I’m typing this blog with my 8 week old son asleep on my shoulder. He’s my third boy in five years and I’m loving life with a newborn.
When my eldest was this age, wonder and joy was usually peppered with anxiety, reading too many parenting books, worried we weren’t doing things the right way.
When my second-born was tiny, enchantment and rapture was often tainted by an unsettling guilt, worried how our eldest might adjust to having to share his parents’ love.
But this time, there’s no anxiety nor guilt, just pure awesome pleasure. And the total exhaustion, of course. No change there.
Here’s how I’m enjoying the newborn stage:
1. Ignoring the clocks
Between school runs, anyway. I’ve abandoned myself to the world of my baby, following his cues. My baby is my leader. Day and night. It’s far less stressful this way, to simply follow my instincts, without the pressure of a prescribed schedule.
2. Asking for help
I’ve finally launched off my proud perch and asked my friends and family for help: help with school pick ups, shopping, cleaning and cooking. I know it won’t be forever, but right now, I need as much help as I can get.
3. Feed. Feed. Feed
I’m mentally and physically prepared to feed as often as my baby is asking, whether for food, comfort, to get back to sleep, or just because I need to sit down with a cuppa and my feet up. For me, establishing breastfeeding all three times has hurt, despite lots of help; but this time, I knew it would get better eventually and the latch would improve. All is good now as the sweet milk nourishes my fast-growing laddie. It has taken perseverance, patience and luck too, as I appreciate that not all mums get to breastfeed.
4. No fiddly feeding tops
When I first became a mum, I discovered the world of nursing clothes and aprons; I thought that these were mandatory for breastfeeding, exposing minimal flesh while struggling and sweating to get my baby to latch on. This time, I’m wearing whatever I like, simply lifting a top or unbuttoning a blouse to feed. Most people neither notice nor care.
5. Being patient
Bodies are amazing and creating life is a miraculous feat. It needs time to heal and adjust to life with baby outside. No one knows how long. I try to ignore and rebuke anyone or anything that makes me feel less than awesome. Those marks and flabby bits of pregnancy and labour are beautiful: a visual and tactile reminder of wonder. Oh, and I just wear bigger, looser clothes.
6. No Baby classes in the first few months
Baby classes may be the answer for some, but for me, I’ve finally realised that I don’t like them: the pressure to be somewhere on time, to have fed, changed and burped baby; the awkward chitchat and the inevitable silent comparison of your baby to others (bigger/smaller/happier/grumpier/noisier etc.) The one class I recently went to was laid back and welcoming, but three (out of 8) mums told us all how their newborn had slept through the night. I wanted to tell everyone how my almost 3 year old wakes up and joins me in bed most nights, and that’s totally normal, but I didn’t; I missed my moment to normalise night waking and help other mamas out.
I love to socialise though, so I meet friends for walks in the park or woods where we all enjoy the fresh air, or cafes with sofas and coffee and cake. Old friends come to visit and bring food and arms to cuddle while I shower and spend time with my toddler. If I see another parent who seems nice to hang out with, I don’t hesitate to give them my number… I’m a terrible mum-flirt, dishing out open invites for play dates like the Milkybar kid.
8. Accept nocturnal living
I’ve learnt to relish the night feeds: to fling open the curtains and to gaze at the moon. I listen to podcasts, the radio, scroll through my news-feed, while my baby feeds, feeds, feeds, burps, feeds… all in a lunar-fuelled haze.
It’s taken practice and patience, but learning how to wrap my baby to me in a stretchy or woven wrap makes the newborn stage so much easier and enjoyable. I had to wait until my boobs had calmed down after the initial hormone-fired weeks of engorgement, but 8 weeks in and we’re snuggling in a sling all day long. I love how I can skip out the door and he’ll be asleep by the time we reach the gate. The benefits of babywearing are endless, but for me, I like the cuddles and the warmth as much as he seems to.
The Lullaby Trust, which is at the forefront of safe sleep research and advice, has produced a wonderful leaflet to help parents to co-sleep/bed-share as safely as possible. It’s meant we’ve all got more sleep and it’s helped to establish breastfeeding.
My newborn is stirring now and starting to lick his lips. As I prepare to respond to these early cues, to follow my instinct, I feel happy that I’m now confident enough to be the laid-back, mama in the slow lane, that I always hoped to be.
Want to read more uplifting words about motherhood? You can follow Rebecca’s blog here, ‘The Night Feed: Parenting and Travel in the Slow Lane’.