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So coordinated now, I love to chew my hand with my rings inside!I’ve been meaning to write this list for some time: my thoughts on what proved to be lifesavers for me during pregnancy and the first few months of Harriet’s life. It’s more to remind me for next time (yes, I am a crazy woman!) than to guide others; to stop me sprouting advice to others in an effort to remember things myself.

Pregnancy and Birth

Kaz Cooke’s ‘Up the Duff’ – Very much my type of book, entertaining, enjoyable, easily paced as well as informative. In no way scary or filled with ‘worst case’ scenarios (does anyone find it reassuring to hear what could go wrong? I loathed the many, many books which seem to focus almost exclusively on this.).

Steve Biddulph and Sharon Biddulph’s ‘Raising a Happy Child’ - A beautiful, practical book. Lots of lovely stories and hints, realistic but manages to convey some of the wonder that having a child brings into your life. A great book, one of the few baby raising books I’d recommend.

Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg & Sandee Hathaway ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ – The classic pregnancy ‘bible’. I’d recommend not reading it cover to cover (lots of worst case discussions) but an excellent reference for when you have questions or concerns.

Penny Simkin ‘The Birth Partner’ – Definitely a book your partner should read. Andrew found this very helpful and I think it gave him a good idea of what was to come. I dipped in and out of it and it was an accurate description and very well written. A bit scary in parts but an excellent book.

Robin Baker ‘Baby Love’ – A good guide to baby care. Again more of a reference book than a cover-to-cover read, but very clear, very easy to read, and very practical.

I’d also recommend reading some actual birth stories, there are compilation books out there, or of course web posts. Aim to avoid horror ones but read a range of stories; it helped me to realise that there is a vast range of ways women give birth. I was somewhat terrified about the whole idea, but reading these stories, and talking to friends who’d had positive experiences, was very helpful. Be kind to yourself, accept that what happens happen and the only outcome that matters is a healthy you and bub; birth is a natural process and as such is an unpredictable one.

Before the baby is born

  • Go on a holiday with your partner. Sleep in, take long lunches, read the paper cover-to-cover, laze the days away. It’ll be awhile before you can do this again, so take the time to enjoy it, and each other, now.
  • Go to the theatre, see movies, read books, go out to dinner with friends, visit restaurants you’ve been meaning to try. Obviously you’ll do these things again, but it’s good to have a stockpile of nice memories to see you through the early months.
  • Once you’re on maternity leave take it easy, stockpile sleep and just lazy away. If your baby is overdue and you’re sick of people asking ‘Where’s the baby?!’ stop answering the phone!

At the Hospital

  • Let everyone know that they need to ring your partner before they turn up. If you don’t want visitors say NO. This is a time where you’re getting to know your baby, learning to breastfeed, and getting over the birth, it is TOTALLY OK to say no to visitors, be selfish and take the time for yourself.


I was pretty apprehensive about breastfeeding, again too many horror stories, and was very lucky to have a positive experience. Best advice for me was:

1) In hospital get a midwife to sit with you each and every time you feed, to help you get the position correct etc. At my hospital they had a lactation room, you could take your bub and feed in a room with other mums and a lactation consultant, which was fabulous, a sense of camaraderie (we’re all learning together and you’re not alone) as well has having an expert to hand. Ask for help, and if it’s not going well when you get home GET HELP STRAIGHT AWAY, don’t stop to think about it, call for help (or go see someone). My local council has a Thursday drop in session which I dropped into and it was very reassuring to get person-to-person advice.

2) Go to the toilet, and get a glass of water before you sit down with the baby.

3) Source some good, but low brain power DVDs prior to having the baby, you’re going to need something to watch while it takes 40 or so mins to feed bub and your hands are full (I imagine this is not the case for bub no. 2 when you’re trying to keep child no. 1 entertained!). On the plus side you can get through 1 entire episode in the early months during each feed. I’m sure Harriet will be able to sing the ‘Gilmore Girls’ theme song before any other as we’ve heard it a lot over the last few months!

4) Get everything you need in arms’ reach, water, TV remotes, phone etc.

5) Try very hard not to get jealous of the fact that your partner is not trapped on the couch every 2/3/4 hours or so. Make your peace with the fact that what you are doing is important, and that you don’t need to hang out the washing, send that email etc. And you can talk on the phone with it in the crook of your neck, just not for very long!

6) I use a Milk Bar pillow which is just fabulous for supporting Harriet while she feeds. It lets me have good posture, keeps one hand free, and means on hot days Harriet is not totally on me, which is a little cooler for both of us.

5) For me I found that very quickly I was happy to whip the boob out in public and stick it in Harriet’s gob. If this isn’t for you then there are lots of great parent rooms around, which provide a private place to feed, are usually full of only mothers (the occasional Dad). Otherwise you can use a wrap to cover you and the bub up (I found this difficult when Harriet was very small as I wanted to watch her the whole time).

6) I started feeding Harriet in ‘football’ hold which was fabulous as I had one hand and side completely free. This let me read a book in the middle of the night, as I didn’t want to watch TV (too much stimulation for Harriet and for me). She’s now too long for the hold but it was a fantastic way to start.

Sanity Savers

So your little angel is born, he/she is at home, your partner has gone back to work, what the heck do you do now? Firstly this is a massive adjustment, finding the rhythm of motherhood takes time, so go easy on yourself when you have good and bad days. Here’s a list of things that helped me.

