My sister, Ange, is one of those wonderfully warm, generous and bubbly people who attracts a tribe of equally warm, generous and bubbly friends. I’ve been lucky enough to have had her in my life for over thirty years.
It came as no surprise to any of us when her fabulous boyfriend became her fiance, nor that she had such a hard time choosing her bridal party that she decided to have her sister (me) and six best friends as her two bridesmaids and five ‘flower girls’.
Eighteen months later, she’s entering her third trimester of pregnancy, decorating the nursery in pink and butterflies and preparing for a new phase of life altogether.
Between her bridesmaids and ‘flower girls’ we’ve got eight kids under 4 and two more on the way. So we figure we’re pretty much experts on this baby thing and we thought we’d share a few words of wisdom based on our own spectacular mistakes.
We stuck to a theory of safety in anonymity, so each tip is from a different friend. Ange: we can play ‘guess the author’ at your baby shower if you like!
1. Put the books away. Trust your instincts. Do what works.
I rocked my baby to sleep. We were always told to try for self settling but every time we put her down her room sounded like it was full of farm animals. She would make the weirdest groaning noises and when the sound of horses, cows and sheep got a little too weird we’d go in, pick her up only for her to let out a huge burp. We soon found out she had reflux.
After the first few weeks it became very hard to put her down without her flinching every time her body hit the bed and waking herself up. Some nights we were even known to walk around the house with her in her capsule, so she’d fall asleep in that and then once in a deep sleep, we’d transfer her to her bed, or sometimes not even move her at all (oops!). Once at the point where she was used to this we felt too bad to then leave her on her own to self settle as she was so little and innocent and to be honest, we loved the cuddle time. We are, however, now at age 2 and she still needs us in the room to go to sleep…..but we’re getting there!
I was taught the play-sleep-feed routine: this really didn’t work for us and as soon as I decided to stop listening to the health nurse and the books and switch it up with play-feed-sleep she began sleeping so much better. Well wouldn’t you on a full stomach? Makes perfect sense to me!
I still bottle feed my 18 month old son because it’s the only thing that will get him back to sleep at night!
I still cuddle my one-year-old daughter to sleep at night because I love the cuddles! And now I’m back at work I need the cuddles.
Don’t stress about sleeping. The day I gave up trying to make sure my baby was asleep before 8.00pm the happier we both were and the less screaming there was.
2. Your house-proud days are over. Try to make peace with the mess.
Now Angie, over the next two or so years (ok, so maybe 10 years… or possibly 15) you will have to make peace with hand-prints on your walls, toothpaste splatter on your bathroom mirror, paint chipping off your skirting boards from wayward walkers and, well, unidentified spots/marks/stains… sometimes puddles… you get the drift.
No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to keep all the play doh colours separate: they will always be mashed together and turn khaki eventually. Try to make your peace with it now.
If you like control in your life, you have to let it go! There is no clean way to teach a baby to eat, you will never have a nice stylish decorated ‘adult’ area of your house (no matter how many toy boxes you buy). There will be no denying that a kid not only lives in, but rules that house.
3. This is YOUR baby. You know her better than anyone in the world.
If you have a gut feeling about your baby go with your mummy instinct and do what you feel is necessary. I knew I couldn’t leave my baby to cry, she was in some kind of pain as a newborn so I did what I needed to do to get some sleep.
She’s your baby, not anyone else’s baby, go with your gut. Don’t stress that your girl isn’t doing what my baby did or what your neighbour’s baby did. She is her own person and as long as you cuddle her, love her and keep her safe she will develop into a smart, beautiful girl.
Believe in yourself and be the best you can. You will be a natural and beautiful mother to your baby girl and I know you will amaze yourself too.
Never let anyone make you feel incompetent as a mother. You will know what is best for your baby whether it be your choice to breast feed or bottle feed, having a dummy or patting/rocking your baby to sleep.
4. YOU are just as important as the baby. She needs you to look after yourself as well as her.
Make the most of ‘me time’ while you’re still pregnant. Appreciate being able to do whatever you want whenever you want without having to think about anyone else!
Know you can always turn to a friend for a cry, a talk or advice. Hubby can’t be around 24/7 and it can be good to speak to others in the same situation as you: sleep deprived and a little bit over it!
Take time out pre-baby to really enjoy some of the little things, like going to the toilet by yourself – it may be years before you do that again!
