We had some good friends over for lunch the other day, and their first baby is due soon. It was exciting for me because a) Charlie is at the age where he’ll happily sit in his highchair so long as I throw food at him and b) I can talk the leg off a highchair about all those topics that cause kid-free people’s eyes to glaze over: controlled crying, fatherhood freak-outs, feeding dramas, sleeping dramas, childbirth, post-baby sex and so on.
Eventually my friend managed to get a word in edgeways and mentioned that she kept hearing that the first six weeks are the WORST.
“Absolutely bloody mental,” I agreed.
“In what way?” she said. “I’ve read about everything else and have got my head around a lot of it, but when we first bring the baby home, how can I survive that six-week time everyone keeps warning me about?”
She asked me to write a post about it and so Melissa, this one’s for you.
1. Stock the freezer like there’s a blizzard on the way. Preferably with meals that require no more brainpower than chucking it in the microwave and pressing ‘Start’. My friends Tim and Lisa rocked up just after Charlie was born with two weeks’ worth of pre-cooked, labelled comfort food meals and can I just say, Best. Present. Ever.
2. Buy about 300 nappies. At least. I’m serious, your baby will mow through those suckers in no time flat.
3. Have some bottles and formula at the ready. You can have the best intentions and try every position and get advice from all the lactation consultants and hook your mother jugs up to the breast pump 70 hours a day, and breastfeeding just doesn’t work out. It happens. And when you have a hangry baby on your hands and a malfunctioning rack, making up a bottle is a no-brainer.
4. Don’t assume your relationship is on the skids. It’s not. It’s just, when you’re beyond exhausted, it’s reaaaaally easy to take everything your partner says personally. Or read shit into what they just said that they really didn’t mean. Or probably meant. But whatever, chances are they are beyond exhausted too, and everyone gets a pass in the first six weeks. Let it go. And on that note, try not to critique everything each other does. You’re both on the steepest learning curve of your life; who cares if the nappy’s on backwards.
5. Know that crying is normal. Crying plus wishing you were dead or having worrying thoughts about your bubba is not – call me (really, do) if you feel that way at all, or you can try Panda to get some help. But I do think hormonal, garden variety weeping is par for the course in the first six weeks. When you’re that tired, there’s nothing left to do, and a good weep can be quite restorative. I liked to do my weeping in the shower. And on the couch. And in the car. And in bed. And in the kitchen. And lying on the floor. And while on the phone to my mum, and my sister and my friend Lisa, and anyone else who would listen to me weeping about how goddammed tired I was. Which brings me to…
6. … You won’t always be this tired. Everyone told me that and I didn’t believe any of them, because when you’re in the thick of it, it is a hellish, nausea-inducing, down-to-your-bones exhaustion like nothing you have ever experienced. But you do adjust, and your baby will slowly learns to sleep longer and at more sociable times. Usually by the time they’re in middle school, I hear. I’M JOKING. Ring Tresillian (1800 637 357) or BabyBliss (1300 166 940) for advice if you need it. You can also call me to rant and cry anytime, or bring your baby over and go nap in my bed. I mean it. I wish I’d taken friends up on that suggestion, looking back.
7. Forget routines right now. Newborns are too young to get with the program (and please, ignore the idiots that swear by controlled crying from the day they bring home baby from hospital). I never had time to read a baby book, so I just learned to watch Charlie’s cues and treated him like a mini version of myself – like you or me they get hungry, sleepy, want a cuddle etc. You can instil routines when they’re older and not freaking out so much about this big scary world they’re suddenly dealing with.
8. Stock up on wraps. The best way to settle, soothe and comfort little babies for the first few months is to swaddle them so they feel like they’re back in the womb. I was given and bought many wraps but the Aden and Anais wraps are my absolute favourite because they’re light, they breathe and they get softer and softer the more you use and wash them.
9. Know that you will learn what all the cries mean. I wrote early on about the types of cries to look for and what they mean (or what they meant for Charlie, anyway), but the one I still remember with slack-jawed horror is something called PURPLE crying. Your baby nurse will tell you what it stands for, I was too sleep-deprived to remember, but it’s the new-fangled term for the witching hour, where many babies go batshit crazy around 5-7pm and nothing you do works. You have to tag team it (I used to spend the times Mr Chick was holding the baby in the bathroom weeping myself…)
10. Get out of the house on your own. A quick coffee up the road, a swim at the local pool, a lie-down on your mate’s couch (mine is always open to you, I can clear the toys off it) can do wonders for your mental state.
Good luck Miss. You totally won’t need it, you’ll be great – and we can’t wait to meet your bubba!
Do you remember the first six weeks? I know many mums have blocked it out or just forgotten that time. If you do remember, what would be your survival tips?