I wanted to write a straight-talkin’ shoot-from-the-hip kinda guide to parenthood. A couple of colleagues of mine are about to have children, with (@TomFoxPM) and(@gregbloor)’s Son or Daughter arrival being imminent. So fire up the wingback chair, put a crackly record on the Gramophone and pour yourself an absinthe. Let’s get this Eastrogen filled show on the road! Baby Baby, this will be all about parenting!
NB: I find all the below common sense, and it should be, because it is. So I’m not trying to teach anyone how to suck eggs!
Here’s some facts before we begin;
– You’ll become an amateur paediatrician.
– You’ll become immune to sounds over 120dB.
– You’ll learn to live on four hours sleep and function pretty well.
– You’ll experience highs and lows as if you were on Crystal Meth.
– You’ll give up eating proper dinner together with your other half again for at least a year.
In general, and like everything else, the more prepared you are the better time you’ll have. Never underestimate the amount of ‘stuff’ you’ll need. Also, make some key decisions before the birth. Are you going to breast feed or not? Are you going to go down the terry-towel (bad idea) route of nappies or not? What’s your sterilization strategy? (for the bottles, not for the man! Or maybe the man!) Teet shapes? Bottle sizes? Got the nursery sorted out? In terms of the nursery, don’t be too overwhelmed with the things you need in it.
A good cot, a decent sprung mattress (you can buy a range of mattresses’), a Moses basket (the wicker type) and lots of subtle lighting. All good things.
Recreate the womb
Babies are highly sensory obviously, so the more you can enclose them in environments which simulate the womb the more settled they will be. I’m not suggesting you start throwing amniotic fluid & blood everywhere like it’s a scene from some 60’s B-movie horror scene – but I’m talking about keeping the room fairly dark, quiet & at the right temperature. All this will help – your babies ‘happy’ space if you will. Get a temperature sensor for the room, a decent glow-egg variety are accurate and easy to use.
Going Full Circle
Your baby only cries for a very specific set of reasons. Learn that shit. Too cold, too warm, shat itself, wants to be touched, and wants to be put down. Wants to sleep. Overtired. Hungry. Work your way around the ‘circle’ checking each one. No luck? Do it again. Give yourself some time, and then do it again. What worked on Monday may not work on Tuesday! Swallow that sadness! Routine is key. Movement works wonders. But not that up and down shaking some people seem to be fond of. Nice slow rocking, lots of coo’ing and gentle white noise. In the first few weeks, like it or not sometimes baby will only want Mother. The smell, the skin to skin, so Dad, get in the kitchen and make the tea.
Breast is best
Make the decision about whether you’ll breast feed or not. Babies need heaps of fluid, sometimes 200ml every couple of hours. Extracting that from a pair of sore nipples belonging to an angry tired mum is going to be difficult. If Mum can breast feed for the first few days, your baby will get all the colostrum (the best bit which helps with fighting infection) from Mum’s milk, and then it’s fine to move onto formula. This way is almost the best of both worlds. Synthetic formula is very good now, so don’t let old school midwifes into pressuring you into the breast is best thing. We can land man on the moon, map the human genome and fight cancer, we’ve got baby milk covered. Really.
As your baby moves through the month to month milestones, get a good diet book, I recommend Annabel Carmel’s. We’ve followed it exclusively. We’re big cooks in our house, (COOKS I SAID) so we find it very easy to cook anything. Our daughter has had nothing but home cooked food since she’s been old enough to eat solids. It has a HUGE IMPACT on behaviour & mood and setting standards at such a young age. We know this because we compare the behaviour of our child to others who have chowed down on chocolate pots, sweets and high sugar products and the difference is staggering.
No juice, nothing sweet, no chocolate. Try and not be tempted to feed sweet things for the ‘quick win’ of shutting your child up. At six months, our daughter was eating potato, earthy vegetables, cottage pie, lasagnes, Bolognese’s, fish, anything really. Just basically remember to not add seasoning and anything like chilli, and you’ll be fine. And remember, you too could have a extra helping of smug b*stard, just like Annabel here! Because life is really like this.
