I feel uncomfortable when assigned the tag of "expert" because I've had five children. After all, I'm not an expert on all babies and I wasn't even an expert on my newborns.
However, that said, I do sometimes look at new mothers these days and think "oh, if only I could tell you this or that". But I don't want to get a reputation as an interfering old know-all in my real life.
Here, I have no such qualms so I have written out my top ten tips on coping, whether it's your first or fourth. I shall, however, try to stop short of saying "in my day......".
1. Ignorance can sometimes be bliss: I'm not talking about not knowing the signs of meningitis or preeclampsia, of course. But I had no idea that having a c-section was supposed to make breastfeeding harder, for example. It wasn't a walk in the park at first but I didn't know any different and stuck at it. And, if you haven't had your baby yet, don't talk to women about their birth experiences.
2. Have a babymoon: Admittedly this was a new concept to me but one I wholeheartedly embraced with babies four and five. It's hard to do but really important. You chill out in your PJs, preferably in bed at home, with your little one (and partner too, although he is on kitchen duty) for at least a week. And if you have other children they can join you, but once you're dressed you're back to full-on doing-it-all mode. If there's one thing you do from this list, let it be this one.
3. Embrace imperfection: The laundry piling up, the dust settling, being in your nightclothes still at 4pm -- all of that doesn't matter. Things will get done. Just not right now and not as quickly as you're used to. Exhale, let it go and snuggle with your baby. That's all that matters.
4. Accept help: I know, this can also be tricky. People say "if you need any help let me know" which is a cop out because then you have to take the initiative. But take it you shall. Tell them you'd like nothing better if they could bake you one of their chocolate cakes/take your toddler out/cuddle the baby while you take a bath. They'll be flattered to be asked and if they're not, perhaps it might teach them not to make empty offers.
5. Forget putting your baby in proper clothes: I did this for the first few months (but maybe that's because I'm lazy). Those teeny pairs of jeans look so cute but avoid at all costs. Babies need changing with alarming regularity and really, you don't need to give yourself more work. Plus, I never thought proper clothes looked all that soft for little ones. Babies in white babygros with a knitted cardigan, on the other hand, look lovely.
6. Go to National Childbirth Trust antenatal classes:NCT classes are not populated by placenta eating, natural birthing hippies, at least not round my way. Mothers who join them seem to form such tight knit groups that trying to infiltrate is harder than joining the Freemasons. You will meet other mothers everywhere but having friends with babies very close in age, at least at first, is priceless. Avoid competitive mums though.
7. Dismiss 99% of all advice: Apart from this list, obviously. It is all very well people telling you to "leave the baby to cry" but it's not them standing there with leaky breasts and tears streaming down their face. Do it your way (which could also mean leaving the baby to cry). You're not a perfect mum (who is?) but you're the perfect mum for your baby. Repeat it under your breath as a mantra.
8. Don't get your baby weighed too often: I made this mistake at first. You feel so good when baby puts on nearly a pound (a pound!) in a week, especially if it's thanks to your boobs. But a paediatrician advised me that monthly visits to the baby clinic are enough because you get too much "noise" on the chart otherwise (they will put on more weight some weeks than others, it's the overall pattern that counts apparently). Obviously go if you have a question or concern but you know if your baby is thriving.
9. Breastfeed: Controversial, I realise, but I can't ignore it. It was probably one of the best things I have ever done. It wasn't easy. My nipples felt like they were trapped in a red hot vice for what felt like hours at first. Apart from all the well documented benefits, it means you have to slow down to baby's pace. Don't be afraid to use all the advice there is. With my fifth baby I had to enlist a breast feeding counsellor's help. If you don't want to do it, or can't do it, that's fine too. Your baby will still thrive.
10. Enjoy it: It's corny but oh so true that this time really does go by so quickly. I don't want any more children, but if I could have a superpower I'd choose to travel back in time to when mine were babies. I would worry less, choose who I spent my precious time with more wisely but I really wouldn't change much. I snuggled lots and the housework built up but I enjoyed them so much.
These are, of course, the things that helped me, along with a pretty laid back attitude and, perhaps, rather low expectations and standards! What things helped you to cope?