50 things every new mum should know - from feeding and sleeping tips to genius advice that will save you time and money!
Advice for new mums
All new parents need help. It’s an incredibly daunting time and many mums and dads can feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of their new role as parent.
Our help for new parents includes tips and advice on how to make sure your baby is well looked after, and how to make sure you feel in control and confident about what you’re doing.
From sleeping and feeding advice to great tricks and ideas which will save you time and money, our guide for new mums and dads has got all the bases covered, so make sure you read them all!
It’s also really important to make sure you’re looking after yourself, too. So pay particular attention to the tips in our feature that are focussed around you getting some much deserved R and R.
Above all try and make sure you take a moment to step back and enjoy these early days, weeks and months. It’s such a cliche, but they really do grow up so fast. And remember, the sleepless nights won’t go on forever.
Congratulations on the new addition to your family, we hope this advice for new parents helps!
Start doing pelvic floor exercises as soon as the day after giving birth. You may not even be able to feel the muscles doing anything, but keep going through the motions. It’s really important (for your future sex life and bladder control) to get these muscles back in working order.
Cheap socks don’t stay on babies feet for long, they’re a false economy. Splash out on socks that don’t lose their elastic in five mins (GAP has a great selection) or get some Socks On – elastic ‘holders’ you put over babies socks that stops them kicking them off.
Don’t be afraid to ask for your baby back. Sometimes friends and family can be under the impression you’ll be glad of the break and hog all the cuddles with your little one when they come round. If this happens and you’re feeling anxious, either ask for the baby back, or make the excuse that you need to feed them somewhere quiet.
One week your baby will drink all of his or her milk, sleep like an angel and do nothing but smile and gurgle at visitors. Next week, all of these good habits will be replaced with ones that drive you mad. Remember these words – you can use them a lot during your little one’s first years. ‘It’s only a phase.’
Don’t despair if your baby appears to have unlearnt their good sleeping or eating habits. They haven’t been lost forever – it could just be teething, a growth spurt or any number of things that have caused a disruption. It won’t last forever.
Don’t be afraid to be selfish. Lots of new mums feel guilty about not being able to give friends and other family members as much of their time when a new baby comes along. Remind yourself that it’s OK to put you and the baby first. If you need to re-arrange plans because you all had a bad night’s sleep, do it! Good friends will understand, especially if they’ve had kids themselves.
Sleep when the baby sleeps. This is often easier said than done, as babies often sleep while you’re out and about, but when they do nap at home, try and put your feet up. Even if you don’t manage to sleep, your body could probably do with a rest.
Keep some scissors by your changing mat. Sometimes there’s no saving a pooed on babygro and the best course of action is to cut it off and throw it away.
Keep spare nightwear and bedding out every night. Little babies sometimes ‘go through’ their clothes and sheets and the faster you can get them re-dressed and back to bed, the quicker they will settle back to sleep.
Book into a class. There are loads of baby sessions you can sign up to. Nursery rhymes (usually free at your local library), swimming, sensory… You don’t need to do all of them, but pick one and commit to going every week. Having something in your diary will give your day a purpose and help you learn to organise yourself and your little one. You’ll get also get to meet other mums (adult conversation!) and, of course, the stimulation is great for the baby.
Trust your instincts. There’s so much advice out there and everyone you meet will have an opinion on how things should be done. But remember, every baby is different, and this one is yours. No one knows them as well as you do. Do what you think is right.
If you have stairs where you live, make sure you have a changing mat and a nappy basket with everything you need downstairs. Taking your little one up and down every time they need a new nappy is creating unnecessary work.
If you want to get your baby into a bedtime routine, do the same thing every night before putting them to bed so they understand it’s time to sleep. Normally a bath, story and quiet feed works well. It’s also a good idea to pick a time, 7pm for example, and stick to it. Also, make sure any night-time feeding or changing takes place in the same room they are sleeping in, using low lighting, so they don’t fully wake up.
