I felt it was important to have a practical page as so much of what babies need in the first year is practical, and it’s probably also the area I had the steepest learning curve in as a new mum. There are lots of good resources and ideas out there that I found helpful so this page is likely to be a work in progress for a while (my mind is noticing the repetition of an old story too).
What I found most helpful with breastfeeding was to go to places where there were other mums who were also breastfeeding, although I didn’t regularly attend a group focussed on breastfeeding as such. I found other breastfeeding mums helped normalise some of the challenges and frustrations (the sleep disruption, biting due to teething, the cluster feeding), and could also share in the upsides (peace to enjoy baby cinema, increased appetite for cake). So practical tip no.1 from me would be to meet with other mums – during Covid I understand La Leche League are managing some Zoom meetings. I would also highly recommend the La Leche League book “The womanly art of breastfeeding” as a great resource with information on anything you could possibly want to know about breastfeeding. I would also recommend the kellymom website which has lots more practical and easily available information on breastfeeding issues. I was unlucky to get mastitis and found their section on that issue helpful at the time –
My main practical tip here would be to stay flexible with whatever approach to weaning you choose and to do what works for you and your family, and be willing to change it if its not working. There are NHS guidelines about how to go about it and weaning talks with Health Visitors you can attend, which may be a helpful start. It is worth bearing in mind that the guidelines have changed back and forth about what age is best to start weaning and which foods to include vs avoid. It is also important to remember that each baby is different – my son was grabbing food from my plate and putting it in his mouth from four months whereas my daughter was really into playing with – but not so much eating – food at 6 months. I’ve done broadly baby led weaning with both as I value the psychological benefits – calm mealtimes with no battles, a positive relationship with food, curiosity and openness to trying new flavours and textures (we love our family Friday curry night). I did and still do give my son vegetable puree though as he loves it, so I haven’t been too strict. I’d recommend the book by Gill Rapley – “Baby led weaning: helping your baby to love good food” for anyone interested.
For me as a mum, what has been helpful is to keep an open mind about what sleep will be like and try to hold any thoughts or expectations that pop up lightly. My mind generates lots of indignant protest whenever anyone says “Does your baby sleep through the night yet?” because my daughter didn’t until she was two, but since she did she sleeps solidly for twelve hours and we have a comfortable bedtime routine that ends in her settling herself calmly. I find it helpful to be accepting of the need to get up several times a night to feed, to accept that I will therefore be tired, and less sharp than usual. I’ve found it helps to make space for feeling that way – to pace tasks, allow time to relax and enjoy plenty coffee and cake. I do like the approach of aiming to meet physical, sensory and emotional baby needs as much as you can during the day, so that these may be less likely to come up at night – so plenty cuddles, rolling around in the grass and rough and tumble play depending on age and stage. I am aware of controlled crying and can appreciate why people would make the choice to try that, as if parent well-being is compromised by sleep deprivation the benefits might well justify the means. I’ve found with acceptance of tiredness though that the tiredness actually bothers me less, and getting out in the fresh air – and preferably sunshine – can get me through the groggy patches of the day if coffee doesn’t quite do it. I like Sarah Ockwell Smith’s post on letting go of feeling guilty for “bad habits” relating to baby sleep, so linking to that here –
With my daughter, I really liked this book – Baby play for every day – 365 activities for the first year by Claire Halsey for some variety in our play ideas. We also enjoyed various baby classes – baby music, swimming, sing and sign, bookbug and jo jingles among others. I’ve found it very different with my son – he’s come along to activities pitched at my daughter’s age group (she’s 3) for his first 6 months and enjoyed socialising, smiling and cooing at everyone and anyone. For the last 3 months however we’ve been in lockdown. Interestingly, his play has become all about mobility – crawling, pulling up, cruising and walking along – and more recently running – holding onto fingers. Since he’s not going out socialising, I think he’s adapted to making the most of the opportunities he does have. I find it amazing with children how resilient they are, and how able to enjoy what they have without wishing for what they don’t.