A Alcohol. Necessary and recommended*. You just did 9 months stone-cold sober so you deserve that glass of wine/Aperol Spritz/G&T. Happy mum = happy baby, right?
*by me, at least.
B Boobs (like ‘Bowling Balls’) and – in related news – Breast pads. The Lolo Ferrari look sets in at about day 3 or 4 and it turns out having massive tits is not as fun as you’d maybe imagined. Mostly because they hurt like hell and leak.
BEST BUY! Johnson’s Baby Nursing Pads, £3.98 at Mothercare. These ones were my favourites – nicely contoured for a comfy fit, super absorbent and the adhesive actually keeps them in place.
C Caffeine. You want it and need it more than you ever have before, but it affects baby’s sleep while you’re still feeding so instead you have to drink de-caff, which is absolutely fucking pointless.
D Daddy, of course. Even if the dad’s not around for most of the time, knowing that at some point he’ll walk through the door and you can hand him the baby and shower/wee/sort the laundry out in peace is often the tiny light at the end of the tunnel. Oh and weekends! And bank holidays! Babies don’t give a shit about the working week and certainly don't differentiate between day/night/national holidays, but at least there’s a chance of having a lie-in when the dad’s around to help out.
E Equipment. There is a hell of a lot of stuff out there that babies supposedly need. The Moses basket, the buggy, the sling, the car seat, the playmat, the bouncy chair, the nappy bin, the steriliser, the changing bag, the hundreds of brightly coloured plastic toys that litter your lounge… But you don’t need to spend a fortune on it and you certainly don’t need all of it straight away. Especially baby shoes - they're ridiculous.
F Failure. You will feel like a terrible mother ALL THE TIME.
G Gripe Water, as it turns out, is not as delicious as you remember from when you were a kid. Disappointing. It does however help with wind if yours is a particularly gassy baby. See also Infacol – just about the only thing you can give a newborn baby who’s struggling with wind issues and needs to do a massive burp. Because, these days, helping another human to do a massive burp is just one more thing on your to-do list.
H Hobnobs, the maternity leave diet that noone’s talking about! You can eat them one-handed (the number one factor when choosing food with a newborn), they need no preparation and oats help with milk production. Genius. Also, they’re sturdy enough to not fall to bits when you dunk them into your – probably cold by now – tea.
I i-Player. TV on demand 24/7 is the best invention ever. The same goes for Netflix. Stick it on for daytime feeds to save you from watching Doctors or Homes Under the Hammer.
J John Lewis. If you weren’t a fan before then chances are you are now. You’ll often find me in the Stratford branch, wiping a shitty bum (baby’s) in the well-designed family room and eating cake in the bright and airy café (where babies' screams are somehow sound-proofed from the other customers, although the other customers are all elderly [read deaf] or other mums and babies [read sympathetic] anyway so it honestly doesn’t matter).
L Lansinoh HPA Lanolin Nipple Cream, £10.49 for 40ml at Boots. Pricey, but worth it. I found this was the most effective remedy for my sore, chewed up and cracked nipples. It helps them to heal and it’s safe for baby to ingest. Plus it makes a great lip balm, too.
M Mastitis. Know the symptoms (sore, swollen boobs, feeling flu-like with shivers…) because if you get it, it can be really nasty. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics but a bit of self-help can go a long way, too. Take paracetamol, put a hot water bottle on your boobs and massage them with a wide-tooth comb in the shower to help drain the blockage.
N NCT. If I could give any advice to expectant parents, it would be to do the NCT course – not so much for what you’ll learn, but for the people you’ll meet. Having a ready-made group of mum mates was life-saving in the beginning. Even if you don’t think you have much in common with them when you first meet, you’ll have your babies and that’s all anyone ever talks about anyway. Go with it. Talk about your babies and your postnatal bodies and know that you’re not alone.
