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Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Had a Baby...

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PARENTING IS HARD
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1) Breastfeeding really hurts when you start - no one tells you this! It was only after I called a friend in tears that she told me the ten-second trick - count to ten when the baby latches on and by the time you get to ten the pain will probably have gone away. With me it was more like an agonising 15 seconds but it helped a bit. It wouldn't have made the pain any better, but at least if I knew it was going to be so painful I could have been a bit prepared.

2) You already know that if it works for you, breastfeeding is really amazing: it's good for your child, free and doesn't involve sterilization. But if it doesn't, that's okay too and your child will still grow big, strong, intelligent and beautiful. So many of my friends found bf-ing really hard but felt horribly guilty for even considering giving up, guilt on top of exhaustion and rampant hormones is not a good combination. At the beginning, don't focus on making it to six months - that feels like forever, but think that every day you manage is a bonus.

3) Make sure you have some ready-made formula or a pump and bottles with different teats and the ability to sterilize a bottle at home before you go into labour. You don't want to be making a 3am dash to the 24-hour Tesco to get food for your baby.

4) At some point during the first six weeks you will wonder whether you love your baby as much as you should. You're not strange and there's nothing wrong with you for feeling like this - everyone does. I remember going for a walk with my husband when MLA was about two weeks old, I said in a quiet voice - I'm not sure I like this very much and he, relieved, said "me neither"... I was exhausted, could barely make it round the park without support (c-section) and my breasts hurt like hell. I then talked to friends who said they'd warned me (and I'd chosen to forget) that the first few weeks are just about survival.

5) Try and get out of the house at least once a day during the first few weeks - even if it's just to the shops... with every outing your confidence will grow. Accept practical help - someone you trust holding your baby for a couple of hours while you sleep is amazing.

6) That it really really really doesn't matter if your baby isn't in a routine in the first few weeks... and that as soon as you get them into one routine, they'll ping out of it and get into a completely different one but that eventually they will be sleeping at regular intervals and eating at mostly the same time every day regardless of whether you tried Gina, the Baby Whisperer or just left them to it.

7) That the average couple don't start having sex again until a whole year after giving birth - a whole year!! So that gives you loads of time to get back into it and still be within the confines of 'normal', and for once better than average if you manage it sooner.

8) You will, at some point in the not-too-distant future be able to have a long shower undisturbed, read a book or watch a film... that time may feel like it's never coming, but it will and for ever more it will feel so much sweeter... and then...

9) Gradually over the next few months you will start to wonder what all the fuss was about - you will suddenly find that four hours sleep feels like loads and that feeding your baby, talking on the phone and putting on the washing at the same time is as easy as falling off a log. Ditto getting on a train/bus/tube with a buggy/breastfeeding in public. By that point you will love your baby so much that it scares you. They will start to feel as much a part of you as your right-hand, you will wonder how you ever managed without them.

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