Having a baby is a big deal, I think we all know that. But no matter how many blogs or books you read beforehand, how many parents you talk to or how many babies you hang out with, you will never be fully prepared for parenthood until it happens to you. That’s just the way it goes.
But to try to help you just a little bit, here are 10 things you really should know about (but nobody tells you) before your little person arrives.
The stuff of the Beard’s nightmares. He likes to call it a mix of tar and molasses, but it’s actually the first poo to come out of your darling baby’s bum. It’s basically the stuff the baby has been ingesting during the nine months he’s been hanging out in your uterus. Apparently it’s made up of intestinal epithelial cells, lanugo, mucous, amniotic fluid, bile, and water – I don’t know what half of those things are but it’s pretty gross. Or so I’ve been told. I was so out of after my C-section that I didn’t have to deal with the meconium – that was daddy dear’s first duty.
Also known as the snotsucker. It’s a sad fact that as soon as you think things are settling down and you’re starting to feel comfortable with this whole parenting thing, your kid is going to get sick. Sadly, there’s not a whole lot you can do, especially when they are teeny tiny. But if it’s snot and congestion that your little one is struggling with, then Nosefrida to the rescue! It might look a little scary (and the freaky picture on the box doesn’t help) and your little one is probably not going to enjoy it (read: will most definitely scream blue murder) but basically you stick the nosefrida up their nose and suck their snot out. Charming.
A few days after you give birth your milk will come in. While that might sound like a nice, simple process, it can be remarkably painful. It make sense that your boobs will become bigger when your milk comes in but if you aren’t able to get rid of that milk then you may become engorged. My milk came in the day after J was born and I struggled to feed for a few days so I became engorged. My boobs were ginormous, solid and throbbingly sore. If you imagine they were pretty much rock-hard grapefruit (Not sexy at all. The Beard was intrigued but most definitely not turned on – but that might also be because of my maternity granny panties and catheter, who knows?) so it became even harder for J to latch, which didn’t help things. Breastfeeding is no walk in the park and this is one of the first hurdles you may have to overcome.
4. Cradle cap
Cradle cap is this weird scaly stuff your baby will have on his head. It’s totally normal and not an indicator that your child is doomed to have dandruff for the rest of his life. Don’t panic if it doesn’t go away – it can last for as long as a year. J is almost ten months and still got quite a few scales. I haven’t really done anything about it though, but apparently you can rub oil on it and rub it off when you wash their hair. Which I should probably do more often.
5. The 4th trimester
The 4th trimester is the first three months of your baby’s life. It is a time of huge change for them and a time when they need you. A lot. They are just getting used to a world much bigger than the one they have just come from and much brighter, busier and noisier. Babywearing is highly recommended during this phase, which might be why it’s called the 4th trimester. Unfortunately it coincides with the time most parents find the most frightening and exhausting so it can be a difficult time, but just strap your baby to your chest, put on some loud music to drown out the crying and pour another cup of coffee. You’ll get through it eventually.
Relax. Your baby is supposed to have a soft spot on their head, though it will totally freak you out when you first discover it. There are actually two little soft spots – called fontanels – one at the front of the head and one at the back. Freakily, they are actually gaps in your baby’s skull but they’re supposed to be there. Their purpose, apparently, is to let your baby’s brain grow, so don’t let them bother you. Eventually the skull will fuse and those gaps will close. And yes, you can touch them – just be gentle.
You may have been told of the 5S’s to help you calm your banshee-crazy baby: swaddle, side, shush, swing, and suck. The 5 S’s were coined by a doctor who realised that we should all be looking after our babies like the San bushmen, who carry their babies around 24/7 and feed them on-demand. So the basic principles of the 5S’s I totally get. In reality, though, it didn’t work for us. What did work was swaddling (and obviously the dummy). Swaddling is the best way to help your little person sleep without waking himself up. It takes a little practice to get it right – you have to make it tight but not too tight, and leave it loose around their hips – and I found the Beard was a lot better than I was at swaddling.
If you’re not sure what I’m going on about. here’s a handy graphic (with a very unhappy baby) on how to swaddle:
The dreaded c-word. When you become a new mom you will hear this word thrown around with gay abandon (along with teething). Whenever moms have bubbas who cry they seem to immediately jump to the conclusion that it’s colic. The truth is, babies cry. Colic is defined as crying for more than three consecutive hours, for three days in a row for at least three weeks. Now, when you have a screaming baby who just won’t calm down, keeping track of how long they have been crying for is the last thing on your mind. All you are trying to do is not lose your s**t at your poor, blameless child while simultaneously racking your brain to figure out what’s wrong and trying any remedy suggested to restore some peace into your home. If you find yourself trying to settle a miserable child for hours, don’t fret about whether or not it’s colic. Just hold on tight to your baby and turn up the TV.
9. White noise
White noise is sounds that cover up other sounds that might be heard in the environment, for example rainfall to mask the traffic outside. White noise is often used by parents to help their babies fall asleep. White noise can be very effective with some babies but completely pointless with others. You don’t need to buy a white noise machine. There are loads of apps you can download (if you can be away from your phone for that long) or CDs or you can just use a fan. Be warned, your baby might wake up the minute you turn off the white noise (because they’re smart like that).
10. Sleep Training
A very controversial topic in the land of parenting.Sleep training has become a bit of a taboo term with most parents, as they seem to equate sleep training with the cry-it-out method. There are many different kinds of sleep training techniques, though, and many of them these days are considered ‘gentle’ and ‘no-cry’. Sleep training has saved many parents’ sanity (and marriages) so don’t get on your high horse too quickly when Lucy from Moms and Babes admits to sleep training her insomniac baby.
These are just 10 helpful little things you should probably know about before your munchkin arrives. It’s not going to make anything easier but at least it will give you some knowledge to make you feel a little more equipped to deal with this big adventure.