A little “there’s light at the end of the tunnel” post for those who are in the throes of newborn baby chaos. If you’re muddling through a life of relentless baby-feeding, non-existent evenings and interrupted nights then fear not: this too shall pass. And then you’ll wonder what the hell to do with your quiet evenings. (You won’t, that’s a total lie. And anyway, I have loads of suggestions for you, in case you’re stuck for ideas.)
So here are five newborn baby things that get better with time. The longlist is – well – long, but I’ve picked my favourites for you, if “favourite” is even the right word. To be quite honest, if these things hadn’t got better with time then I very much doubt I’d be typing this up after my second baby – I’d have contraceptioned myself up to the hilt! Femidom, condom and possibly sterilisation. (Has anyone ever tried a Femidom? Remember when they first came out and they were all the rage? I imagine they must feel a bit like a mini bin-liner inside you. All crinkly and a bit off-putting: discuss.)
Baby Digestive Issues
OK, so for me, newborn baby digestive “quirks” cause(d) the most amount of disruption to my life. And they weren’t even serious ones, with either newborn: I’m talking trapped wind for both of them and a tiny bit of reflux with Ted. How people cope with babies that have serious digestive problems I do not know; it’s so distressing listening to a baby in pain and it’s also frustrating when you feel as though you can’t help them and it’s actually very depressing and upsetting having to deal with hours of continuous screaming. Now I know that some people have to deal with digestive issues for longer periods but usually, as the baby gets older and the digestive system matures, things like trapped wind become less of a problem. I had to wind Ted after every feed at the start (sometimes mid-feed) and when you’re knackered and it’s the middle of the night, winding a baby is no mean feat. Especially if they are quite long and you need to stand up to get them into a non-scrunched-up position. And the worst is when you think they’re comfy and asleep after a feed, and you don’t want to wind them because it’ll disturb them. so you slip them into the crib, turn off the light and just start to close your eyes, and then they wake up because they have trapped wind. ARGH!
And the reflux thing wasn’t fun, but it stopped completely on the day that I cut milk out of my diet. Nobody advised me to do this (in fact the doctor at the six week check thought it very unlikely that my milk-drinking was causing it) but it is a magnificent coincidence is it not? And, last week, Ted was a bit sick for the first time in weeks – I’d had a bowl of cereal with full-fat milk!
The other thing that helped with Ted’s uncomfortable tummy (he would grunt and sort of growl-cough for ages after a feed if he was lying down) was raising the head of the crib slightly. This was on the health visitor’s advice and it worked almost instantly. Like magic. I rammed two books under the runners of the Snuzpod crib at the head-end, so that the whole thing was on a bit of a slant (not too much, obviously, just a gentle slope, you don’t want them sliding down to the bottom!) and the grunts ceased to be.
Now, at almost twelve weeks in, Ted still gets trapped wind but it’s easier to burp him (chuck him over my shoulder, and I mean right over so that his tummy is on my shoulder not his chest, and then rub his back, then when I sit him upright on my lap he does a massive belch!) and he’s never sick. Those long hours spent trying to make him more comfortable are something of a distant memory.
The Crazy Hours
Does your newborn have a few hours a day when they just won’t be comforted by anything? I’ve had this with both babies and with Angelica I just had to ride it out, listening to the crying and trying to feed her while her face was all red and angry and then feeling helpless and frustrated, because I didn’t know any better. This time around, with Ted, I’ve been a little bit more pragmatic in my approach and each time he’s had his crazy hours I’ve simply worked through a checklist of things to do, which has kept me calm and more detached, which I think has helped Ted to be more easily comforted. I’m going to do a separate post on this, because the “crazy crying evenings” are enough to drive you totally insane, but my self-developed method has basically been to calm him down completely before trying to feed him. Change his nappy, spend some time walking him around on my shoulder and then feed, and feed in a quiet place, not in front of Homeland whilst I try to “still have my evening” and shovel down a plate of pasta at the same time! A few months in and we’re down to about an hour of fussy time each day, which is totally OK in terms of me keeping my sanity.
Three weeks in and your eyes feel like hot coals, your brain won’t function properly and you’re averaging around one and a half hours’ sleep per stretch, barely sinking into the pillow before you need to wake up again. This (with any luck, hohoho) is a temporary situation and you really need to hold onto that thought in order to not lose your mind. You won’t always be this tired. People will say to you “oh, just wait until you have two under two/five under six/a new puppy and a baby!” but, just to gift you with a little parcel of optimism, this is probably the most tired you’ll ever be. Nothing compares to the zombified, semi-waking state of life with a newborn. So as you flick through iPlayer in an attempt to stop yourself from falling asleep over your feeding baby (what if I crush him with my gargantuan breasts?!), congratulate yourself on the fact that nobody, ever, has been more tired than you and you’re not even crying about it. (Maybe you are, that’s OK too.)
Lack of Routine
Does your day lack anything remotely resembling a structure? Are you eating cereal at 4pm before having a three hour nap and putting your washing on at 2am? Finding it difficult to plan anything in advance, because who even knows when the baby might next want a feed?
I’d be lying if I said that this situation gets better, because I’ve never managed to really plan anything in advance since having Angelica, but what does get better is your ability to “go with the flow” and have a more flexible attitude. Last week I took Ted on a photoshoot (had to, as I’m breastfeeding and haven’t started expressing yet) and we just had to muddle through the day. He slept for the whole time it would have been convenient to feed him and then woke up each time I was on set!
With Angelica, things improved dramatically once she was in a little routine, but it still didn’t mean that I had a good routine going – I just found myself planning things around hers. Just living for the moment. Which is totally against my nature, but I’ve had to accept that this is life once you’re looking after people other than yourself!
My weird, empty sack of a stomach really bothered me when I had Angelica. Not just because it made me look hugely unattractive, both clothed and naked, but because it looked as though it was never going to go down. I mean, there was nothing else inside it to come out (hopefully!) but it was massive and doughy and had an excess of skin and I just couldn’t imagine how it would ever right itself. But – hurrah! – it did. I mean, it was never flat, not by any stretch of the imagination (it was almost there and then I got pregnant again), but at least it didn’t look like a giant flesh omelette. This time around, it doesn’t particularly bother me at all, except when people ask “when it’s due?”. I definitely want it to flatten down a bit, but not enough to sacrifice my nightly mini-magnum. Or sandwiches. Or spicy pasta topped with buffalo mozzarella. Or cake. Because I need those extra calories for the baby, don’t I? Let’s not rush this tummy business – it also makes quite a good shelf when you’re breastfeeding sitting up in bed. No need for a special pillow when you’ve got a semi-solid gut to rest things on…
So there you are then – a few things about having a newborn baby that will make you want to spoon out your own eyeballs with a soup ladle, but that will get better with time. Even if it does sometimes take a while – you have to retain a sense of optimism in this life! And before you know it, you don’t have a baby anymore, you have a toddler wearing dungarees shouting “NO” and throwing their plate on the floor. So, y’know, try to embrace each stage of the journey!