Théo Is One: Looking Back On My First Year As A Mum

My baby didn't come with a manual! Looking back on my first year as a mum, here are a few things I'd have LOVED to know when becoming a mum...

Théo Is One: Looking Back On My First Year As A Mum

On February 6th, Théo turned one! That first year as a mum flew by super quickly.

The first birthday of your child is such a milestone in that way. Not only your baby is officially becoming a toddler but it also marks the anniversary of this very special moment, when you welcomed a new human being into the world and became a parent – read about my birthing story here.

You can not possibility be prepared for motherhood. Looking back on my first year as a mum, I find this so true!

You know, you can read as much as you want about being a coach, this is not until you’ll actually coach people that you’ll know what it’s like and get better at it. This is exactly the same about motherhood. You can read and get prepared for it as much as you’d like but chances are that it will be very different when you’ll actually have to go through it.

It seems that it’s the same when you have your second child. My close friends who have two kids seem all to agree on this. Having two children is also a very different experience than what they’d experienced when having their first child.

Looking back on my first year as a mum, I can clearly say that this first year was definitely beyond special. This is over the past year that I have experienced some of the lowest points in my life but also some of the highest.

As I shared in one of my Instagram posts when Théo was 6 months:

Motherhood is such a journey! It’s the lowest of lows and the highest of heights… And even-though I haven’t managed to write on my blog for the past 3 months, I’ve learned SO much! (And not only about changing nappies).


I find it really interesting that motherhood is the essence of life itself and is actually condensing so much life’s biggest learning lessons in such a short period of time.


It’s kind of bringing another lotus flower to the light and going through the whole process once again with her.

The first few months – or should I say the first 8 months – were super overwhelming…

Constantly learning new things on the spot, adjusting to your baby’s flow that is changing all the time at that age, getting to know him, adjusting to your new life… And all of that without sleeping much was very hard!

Any new mum a tiny bit honest with themselves will tell you the same. Don’t expect to feel all blissed out just after the birth. It takes a bit of time to get there, but rest assured, it will come. You’ll be immersed in total love and be crazy about your baby. You’ll discover this special love and fulfilment… it just doesn’t happen the second you give birth, it builds up over time.

And even if the first few months are challenging, as with any challenge in life comes growth. I learned so much from trying to understand my newborn’s reality and observing him. I learned about him but also about myself. So much!

So, if I could chat with my pregnant self, here are the things I would love her to know:

The fourth trimester

The fourth trimester is so real. I would recommend all new mums to take this time (the first 3 months of motherhood) totally off, so their only focus is their newborn.

Nature is so well designed that even if you try, it will be very hard to do anything else than taking care of your baby anyway. So I think you’d better let go of everything else and focus on what you have to do: mothering. After all, what’s more important than your newborn child?

Here is something I shared at the end of my fourth trimester:

Exactly 1 year ago, I got pregnant with Théo. Today is actually the end of my “fourth trimester”.
Funny enough, I truly and deeply feel that a cycle has ended and that a new life is only starting now, as if the birth was not quite enough to make a real separation.

For the first 3 months of his life, Théo was still me and I was still him.

Sleep

I am such a good and big sleeper, the short interrupted nights were super difficult for me – as I am sure they are for everyone. And even if there is no quick fix for that, I still noticed a few patterns you might want to be aware of:

1. Learn the different levels of tiredness of your baby

First of all, it’s important to note that it’s not because your baby doesn’t sleep much during the day that his / her nights will be longer and better. Not at all. A tired baby will have a difficult time falling asleep – and will cry a lot in the process – which is stressful for everyone.

That’s why it’s important to put your baby to sleep when she is not too tired. The big mistake we did at the beginning was to put Théo to sleep once we noticed some signs of tiredness. Unfortunately, this was already too late. If you put your baby to bed soon enough, he will play in his bed and then learn to fall asleep by himself, which is exactly what you want to do.

What I noticed is that at the beginning your baby will need to sleep and eat every 2 hours. This will progressively increase. I know that by 7 months of age, Théo needed to sleep every 3 hours, so I approximately knew when it was time to put him to sleep. From this age onwards, I noticed that he needed about 12 hours sleep at night and 3 hours sleep during the day. Sometimes, this was 3 hours in one go, sometimes in 2 smaller naps.

2. Food

If baby doesn’t eat enough during the day, chances are he / she will wake up more often during the night to eat. So make sure your baby is fed regularly during the day.

