Dear New Mum,
It probably doesn’t feel like I am all that much like you. I have multiple kids, kids in school, kids with adult teeth. You only have one tiny baby, but I promise, I remember what it’s like, I remember that first precious year.
And I wanted to write you a little note, one mum to another. Oh, beautiful friend, you’re doing amazing.
I know you might be feeling tired. And that tiredness can feel overwhelming, making you feel like you might cry at any moment.
But if you’re tired, it means you’re doing it right.
And maybe, right now, some areas of your life might feel neglected. The garden might be overgrown, the washing piling up. Maybe you used to exercise, help out friends, or finish big projects, but now the baby has filled all the space in your life and you don’t feel like you can keep up with anything.
But that means you’re doing it right.
And even now, while you are feeling so tired, people keep asking you questions, almost interrogating you. And it can feel overwhelming.
A lot of those questions will be about sleep.
How much is your baby sleeping? How long do they nap? How many times do they wake for a feed, how many times through the night?
If your baby has taken to sleep naturally, the questions might be easy to answer. But if your baby's rhythms are unpredictable, the questions can feel difficult. It can be hard to remember how many times you were up, or how long your baby slept.
Day and night can feel like they have blended in a kind of fog. But that means you’re doing it right.
When you're talking to those beautifully helpful people they might jump in and tell you about their sleep gurus, the book’s they’ve read, the timetable they've followed, the things that helped their baby sleep on cue.
But if your baby never has a routine, you’re doing it right.
Your baby knows that whatever she needs, at whatever time of day, you will provide for her. So she calls for you when she’s hungry, when she’s wet or scared in a dark room. Maybe she had a bad dream or a bad day and she just needs one more cuddle.
Sometimes you might find this, this being everything for your baby, exhausting.
But that means you’re doing it right.
Some nights your baby will only need a little feed or a pat and then she’ll be off to sleep again. But other nights will be more confusing. And you might find yourself up again, making a cup of tea at midnight—and if you do, it’s ok, you’re doing it right.
People will keep asking you questions. They’ll go on asking you about sleep and they'll also ask you about food. Are you breastfeeding or bottle, planning to introduce purees or finger food?
You might find yourself worrying, wondering if you are taking the right steps in the right order.
But dear one, you’re doing it right.
You’ll get questions about their growth and development too.
Some people will want them to grow in a straight line, adding equal amounts each week, plotting a perfect mathematical course.
But the truth is they might not.
Instead, like a house plant, they’ll grow in fits and bursts, beautifully unpredictably.
You should listen to your health professionals, they’re reading the graphs because they care about your baby. But seek out a doctor or nurse who listens to you, who looks over your child, before making a judgement based on the numbers on a chart.
Mine all failed the growing test, but with my littlest, our lovely Egyptian GP just sang to her, and when she cooed and smiled back, looked up at me and said firmly ‘there’s nothing wrong with that baby, she’s just little, like her Mum.’
If your baby grows fast or slow—I promise, you’re doing it right.
It’s not only the people and their questions. You’ll find advice all over the place. Written on posters on the clinic wall, in flyers stuffed into your baby’s blue book, on the radio and on Instagram. There are hundreds of books published on pregnancy and baby care, thousands of articles, all full of plans, schedules, strategies, tips and tricks for your first year of motherhood.
But if you read none of them, you’re doing it right.
Because what your baby needs is simple.
They need to be fed, to be loved and to be looked after. They need to be warm and dry and close.
They need that over and over and over again.
They need lullabies at three in the morning, cuddles after their bath, reassurance and love, over and over.
And when you’re their Mum, this task can sometimes feel exhausting.
But precious friend, I promise you, before you know it, they’ll be one. And they’ll play on their own a little and eat a sandwich by themselves in their high chair. Their rhythms will be more predictable. And life will feel a little more manageable.
I promise one day they will sleep better, and you will too.
And you’ll look back on that first precious year and you’ll remember what an exhausting, wonderful, all-encompassing thing it was to love your baby.
And you’ll know, you did it right.
Parenting can feel overwhelming. But it doesn't have to.
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