A letter to any mum’s to be…

Firstly congratulations! You are about to embark on the best journey of your life. There are no words to describe motherhood and becoming a parent other than it changes your life forever in ways you never could have dreamed of and your heart will never feel so full of love.

There will be lots of people who will be keen to give you advice on parenting and it can seem overwhelming. Your mum, your friends and even the coffee shop owners sister’s daughter will have words of advice for you and opinions on it all. I remember feeling like there was no way I was going to remember it all and picking up on bits of information that contradicted each other. Over a year into my journey into Motherhood I can tell you that some advice contradicted each other because how YOU decide to parent your child is YOUR choice. You don’t have to follow one route of parenting or routine but you can pick and choose what you like and what works for you and your little one. I have no way stuck to a particular way of parenting, feeding, routine or weaning but adapted the small aspects of the different approaches in order for it to work for me and more importantly for Amelia. What works for me may not work for you so yes it’s another hurdle that you have to work out yourself so next time someone has some advice to give you listen with your mind open but remember there is no pressure but to parent in your own way.

Preparing for the arrival of your little one is so exciting and you can be sucked into the thought that you need every gadget and gismo on the market. I say this because I was one of those mum’s that spent absolutely ages on every mother and baby site reviewing all the different products thinking I had to have everything and it all had to be here ready before my baby arrived. In hindsight there are some absolute must have’s that I would suggest to get but none of it is essential (I will be posting my newborn essentials very soon so keep an eye out!). A way of feeding your baby whether that’s breast or bottle, a car seat (hospitals won’t let you leave without one!), somewhere for them to sleep initially, some nappies and some clothes and a hat are all your need for a newborn baby. I was also that mum that thought that buying branded products as opposed to supermarket or small business products would mean better quality and safer for my little one. In actual fact I would have to say that for clothes in particular this is completely the other way around where the expensive items I have bought have not washed well or have faded where as my Primark, Asda and Sainsbury’s pieces are still in perfect condition despite being washed repeatedly. Some of our nicest things have been hand me down’s or bought second hand so I would absolutely encourage you to search your local charity shops, NCT nearly new sales and Facebook market place.

I had decided when I was pregnant that I wanted to try and breastfeed but my approach was simple – fed is best so if breastfeeding didn’t work out I was happy to move to formula feeding. I wish someone had told me when I was pregnant how hard breastfeeding actually is. Not that it would have put me off but I looking back I think I would have appreciated the heads up. So mummy’s to be here is my thoughts…

“Breastfeeding is the most rewarding thing in the world but it is hard. Those first couple of weeks where you are learning and so is baby to feed is tiring, emotional and painful. Your milk comes in and your breasts are engorged, your nipples are sore from constant feeding where baby is trying to establish a supply HOWEVER I promise it does get better. You just have to make it through those toe curling moments, pushing through those times you are so tired to feed because eventually it does settle down, it does get easier and you do learn to enjoy it. There were many times I cried to my husband that I couldn’t feed my daughter or that even worse that I didn’t want to feed her because of the pain. It is okay to feel like this and you are not alone. I think that was the revelation for me after visiting my local breastfeeding support team. As no one had told me those first couple of weeks would be so difficult so I sat at home feeling like a failure because I was finding it so difficult. If only I had known from day dot that it wasn’t going to be easy maybe I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself. I continued to feed my daughter Amelia until she was 7 months old through various different challenges of suspected tongue tie, damage to my nipples and a Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. I have tried to be brutally honest here not to deter you away or scare you away from breastfeeding but to give you an honest account to encourage you. Breastfeeding is still by far the best thing I was able to do for Amelia and I was so sad when we shared our last feed. With lots of determination, buckets of Lansinoh nipple cream and support from your local breastfeeding team you will get through those first couple of weeks. But ultimately do yoiu know what?… if you decide that breastfeeding isn’t for you then that is absolutely fine too. You have no way failed your child nor are you harming your child by giving them formula. Please do not feel pressured by friends, family or medical professionals that you should feed your child in a particular way. Breast or Formula as long as they are fed then you are doing the best for your little one. 

Now lets talk about bowl movements. Your first poo after giving birth is a little scary. You feel like your insides are going to fall out of your body and if you are like me and need some tidying up after childbirth its all still a little raw. Best advice I can give is that your insides are not going to fall out and you just need to relax. Make sure you are keeping your fluids up after birth and do you know what.. enjoy that 5 minutes peace and go and sit on the loo. I took a book and just decided that I wasn’t going to worry about it and it actually wasn’t as bad as I had thought!

