Like many excited soon-to-be Mums, I read the baby books and daydreamed naively about how perfect life would be with our new bundle. Sure, we would be tired, but we’ve been tired before – it’s no big deal and it’s only for the first few weeks anyway – right? I would nap in the day, exercise, bake and of course, go out and about and offer baby plenty of play and stimulation – easy.
When my son came along though, we appeared to be working from different manuals, and looking after a baby really wasn’t quite what I expected, or had been led to believe.
Now I’m not saying the baby books were useless. If I ever wanted to feel anxious about the things he was yet to achieve by month two, the books were most informative. When I needed to frighten myself silly about how dangerous our home was for our baby, I just read their handy five page list of Things to change immediately if you wish to avoid sudden peril. And to give them their full due, they really were perfect for resting mugs of tea on during a four hour feeding session, you know, the ones the books tell you don’t really exist.
Here are some of my favourite juxtapositions between how the baby books and my son, AKA The Boss saw the rules of the game.
What the baby books say: A newborn will sleep for 16 hours per day.
How it actually is: A newborn will do whatever the blinking well it pleases; often surprising even itself by how little sleep it can survive on whilst driving its parents almost literally insane.
What the baby books say: You will soon become expertly quick at nappy changes, especially if you have a little boy!
How it actually is: You will get covered in wee. A lot.
What the baby books say: It is better not to use motion or feeding to get the baby to sleep.
How it actually is: A baby’s will is greater than your own, do what it demands or pay the price.
What the baby books say: Most babies will have settled into a manageable routine by about 8 weeks.
How it actually is: More like 8 years, if you’re lucky.
What the baby books say: Gently encourage your baby to self-settle by placing them in their crib awake but drowsy.
How it actually is: Upon doing this they will immediately transition from peacefully sleepy to screaming wakefulness and you will have to start the whole stressful process again, but this time with a cheesed off infant.
What the baby books say: Sleep when the baby sleeps.
How it actually is: Bite me.
What the baby books say: Your newborn will enjoy time by itself, taking in its surroundings and being entertained by the cot mobile or bouncer toys.
How it actually is: Your newborn will be completely velcro and not give a penny farthing about sensory alone time, thanks very much.
What the baby books say: Your baby requires feeding every 3-4 hours and will soon settle into a predictable milk routine.
How it actually is: Your baby will require feeding between every 45 minutes to 4.5 hours, and often continuously, for blocks of several hours, as they see fit. Although they stick their fingers up to any sort of predictable schedule, they can often be relied upon to demand a feed as soon as you are on the bus or driving a car and unavailable for instant milking.
What the baby books say: Milk stools are very inoffensive and no problem to deal with.
How it actually is: If inoffensive means, in it up to their necks, poo leaking onto your jeans and toxic liquid exploding everywhere mid-nappy change then I suppose you could say they are right.
What the baby books say: To avoid creating a crux with the breast or bottle, try alternates to comfort your baby if they cry between feeds.
How it actually is: If milk stops the crying, damn well give it. Anything to MAKE IT STOP.
What I have learnt however – all by myself – is that if anyone else demanded half as much from me, twice as nicely, on three times as much sleep, I wouldn’t want to – or be able to give it to them. But the soft snores, gorgeous giggles and huge coffees always seem to be enough to get me through and to keep me giving – and willingly (sort of).
Also published on Babycentre UK
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