There are an endless number of things I wish I knew before becoming a mother to my son, Riaan, Things your own parents may have forgotten and those which the classes won't tell you. Here are some important things every new mom should know:
1. It's called 'Labor' for a reason!
2. Take it one contraction at a time, and seriously, take the drugs. You have grown a little human being inside of you; you are already a hero!
3. If you are being induced, there is a higher chance of a cesarean section, but stay calm and try and rest when you can, as your stress hormones will inhibit the labor process.
4. Your baby is adorable (at least to you) no matter what it is covered in.
5. Trust the nurses; they are your greatest resource.
6. Place your husband next to a couch, just incase he wants to collapse (or, in my case, lie down to catch his own breath in between your pushes).
7. The first few days are the hardest, but if you're planning to breastfeed, stick with it, I am grateful everyday that I did not supplement no matter how much I wanted to sleep. (Formula will delay your milk and make it all the more frustrating for you and your child.)
8. The first month hurts, even when you are doing it right, but it keeps getting better.
9. Spit up happens and happens, and happens! If your baby is gaining weight well, it's just a laundry problem.
10. If your baby falls asleep feeding, it may seem easier not to burp the baby. Do it anyway (at least hold your baby up on your shoulder for a few minutes), it's going to be that much harder to put them back down when they wake up screaming with gas.
11. Being able to lie down and feed is a gift! As is all the calories you are burning.
12. By 4 months, make sure you stop the feed after the baby falls asleep or you will have to train your child to sleep without sucking (and won't get as much rest either).
13. Why bother with an annoying sleep bra, when you can stick nursing pads under your t-shirt?
14. If you plan to pump and feed instead of bearing all in public, introduce a bottle around 3 weeks, late enough to avoid nipple confusion but early enough that your child won't refuse.
15. Babies cry- A lot! Doesn't mean that you are doing it wrong, it's just their way of complaining (to themselves) when they need something. Eventually, they will know you are listening and will communicate differently.
16. To Activate Calming Reflex: Swaddle, Side/Stomach (lying position, must be supervised), Shush (it really works), Swing, Sucking. (As per Dr. Karp's 'Happiest baby on the block').
17. If you can, meet their needs as they see it. Stay on demand, your baby will be sleeping through the night before you know it.
18. Nap when they nap! You keep hearing this and initially I wanted to write thank you notes, do my nails, fold the laundry and everything else I couldn't do while holding my child, but do that when someone else is home and just nap while you can (and eat and bathe).
19. It makes no 'common' sense that they need more sleep in the day to stay asleep at night, but they do. An overtired baby won't sleep easily and will keep waking up. Put your baby down to nap when you think they are sleepy.
20. A sleep routine at night does help – for example, massage, bathe, nurse, book, walk/rock/ burp, put the baby down in their bed to sleep. We do the entire routine to lullaby music.
21. Try and put them down when they are drowsy but if it doesn't work for you or your child, try again later.
22. Four-month sleep regression is a very real thing! Do whatever works for your baby, and it will pass. For example, we kept nursing back to sleep when he woke up, and he started sleeping through the night again in 10 days.
23. Unless you smell poop, skip the diaper change at night. Keep at it in the day though, to keep the diaper rash at bay. (The wetness indicator is yet another blessing.)
24. To prevent diaper leaks, go up a size, not down! If it's filled with gas though, it's going to leak anyway.
25. Physiological jaundice is common, if the doctor tells you not to worry, ignore the yellow eyes and forget about it.
26. Cradle cap does not improve with oil! Use the oil to scrape off the scalp, but it actually gets worse with oil.
27. Your newborn's eardrums have the width of cardboard, and keeps getting thinner (like cellophane), this means he will get more and more sound sensitive as he grows. While he sleeps through everything initially, that will not last long.
28. Teething is really painful, for you and your little one. Tylenol is a savior but just rubbing your baby's gums with muslin and your finger works quicker than anything else.
29. Ice those chubby little thighs after vaccinations; it helps the muscle recover quicker.
30. It's never too early to read to your baby! They will enjoy it just because you are the one reading to them. The pictures become eventually become fun for your baby too (my son tries to grab the pictures in the books).
31. A soft Mickey (or Minnie) mouse is the perfect toy – the contrasting colors will keep your baby engaged.
32. Play, sing and talk, it may seem pointless initially but there's nothing cuter than when you finally get a response back!
33. Tummy time, tummy time, and more tummy time (supervised of course)!
34. Mirrors and baby gyms are a great way to keep your baby engaged, especially if you want to run into the shower.
35. Once your little one is wiggling and rolling around, you will need to watch them like a hawk.
36. You can never have too many bibs or burp cloths.
37. There's nothing more satisfying than being able to swaddle your baby tight, until he gets his hands out anyway. Trust me, buy the ready-made swaddles. It's worth having to buy a second set when the first set is outgrown.
38. If you have a little spitter like I do, you can find creative uses for the unstitched swaddle cloths. I use it as a bib for myself!
39. Send a swaddle cloth home from the hospital so that your puppy gets used to the scent of your baby even before you are home.
40. It's difficult to divide your attention, and you will often be advised to ignore your pet when your baby is sleeping (so that they don't feel like they only get attention when the baby is not around), but I chose to do the opposite. I gave Coco even more attention when my baby was awake even if it involved just keeping my feet touching him or one arm around him while nursing.
41. Seeing them respond to each other and be excited to see the other is a joy all of its own.
42. Be careful, your little one is going to want to pull that fur.
43. Categorize photographs as often as you can, as it will be harder as they stack up.
44. If you are working on albums, print pictures on a regular schedule so that you remember occasions and can make note of them.
45. Write stories, or keep pictures for your child.
46. Reserve an email address. You can even use this to send pictures and stories (and share the password when they are in their teen years – my optimistic hope is that it will make him an easier teen, but if not, you have still set up a treasure bank of memories for your child to enjoy).
47. Save those onesies, even if you don't use them for your next child, you can have a quilt created or use them on stuffed animals.
For the new Mothers:
48. Your mother is irreplaceable and can be your greatest resource if you let her.
49. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
50. Trust your instincts!!
51. Don't underestimate the power of information, and mommy blogs.
All photographs in this article are original and contributed by author.