Maternity pads. You can never have enough and even when you think you have enough you can buy some more. Not only are they great for post partum bleeding but also for some extra padding down there after birth. Another great tip was to put them in the freezer to help with swelling and discomfort after birth. I know you are probably laughing now, and so did my husband when I did it, but it was one of the best things I did!

Get some comfortable clothes that you don’t mind living in after birth. You might be one one of these mum’s that is up and dressed with a full face of make up with a week old baby but I certainly wasn’t. I think in the first two weeks I got dressed about 3 times and for the rest of the time I lived in leggings and an oversized t-shirt. If you choose to breastfeed then get several comfortable feeding bras that you can rotate in case you haven’t managed to get a load of washing done!

I can not stress enough that although you might have done all your research and have a complete plan to how you would like your labour to go it might not work out that way on the day. That is why for me midwives are the key for a successful labour. Communication, building a relationship and trust is so key so make sure you let you midwife know what is important for you in your labour so they can advise you in the best way throughout. Still do your research and get clued up about your different options, decide if there is anything you are against or would prefer not to use but go in with an open mind.

Nappies. When I was looking at nappies before Amelia arrived it was like a minefield. So many brands, types and sizes I felt so lost. After asking a few friends I picked up some Pampers and Aldi’s own range of nappies. I had also signed up to Bounty and got free packs throughout my pregnancy which had included some sample nappies from Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda and Pampers. I had decided to try them all when my little arrived and see what I liked or what worked with Amelia. The pampers nappies started from Micro (now called size 0) which would fit babies born weighing 3lbs 5oz to 5lb 5oz (1.5kg to 2.5kg). Now I wasn’t sure at this point if I was having a tiny baby or not and but I thought it was a good idea to get some just in case; and I am glad I did. Amelia was born a healthy 7lbs 12oz but lost quite a bit of her birth weight in those first couple of days and the size one nappies were huge on her. We tried the micro nappies and they fit perfectly and she stayed in this size for just over the first month. My advice would be grab a packet, have them just in case and if you don’t use them then kindly donate to your local maternity ward or Foodbank. Micro nappies aren’t just for premature babies or babies with low birth weight – they great for long skinny babies just like my Amelia!

Pillows are like gold dust in hospital so I would suggest to bring an extra pillow with you but make sure that it has a coloured pillow case otherwise you will unfortunately lose it to the NHS!

There are lots of blog posts and information online for suggestions to pack in your hospital bag and I will be sharing my list next month so keep your eyes peeled. My biggest suggestion here for your hospital bag is pack your little one’s outfits into ziplock bags. This helps to make your life a little easier when baby is here and if your husband has to dress your baby like mine they can just grab a bag with everything they need. Steve has said that was the best thing we packed in our hospital bag and I think it takes the pressure away from picking the wrong things from an already nervous situation of dressing a newborn baby. We also packed two different sizes of clothes so depending on how chunky our baby was we would have the right clothes to fit. In the end she was so skinny that newborn was too big and we should have packed some tiny baby but I think you see what I mean. Again this was all packed into a ziplock bag and clearly labelled for me, Steve or anyone else who needed to dress our little one.

If you are intending to breastfeed or at least give it a go then I would absolutely suggest to purchase a tube of lanolin cream. It was amazing and worked wonders for me during my periods of cracked nipples and poor latch, cluster feeds or at the beginning when my milk had just come in. There are lots of different brands and own brand alternatives from Boots and Superdrug but I used Lanosinoh on suggestion from my sister in law’s who both breastfed. You can find Lanosinoh in most shops and also can be found on Amazon here. If you are intending to give breastfeeding a go then I would absolutely suggest visiting your local breastfeeding clinic for support. I found mine invaluable and visited them so often in the first month to check that latch/positioning was all correct. In those first weeks you and your little one are learning to feed and you both have to learn the most comfortable position to feed in for you both. The breastfeeding advisers at these clinics can help to check you have a correct latch, suggest alternative positions to feed in as well some support for you as a mum in the challenges breastfeeding a baby can bring. Even if you don’t know if you will breastfeed or if you want to go to one of your local clinics I would definitely look them up and know where/when they run so you have this in your toolkit if you need it. You can also visit these clinics before the baby is here to have a chat about breastfeeding and any questions you may have.

The biggest thing to remember is every baby is different. Some babies loved to be cuddled all the time and some like to have their own space. Some babies like to be cuddled to sleep whilst others like to be on the move when going to sleep. Some babies like to be swaddled and some babies don’t. You will learn all these things for your little one but ultimately they just need you. You are their source of comfort, the known in an unknown new environment. So when you have days where you are anxious about having a newborn to look after or in those early days where you don’t think you are doing it right… YOU ARE. You have got this mama!

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