Back in May, when COVID-19 was unfolding, I was supposed to be in Spain watching my younger brother get married. He'd spent two years in Barcelona doing an MBA, and returned home with a beautiful Colombian girl named Paulina who we all adored, partly because she didn't seem to judge our appalling attempt at speaking Spanish. "Hola!" in my best Spanish accent was about as far as I got...
Their wedding in Seville was a year in the making, and then suddenly within a week it was all over. No one was going anywhere for the foreseeable future. A few weeks after they called the wedding off, amongst the doom and gloom of COVID, we had the joyful news that they were expecting their first child, and a few weeks after that, they cut a cake to discover it was pink inside – they were having a girl. Now, given my brother has watched my husband and I deliriously navigate the world of parenthood, often with a look of horror on his face at the scenes that unfold, I can’t wait for him to become a dad. Yes, to get him back, because that’s what sisters do, but also because I can’t wait to be able to cuddle a baby and do all the fun stuff, then hand her back.
So inspired by my friend Rebecca Ritman, who is the digital editor at Condé Nast Traveller in London and recently wrote a piece for The Grace Tales on ’21 lessons from her first year of motherhood which she doesn’t want to forget’, I thought I’d compile a list of things you need to know about having a baby when you’re expecting, because after two children, they’re the little lessons I know are invaluable when you’re prepping for the arrival of a baby.
A good pram is your best friend
Now, I mean this literally, because you will be spending more time with your pram and baby than anyone else, so you need something that helps make life easier for you (trust me, there are many prams out there that don’t make your life easier and leave you feeling completely frustrated).
I recently helped Paulina decide on a pram, and we landed on the new award-winning Joolz Day+. For those of you who haven’t heard of Joolz, the brand which was founded in 2004, is a fast-growing Dutch company from Amsterdam which believes that “happy parents raise happy children”. And believe me, a good pram that works for you, not against you, will make you a happy parent. It’s one of the most important tools you’ll need. According to Joolz: “We offer young families building blocks to spark their lives with positivity. We call it ‘Positive Design’. It means, we build award-winning, ergonomic, comfortable and stylish pushchairs, car seats and (organic) accessories that contribute to a vibrant lifestyle”.
Their prams are all of the above and more. And the new Day+ will tick every single possible box on your pram wish list (even LED lights for night-time walks). Launching in Australia this month, the Day+ is suitable from birth all the way to 22kg (or) 4 years.
The Day+ features a stylish leatherette handle and large ventilated basket (once you realise how much stuff you actually need to get out the door with a baby, you’ll truly appreciate how amazing this basket is). And as for colour combos, the Day+ now comes in four classic colours, including Classic Blue, Brilliant Black (featured here), Gorgeous Grey and exclusive colour, Radiant Grey.
The premium frame with inbuilt suspension comes with a spacious cot, breathable mattress and an ergonomic seat with a leg extension. The ergonomic seat from six months+ is a ideal for toddlers and sits at table level (so when you’re stopping for a coffee, your toddler will be at the same height as the table – these little things matter). Ventilation is also built into both the carrycot and seat hood for those warmer days when overheating can be a problem, especially if you’ve covered the pram with a muslin swaddle while your baby sleeps.
Stylish and functional features aside, one of the things I love about Joolz is not only their dedication to quality, but their commitment to sustainability. They work to combat deforestation and climate change by planting a tree with every pram purchase. Parents receive their very own Birth Forest Certificate when registering within the first six months, which also gives them a lifetime warranty on their Day+. The Day+ packaging is also sustainable, containing instructions on how to easily transform the cardboard into a sailboat.
Walk as much as you can
Walking is the most underrated form of exercise and hugely important for expectant and new mothers, namely because it alleviates depression and fatigue and improves mood. When you’re a new mother, you need all the mental strength you can get. A daily walk is essential for your sanity and also a great way to calm babies who are unsettled (both of my children were unsettled babies and the movement used to put them to sleep). I used to do a walk in the morning and then during the witching hours later in the day. The witching hours refers to a fussy period that almost all babies go through that tends to happen around the same time every day and most frequently occurs in the late afternoon and evening hours. Otherwise known as hell on earth where you and the baby are often left in tears.
We were often walking at night with our firstborn who thanks to her reflux, and she cried a lot during those witching hours. The Joolz Day+ features integrated LED lights for night-time walks and I also love that there is a one-handed seat adjustment alongside a whole host of other benefits such as one-hand steering (you’ll understand why the one-hand steering is such a game-changer when your baby arrives and you realise how you now need to do a lot in life with one hand).
The Joolz Day+ is also super smooth thanks to robust rubber wheels and all-wheel suspension which make it suitable for all-terrain trips to the park. My sister-in-law lives in the inner city where the roads can be quite bumpy, so a pram which can handle the uneven terrain makes a big difference.
There are plenty of accessories to make your life even easier – a footboard for mothers who already have a toddler (this was a godsend for me in those early days when I had two under two), a cup holder and more.
Learn all about the 'fourth trimester'
You’ll hear a lot about the first, second and third trimester, but the fourth trimester is just as important. This “trimester” describes the postpartum period from the time your baby is born to the time he or she turns three months old. In cultures such as Chinese, this is a period of postpartum confinement and begins immediately after the birth, and lasts for up to 100 days.
