Before Toby was born I read loads of pregnancy and baby books. I went to antenatal classes with my husband. I signed up for all the ‘your baby this week’ emails…basically I did my research. That’s just the kind of person I am; I liked to be informed and therefore hopefully be prepared. But it turns out no amount of research can actually prepare you for that first night at home with a newborn. I’ve now had two babies and I thought I’d share some things I wish I’d known before having a baby.
1. The First Nappies
I knew about meconium, that we would be cleaning up that tar-like poo for the first few days. It’s recommended that you only use cotton wool and water to clean your baby for the first 6 weeks. What I didn’t realise is that trying to get meconium off a tiny bottom using only cotton wool and water is almost impossible! When Toby was about four weeks old we started using Cheeky Wipes reusable baby wipes. We use them with plain water and I’m pretty certain they would have made a much better job of those first nappies than the cotton wool did. We also use Water Wipes when we’re out and about and they’re great for newborns as they don’t contain any nasty chemicals.
2. Breastfeeding is hard. Really hard.
I’m sure there are some lucky ladies out there who manage to breastfeed their babies from the word go without so much as a cracked nipple. But I wasn’t one of them. I wrote more about my breastfeeding story with Toby here. This was another area where no amount of research prepared me for just how hard it would be to get my baby to latch on and feed. I also found that despite their best intentions, when every midwife gives you different advice it can get very confusing and frustrating. I managed to breastfeed for longer the second time around and nipple shields were a saviour for us both times. I really think you just have to trust your instincts – if something works for you and your baby then do it.
3. Nobody follows the formula instructions.
It took about two or three weeks of following the instructions on the box for making up formula before realising that we needed to find a better way of doing it. Making up a bottle fresh every time you need one; boiling the kettle, leaving it to cool for half an hour (with a screaming baby in your arms) then trying to get the milk to a temperature that is drinkable, is virtually impossible. I don’t think I know anyone that makes it that way. I know a lot of people swear by the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine but even that seemed too much hassle to me. With both Toby and Gabe we have made up the bottles in advance, put them in the back of the fridge then warmed them in the microwave when needed. That’s not necessarily the best way, but it works for us.
4. Trust your instincts
When Toby was first born I had real trouble trying to breast feed, he wouldn’t stay latched on, would arch away from me, he would seemingly feed for hours but then still be hungry. He was sleeping in our room and was really really noisy at night, making all sorts of weird grunting and choking sounds in his sleep. As the weeks went by feeding was still a struggle with feeds every hour and a half or so. I knew that this wasn’t just normal newborn baby behaviour but even when I explained what was happening to the health visitor I was told that it was. It was only when he started projectile vomiting up whole feeds that I did some research of my own and decided he probably had reflux.
I was much quicker to spot it with Gabe and I’ve written quite a lot about their reflux. My point here though is that even if someone, whether that be your mum, your friends or even a health professional is telling you something is normal but you really don’t think it is then trust your instincts. If after further investigation it does turn out to be normal then there’s no harm done, but if it isn’t then you’ve done something about it. Nobody else is with your baby 24 hours a day like you are, nobody knows them better than you.
5. Flat head
Toby developed quite a flat head on one side (or plagiocephaly to give it its proper name). I didn’t notice it for the first 6 weeks or so and then one day when he was about four months I realised his head was wonky. Apparently it’s quite common and the condition is much more prevalent since the introduction of the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Thinking back, Toby always looked the same way when he was lying in the crib or the pram or his car seat. Once we were aware of it we always tried to turn his head on the other side to even things out. The health visitor seemed to think that this would be enough, along with plenty of tummy time, and his head would even out on its own as he started to sit independently. He still has a slightly uneven head but it isn’t really noticeable with his long hair but I wish we’d noticed sooner so we could perhaps have done more to avoid it. For Gabe we used a Babymoov pillow to help keep the pressure off his head, and actually he slept on his tummy from very early on so his head hasn’t been an issue.
So that’s my 5 things. I’m sure I’ve got a few more but that’s more than enough for one day. If you could pass on one thing you wish you’d known before having a baby what would it be?
**I was not compensated in any way for writing this post but it does contain affiliate links