Formula (the excel variety)
Get yourself a good book and understand the amounts of formula and fluid your little additional will need in their first two weeks, six weeks, eight weeks and onwards.Check this Spreadsheet out Get a bottle steriliser.
The Tommy Tippee one is a life saver. Don’t get too many bottle types to start with. Your baby will favour a particular bottle with a particular type of teet so buy a variety, test, and then bulk up on those. At £5 a pop, you don’t want to get this wrong.
See the spreadsheet attached to see what we did in terms of our maths for our Daughter.
Smile, you’re on camera!
Don’t even think in a world of technology an audio-only baby monitor is going to cut it. Whilst you won’t be putting your precious load in its own room for a while, (and your man won’t be putting his precious load anywhere for that matter!) think about using an iPad iPhone combo, and this app which for £2.90 is better than any bit of kit on the market. Seriously. Don’t do anything else.
Buying a buggy is like buying a car. Different chassis and material types, different interiors, discbrakes, hydraulic suspension, single wishbone monocoque frames, there’ a lot to think about. Your instinct will make you buy a HUGE 4 x 4 a like monster, which if you’re out on the open trails like in a Tampax ad, is great, but you try getting that bad boy round Waitrose!
Spend the same money, but get a couple, one a little smaller and easier to fold with one hand. Here’s something to think about – Measure your doorways. Some of these massive buggies simply don’t fit through (easily) the door in a modern (and sometimes smaller) door width found in modern homes. Also think where you’re going to store this when babies not in it. It needs to be easy to grab for mum, and operational with one hand when she is on her own.
You must ensure you immediately put the baby into a routine. Identical nap times, identical feed times, so the baby can learn what’s coming. Find a routine and stick to it religiously. It is the key to sleeping well. An average and up to 8 month old will sleep over 15-20 hours a day if you’re doing it right.
Stimulus tires baby out massively. Put the effort in and play. No TV or no quick wins such as phones or Ipads. Play. Lots of play. Expose them to the outdoors as quickly as possible, expose them to as much as you can, as quickly as possible. It helps their development so much. Only now at 9 months, we’ve put twenty minutes of TV into Mia’s schedule, as part of her going to bed routine. Nickelodeon Junior can be a godsend. Pyjanimals and Peppapig are your friends here.
Don’t sweat the mistake. The babies not as fragile as you think. Ensure the posterior and exterior fontenelle close, don’t panic every time there’s projectile vomit. Constant crying is not a bad thing. Don’t panic. The calmer and more relaxed you are, the more baby will be as they look to you to make sense of the new world they are in. Remember the happy place, recreate the womb.
Make some immediate time out to do things as a couple again, like it used to be before baby. It’s important!
Eating (for you)
In those first few hours when you’ve transported baby home you’ll do nothing but look at them and stare in wonderment. The last thing you think about is sustenance for yourself. Eating well is vital though, as you’ll need to learn how to cope on fewer hours sleep (certainly in the first few weeks) so make up food in advance. A little tip – use paper plates and disposable cutlery. That way, you can plate nibbles and light bites in the fridge. When you’re done, throw the plates and things away. No washing up! Huzzah!
If you prepare, and are lucky enough to have the support, family network and everything in place to make it as smooth a ride as possible, and baby is predominantly planned and brought into a loving world, you’re going to have a great time.
That feeling you felt when you first realised you fell in love with your partner?? You’ll feel like that every time you look at your son or daughter. It’s addictive. Watching this little person look at you and their eyes light up every time you walk into the room. Their first uttering or words – when you are the only person which can soothe them. All magic moments in your life. When they wake in the morning and look at you and smile for the first time of the day – that there’s a feeling which will live with you forever.