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But baby *needs* it my dear! Part 1.

But baby *needs* it my dear! Part 1.

As a bad and mean woman, I secretly enjoy lurking in supermarket babycare aisles, watching parents to be gazing at all the gear you can get for a baby with a mixture of fear, bewilderment and a bit more bewilderment. Partly it's just because I'm a cow, but mainly it's because 6 or 7 years ago I was in exactly the same position and it cheers me to see how far I've come (nowadays I only forget to take nappies/drinks/hankies out with us approx 98% of the time), and want to show that off, like a massive girly swot. That learning process involved plenty of expensive mistakes, and it would be nice to help other people avoid the same mistakes; not by saying which products I reckon are good or rubbish, but by going through the criteria you need to consider for each thing so that hopefully it'll be easier for you to make the right choice for you. I will try and be as unbiased as possible throughout. The very notion that someone might pay me to endorse any products is sadly laughable. Basically, new babies need four things: - something to eat - somewhere to sleep - a way to get around - something to wear

On edit: I've now remembered you need to wash them occasionally too, so there'll be a post on that as well.
Each category will form a separate blog post, starting with eating because it's easiest and ending with clothes because that's my favourite. In each category, items will be categorised as either completely indispensable, recommended, meh or cack, and reasons why they fall into each category.
Actually, there's another category. All babies need sane and capable parents. Most first babies don't get that until at least a few months in, but hey, the species continues. Let's start with what *you* need to have and do when you have a baby, never mind what they need - you've got 18+ years to be running around doing all that.

1. Instruction Manual

Nope, sorry, there's no such thing. There are literally thousands of baby books to choose from, and each has its devotees, but a baby manual is similar to a car manual. All cars have common features, working parts and do pretty much the same thing, but each make and model is completely different. So, to stretch this metaphor to breaking point (because I can't think of a proper baby example), getting the heating on just right involves a different process in a Ford & VW, and it's only when you've been driving a specific car for a while that you know precisely which setting works best and which angle to put the blowers, none of which is in the manual. There is some good news though! Thank your lucky stars that you're living in the 21st century, with internet access. Whatever your question, worry or delight, whatever time of the day or night you have it, there are guaranteed to be several other parents on line who've felt or done exactly the same who will happily share their wisdom & experience with you, crack you up and support you. You'll find lifelong friends. Each forum is different, and you'll need to look around to find the one that suits you best. You'll know when you find it. It was this one that got me through early parenthood. The people I met there deeply affected me, and I'm profoundly grateful for their friendship and always will be. Love yers, HFA's!
"Yeah, yeah, yeah" you're saying, "but what books should I buy?" Gah, OK then, The Wonder Weeks and What Mothers Do are worth buying, memorising and having engraved on your wall. They won't tell you how to change a nappy or if your baby's ready to wean, but they will make you feel normal and keep you sane.

2. Someone to talk to

Really, you need several people to talk to, each for different things, because the baby's conversation won't be up to much for a while.

Someone who loves the baby as much as you do.

Like it or not, you will develop a startling interest in your baby's poo, and you may be inclined to believe he's a genius because he managed to poke himself in the eye. You may even feel compelled to tell your child-free best friend, boss, or supermarket checkout girl all about it. They probably won't thank you. Save up all the details and share them with someone who'll properly share your delight. For full poo-story appreciation, they probably need to be related to the baby.

Someone who's in a similar position to you.

This can be a toughie. If you're struggling with parenthood, perhaps a little depressed you really won't want to hang out with other mothers as many people will recommend. It just makes you feel worse. Please try though. If you can find even just one person you'd have bonded with pre-kids, who's honest with you and makes you laugh, and with whom you can be honest, it's the biggest boost you can get.

Someone who has nothing to do with babies.

For the times you need to be a grown up. You may feel like you have the square root of knack all to say to them that doesn't involve poo, but your social skills will eventually return. Gin can help.

3. To chill out

Many women come to motherhood later in life than our parents' generation did. We're used to working with adults or at least people who can do a passable imitation of adults. Even if things don't work the way they're supposed to, at least there *is* a way things are supposed to work. Babies laugh in the face of the way things are supposed to work, then pull its hair and makes it cry. If you have any perfectionist tendencies, work on losing them asap. They're going to make your life so much harder than it needs to be. Getting zen with it is the way to go. So you didn't manage to get to the shops, clean the house or shave your legs. The shops, dust and razor will all still be there tomorrow. If you managed to get a load of washing on, chalk that up as a good day. Whilst pregnant, you've no doubt been aware of celebrities who are pregnant at the same time as you. They will, without doubt, emerge butterfly-like 6 weeks after their baby is born, looking immaculate and wearing a size 0. Meanwhile, you'll feel like a sack of spuds, be sporting at least one patch of sick and have hair like the wild woman of Borneo. Chill out. That poor woman has eaten a total of 4 grains of brown rice in those 6 weeks, has a team of nannies, chefs and personal trainers to help, and it's her job to look like that. It's not a competition, and the celeb way is not normal. In summary: be kind to yourself. Parenthood is worth it, but it's hard. Everyone finds it hard at times. You're not failing.

4. To keep a piece of yourself

Being a mum can take over your entire existence. Other people see you as a mum, and small children ought to be reported to the European Court of Human Rights for their constant contravention of the Working Time Directive. Don't forget that you used to be a person in your own right, and make sure that you don't let go of the things that were important to you then. It could be a formal arrangement to do an evening class, a regular date with friends, an ad hoc mooch round the shops or just a long bath. You need that time in order to be a good mum, so it's neither selfish nor bad to take it.

5. Sleep

If you manage this one, please leave a comment because I could really do with some tips.

What do you reckon? What have I missed? Sorry if the tone of this post is excessively downbeat. I did struggle at first, and hope that by sharing the things that helped me, I can help someone else.