Have you ever looked back at the early days and weeks of parenthood and realised that your memories are – to put it politely – somewhat fuzzy? You’re definitely not alone! Nearly all of us find that the sleep deprivation, hormonal rollercoaster and emotional ups and downs of those first few weeks pose quite a challenge. (And if you ask us, the few parents who say otherwise are either fibbing or have had a lot of help from the grandparents!)
In the second section of our survey, we asked more than 6,000 parents to remember those dim, sleep-deprived memories and share with us the moments that stood out most clearly from those heady, exhausting newborn days.
The first weeks – joy and exhaustion in equal measure
After baby’s safe arrival, our newly-fledged parents seem to have got right down to the nitty-gritty of parenting a newborn, with a majority reporting they had positive feelings about tasks like feeding, dressing and bathing their little one. (Oddly enough, even nappy changes were largely a happy time for this lot! Perhaps the passage of time has dulled the memory?)
However, the data on sleepless nights begins to balance the picture – more than half of our respondents said they were emotional, nervous or worried about the lack of sleep they were getting in those first few weeks. Other common challenges: feeding issues, recovering from the birth, keeping up with basic housework, and getting that all-important hot cup of tea now and then!
“In my sleep-deprived state, I once put the used teabag in the dishwasher and tossed the teaspoon in the bin!”
Luckily, there were also lighthearted moments to be remembered – though it must be said that the majority of them involved bodily functions! (Poonami, anyone?) Other high points our mums and dads remembered were introducing the new baby to older siblings, successfully sorting out a feeding routine, and achieving the level of organisation needed to venture out of the house for the first time. Hats off to all these parents – these are noble achievements indeed!
“The first night, he weed in my husband’s face, which was hilarious. A few days later, he weed in his own face, and his look of shock was exactly the same as his dad’s!”
Breastfeeding: Natural, but not always easy
When it came to feeding their little bundles of joy, the parents we surveyed overwhelmingly chose to at least try breastfeeding – which is a great choice, as breastmilk is the single best food a baby can get!
Most of our intrepid mums said they had initially planned to breastfeed for between 4 and 6 months, with another big group planning to feed for 10-12 months - and some of them did exactly that. However, the responses also show the challenges breastfeeding may pose; overall, the largest single group of mums said they actually did breastfeed for three months or less.
It wasn't the same for everyone on the breastfeeding front, mind you – the next biggest group of mums were those who may not have originally intended to feed for a year or more, but ended up doing so well that they persevered. (We say well done to all of you!)
“If it works for you then treasure every moment, because before you know it it's over, and I miss it so much! ”
When it came to location, our mums were well aware that the choice wasn’t always up to them – when your baby’s hungry, it’s automatically dinnertime! Most of our respondents said they felt happy, relaxed and confident when feeding alone at home or with female company; in contrast, feeding in public or in a mixed-gender group was much more likely to make them feel shy, stressed or embarrassed, and having people watching was frequently mentioned as being the most stressful thing about breastfeeding.
Which is not to say it stopped them, however! When we asked our lactating ladies about the oddest place they’d ever breastfed, we got a veritable avalanche of amazing responses – from the London Eye, to a (presumably quite chilly) rugby pitch, to Disneyland, to the top of Mount Snowdon!
“The strangest place I breastfed was standing up in a phone shop in a busy shopping centre. (It was my husband’s fault!)”
Funny moments were there in spades, too (though when you’re that sleep-deprived, let’s face it, lots of things strike you as funny.) Quite a few hungry babies (and at least one family dog) got impromptu showers when the let-down came on too strong, and more than one groggy mum forgot to button up before answering the front door to the postman... Oops.
“I couldn't understand why there was milk all over her face; it turned out I was so full I was squirting her in the eye!”
But in the end, it’s all worth it, isn’t it? Our group of proud parents said that the convenience, closeness and confidence that they were doing everything they could to give their babies a good start in life made breastfeeding a positive experience for them (and presumably their babies as well!)
Did our survey results ring a bell with you, or were your experiences totally different? We’d love to hear about your baby’s first few weeks! You can catch up with us on Twitter or Facebook, or add a comment below.