So you’ve got your birth plan sorted, but have you prepared for how to cope with an infant who, annoyingly, doesn’t come with an instruction manual? No need to trawl Google for all the info – here’s how to get on the right track.
KNOW WHAT’S NORMAL
Not sure where to start? You’re not on your own there. ‘It’s completely normal to feel as though you don’t know what you’re doing. Because you don’t,’ says Kirstin Bouse, clinical psychologist at Life Resolutions Morley and founder of The Conscious Mother’s Group. Feeling like a complete novice can be tough, especially when you’re already fragile from lack of sleep and just learning how to feed. ‘One of the best ways to eliminate the fear of being a bad mother is to stop comparing yourself to other mothers,’ says Jackie Hall, author, counsellor and founder of the Parental Stress Centre of Australia.
YOU FEEL DOWN
If you find yourself sobbing for no apparent reason around day three or four after giving birth, don’t stress out. 'Most women have the baby blues,’ explains Kirstin. ‘It’s a hormonal thing.’ Kirstin recommends being prepared – enlist your partner for support and in advance explain to them how you might feel, so they can step in and remind you that the blues are fleeting (if or when they strike). If talking things through doesn’t put your worries into perspective, then get some help. ‘If you’re still feeling the blues for two weeks or more, talk to your GP or child health nurse,’ Kirstin advises.
ACCEPT YOUR BODY
While you may have envisioned yourself leaving the hospital in your pre-maternity jeans, the reality is that your body will take time to adjust. Jackie recommends focusing on the positives and reflecting on just what an achievement it is to grow a healthy, happy baby. ‘Learning to be grateful for the things your body does, rather than how it looks, can go a long way to dealing with the post-birth body,’ she says. ‘Each stretchmark, each part of your body represents the enormous journey you’ve just been on to create this little being.’
RELATIONSHIPS WILL SHIFT
‘It’s normal for relationships to change after what is the most life-changing event that anyone can experience,’ says Kristin. ‘Talk about this beforehand.’ It’s important to recognise that both you and your partner are new to parenthood. ‘Take one day at a time, create a bubble for you and your partner to live in [as you] get to know yourself as a mother... and get to know your partner in his/her new role,’ Kristin adds. The more you can share the experience, the better. Similarly, your social life will change while you adapt to your new life. Learning as you go, adjusting your expectations and remembering that this current phase won’t last forever, are key.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM BUB
SLEEPING While your little one is likely to sleep around 16 in every 24 hours, they’ll split that time over a series of different snoozes throughout the day and night.
FEEDING Whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, your baby will usually want to be fed every two to three hours, potentially with a longer four-hour stretch overnight. However, they may also want to feed more frequently during fussy periods, sometimes called the ‘witching hours’ between 5pm and 10pm.
NAPPIES Newborns need to have their nappies changed frequently due to their tendency to wee out a lot of the milk they are drinking, not to mention the infamous poo-splosions that are common occurrences during the first month. It’s not uncommon for a new baby to poo between six to eight times per day.