Just under 20 months ago, I delivered a baby boy after 9 hours of labour.
And everyday since, it's been a journey of self-discovery. From learning how to operate on minimal sleep, to finding new hidden depths of my heart I didn't know existed.
But here are the 10 things I wish someone had told me about those first few months with baby.
1. The start of your breastfeeding journey will hurt. A lot. You will wince but not make a sound when your 3 day old bundle of love latches onto your cracked and possibly bleeding nipples. So stock up on gel pads (my personal favourite were the ones from Rite Aid that my girlfriend - and fellow mama - bought me from Australia) and lanolin (I used the one from Medela). If you don't have gel pads and need to improvise, wet some nappies and put them in the fridge/freezer. Put it on after breastfeeding in lieu of your bra.
2. Have a tin of formula and a sterilised bottle on standby at home when you first get back from the hospital. Yes, breastfeeding is ideal. But everyone is built different. Sometimes it takes awhile for your milk to come in. Sometimes baby has trouble latching. There's a lot of social pressure on mom's to breastfeed, but if for whatever reason it isn't happening, at least you have a back-up for baby whilst you try to work through the issues.
3. Buy a dressing gown because you're going to be too tired and sore to wear anything else in your first few weeks at home with a newborn. Chances are, you will just want to walk around naked all day because you're giving those battered nipples a chance to get some air and you're too tired to figure out clothes, or laundry for that matter. But it's highly likely family and friends will come visit, and you might have a confinement nanny or helper at home with you so you can't ditch clothes. Cotton On has a good and inexpensive range of dressing gowns. Get a couple.
4. From now until possibly forever more (I'm only 20 months out, so I'll keep you posted on what lies ahead), you will pee a little every time you sneeze. Or do jumping jacks. There's a reason they tell you those kegel exercises are so important. Now you know.
5. Be kind to your partner. Parenthood can be tiring and often trying, so laugh through the madness together. Remember, you were partners and lovers before you became parents. And now you're in this together. Our baby milestone wood cards are designed to remind parents to celebrate those first few challenges with a bit of humour. They also make for a wonderful keepsake that you can gift your child when they're older.
6. Be kind to yourself. Post natal depression is real. When a little person depends on you for survival and your motherly instincts are at an all time high, it's easy to run yourself ragged. Everything that I did for myself, I did in double quick time because I had to get back to Eli. I ate quick. I peed quick. I showered quick - and that meant not having the time (or frankly, the inclination) to wash my hair. Sometimes I would go up to 5 days with my unwashed hair tied up in a messy bun. But then on the 6th day, I would feel like I just wanted to look human and clean again. It's ok mama's. It's ok to take time out for yourself. It's ok to ask for help from your partner\mom\dad\in-laws\sister\girlfriend. Even just 30min of me-time - being able to take a long hot shower, using the loofah, washing and conditioning your hair - can do wonders in lifting your spirits. So do it. Happy mama, happy baby.
7. Accept hand-me-downs for newborn clothes because they grow so fast in those first few months. Baby clothes are adorable, and it's tempting to splurge on tiny little outfits (we carry a small collection of organic muslin onesies for babies that are designed for daily wear). But remember that your baby will outgrow them in a month or less. If you see an outfit you cannot resist - in our household, tiny shoes are our achilles heel (no pun intended) - try and apply this rule of thumb: buy only one item per stage/size. i.e. Eli has one pair of shoes per size. If we see something that we cannot resist, we buy it in the next size up, so he only gets to it once he's outgrown his current pair.
8. Pumping takes up a lot of time. At my most frequent - I did it 6 times a day, for about 30-40min each time. The best thing I bought was a bra that held the shields in place whilst I pumped so I had my hands free to drink water, use my phone and eat. Also kept my hands free to occasionally massage the boobs whilst I was pumping, which I found helped prevent\undo any lumps or clogged ducts.
9. Get a stroller that you can manage when you're out solo with baby. I spent a lot of time looking at strollers online when we were shopping for one, but nothing beats touching\trying one in real life. And this is important because when you're browsing online, it's easy to dismiss a 2-3kg difference in weight as minimal. After reading plenty of reviews, I was pretty convinced the Bugaboo Bee 5 was the stroller for us. But a tip from a friend and a trip to the shop turned us to the Babyzen Yoyo+ - which is what we eventually got.
On paper the Bee is only 1-2kg heavier than the Yoyo+, and I liked that the seat is longer and can face front or back. In reality, the 1-2kg turned out to be too much for me to handle on my own - lifting it in and out of the car, sometimes whilst also carrying a diaper bag, pump and work bag. It's like running an ultra marathon where every gram matters, even the weight of the ziplock bag you're carrying.
20months on, I'm happy to say it's a good thing my husband stood firm and insisted we get the Yoyo+. We have taken it on treks, in planes and on the trains in Japan. It folds up easily with one hand, and fits in the overhead compartment of most modes of public transport. The compact size also means I can fit it in the boot of my car along with bags of groceries and still have space to spare.
10. Always bring a muslin swaddle wherever you go. They are lightweight and great for so many things - as a nursing cover, as a blanket if baby gets cold whilst you're out, as a stroller cover if baby falls asleep and you want to block some of the light out, as a play mat if you want to put baby on the floor, as a towel after swim class, as a liner for your stroller or car seat because diaper leaks are a thing, and it's much easier to throw a swaddle in the wash instead of your stroller\car seat, I could go on. We carry a lovely range of swaddle sets, with $10 from the sale of each swaddle set donated to Singapore Children's Society in support of the meaningful work they do helping children and families in need.