Fresh air is great for you and the baby. Not only will it give you an energy boost, the chemicals in daylight help little babies figure out the difference between night and day.
Find out if your car seat has adapters that will make it fit on the base of your buggy. This means that when you’re off out in the car and the baby falls asleep, you don’t have to wake them up to get them in the buggy.
If you’re breastfeeding, do nothing else for at least the first two weeks of your new baby’s life. Remove everything else from your to-do list and if you have a willing partner ask them to do nappies, washing up, cooking and all the other things you normally take care of. Think of your sole purpose in life as a milk producer and don’t give yourself a hard time about not doing anything else.
As soon as the baby’s gone to sleep in the evening, don’t do anything until you’ve had a bath. Making yourself have at least 10 minutes soaking in lovely hot water will make you feel more human and ready for the night feeds ahead!
Write down when your baby feeds. Having a new baby inevitably means you’re going to be surviving on less sleep than normal, and this can play havoc with your memory. By recording when your baby last fed, you’ll stop having to strain your brain trying to figure out whether the last feed you remember actually happened a few hours ago, or yesterday! There are free apps for this, or you could use an old-fashioned pen and paper.
If you’re using formula, don’t warm the milk. If they’re used to drinking it cold from the beginning, it’ll save you loads of time in the future and mean you’ll never be stuck out and about looking for somewhere to heat up a bottle.
Buy some nipple cream – in advance. The first time you need it may be in the middle of the night and there’s no way of putting off feeding, so be prepared!
Make sure you give visitors a time slot. A lot of visitors don’t realise quite how much there is to do when you have a new baby and hang around for hours drinking tea and chatting, when all you can think about is how you desperately need a nap, or to do the washing up. Make sure you let people know before they arrive how long you’d like them to stay.
For lots of new mums, sex is the last thing on their minds. Listen to your body and ignore other mums who reckon they’re always at it. Chances are they aren’t. If you’d rather be hitting the hay than making it, then tell your man how you’re feeling.
Massage is a fabulous way to bond with your baby. Pick a time of day when your baby is in a good mood – generally not straight after they’ve eaten or are about to go down for a nap. Make sure the room is warm and that they are lying on something comfortable with a changing mat underneath. Olive oil is a great, natural product for babies’ skin. Although make sure you don’t put it on their hands as they’re likely to put them straight in their mouths.
Go out with your other half. Make sure you book in some ‘couple time’ for you and your partner. Life can quickly become all about the baby and it’s easy to forget that once upon a time there were just two of you and you used to have good fun together!
Go to your health visitor appointments for as long as you like. There is loads of support out there for new mums, but once you’ve been signed off by your midwife, you need to be prepared to go out there and find it. Keep up with your weekly weigh-ins with the health visitor for as long as you feel you need the support. That’s what they’re there for.
Keep a thermos of warm water by your changing mat if you’re using cotton wool and water in the early days when you change the baby’s nappy. Little ones often cry during changing, and it’s no wonder – we wouldn’t like having cold water splashed on our private parts in the middle of the night either. Warm water will make the experience far more pleasant for both of you.
Turn the hoover on or put them in front of the washing machine. Babies love the noise of both and the movement of the washing machine can prove hypnotic for a screaming baby.
Wrap a muslin round the top of the mattress in your Moses basket. That way if your baby is sick, you can change the muslin without having to change the whole cover. Most new mums have dozens of muslins, but only a few sheets.
Don’t bulk buy nappies when they’re young. They grow really quickly and you’ll be stuck with them.
Small, curved nail scissors are the best thing for cutting a baby’s nails and toenails. If you are using nail clippers, you need to be really careful not to accidentally catch the top of their finger or toe. It’s a more common mistake to make than you might think.
If you find breastfeeding painful or difficult, have a hot shower beforehand and gently massage your breasts. It will relax you and help your milk flow.
Keep kitchen roll by the changing mat if you’ve got a little boy. Lots of them have a tendency to wee while being changed (probably the rush of cold air). Make sure you put the kitchen roll over their willy as soon as the nappy comes off.