You will be an emotional disaster, and that’s ok.– Accept that you have more hormones running around your body and brain then you know what to do with. You’re going to have moments of extreme delight, and also the total opposite. It’s OK, in fact normal, that you feel like a crazy person with no control over your emotions (remember early pregnancy?). This will calm down, you will eventually feel like yourself again.

Your partner is also going through a massive change in their life too, and they will also be somewhat of a disaster zone. Be kind to each other, and try not to take your frustrations out on one another.

Get out or go mad– I’m a social person and I like to be active. I found in the early days that getting out of the house was very necessary for my sanity. Go for a walk, go to the shops, visit friends, go out to lunch etc. It’s a bit scary at first but I figured as long as I had my boobs then I had basically everything Harriet needed to be happy (worst case I whipped one out and she shut up). And if you’re worried then don’t go far from the house, that way it’s easy to get back home if disaster strikes.

Ring or email friends– Stay in touch. I had a couple of good friends with small children who rang me every few days to see how I was, and in the early days that touch of adult company and conversation was so very welcome. And they didn’t mind that I had to hang up after 5 mins as I had to change breastfeeding sides, as they knew what it was like! Email friends, stick photos on Flickr, update your Facebook status, read a couple of online newspaper articles, all things that make you feel good about being part of the world.

Keep a diary – I’m a planning freak so I kept a feeding diary. To the top of this I added a little note each day about what I’d done, and whether or not I’d had a good day. On a bad day I’d look back and realise that I’d had a good day the day before, and a great day the day before that. Sometimes you’re so in the moment you forget that good things happened only very recently! Also you can chart your baby’s ‘routine’ which makes making appointments a little easier.

Hire a cleaner– Nothing drives me crazier than having a messy house (slight exaggeration but you know what I mean). Andrew suggested we get a cleaner for the first few months and it was fabulous. She started when I was 8 mths pregnant (and could no longer clean our bath) and stayed on till Harriet was about 3 mths old. I stopped cleaning the house as I knew if I did our lovely cleaner would have nothing to do! And having a house smelling of cleaning products once a week made me very happy, and happy to have people over too.

Sustainability – No this is not save the planet but more about setting up sustainable routines with your baby, in particular that old classic, the settling for sleep. Andrew and I made a real effort to only use techniques that we could sustain so for example I sat in a chair with Harriet and patted her bum, Andrew had a variety of methods but again all were sustainable. Our idea was to make sure that whatever ques we taught Harriet about when it was time to go to sleep were ones we could do for (in needed) hours at a time, and that were interchangeable between us (ie not breastfeeding to sleep). It worked very well for us, and I admit that a lot of that had to do with Harriet. Our ultimate aim was to make sure that Harriet could fall asleep herself without us, and she now can when wrapped and sucking her dummy (yes, these will be hurdles to overcome at a later date!). We did have Harriet in our bed for the first few weeks which was really nice but we moved her out mainly because we didn’t want her to sleep there always (we read something that said that babies don’t have cause and effect before they’re 6 weeks old so that was our deadline); it was lovely but we needed our space too.

Have a shower everyday, and get dressed in casual clothes you’d be happy to leave the house in, put on shoes. This made me feel that the day had begun, no matter what had happened during the night (and even if I went back to bed later in the day).

Prioritise your tasks for the day and do the most important thing 1st (and that might be call a friend) so you will have achieved something, even if it’s something really small.

In the early weeks aim to have 1/2 hour to yourself each day. Walk slowly around the block, have 1/2 hr of uninterrupted email time, whatever makes you happy that day.

Try once a day to realise that you’re lucky! Look at your beautiful baby and realise what a miracle their presence in your life is (some days this is really tough but give it a go anyhow). I also stuck up a photo on the fridge of Harriet looking happy, clean and gorgeous and reminded myself that she often looked like that.


We bought all the things you need, but there were a couple of things that surprised me.

Sling – We were lent a sling by friends and I have to say I poo-hooed it when they gave it to us. However, it was a total lifesaver in the early evening when Harriet was unsettled. She loved being in the sling, it calmed her right down, and let who ever was wearing it (she was fine with either Andrew or I wearing it) actually move around, eat dinner, sit on the couch etc. which holding her in your arms did not.

Bassinet That Slotted into Our Pram – Again this was lent to us (by the same friends actually!) and it was again a lifesaver. Harriet used the bassinet as her bed, so it was very familiar to her, and when she fell asleep on walks she could be brought inside without having to bring the pram in. Both the pram and bassinet had a hood, so Harriet was completely enclosed and safe from wind (might have been too hot had it been summer). This also stopped people looking in and commenting on our gorgeous child (there are some days when you just can’t be bothered with this, but others when you open both hoods and stand around shamelessly!). Also, having the bassinet has made her easy to settle at other people’s places as it is a familiar bed for her. We’ll be sad when she grows out of it (any day now!).

Electric Blanket – I found if I switched mine on when I got out of bed to feed Harriet then getting back into a warm bed made it easier to fall back asleep quicker, rather than having to wait for the bed to heat up before I could relax.

And Finally… babies are unpredicatable. For a planner such as myself this is a tough adjustment to make. You can not control them, or contain them, all you can do is love them, and make your peace with the fact that your days are now (in some ways) lead by them, that the days of being able to plan your time to the minute are at an end, but the payoff is more amazing and wonderful then you can really imagine – I promise!

Posted by Kate on Jan 19 2009 under Kate's News

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