Tell-it-like-it-is tips every new mum needs to know.
The day after the birth
You'll probably be in hospital most of the day - longer if you had a caesarean or your baby needs extra checks. So...
- Ask midwives and experienced mums for advice.
- Expect to feel a bit done in. Labour is hard.
- Cuddle. Skin-to-skin contact can make breastfeeding easier and helps you bond with your new baby.
- Enjoy the buzz of pride, joy and excitement, even though you're tired.
- Don't whip nappies straight off. Wait a moment after undoing the tabs - the rush of air tends to make babies wee. Let the nappy catch it, rather than the change mat - or your top, if you've had a boy!
- Be kind to your "bits". Take the painkillers you're offered; sit on a pillow; relax in a warm bath. Pouring warm water over your perineum while weeing helps stop it stinging. Cooling gel pads with gauze covers may ease the pain in the affected area, and some mums swear by taking arnica tablets after they've given birth.
- Be prepared for your post-birth body - your bump goes down slowly and you may feel cramps when breastfeeding as your uterus contracts.
- Stick to big old pants and maternity pads. For several weeks after birth, you get a discharge of blood and tissue (lochia) that, at the beginning, is like the mother of all periods.
First days at home with baby
These will probably be a blur of night feeds, nappies and new-parent nerves. So...
- Forget about cleaning.
- Arrange space in each room to safely put your baby down, in her Moses basket, cot, pram or bouncy chair.
- Don't feel silly asking the midwife loads of questions.
- Stand by with the hankies - it's common to feel a little weepy. Chat to your midwife or GP if these feelings carry on for more than two weeks.
- Agree a signal with your partner when it's time to send visitors packing.
- Sleep whenever you can. Stay in bed all day if you like.
- Shop online at Tesco to stock up on ready meals, healthy foods and lots of fruit and veg - don't forget the nappies and wipes!
New mum, one week on
Sleep deprivation's kicking in. So...
- Accept all offers of help.
- Eat properly. You'll feel more tired if you don't.
- Persevere with breastfeeding. Every day you manage in these early weeks is a bonus for both of you. Ask your midwife or health visitor for support and tips and find out if there's a breastfeeding support group near you.
- Get to know your health visitor, who'll take over from your midwife after a week or so.
- Drink lots of water. It's vital you stay hydrated when breastfeeding.
New mum, one month on
You're getting the hang of this, and your baby's responding more every day - maybe with a first smile, although this usually happens at around two months.
- Get out every day. Go to your baby clinic to get your little one weighed, chat to your health visitor about any worries you may have and meet new mums.
- Join a mother-and-baby group.
- Be ready for your baby's growth spurt - and the hunger that goes with it.
- You have six weeks to register the birth, so if you haven't yet, get down to the register office.
- Let your partner help. The more he does, the more confident, competent and involved he'll feel.
Three months on
Congratulations! You're ready to shed those parenting L-plates!