Eat when you breastfeed. It makes sense, doesn’t it? You’re feeding someone else, so you need to make sure you’re eating to replenish what goes out. Things can get a bit hectic during the early days and forgetting to eat is easy to do. If your husband or partner’s at home, ask them to be responsible for getting you something to eat every time you sit down to feed.
When you sit down to breastfeed, make sure you have the TV remote, a snack and a pint of water to hand. Feeding can takes ages in the early days and babies often fall asleep straight afterwards, so be prepared to be in the same spot for a long time!
If you’re using bottles, a microwaveable steriliser could save you a lot of time. Six minutes on full power and you can have four bottles ready to go.
Even if you’re not keen on using dummies, buy some in case. If you do decide to give them a go, it’s likely to be in the middle of the night and going out to buy them won’t be an option.
In the first few days, ask dad to take the baby out for a walk on his own. It will give him a chance to gain confidence looking after the baby and is a great chance for them to bond. It will also give you a little bit of time to take stock.
Don’t pick at cradle cap! It may be really tempting, but leave it alone. Rub a little olive oil over your baby’s head and eventually it will come off when its ready.
Get a cleaner. It may seem like an extravagance, but most mums will tell you that the housework doesn’t get done in the first few weeks or months when you have a new baby, so bite the bullet early on and get one booked in. It will bring a sense of calm and make you feel more in control of what can be a pretty chaotic time.
Leave anti-bacterial wipes and hand gel dotted around the house. You never know when you may need to quickly mop up something unpleasant.
Keep a torch by your bed. It’ll mean when you get up to change the baby’s nappy at night, you won’t have to turn the lights on which could wake him up more than necessary. Keeping the room dark will make it easier to settle them again.
Download a free white noise app – babies love background noise and it’ll help settle them at night.
Some babies are harder to wind than others. Infacol really helps. It’s a little pot of a gloopy fluid which you use before you feed the baby. A few drops given with a pipette before feeding help gather all the little bubbles of air together, cutting burping time considerably. The substance isn’t actually ingested by the baby, it passes straight through them.
Consider buying a buggy or pram which allows you to have the baby facing you. Lots of new mums spend hours walking their babies round parks and going shopping, and it’s really nice to be able to watch them as you go. It’s also handy to see if they’re awake or asleep!
Always take a spare muslin and some clothes pegs with you when you go out with the buggy. That way if you end up walking into the sun, you can protect your baby’s eyes (which are very sensitive when they’re little) from the glare.
If anyone asks if you want anything, or if they can help out at all, say yes! And ask them to cook you a meal you can put in the freezer.
Don’t worry if you don’t love being a mum straight away. Lots of parents take time getting used to their new role and just because you may not feel entirely sure of yourself yet, it will come in time. Give yourself a break – it’s a huge transition to make and there’s nothing wrong with you if it takes a little while to find your feet.
Keep anti-bacterial wipes by your changing mat and give the mat a quick clean every time your change a pooey nappy. It only takes a tiny bit of poo getting in your baby’s mouth for them to pick up a tummy bug.
Don’t worry about the strange dreams you’ll have about leaving the baby on a bus, dropping them down the stairs or forgetting you’ve had one until you discover them at two years old living with your next door neighbours. Loads of mums say they have really vivid, sometimes disturbing dreams for the first few months, even longer. It’s all part of the massive changes you’re going through. You aren’t actually going mad.
Make sure sure your nappy bag is packed and ready to go at all times. It should contain:
Nappies Wipes Baby’s change of clothes Formula, bottles and sterilised water if you’re not breastfeeding Two muslins Anti-bacterial hand gel Changing mat Nappy bags Snack for you
Don’t rush naming your baby. If you’ve got a few favourites on your final list, give yourself time to get to know your little one before making the decision. Friends and family may get impatient, but they’ll have to wait a bit longer for the announcement.
PS we’ve got loads of suggestions for baby names if you need some inspiration!