Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but unfortunately, we don’t often get to appreciate and implement it until it’s too late (like, stop over-plucking your eyebrows and invest in Snoo shares). When we’re in the sleep-deprived blur of postpartum, it can be even harder to stick to our guns and establish boundaries, and it’s not until we’ve emerged from that fog that we contemplate what we would have done differently.

But wouldn’t it be great if we could go back in time, have a loving chat with our pre-baby selves, and share all the wisdom that we know now? While that might not be possible for us, it doesn’t mean we can’t help soon-to-be first-time parents before they enter their fourth trimester.

From not being so stringent on getting your newborn into a “routine” (this was me with my first child! I followed Tizzie Hall’s schedule to the dot and would beat myself up if the day didn’t go to plan) to not letting visitors come to the hospital or simply raising your hand and asking for help, we’ve canvassed our network of mums who have shared fascinating insights about what they’d change about their postpartum period. And, of course, while every family is different and has different needs and set-ups, hearing the stories of other parents is always beneficial.

“Protect your space. No visitors. Keep the bubble sacred. Never apologise for doing what’s right for you and your baby.” Amber

“Agree to minimal visits, get help with cooking nourishing meals and chores, and organise gentle, at-home massage. Also, manage your expectations. Six weeks is not a magic recovery number! Accept healing takes time, and it varies from person to person. It took me three to four months to feel more like ‘me,’ and still, it’s a process. I recently read about how much people spend on weddings or decking out their baby’s nursery. Wouldn’t it be better to think about birth and postpartum in that light? It’s worth investing in your recovery because it’s equally, if not more important.” Ana

“Don’t be afraid to future-proof your mental health. My biggest win was having therapy in the antenatal period and through the early stages of postpartum. I found postpartum relatively fine and not a shock because of it.” Sarah

“Just letting go of all the sleep expectations and the ‘shoulds’… your baby SHOULD be sleeping unassisted and alone and blah blah blah blah. With my second child, I let it go and embraced having her in our bed (and still do a lot of the time!). They’re only little for such a short time. One day, we will kill for those nights when they snuggled and climbed into bed with us.

Ohhhh, and the whole damn feeding thing! I pushed myself to exclusively breastfeed my first daughter for the first three months at the expense of my mental health and her being a hungry baby! I tried everything, even drugs, to increase my milk supply, but it only increased my weight and, in turn, my anxiety. With my second daughter, I mixed fed from the start and stopped boobs at six months, and she’s definitely my kid with stronger immunity. It’s all rubbish, and so many things are outdated to make mums feel guilty. Guilt can get in the bin.” Georgie

“The second time around, I was all about co-sleeping. Once my baby was a bit more robust and not a teeny tiny newborn, I totally embraced it, and it was a lifesaver in so many ways. So much more sleep was had, so much bonding happened lying chest-to-chest with my daughter, and it was so much easier compared to being awake all night and slowly losing my mind trying to resettle a crying baby for hours on end. Co-sleeping really did save my sleep and sanity!” Bella

“I would tell myself that the baby nap schedules are loooooose guidelines, not deadlines. The baby will figure out how to sleep, and if they don’t and it’s hard, then head straight to a beautiful and kind sleep coach. Sleep doesn’t need to occupy 95% of your brain capacity. The time I wasted trying to implement a routine, and I have just watched my sister with her 13-month-old never once consult a schedule or suffer a minute’s worry over a ‘failed nap.’” Clare

“For me, it was thinking that I should be able to handle everything (cleaning, cooking, taking care of a newborn, and still having to explain to the father that he should have helped me). This resulted in a really hard postpartum with an inflamed C-section scar, which was only discovered after a month of physical and mental suffering, and my postpartum period ended with a sick mother and the end of my marriage. I would do everything differently! My baby and I would be the priority, and I would just try to enjoy the moment more.” Iolanda

“I just had my second daughter nine weeks ago and have embraced co-sleeping. I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing it with my first daughter, as it felt akin to committing murder! I used to get up at night and go to the couch just to feed, which was a nightmare and resulted in zero sleep. This time around, I’m letting go of trying to breastfeed exclusively because a fed baby is a happy baby. Another tip for my postpartum that I read in some bizarre corner of the internet was 5-5-5 for Mum. Five days in the bed, five days around the bed, and five days near the bed. In other words, don’t try and do too much! Another thing I’m doing differently is a couple of Dinner Ladies orders (or any meal service) because thinking about dinner is the biggest pain when you’re just trying to get through the day. It’s night and day in terms of stress levels this time around.” Alex

“Outsourcing where possible, chicken nuggets for dinner, a dirty house for the win, and lowering alllllll of the standards.” Georgia

“Delete. The. Apps. Trust your gut, not some algorithm that’s telling you a terrible ‘raincloud’ leap is coming. No one knows your baby better than you.” Chloe

“I’m pregnant with my second, and this time around, we’re going to share the mental load way more evenly. My partner and I have sat down and mapped out a much fairer split of all the duties. I’m not going to be a martyr and ‘do it all myself’ just because I think ‘my way’ is better. I need to let my partner in from the get-go so I don’t resent him like I did with my first.” Anonymous

“Ughh, I made so many mistakes. You don’t want to hear all of them! But, if I had to choose, my number one mistake was not ‘sharing the wealth.’ Go ahead and have the visitors in the beginning. Welcome them. Let your child hear all kinds of adult voices and child voices. But also, set your boundaries and kick them out when you need rest. I kept my mum too far away because she said that she didn’t like infants and she preferred older kids. I shouldn’t listen to that because now she would’ve been happier around the baby. The result was that I felt all of the burden for that baby’s health and happiness, and that was wrong. After a few months, I finally spoke to the lady next door with a ten-year-old daughter. From there on out, I learned that talking to other women was really helpful.” Alice

“Don’t be afraid to get out of the house more! It’s not the end of the world if your baby has a meltdown, and it’s better for your mental health to get some fresh air and sunlight every day. Being stuck inside can send you stir-crazy.” Mira

“No visitors at the hospital ever again! I don’t want to manage that schedule of back-to-back guests while I’m also dealing with a painful C-section scar and trying to get to know my new baby. It’s too much.” Kristy

“Do less in baby’s nap times. Folding the laundry or any other boring chore can wait. Sleep, scroll Instagram, or rest my body without any stupid guilt.”  Clara

 

Words by Bella Brennan