When we interviewed Dr. Oscar Serrallach, the author of The Postnatal Depletion Cure, on The Grace Tales Podcast, we talked about what happens after a mother gives birth to the placenta. “The placenta produces over 200 hormones – cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, pregnenolone – just to name a few. These hormones, literally, marinate the mother’s brain and research has labelled this as ‘a hormone tsunami’, which I think is quite cute, but quite accurate as well, just in terms of the amount of hormones that are surging around the mother’s body, into her brain.” When we birth the placenta, these hormones are rapidly removed from the body.
Oscar says nature has always intended for us to go into confinement to let our bodies recover from this: “Nature’s design is, put a mother in the baby bubble and really try to contain and confine her, and then her hormones and nervous system can come back online within a few weeks to 1-2 months.” Instead, what he says often happens is: “We have this strange badge of honour that still runs through our society of pushing mothers to get back to their pre-baby self. Mothers trying to get back to work as soon as possible, trying to get back to their pre-baby body as soon as possible – we should focus on a full recovery. Instead, mothers are left in this very depleted, exhausted, self-doubting and self-judging space.”
While confinement might not be an option for you, follow Dr. Serrallach’s lead and take it slowly. Don’t open the doors to too many visitors in those early days – it just gets too overwhelming. Only see the people who you know will help you (i.e. hang out the washing, make dinner). Embrace the baby bubble and keep life quiet, because it’ll be over before you know it.
Block out digital free time during the day
It’s tempting to scroll and scroll and scroll, but try and be mindful about how much time you spend on your digital device. As a new mother, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the world, as you try and navigate the new one you’re in. But social media can also make you feel as though you’re missing out on life (you’re not, by the way, it’ll all be there when you come of out the bubble). Get a Kindle or a stack of books (although a Kindle is easier when you’re feeding) and read more than you scroll. Your mental health will be better off for it.
Get your hospital bag organised
While I didn’t get a chance to pack a hospital bag for my first due to her arriving six weeks early, if I had, I would have used The Suite Set. Founded by a gorgeous mum of two boys, Sally Branson Dalwood, it’s a company targeting women about to give birth and helping them to pack their hospital bag with ease (as in, free of stress, chaos and confusion – trust her, it’s possible). Each reusable set contains ten bags with detailed, thoughtful instructions on how to pack for mama, baby and the support crew for a hospital stay. They are designed and made in Australia and BPA free, reusable and recyclable.
Invest in a double breast pump - it's a time saver
This was one of the best things I did. It saves you 20 minutes each pump, and given I had to premature babies and those early weeks were spent pumping continuously day and night as they were too little to feed from me, it was a godsend. I used the Medela Freestyle breast pump is a double electric pump but there are lots of great ones on the market. The Elvie breast pump is the world’s first silent wearable breast pump and there’s a double pump available.
Get your apps organised
We used white noise a lot in the first year after each of our babies arrived. A couple of great ones are: Baby Sleep Sounds, Lightning Bug – Sleep Clock and AmbiScience Sleep Aid for Children. Then for you (because don’t forget if you don’t look after yourself, it all falls apart!), I’d recommend a daily meditation and if that’s not possible, just take three small but long breaths in and out a few times a day (maybe schedule them after each feed). Headspace is one of the most popular meditation apps. To track your feeding schedule, try Baby Connect or Baby Tracker.
Go to bed early
This is something Dr. Oscar Serrallach talks about. I know it’s tempting to stay up late and watch Netflix. Don’t do it. Sleep deprivation is utterly exhausting and it’s hard to be rational when you haven’t slept. Everything feels harder without sleep.
“One thing I talk a lot about is prioritising sleep. Sleep is how the brain will fix your inflammation most of the time. The first six weeks sometimes can be joyful and quite easy for a mother and it’s only in the months that follow that sleep deprivation can will cause neuroinflammation. You can’t fix your inflammation if you’re not sleeping well. Those couple of hours, after the baby goes to bed at night, may be nice and may be slightly humanising, but they’re not really worth it if you’re prioritising your recovery. You can always get back to those things later, once you are feeling better,” says Dr. Serrallach.
Start to use oil-based skincare
This is the easiest way to add a glow to dehydrated, dull skin. Smoosh is one of my favourite brands based on the hydrating power of oils, founded by a Sydney mother of three. There is an oil cleanser and three oil serums in the range, and they’re all super calming on the skin (and they actually work – my skin felt more hydrated and less irritated the day I started using them). When you’re feeling tired, these plant-based products will help you to feel nourished.
Know that the hard times will pass
I know that’s easy for me to say, but they will pass. They really will. My girls are now six and seven, and when I took the Joolz Day+ for a test drive with Paulina, it almost felt like I’d never pushed a pram (despite the fact I spent over five years pushing prams all over the city). I look at Paulina now, experiencing pregnancy for the first time, and a little pang of heartache hits me. I’ll never have a baby in my tummy again and for all the ups and downs and sleepless nights, it hurts. So, if you’re in the thick of it, know one day you won’t be and you’ll look back like me and wish you had those chubby little baby thighs to squeeze or those gorgeous gurgles to listen to. For now, I’m switching into auntie mode and I’ll be grabbing the Joolz Day+ and giving Paulina a break, because more important than any pram, is supporting mothers in those early days, when they need it most. And with the new Joolz Day+ I’ll be doing it like a seasoned pro – one-handed.
The Joolz Day+ is now retailing from $1,899. It is compatible with a wide range of contemporary Joolz accessories and can be found at leading retailers.
For more information go to www.my-joolz.com.au. In association with Joolz