It was only when we started introducing solid foods – around 5 months – that I started to notice a difference in Théo’s sleep patterns. Unfortunately, it’s not recommended to start solid foods earlier than 4-5 months because baby’s digestive system is not mature yet.

Théo has been breastfed for about 11 months. But I started introducing a small bottle from time to time when he was about 6 months. It didn’t work out at all at the beginning. He knew I had the good stuff, so he constantly refused the bottle. It’s only when we found a formula that tasted like breastmilk that he accepted the bottle. I tried all organic options but it just didn’t work. The only formula he accepted was the NAN, so I decided to go for the hypoallergenic version – even though he was totally fine – just to avoid exposing him to too many allergens too soon.

I have to say that introducing a bottle at night made a huge difference in his sleep patterns.

I guess that at one stage, they reach a point where they are able to drink more – around 240ml or more – and there is no way we are able to produce that much milk in one feed – at least I wasn’t. So giving him a small bottle on top of breastmilk clearly made a difference in his sleep pattern.

3. Create a night time routine

It might just be reading a little story for 10 minutes, then taking a bath and putting the pyjamas on. The simple fact of having a recurrent process helps baby to relax. As he knows what will happen next, it helps him to feel reassured and understand it will soon be time for sleep.

To this day, our bedtime routine is still this: reading a book, having a bath, having a bottle with very little light and noise in his bedroom, and going to bed.

When Théo finishes his bottle he literally points his bed telling us “leave me alone guys, I want to sleep now”. The whole process takes about 45 minutes and by 7 – 7.15pm Théo is sleeping, which leaves us some quality time as a couple.

4. Put baby in his / her own bedroom

During his first month of life, Théo slept with us. Then we moved him in his own bed, which was next to me. I guess that as long as you’re exclusively breastfeeding – no bottle, no solid foods – you’d better stay next to your baby. It’s way easier for night feeds.

But once baby is able to stay 8 hours without food – they say it’s around 3 months of age – you might want to put him in his own bedroom. One thing is for sure, neither you or your baby will be able to sleep through the night as long as you’ll be sleeping together.

We only put Théo in his own bedroom – for many different reasons – when he was 7 months old. If I had to do it again, I would start way sooner.

5. Consciously reduce or stop night feeds

At one stage, when you know your baby can spend the night without being fed, you have to train him to stop asking for milk during the night. This can be pretty hard and involves some cries. But if you keep feeding your 7 months old baby when he cries during the night, he will never learn to settle and get back to sleep by himself.

I guess this is very personal and you have to go with the flow. But I know that when Théo was 7 months old, we knew he could go through the night without food but kept waking up by habit. This is when I decided to stop breastfeeding at night and started diluting his night bottles, so he was drinking mostly water during the night.

After doing this for about 2 weeks, we stopped night bottles altogether. It still took a bit of time for him to stop waking up at night but at that stage, we only helped him to get back to sleep with our voice and by putting our hands on him.

This transition can be tricky. Of course, when your baby is crying during the night and all you want is getting back to sleep, the temptation to give him a feed as a quick fix is huge. But if you keep repeating this process, it won’t take long for your baby to learn to get back to sleep by himself – and that’s definitely worth it!

One last thing I’d like to mention: stop listening to all the perfect parents around you that will tell you “mine did her nights straight from the beginning”, or “mine started sleeping through the night when she was 2 months old”. This is bullshit.

Some babies might be easier than others but all new parents will eventually experience short nights and interrupted sleep. So don’t think you’re doing something wrong! Just learn to adjust to your baby and try to teach her to be a good sleeper by falling asleep by herself.

Baby massage course

I followed a baby massage course when Théo was 3 months and I highly recommend it. Not only it allows you to bond with your baby even more, but it has heaps of great benefits. It provides relaxation for both mummy and baby, helps your baby get better sleep, helps baby’s nervous system development, and so much more.

To this day, I am still massaging Théo a few times per week and he loves it!

Inotyol Baby Cream

Chances are that you’ll have the joy of facing nappy rashes. And when that happens, you’d better have a great tool at your disposal to heal and prevent them.

I’ve tried many different creams. I always go for natural and organic brands, but the only one that gave me great results was Inotyol. It’s not organic but doesn’t contain many ingredients. This is the cream my grandma used when she had babies. This is a very old product we can find in some – not all – European countries. But you might be able to find it online.

I’ve been recommended many creams for nappy rash, including very expensive brands, but none of them have worked. Inotyol is definitely the one that will solve your problem here and has save my baby’s ass more than once. Totally recommend it!

