SIX WAYS TO MAKE THE FIRST FEW DAYS WITH A NEW BABY EASIER
By Jodi Bartle
Last month, I had my sixth baby; a boy, again, who rushed out in three quick pushes with a very nicely-shaped head and a squashed little pink face looking pretty much exactly the same as my other five babies once had.
After lying with him in the delivery room, those quiet hours with the earthy scent of new skin in the air, my body spent and sore, his raw and unknown, we dozed and fed and waited for the morning.
Giving birth hurts; breastfeeding is hard, even after all the years and all those babies. Recovery takes time, especially when there is a whole household of people who need you back, and the broken sleep adds up - leaving you brittle and punchdrunk, prone to tears and illness and stranded by inarticulate sentences.
Your body isn’t recognisable anymore, nothing fits, and both you and your baby leak from everywhere, onto everything. Navigating the post-partum period is tough, but there are ways to make the trip a little less hard.
Here are six things I’ve found that help you through the daze after your baby arrives - sometimes, it’s the little things that count.
We have a cleaner come to our place once a week - we’ve invested in one ever since we realised that a cleaner quite literally saves your marriage. Since Remi arrived, we have asked our lovely, gentle, kind, fastidious cleaner to come one other extra morning per week which means that the weekend detritus is back into some sort of order by Monday lunchtime and as the baby gets a bit older, I will have some time to catch up on freelance work.
Because, apparently, deadlines don’t care if you are knackered and fractious - and you don’t get paid unless you work. While having the cleaner come in for extra hours is all a bit tricky financially (as well as psychologically because I am not one to ask for help and I feel like a bit of a lazy cow), we have both agreed that the trade off is worth it.
Let your friends bring around soup and lasagne and when the offers wear off, go for the easiest meals imaginable. Put down your Ottolenghi recipe books and reach for the frozen fish fingers. Aim for culinary goals no higher than hotdogs, scrambled eggs, baked potatoes and supermarket pizzas and, of course, feel free to order in.
No one will die and you’ll regain your dinner-time mojo soon enough. Outsource all emotional energy usually spent on meal prep to older kids and partners and Deliveroo while you spend your time fattening up the baby.
Online shopping will become your best friend and you can’t do better than local, sustainable and ethically sourced food from online farm shop Farmdrop. Get £25 off your first shop with our exclusive code TLM25. Shop here. The code is also valid on essentials like nappies, baby and personal toiletries as well as natural cleaning products.
When my baby was three weeks old, I schlepped it to Fulham to a Blush + Blow salon for a Murad facial. Usually, I think facials are a bit daft - why pay for someone to slap on cream only to take it off again, and on repeat?
But I was wrong - my poor, tired, aching body was dehydrated and needed the firm touch of someone else to bring it out of its puffy, water-retained state. Sure, you can do it all yourself with products you’ve found deep in the recesses of the bathroom cabinet, but it’s just not the same - I was stroked and lifted, gently exfoliated and serumed into a barely-conscious state, and my face was all youthfully aglow when it was over.
The salon was baby-friendly too - Remi spent the hour asleep on the massage table next to me, and there were a few well-behaved toddlers upstairs while their mothers were blow-dried into a semblance of groomed respectability.
There’s currently a Mother’s Day offer on: over March the salon are offering a Murad or Environ facial for yourself and your mum with a free blow dry and glass of Prosecco for £60, so it’s worth a go.
On that note, a friend of mine bought me a massage as a post-baby gift. Two Sundays ago, after I dispatched the kids, baby and husband out to the park, Nina came to my flat and set up her table. She plugged in her classical playlist and closed the curtains and for an hour she gently swept and pummelled and coaxed and cajoled my post-partum body into a relaxed, unknotted state.
She tested my ankles for water retention, identified and worked on the scar tissue in my shoulders and gave me pointers to avoid damage while my body recovered from pregnancy and birth. It was the most rested I have felt in months - a total gamechanger.
Scream Sessions at The Electric Cinema
On Mondays at The Electric Cinema in Portobello, the cinema hosts Electric Scream!, a movie session for babies under one year old and their carers. You can bring that baby along, whether crying, sleeping, grunting, squawking, or cooing, and you’ll watch the movie (complete with subtitles) knowing you are in the company of similarly sore-boobed, sleep-deprived, proud, delirious other mothers who also still sport their maternity jeans with the massive elastic waistband.
It’s life-affirming and the movies are up-to-date, which means you’ll have something to mull over at the next 3am feed. Other cinemas have baby-friendly screenings too, so look around for your local session.
After a baby arrives, you exist in a sort of peculiar insulated baby-bubble where the normal rules go out the window. You are primally driven to do the things that keep your baby alive; your world shrinks to simple things like a couch, milk feeds, muslins and skin-to-skin contact, soft voices, comfy clothes and middle-of-the-night feeds that feel like half-remembered hallucinations the morning after.
People will make you endless cups of tea and will send you flowers, bring you cakes and tell you how wonderful you are. Let them. Let yourself stay in the bubble longer than you think you are allowed to - don’t rush back into the noise of normal life too soon; it is essential to take some time.
Recover at your own pace and don’t be a hero - enjoy the silence and the glorious privilege of growing, birthing and holding your baby, whether it is your first or your sixth.