Coming from a military family, I’m a firm believer in the ‘seven Ps’ – proper planning and preparation prevents p**s poor performance. Despite my love of organisation, I wasn’t naive enough to believe I would be the perfect parent if I did my homework. However, like every mother, I wanted to be the best I could be from day one.
It didn’t matter how much reading I crammed in before having my daughter or the endless chats I had with family, friends and NCT mummies, I knew there was so much more to learn. More dauntingly, most of it would be ‘on the job.’ Nothing would truly prepare my husband and I for this incredible chapter in our lives but, like millions of parents before us, we did our best to quickly find our armbands to help us stay afloat through our first go at it.
Once Emilia arrived and we started putting our freshly learned skills into action, we soon came across some of these parenthood ‘Easter Eggs’ that we hadn’t known about.
1. Always change the nappy before a feed, rather than waiting until afterwards. I found this helped if Emilia was crying or fussy, as I didn’t know whether I was in for the long haul feeding wise. A swift pre-feed change can eliminate any further guesswork if your baby is still unsettled, as you’ll know they’re clean and dry.
2. I was well aware that every baby is different and develops individual preferences for certain things. However I had no idea they could – and in our case, would – change their feeding preference. We started with breastfeeding latching struggles and then added bottle feeding into the mix (both expressed milk and formula) before finally switching to exclusively breastfeeding, as my daughter suddenly refused to bottle feed and preferred her milk from source! I had no idea her feeding habits would change so much and she wouldn’t bottle feed – the baby books certainly didn’t tell me this could happen! I even worked my way through most of the different bottle brands to see if she liked a particular shape or style, but nothing worked. My top tip is to contact the manufacturers directly to ask them to send you a sample bottle – this saved me a small fortune!
3. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Your body needs lots of TLC after giving birth and wearing the right clothing can make all the difference. Whether you rock comfy PJs or non-maternity clothing and heels, just do what makes you happy! But don’t forget the little things too. A properly fitted bra can help to make you feel more comfortable while preventing the risk of mastitis or similar problems. I had no idea when to get measured or how much my body would change in size while my body adjusted to breastfeeding. I’d recommend buying a few cheaper nursing bras to last you for the first few weeks while your supply is coming in and then get re-measured around 12 weeks. There’s a great Facebook group and website called Boob or Bust which gives a fantastic, free online service to help you work out your size thanks to its online calculator – it’s actually great for all ladies, not just breastfeeding mums, and offers fitting advice through its Facebook page too. I can’t recommend it enough and you might be surprised to see the results – lots of women on the Facebook page have discovered they’ve been wearing the wrong size for years!
4. I’m amazed at how much my perspective on life has changed since becoming a mum and how much I’ve laughed through embarrassing situations that would have previously filled me with dread, pre-motherhood. I’m not the type of girl to put everything on show and so bought a feeding scarf to use when breastfeeding in public, as I couldn’t imagine getting my boobs out in front of complete strangers. Now, I can joke about drenching us both because my daughter pulled off just at the wrong time! Not our finest hour, but laughter definitely put a stop to any embarrassment I might have previously felt. And I’ve never used that scarf!
5. Nothing prepared me for the love I felt for my daughter, once she finally arrived. I didn’t realise just how much you can love someone until I held Emilia in my arms for the first time. Giving birth was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and now I feel I can do anything. I feel empowered. Just a smile from my little girl can get me through a bad day and seeing her learn new things makes me incredibly proud.
Six months have flown by and I’m still learning so much everyday – I’m just pleased I don’t have my head stuck in a book anymore, as my daughter is the greatest teacher I could wish for.
A Guest Blog from Pippa Hanson
Pippa is a PR Consultant on maternity leave. She lives just outside of Cheltenham with her husband James, six-month-old Emilia and their two guinea pigs, Evie and Ruby Roo. You can follow Pippa on Instagram.