Breastfeeding

If you can, breastfeeding is the best thing you can do for your baby. Not only breastmilk changes with your baby’s nutritional needs to provide exactly what she needs but it builds a healthy gut flora and strong immune system, which will impact your baby’s entire life.

Breastfeeding is great for you too, diminishing your chances of developing breast cancer by half when your breastfeed for at least 12 months in your life.

From her birth till her 6 months, your baby will get your immunity through breastmilk. That means breastfeeding will protect her against illnesses. When your baby reaches 6 months of age, her immunity through breastmilk will slowly decrease, so she can build her own immunity. This is why this is a time when your baby might get sick more often, especially if it’s winter and goes to childcare.

With that said, breastfeeding needs to be a conscious choice from the new mother too. You don’t have to breastfeed your child till he / she turns two if you don’t want to. You don’t even have to breastfeed at all if you don’t want to.

I consciously stopped breastfeeding Théo when he was about 11 months. Not because I had to but because I chose to. Breastfeeding, despite all its benefits, really depletes the new mum’s nutriments and energy, so if it brings you more arm than good, I think it’s safe to stop.

Personally, I was clearly feeling we were both – Théo and I – ready to step to the next level. I was more and more craving my independence and Théo was naturally feeding less, so it made sense to me to stop there. It all happened very naturally, without any issue, which is always a good sign. I mean, even if it wasn’t a problem for me to breastfeed in public areas (luckily), I certainly didn’t miss randomly popping my boobs out, nor the stylish breastfeeding clothes.

My point is, it’s ok to choose what suits you best. Breastfeeding doesn’t need to be a “all or nothing” thing.

You can design your own breastfeeding plan, so to speak. You can choose to use a combination of breastmilk and formula and it’s not because you have a lifestyle that could allow you to breastfeed forever that you have to do it. Don’t feel guilty for feeling that it’s time to stop, motherhood is so much more than breastfeeding.

You can also make your own baby formula at home, which is easy and way healthier than powdered milk. Here is the option I chose to make. It might feel overwhelming to collect all the ingredients at first but believe me, it’s so worth it for the health of your baby!

Your body (post-natal depression + getting back to your pre-pregnancy body)

Chances are you won’t feel your sexiest self just after the birth. I am not sure why I thought that as it would be a magic day, I would feel magical. In reality, you feel tired and will barely be able to move.

In fact in most countries, you have to wait 2 months to start any kind of exercise. They want to make sure your organs are back into place and that your pelvic floor is strong enough to support them.

In Belgium and France, it’s even strongly recommended to book 10 sessions with a post-natal chiropractor, which are paid by the government, to ensure your pelvic floor is toned enough to get back to a normal active life.

I think every woman who’s just given birth should do that, even if you’re not in a country that recommends it. It will help you avoid lower back pain, headaches and migraines, and other serious issues such as post-natal depression, a descend of your organs or urinary incontinence.

I am not a chiropractor but in a nutshell, because your pelvis has moved with the birth and pregnancy, this might create some tensions in the spine and nerves that go all the way up to your neck and the bottom of your skull. Such tensions can not only create horrible headaches and migraines, but also post-natal depression.

I suffered both after Théo’s birth and a single session with a post-natal chiropractor has fixed the issue. So if you ever experience strong headaches and / or post-natal depression just after giving birth, you know you want to find a good post-natal chiropractor – quickly!

Once you’ve fixed these major things and let your body get back into balance, you’ll see that you’ll quickly get back to your fit pre-pregnancy self.

Your couple

Having a baby is a magical experience but it takes a lot of time. So obviously spending some special time together, as a couple gets pretty rare.

However, I think it’s so important – once you get over the first few months of life – to carve some special romantic time. My two tips for that are:

  1. Get baby to bed early, so you can enjoy evenings as a couple.
  2. Get a baby-sitter to watch after baby a few times per month, so you can enjoy a night / morning / afternoon out.

The most difficult step is to find the right person and to actually do it. It might be hard for a first time mum to leave her baby with someone she doesn’t really know. But once you’ve found the right person and see that everything is going well, you’ll realise this was the best thing you’ve ever did!

 

Now, I’d love to hear from you!

If you’ve got any tips or recommendations to help new mums out there during their first year as a mum, please, please, share them in the comments below and let’s help + support each other.

We would love to know what has saved your ass during that special year!

xox

Pauline

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