baby

'25 things no one tells you about the Fourth Trimester.'

I have a six-week-old baby. She’s my first child. 

I used to be a nanny, I’m an auntie, and when one of my besties had her first baby I went down to four days a week at work so I could help her out once a week. 

I thought I’d have some idea about having a baby. 

Turns out, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

In my exhausted, sleep-deprived state I have asked friends, neighbours, health professionals and my sister’s mother-in-law for advice. And I've realised how many things we brand new parents have in common. 

I was questioning whether I was ‘doing it right’ or worrying that I had never heard any friends talking about a particular problem, and when I asked around it seemed everyone had thought or done the same thing as me. 

Maybe it’s COVID, or maybe the resources are just too stretched, but I never had a home visit from the nurse and my mother's group isn’t starting for a few weeks, so I started writing some things down. If you’re in your first week or weeks with a newborn, hopefully there’s something helpful. 

I could write hundreds - but here are 25 things I’ve learned so far.

Run off your feet? We share our best time-saving parenting hacks on this episode of This Glorious Mess: Little Kids. Post continues below.

1. “Three-hourly feeds” are measured from the start of one feed to the start of the next. Which, if you feed and settle the baby (maybe also pump/express), means you may get around 1.5-2hrs where you might be free. To sleep. Or do the washing. Or you might get a baby like mine, and do two-hourly feeds.

ADVERTISEMENT

2. The hospital is a wild ride. If you have a partner and they can stay with you, they should. You’ll want someone to be with you. 

3. There is a lot of washing. So much washing. Just endless washing.

4. You will have moments where you think this is all a mistake and wonder if there is some way you can give the baby back. And then you will realise you can’t, and you might have a rush of anxiety. And then that will pass. 

5. If you're in one, your relationship with your significant other will feel stronger and closer and more frustrating and exhausting and basically just all the things.

6. Unless you have a cook, cleaner, housekeeper, nanny, personal assistant and a partner who will hold the baby, the concept of 'sleep when baby sleeps' is actually impossible. If you use that phrase in my house, you will not make it back out the front door.

7. People want to come over because "it’ll be easier for you". The only people that can come over are those that bring food, only stay an hour, or meet you at the front gate to go for a walk. Or clean your house while you sleep.

8. Exhaustion will make you cry. And you might spend quite a lot of time on the brink.

9. You will bring the baby in to bed with you sometimes. It’s against the regulations. You’ll still do it. 

10. You will drink all the coffee. 

11. Breastfeeding is hard. It takes a while to get even part way there. It’s a skill and you’re both learning so be as kind to yourself as you are to your baby. And take a moment to marvel at the size of your rack! And your nips.

12. And if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, then don’t. And screw anyone who wants to make you feel bad about that.

My baby girl. Image: Supplied.

ADVERTISEMENT

13. You’ll stop judging others and you’ll start questioning the way you’ve spoken to or acted in front of your mum friends. Whatever keeps baby, mum and family safe, happy and rested is what’s important. The way someone chooses to get there isn’t. ‘Whatever works’ will be your new catch phrase.

14. Older people love to look into your pram. You are the advocate for your child and if you don’t want people breathing on them, learn to keep your pram close and ‘park’ it so that curious eyes would need to learn over you to get close to your child. You’d think COVID might have helped this situation a bit, but no. I have regularly had to put my body between my six-week-old, not yet vaccinated child to prevent random strangers leaning in and breathing all over her.

15. Babies make more noise than you could imagine. Every bodily function will illicit a lot of noise.

16. You will Google absolutely everything. My experience is that you’re better off canvasing the opinion of a few girlfriends with children than you are Googling. Unless you’re googling for support services. There are a s**tload of free services available to everyone and lots of them are 24-hours. Call if you need help. And if you need medical help, call immediately. 

17. When your baby cries and you can’t solve their problem, you will cry. Take a deep breath, go through the basics (ie, change the nappy, feed them, check that they are warm enough/not too hot, wrap them and rock them). And sometimes if the basics don’t work just hold them and talk kindly to them. Look at the baby and smile and say nice soothing things. Even if you can’t solve the problem, they’ll feel your love.

18. Give the baby to your partner (if you’re lucky enough to have one around), or friend or family member when you can. Feed the baby and hand them off to someone else to settle. That person might be kind enough to burp them, wrap them and rock them to sleep for you. Then you’ll have at least a few moments to have your hands free, go to the toilet, brush your hair, put on real clothes, etc. You don’t need to be the only one to comfort your baby.

ADVERTISEMENT

19. If you’re on maternity leave and you have a partner that is back at work, keep in mind that you’re getting an extra  eight hours, or more, per day to learn about your baby. So, when you start to learn the different sounds of the cries and your partner hasn’t, work out a way to communicate about that. Your partner needs time to learn about your baby and there isn’t only one way to do things. Let your partner work it out, and be encouraging and supportive.

20. Your patience will be reserved for your baby. It is very hard to keep being patient with others. Try. And other times walk away. And other times walk away get in your car/close the door to your room and say all the expletives. 

21. You are stronger than you ever imagined. This is the hardest job you will ever do and the fact that you can do it with approximately five minutes' sleep is a miracle. You are a bloody miracle. 

22. I had no idea I would need the baby to be in the room with me almost always. I have only just started to have a shower without her in there. 

23. ‘Cry it out’ is old school. Read that again ask yourself what ‘it’ is. What do you want your baby to cry out? Their fear? Their desire for you? Their craving to be comforted? 

24. As organised as you might be, you’ll need to find a way to balance out what is really important to you. I was recording every feed, sleep and nappy change in an app. My baby is healthy. No doctor or midwife is asking me for that information. I became obsessed: “that feed wasn’t long enough”, “how wet is that nappy”... It was just another job. Now I just watch my baby. I watch how she sucks and swallows, I watch for tired cues, I try to respond to the ‘I’ve had enough of this’ cry as quickly as possible, if there are crossed or glazed eyes, or a yawn I wrap her and rock her and put her to bed. That’s been a whole lot more successful than obsessively staring at my phone.

25. The love you feel for your baby is like nothing else on the planet.

What would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Feature Image: Supplied.