Don’t be too hard on yourself. As a list maker myself, I like a plan, but babies don’t stick to plans. Be kind to yourself. Repeat after me: “You are enough. You have enough. You do enough.” By kind to your body. It’s just done/is doing something bloody incredible.
I wish I had accepted help in the hard early months and slept when she did instead of cleaning!
Try to be nice to hubby when you’re tired and feeling overwhelmed (but not too nice, otherwise you could end up with a 15 month gap between your kids!).
5. Routines are a waste of time for newborns. Try to go with the flow.
NEVER wake a sleeping baby. If she’s hungry, she’ll wake up and tell you.
I wish I hadn’t stressed so much with my first baby about routine and being home for sleeps. I’m so much happier with a ‘go with the flow’ second bub.
Get used to holding your baby while cooking dinner, while eating dinner, while fumbling to make a bottle in the middle of the night, while bringing the shopping in, while trying to clean, while doing a load of washing, while showering and sadly even while sitting on the toilet. You’ll get really good at doing things with one hand (or even your feet!).
The best thing I saw friends of mine doing was taking their baby around with them a lot, rather than staying captive in the house. We started doing the same. If we were visiting friends for dinner and to watch football , we would put our baby down to sleep in a spare room or keep her up a bit later than her usual bedtime then put her down when we got home.
I think it’s so great to see and learn from a relaxed parent, but also see one at the opposite end of the scale and watch their kids. Kids don’t have to rule your life, you just need to learn new ways to adapt them into yours. It can make for a very happy parent and child!
6. Little girls are pink and pretty. But also MESSY and LOUD!
White looks gorgeous on a little girl. As much as you think your little princess looks beautiful in her little party outfit, it’s parties where she’s going to get the dirtiest. Think cupcakes with half a bottle of food dye in the icing, party pies with sauce, sausage rolls with sauce, little boys with sauce (if my daughter had her way her diet would consist of sauce with a side of everything else), tan bark, dirt and grass.
I will still dress her nicely every time we leave the house, I’ve just learnt to accept that it may not last too long! She may look like a princess and love her dolly, wearing her dress up high heels and stealing Mum’s lip gloss out of her bag, but she’ll also love jumping in puddles, playing with dirt and tearing up and down the driveway on a bike just as much as the boys. Well mine does anyway.
Get ready for LOUD squealing, all the time! But they do have lovely quiet times that many boys do not.
Advice from the sleep expert we went to is that girls are much more stubborn and a lot harder to crack so if you can, form good habits from the start.
Encourage them to avoid the bitchiness, it starts early.
7. Listen to all the advice you’re given but remember they are only OPTIONS, not COMMANDS. Some will work for you and your baby. Some just won’t.
So here are a few more nuggets of wisdom for you to sift through:
Don’t throw out your old towels, you will need ALL of them for gastro episodes and toilet training.
Remember your first baby is the only one you will have time to sit and cuddle, nap with and play with so do it before baby number two comes along!
I have adopted so many little bits and pieces along the way. Here’s a few: use face washers for spew cloths, Vicks on the feet for a cold, attach the teething toy to the dummy clip.
Find a better ‘home’ for the dummy than in your bra. It’s awkward having your toddler wrestle with your breasts in public when she wants it. Also quite uncomfortable when you’re back at work, in a meeting with people that you’d like to take you seriously and you notice a dummy poking out of your top.
On that note, check your shoulder for spew before leaving the house – that’s an obvious one. But check your crotch as well. Yep, toddlers love to run at you and snuggle right in there with their snotty little noses. Leaving the house with snot on your crotch = rookie error.
You can try your very best to have a healthy kid with great nutrition and a healthy balanced diet. At the end of the day if all they’ll eat is toast, at least they’re eating!
Remember to take your baby back for maternal & child health nurse appointments! And not because she will necessarily say anything you want to hear, but because it’s lovely to have a record of how they’re growing and what they’re doing. You think you’ll remember but the assault on your body and brain takes its toll. It’s also fun to have something to compare your second baby with. I’m sure there’s a book somewhere that says you shouldn’t compare your babies, each one is an individual, blah blah blah – but you do!
Encourage her to have a go. Show her that it’s ok to fail and make mistakes. Teach her to have a level head when she succeeds.
And most importantly:
Enjoy your little girl! This next chapter is going to be amazeballs!
We’ve got your back, sis. You and your daughter are going to be just fine. (Besides, Mum is going to move in with you so she’s on hand 24/7, right?)