Rookie Review: Motherhood, 12 weeks
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Fourth trimester done and dusted!
Now that I am getting a little bit more sleep, I decided to compile a list of Some Rather Good Things That Helped me get through the all-consuming roller coaster that is life as a new mother. I don't mean to preach, but with limited capacity/opportunity to try things out firsthand these days and a reluctance to waste precious time and energy on anything subpar, I now find myself craving recommendations on everything; and I just arrogantly assume others feel the same way.
Some Rather Good Things That Helped:
1. Contented Little Baby routine
Getting Poppy on a routine wasn’t a priority for me because I, for one, don’t have a stellar track record of sticking to a routine myself. Moreover, a lot of the mainstream advice is centred around getting your baby to fit into your life. But a baby’s needs are so vastly different from ours, it seems crazy to expect them to play by our rules.
However, when — not one or two, but three — basically all of my older siblings recommended Gina Ford’s Contented Little Baby (CLB) routine to us and my sister-in-law let us borrow her copy of the book, I knew it was something we should at least look into.
Being a Virgo, Poppy fell into a routine of her own from the moment she was born. Lucky for us, her routine was not too far off from the one suggested by Gina Ford. With a few minor tweaks like bringing her morning nap forward and extending her lunchtime nap, she slipped quite smoothly into the CLB routine and by the time she was three weeks old, we had some structure to our days.
I was able to better anticipate when she’d want to nurse or sleep, which helped me maintain some level of sanity. This meant I could plan when chores would get done (whether I’d actually have the energy to get them done is a separate issue), let people know when a good time to visit was, schedule doctor appointments, and even make reservations to get my feet massaged.
Currently our days look something like this:
7am — I’ll wake to find Poppy quietly observing the shadows on her bedroom wall or cooing at the ceiling light.
The moment she sees me, she flashes her big gummy smile and I’m reminded again why this is all worthwhile. After a feed and diaper change, I bring her down to join the rest of the family for breakfast. Then she sits in the garden with her grandparents to enjoy the morning sunshine.
9am — my parents put her down for her morning nap while I wash up. Sometimes I catch a quick nap myself if it’s been a particularly difficult night.
10am — feed, diaper change, play gym. She loves looking at her black and white cards and is starting to show an interest in the objects hanging from her play gym.
11:30am — wind down, draw curtains, quiet time, feed
12pm — Poppy takes a nap while I eat lunch. In an ideal world, she stays asleep for 2 hours straight but most days she’ll wake after a cycle (~45 minutes) and usually needs a little rocking to help her fall back asleep.
2pm — feed, diaper change, tummy time, read story books
4pm — wind down, draw curtains, quiet time, feed
4:30pm — she ALWAYS fights this afternoon nap. Around this time is also when I start to break, so Scott will put her in the carrier and take her for a quick walk around the estate which usually does the trick.
5pm — feed, diaper change, hang out in the garden
6pm — bath time, massage, feed. Scott has been the one in charge of Poppy's bath since the beginning and they have such a lovely time together.
7pm — bedtime. Some days she’s a little fussy but most days she’ll drift to sleep while feeding. (Put them down awake, they say. Otherwise they’ll make the wrong sleep associations, they say. How about fuck off?????) Scott and I toyed with the idea of heading out for date night a couple of times but decided we'd rather have a nice hot shower and cuddle in bed.
10:30pm — my parents bottle feed her EBM (that’s expressed breastmilk, for the uninitiated.) We introduced the bottle to Poppy in her third week. And even though I am actually awake (in another room giving my boobs some relief by hand expressing for 20 minutes), it is a huge load off my shoulders knowing that someone else is caring for her at this time. It means I don’t have to be on. (Does that make sense?)
4am — I try not to overstimulate or make too much eye contact with Poppy when I nurse her at this time but her big gummy smile gets me every time. We usually end up giggling with each other even though we’re both super sleepy. I also change her diaper after her first feed to keep her awake enough for the second boob. She’s usually back in bed by 4:45am and sleeps till sunrise.
If you’re familiar with the CLB routine, you’ll know that we haven’t followed it to a tee. We’ve adapted it to suit Poppy and ourselves. Things certainly don’t always go according to the plan and there are (so many) days when she’ll miss a nap completely or fall asleep way past her bedtime. At the end of the day, we still take our cues from her and try not to sweat the small stuff — like missed naps or late bedtimes!
Listening to music makes everything a little better — music that we enjoy, that is. It can be really hard to please all ears in the room, though. Poppy can’t quite appreciate The Postal Service or Vampire Weekend just yet and Baby Shark drives me crazy. It took us a while but we eventually found some music that we could both jive to. Put it on and impress your lil bub, why don’t you.
My top 5 from the playlist are:
Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith
I Ate a Rainbow by Teeny Tiny Stevies
Avocado by The Vegetable Plot
On the Toilet by Teeny Tiny Stevies
Run Baby Run by Caspar Babypants
Also worth checking out are the lullaby renditions of Beyoncé, Queen, Coldplay, etc by Rockabye Baby!
How we found Montessori is kind of a funny story. Having had the privilege of watching my siblings become parents, I knew I didn’t want to be stuck with a bulky crib that had a lifespan of only a few years. So I spent my second trimester intensely googling “do babies need to sleep in cribs?” for the stories and experiences of others who had ventured down the no-crib route.
At first Scott thought I’d lost the plot. “You’re gonna make her sleep on the floor? In the corner of her room? That’s how Tai [his dog back in the UK] slept.” But after I showed him more examples of floor beds and explained the concept behind them, he eventually came around to the idea. So here we are:
What the hell is Montessori anyway?