O Overwhelmed, is probably the best way to describe how I felt for the first few weeks. Nothing prepares you for the weight of responsibility that comes with a new baby. It relies on you for EVERYTHING and knowing that you, literally, have someone’s else’s life in your hands can be quite terrifying.
P Passive aggression. You don’t want to be outwardly angry in front of your tiny, emotionally vulnerable baby so you master the art of bitching and moaning in a weirdly upbeat and gentle way. For example, ‘where’s your silly daddy? Is he still at work? Is he being a dick and not leaving on time to come home and help your mummy? Is he? Is he? Yes he is! Yes he is! Silly shitty Daddy!’
Q Questions. Oh the questions! Especially the super embarrassing ones like ‘should it still hurt to poo 6 weeks post-partum?’. Dr. Google will know the answers.
R Red book. It’s like the bible of your child’s development. You have to take it to every doctor, health visitor or midwife appointment and you’re expected to not get hung up on the percentiles section at the back. But you will.
S Singing. You will sing ridiculous made-up songs to calm or entertain your baby. First time around, the most lullaby-esque songs I knew were ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Tender’ by Blur, so that was pretty much my entire repertoire. These days I know loads more and I’m weirdly proud of my skills, although I have absolutely no bloody idea about current music. So, swings and roundabouts.
T Tired. Things I’ve done due to sleep deprivation include forgetting to take my bra off when showering, putting the laundry in the oven instead of the washing machine, waiting patiently at a pelican crossing to cross a road that’s already closed to all traffic, and forgetting my child’s name when asked by a health visitor…
U Underwear. Forget about those slinky sets you used to buy from Intimissimi, these days you need comfy cotton granny pants and either a nursing bra (these are never sexy) or a stretchy crop top that you can yank a boob out of. But these can be surprisingly pretty - see 90s-style Calvin Klein or Victoria’s Secret bralettes.
V Vitamins. You’re supposed to take these and you’re also supposed to give them to your baby. But you forget every bloody time because, you know, life.
W White noise can be really helpful to settle babies and encourage them to sleep. It's not really practical to leave the hoover or hairdryer on all night, but Sound Sleeper, a phone app, is pretty good and some people swear by Ewan the Bloody Dream Sheep.
BEST BUY! Munchkin Magical Firefly Cot Soother and Projector, £41.99 at Argos. We bought this - you can choose the type of noise, the volume and the duration (up to an hour at a time) and it shines stars onto the ceiling to lull baby to sleep.
X SeX (I cheated here, soz). If you had a vaginal delivery, of course intercourse will be different afterwards. A whole human has forced itself out of your va-jay-jay - possibly with help from forceps - and you might also have torn or had an episiotomy. You might be a bit ‘baggier’ down there. There’s also been a shitstorm of hormones so your libido might be different. The official advice is to abstain until about 6 weeks after the birth, and have your 6-week check with the GP first. My advice would be to do exactly that and then whatever the hell you feel like from then on. If you have no interest, that’s fine. If you can’t because you’re co-sleeping with the baby, that’s fine. If you want to do it all the bloody time, that’s also fine (you total weirdo).
Y You. It’s easier said than done, but don’t forget to look after yourself. In the early days it’s very easy to think life will never be the same again, that you will never be the same again. But you will. The newborn stage is tough because your baby is totally dependant on you and you’re probably mourning the loss of your life as you knew it and grieving for the halcyon days of spontaneous drinks with friends, popping out for dinner, minibreaks etc. But those days will come again. Honestly, they will. But your tiny baby needs you now so try to get your me-time fix in other ways.
Z Zzzzzzz - obviously! The subject of sleep will dominate all conversations/mum group Facebook and What'sApp threads for ever and ever and ever. Some babies will be brilliant at sleeping and their mums will look beautifully well-rested as they tell you all about it. If your baby spends more time resisting sleep than actually sleeping, and then ends up finally dozing in your arm pit every single night, it’s ok. Not ideal, but really alright.