Things I wish someone had told me when I had my first baby (although perhaps they did and I didn’t listen)

I started this document when my baby#1 was a month old. I’d read all the books but there were still some things I wish someone had told me. Maybe they had and I didn’t listen! Anyway a friend felt the same so here are some things we thought it would have been useful to know. I’ve since updated it to include reflections on baby#2, who is currently 3 months old. This is not expert advice, just thoughts from a mum! Please pass it on if you find it useful, I’d be delighted to get feedback!

When to change a nappy?

This sounds obvious but in those first few weeks you can find yourself obsessing over it. Newborn babies need lots of sleep, and unless the nappy is really disgusting, or they are developing a sore bottom, don’t worry about a strict changing schedule. My friends and I agreed on this as a rule of thumb:

Criteria for changing a nappy (in priority order)
there is more than a few dots of poo 2) there is wee 3) it’s more than 6 hours since nappy was last changed

How many layers?

I’d love to see examples of how to dress a new baby (up to 3 months?) in bed, at home, outside, at different temperatures/times of year, and what they should wear. Unfortunately I never saw such guidance. In general we went for one more layer than us. Its scary at first but it becomes second nature after a few months

Swaddling for sleep

With baby#1 swaddling seemed cruel, constraining his arms. But now I think it makes for a better sleep for baby. They’re not used to so much space around them and find it more calming to be enclosed in blankets, so save them the confusion, at least for the first week or so! Look up instructions on swaddling, then fold a blanket or sheet flat and use it to tuck them in firmly from shoulder height, tucking it under the mattress on both sides. Its a useful approach to try for the first month.

Tips for sterilising

  • Don’t expect to find definite consistent answers on sterilising: different people and different manufacturers say different things
  • Have a big tupperware box to store items in
  • If you get a steam steriliser, be careful that there is space above the vent because it gets hot: you can’t use it under a wall cupboard
  • Wash items in warm soapy water, then rinse, then put in the steriliser
  • Once sterilised, items count as sterilised for 1 hour, I think!

Tips for storing and using milk

  • Breast milk can be expressed and stored in breast milk bags, in the fridge for 24 hours, or the deep freeze for 3 months
  • Breast milk bags are cheap, and babies only take small amounts of milk at first, so use a bag per express, even if you only manage 30 ml at a time. It avoids wasting milk>
  • Until you have a routine for expressing, having small amounts of breast milk in bags makes it easy to combine them into different amounts in bottles, and avoids wastage
  • Even if you are using a breast pump with an integrated bottle, transfer milk to a bag for storage so that you can sterilised the pump kit ready for next time
  • Most people warm up milk to room temperature
  • Once milk is warmed up it should not be re-warmed
  • If going out for a few hours or more, put a sterilised bottle in the changing bag and a small carton of formula just in case, “they” will tell you not to, but its piece of mind in an emergency

Even though you’re planning to breastfeed …

  • Buy steriliser and bottles because you might want to express at some point (see below) even if you wait a few months, and you never know if you’ll need to express if baby really won’t take to the breast for a while, or if baby is in special care.
  • Buy some small cartons of formula mix, because you might want to top up baby if you are having problems with breastfeeding, or baby is still hungry after breastfeeding, or if you are exhausted
  • Buy breast pump in case your milk comes in a lot or fast. “they” will tell you not too, but for £20/30 you can keep it in the cupboard for a few months on when breastfeeding is established

If you’re having problems, or just not sure if you’re “doing it right”, get help. NCT breastfeeding councillors can help. Family members can help. Lose your boob embarrassment and just ask. Your helper might need to touch your boob, see your nipple, and look at the baby’s mouth as they suckle. Just go with it. Its how women help each other all over the world


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