2, I totally forgot what was in store in those early days (the mind is clever, hey?), so I decided to write a few things down the second time around. If you’re in the depths of newborn life right now, or it’s on the horizon in the future, hopefully, this will reassure you that making it up as you go along and 3am biscuit binges are completely normal and all part of the course that is newborn life.
Tips for surviving newborn-hood – a personal account of mum life with a new baby
1. Forget the routine
I’m writing this at 4am while feeding my three week old baby for the 12th time (no exaggeration) after devouring my gazzilioth cup of tea and toast in bed. Who knows what this meal classifies as, and quite frankly, who cares! The newborn phase is all about giving in (in my opinion). Eat when you want to eat, and sleep when you want*. *Just kidding on that last one, you’ll never be able to sleep when you want again! But if you can get a sneaky cat nap in at 4pm, go for it – no guilt on this one!
2. Be kind to yourself – don’t compare (especially on IG!)
Turn off the ‘gram, or at least, don’t get hung up on the IG yummy mummies. Yes, there are loads of helpful, and thankfully, unfiltered snapshots out there too, but there are plenty of IG perfect photoshoots to push even the most level-headed new mum over the edge. Especially a mum who hasn’t showered in days and is surviving on Oreos. Although sometimes it’s hard to believe, being a mum is not a competition, and you really need to be kind to yourself and avoid those all-too-easy comparisons that IG does so well. No more so than in those early days. By all means, share and chat with your mummy crew (they are so important), but bear in mind that every baby is different. There’s no norm, only you and your baby’s norm.
3. Look after yourself
They don’t say put your life vest on before helping others on the plane for nothing. And it’s true that a happy mum is crucial for a happy baby, so make sure you are looking after number 1 as well as that incredibly needy little human who just made a grand entrance. Easier said than done, but even if it’s as simple as putting a face mask on, going for a short walk, or binging on Netflix, try and have some you time. Whatever you need – prioritise it.
4. Google isn’t always your best friend
I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the screen-time stats on my phone in the early days. And as for my Google searches throughout the wee hours? They range from: ‘should baby be breathing like this’ to ‘can a newborn survive on no sleep?!’. (Turns out they can). While Google is undoubtedly helpful and can provide reassurance to new mums during those nighttime panics, it can also add further worry, so use it wisely, especially if you’re like me and in a sleep-deprived state. Dr Google might have you diagnosing all sorts and can bring on even more hysteria.
5. Say yes to help
If anyone offers to help – take it. If they ask how they can help – tell them. Don’t be afraid to use the support of your friends, family (if they live near you), or helpful neighbour. Sometimes they might not know how best to help, so let them know. Whether it’s holding the baby while you catch forty winks, or helping with your older kid if you have more than one child. And whatever you do, tell them that dropping in unannounced won’t cut it. Always message ahead.
6. Remember you’re not alone (even in those nighttime feeds)
Feel like you’re the only one awake come 4am in the morning and have a sense of loneliness? Look outside. This might sound random, but it was something that got me through those long nights. Perhaps a little trickier if you live in a landed property, but if you’re in a condo or HDB, chances are someone else will have a light on. They might be starting a night shift, just got in from a booze-filled bender, or like you, be in the depths of the newborn haze. Whatever it is, for me, it didn’t matter. Just knowing someone else nearby was awake seemed to help. Got friends and family overseas on a different time-zone? They are golden in those nighttime feeds if you need someone to chat with or message.
7. Give in and go with it – it will be gone before you know it
Planned to give bubs a bath and go for a walk today? Didn’t get as far as changing your pants? If this sounds familiar, then you’re not alone; this is exactly what those newborn weeks will and should look like. And my advice? Go with it. Wallow in those newborn weeks. Binge on a new series, enjoy those newborn snuggles, the newborn smell, gazing into your little one’s eyes, staying in the same pair of PJs for days on end. Take it all in. Yes, it’s utterly exhausting and the biggest emotional rollercoaster of your life, but it’s gone before you know it.
You’ll emerge not quite knowing what just happened and how one week became a month. But once you’ve recovered from that sleep deprivation (if you’ve got a sleep thief like me it could be a while), you’ll actually look back with fondness at those memories of tea and toast in bed and those nighttime wake-ups, as well as have a badge of honour for surviving it. So embrace the craziness – because, as the saying goes, the days are long but the years are oh so short.
You’ve got this new mum, and even if you haven’t, chances are, neither has anyone else (and if they tell you differently, they’re lying).