It’s an education curriculum, but it’s also so much more than that. This quote from The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies sums it up quite nicely, I think.
“As a gardener, we plant seeds, provide the right conditions, and give enough food, water, and light. We observe the seeds and adjust our care if needed. And we let them grow. This is how we can parent our children, too. This is the Montessori way. We are planting the seeds that are our toddlers, providing the right conditions for them, adjusting when needed, and watching them grow. The direction their lives take will be of their own making.”
Since I am a gardener and now also a parent, this really resonated with me. As with everything, Scott and I are true dabblers. We like to look into different things and see it for what it is; take the good, leave the bad. We haven't gone full out Montessori, but are using some of her principles as inspiration and incorporating them into our lifestyle and home environment.
"If the baby reaches the edge of the mattress, he tends to pull back. However, with only several inches to the floor, it is all right if he does not. Thus he learns about his bed’s boundaries through a natural yet safe means. Because the child is sleeping on a floor bed, the room must be designed for his safety. This is done right from the beginning, so that no major changes are necessary later on." Montessori from the Start, by Paula Polk Lilard and Lynn Lilard Jessen
In theory, the floor bed is great and we have no regrets so far. But I'll let you know again our thoughts on this when the poppet starts moving about on her own.
It’s a thin oval mattress/cushion for a newborn to be held in or lie on for security and comfort. It becomes the baby's first environment, one that can move with the baby from place to place. This allowed Poppy to be with us all the time; whether we were in the living room, dining room, garden, or backyard, she was able to get in on the action too — albeit from a supine position.
The topponcino also made for some awesomely calm family gatherings where Poppy had to be passed around. She was comfortable, protected against whatever was on everyone's clothes, and smoothly handed from one person to another. It was always a familiar reference point for her and made these types of situations peaceful for her. This is something I would recommend to all parents, Montessori or not.
Scott and I live quite simple lives and our living spaces reflect that. Our bedroom is minimally furnished and gets a lot of natural light. We wanted to create the same for Poppy’s bedroom.
At first glance, her bedroom looked kinda sad. It is so plain and simple, especially when we compare it to the brightly coloured and decorated nurseries that we commonly see. But her room has an atmosphere of calm that is usually missing in busier environments for babies. It is so soothing and beautiful in its simplicity.
Is it normal to be craving so much cake and ice cream all the time? Maybe it’s because I'd deprived myself of these treats when I had gestational diabetes during pregnancy and now my body is just making up for it.
5. Getting out of the house... but with a young baby
Getting out of the house helped me feel more human again, but I did not expect how logistically challenging leaving the house with a tiny baby was going to be. It took us a good four hours of preparations before we were able to leave home for her first doctor’s appointment when she was five days old. It’s gotten easier, for sure, but gone are the days of impromptu trips to town for truffle fries and sticky date pudding.
Oh, and DEFINITELY figure out the car seat before you have the baby. I pretended to, but didn’t really — in my defence, Scott only installed it when my contractions had already started i.e. I was in early labour. When I tried it myself for the first time on a day I was insanely sleep deprived but full of bravado, I had a meltdown in the car park because I just could, not, get, it, to, click, in. I can do it with my eyes closed and backwards now, but it would’ve been much smarter to learn all my toys before adding a live (and impatient) baby to the mix.
We started experimenting with carriers more seriously when Poppy was about two weeks old. A friend let us try her Je Porte Mon Bebe Original baby wrap, which is essentially a super long and thick piece of stretchy fabric. Scott liked it and Poppy liked being in it, but it was so troublesome to wear. Once you put it on, you wouldn’t want to take it off; but then it’s also really hot, and you look kinda silly wearing it without the baby actually in it.
Then we tried the K’Tan carrier, which offered the same comfort and closeness as the JPMBB wrap without the hassle of wrapping. It was perfect! Except that it was a size too big for me and a size too small for Scott. (I’d ordered it online without trying it on in a shop beforehand.) I wore it out with Poppy a couple of times and she looked pretty happy in it, but her head just sat wrong/didn’t look well-supported so I stopped using it. We had the same problem with the Konny carrier that was gifted to us. (Thanks tho, Char!)
By week six, Poppy was big enough for the Tula Free-to-Grow carrier. It’s meant to be able to carry babies from 7 to 45 lbs without an infant insert, but it didn’t really fit her well until she was about 10 lbs. Its shoulder straps are adjustable so Scott and I can both use it with ease. This carrier has a bit more structure than the wraps we used in the earlier days, but is still very comfortable for both baby and the wearer.
The only drawback of baby wearing is that it is akin to strapping a heater to your chest. Scott would take Poppy for a walk around the block and both of them would come home dripping wet in each other’s sweat. So picture our delight when Poppy finally grew into her stroller!
To be honest, she’s still a bit small for her Babyzen YOYO stroller because we refused to purchase the newborn pack and went straight for the one meant for babies 6 months and up; but it’s nothing a little innovation and scarf can’t remedy! A couple of downsides to not buying the newborn pack for your newborn is that the seat does not go down flat like a business class seat and it is forward-facing. However, Poppy was still able to fall sleep quite comfortably in it and kicked up zero fuss about not being able to see us. I was a bit taken aback actually, about how pleased she seemed looking at the world instead of our faces.
Being able to put her in a stroller while we’re out has opened so many new doors for us. We can actually get all the items on our grocery list now, stay out for longer periods, and even sit down for a nice lunch.
I hope this list has been helpful. If you're a mum (or dad!), feel free to yell about Some Rather Good Things That Helped you via email. We need all the help we can get!