Giving birth and caring for a baby… most natural thing in the world, right? Wrong! If only you had an instruction manual – or at least a little bit of insider info… Read on!

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1. The birth

New mums: woman giving birth looking shocked

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It’s just one day – or a couple of days if you’re unlucky. Sure, write a birth plan if you like, but you won’t use it! And don’t worry about your inhibitions – by the time you’ve been poked and prodded for a few hours (and in this writer’s case, winked at by the doctor as she lay with her feet in stirrups being stitched up after the birth), frankly, dear Mummy, you won’t give a damn.

Yes, it’s going to be painful (all the stuff you’ve heard about passing a watermelon through the eye of a needle is pretty accurate). And they don’t call it ‘labour’ for nothing – it’s blinkin’ hard work. But ‘just say yes’ when offered drugs and totally put yourself in the hands of the professionals around you. They do it every day, so do know what goes where and how to make it happen. As sure as eggs is eggs and episiotomies is episiotomies, that baby will come out. Oh yeah, then comes the 18 years of real work…

 

2. The hands-on-head stop-crying trick

New mums: hands on newborn's head

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We learnt this from a very wise health visitor wearing one of those skirts with bells on. But, never mind, it works! If your baby is grizzly, fractious and crying (but you’ve solved all the obvious things like wet bums, empty tummies, sore gums, colicky burps etc), then lay your baby down safely, and calmly yet firmly place two hands over the top of your baby’s head, cradling the scalp. It mimics the feeling of being snuggled up in the womb and calms them down. Honestly, it’s the best magic trick ever!

 

3. Manual breast pumps

New mums: cow being milked

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You’ll suck and squeeze for the entire duration of Countdown and get precisely 1tsp of milk in return. You’ll feel sore, yet jubilant. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have scored a 7-letter word. While on the subject of sore boobs… two words: cabbage leaves. Shove a couple of slices of Savoy down your 48DD Mothercare support bra – you have NO IDEA how soothing it is when your big boys are puffed up and achey.

 

4. Keep a bag by the door

New mums: baby in a shopping bag

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When you finally decide to brave leaving the house with your new little one, it’ll feel like you’re packing a bag for a week with Bear Grylls. But hang on, where’s his hat (not Bear’s, the baby’s)? And his cuddly? And your other shoe? And when you’ve negotiated getting the s*dding buggy up, and you’re finally ready to head out…squirt!… it’s nappy-changing time! And then it’s nearly feed time…and the sun’s gone in… And…  Oh, well, maybe tomorrow. It really helps if you keep a bag packed ready to go by the front door with everything you need for a quick escape. Now run – who needs two shoes anyway?

 

5. Dummies

New mums: dog with baby's dummy

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Obviously you need 19. One in his mouth, one in the baby bag, two next to the cot, four in your coat pockets (two in left and two in right), one by the phone, two in the steriliser, one on the floor next to your bed (fluff optional), two in the car, three at your mum’s house, one wedged in the bottom of the buggy, covered in breadstick crumbs, and one, mysteriously, in the dog’s basket.

 

6. Get out as much as you can while they’re portable

New mums: baby in a rucksack

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You don’t realise it now but it’s FAR easier to take a tiny baby to a restaurant or on holiday than it is a toddler. They don’t need expensive seats on planes, they don’t answer back, they don’t run around the cafe shouting ‘Bored!’, you don’t have to buy them a meal, and they sleep – a lot.

 

7. That woman you quite liked from antenatal class…

New mums: woman flipping the finger

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…will turn into Mrs uber-competitive. Her baby drinks more ounces of milk, sleeps more hours, teethes first, walks first and has poos scented of rosewater. Plus she always has her lipstick on and not nearly enough mystery stains down her clothes. But remember  – her baby is ugly, yours isn’t.

 

8. Nothing lasts forever

New mums: exasperated mum surrounded by nappies and washing

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It FEELS like that cold/croup/colic/nappy rash/teething has been going on for months. In reality it’s a couple of days. It’s just that sleep deprivation has made you lose all sense of time and reality, like some weird episode of Doctor Who. When the going gets tough, try to relax, talk to someone with an older baby who’s been through it all before and remember that it will pass.

 

Welcome to the best club in the world!