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Contrary to what I believed / hoped, babies are not born like Stewie from "Family Guy". If they were life would be a lot less tiring. Since they can't tell you what they want / like, no matter how many Google searches you do, it mostly seems to be a matter of trial and error. Having not held a newborn since my little brother was born in the 80's to say I was maybe a bit unprepared for a baby would possibly be a fair comment. One good thing to come from the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at the hospital was that we picked up a few tips from the nurses there so at least we weren't totally clueless when we got home:
1. Change the babies nappy when he wakes up but before you feed him. He might cry a bit but if you change his bum after you have fed him, all the jiggling around is likely to make him sick. (I am now terrified of any sick even though babies often do a small sick after feeding, called 'posset'). That way once he has been changed and fed he can go straight to bed (in theory).
2. Pampers nappies are better than Huggies. As the hospital could not provide anything for either me or the baby, we had to take nappies in for him while he was in hospital. We kept taking in Huggies but everytime we saw him, he was in Pampers. My distrust of everyone at the hospital made me think that some sort of dodgy dealing was going on. Maybe they were selling our Huggies as they were a superior brand or something. I convinced myself they were doing a boot sale in the car park with our Huggies. However, when we finally got home I soon realised it was because Huggies are an extremely complicated type of pant. It took 4 days of constant wet babygros and bedding changes before an exasperated phonecall to my friend revealed you have to pull 'frills' down on Huggies to stop them leaking. I stopped using Huggies after that. Far too technical.
3. Put Sudocrem on every time before you put the nappy on. It prevents any kind of rashes before they can develop and should there be any kind of baby dropping in the nappy, it just slides of the bottom. Yay.
4. Winding a baby while holding them under the armpit and chin and balancing them on your knee may look precarious but produces very good results.
5. Feed on demand, basically when the baby wants feeding. Don't try to tell a newborn when to eat, its a newborn! It doesn't care what you think / want. If it wants food, feed it.
6. If trying to express milk and you are not physically with your baby, look at a picture of him/her, this gets the milk going. Its an odd phenomenon but seemed to be true. While I was in Hades aka the Maternity Ward and baby in another ward. I took expressed milk over to him every few hours. It made me feel like I was doing something good for him, so I would take it over to SCBU label it and put it in their fridge for when they needed it. I was worried that since we were not together this might scupper the milk supply so while sitting in my grotty bed I would look at a picture of him on my phone, put my headphones on to block out the noise of the other babies on the ward and express. It seemed to work although I can never listen to "El Camino" by The Black Keys ever again.
7. If you don't have a moses basket, which we didn't for the first few days (we had a small cot at first, its not like we made him sleep in a shoe box or a drawer) you can make the baby more cosy by placing a rolled up towel around the baby under the sheet. It makes a sort of nest and stops the baby flailing around and waking themselves up with a start. They've been squashed up in the womb for months so having the security of feeling snug when you put them to bed is more familiar to them and less frightening I should imagine.
Other things we were told by friends that ended up being invaluable :
1. I soon discovered boy babies like to wee just at the moment you have removed their nappy. Placing a flannel over the offending area will prevent the wee spraying all over the changing mat / bed / clean clothes / baby. Cotton wool balls get blown off by the stream and muslin is not heavy enough to hold the wee. A great tip during the night time nappy changes.
2. A foam wedge (from Amazon) under the mattress in the moses basket will help a windy baby to get more comfortable, although you should only use it when they are being supervised ie don't them sleep on it at night.
3. Infacol. Great for helping wind a baby. Its an orange flavoured liquid which you give to baby before each feed via a dropper. It helps collect together all the air bubbles in baby's tummy to make one massive bubble which comes out as one huge orange smelling burp rather than loads of little annoying ones. It costs about three quid and seems to be sold everywhere.
4. Most babies have a 'Witching Hour' each day, or 'Whinging Hour' as we like to call it. This seems to occur around 5pm in the evening. Often they don't need food / changing / winding, they just like to have a good old whinge, and who can blame them!
Things we worked out for ourselves:
1. Babies love white noise. We discovered quite by chance that the hairdryer stops a crying baby and now we have downloaded an app on the iPad called the 'White Noise Machine' which is specifically for babies. It has various noises on from hairdryers to hoovers to lawn mowers.
2. Babies prefer a warm bed. Pre-moses, we warmed up the cot with a hot water bottle (not too hot obviously) to warm the sheets. The Health Visitor said in all her years she had never heard of anyone doing that before. This made me feel a bit sad, imagine all those babies on chilly sheets. Poor things.
3. Babies really do calm down if they are swaddled. It's a lifesaver. Some people call the 1st 3 months of a babys life, the 4th trimester as they still think they are in the womb and are still a bit like another species. So swaddling gives the feeling of being in the womb I guess and calms them down.
4. Magic FM has an incredibly limited playlist. I now have Magic on in every room as its a nice and calming radio station but after listening it to it now for 6 weeks almost 24 hours a day I have noticed they only play the following 8 songs:
1. Rule the World - Take That
2. Torn - Natalie Imbruglia
3. Islands in the stream - Dolly Parton + Kenny Rogers
4. Get Here - Oleta Adams
5. Promise Me - Beverley Craven
6. Sexual Healing - Marvin Gaye
7. Hero - Enrique Inglasias
8. Leona Lewis and her Bleeding Love.
5. Trust your instincts, no one knows your baby better than you even if you don't think you know him/her that well at first, which you don't. Disregard most of what the 'experts' tell you.
6. Don't Google search every tiny thing. A copy of 'What to expect when expecting' will be enough.
7. We couldnt have done without the following items: Angelcare Nappy Bin, Puj Tub bath, Baby Bjorn Carrier (thanks again Emma) and I think my new Moby wrap will come in very handy.
Things we learnt from the Health Visitor:
1. Hackney has the 2nd highest rate of TB in the country after Newham. Babies in Hackney are offered their BCG jab from birth. Shocking. Now I really really can't wait to move.
So, the days are, even now, in this short time, getting a little easier. At least I know how to put a nappy on properly so don't have to change the baby's clothes every hour and a half, I would say that's progress. Next giant leap, attempting the outside world. I think I've seen every TV programme ever made at least 3 times in the last few weeks, so going out is looking more and more appealing. I'll just have to make baby wear a space suit so he doesn't catch any germs.