New mothers - birth to 18 months

For us it's all about boys

I don’t pretend to be an expert, not even close. I have no training, no qualifications (does a teaching degree count…..I’m not sure of the relevance here), just experience. As I write I am 7 months pregnant with number 4. Number one is almost 8. So there you have it, 7/nearly 8 years of parenting so surely there must be some knowledge to impart. And they are ALL boys, and I have no doubt that the little one inside will also be a boy, watch this space! 

Here goes.

The baby stage where it all begins was the stage I dreaded most. Here are my top tips, no book needed and gender neutral at this stage. You can wade through the detail below but first a quick, basic list.

  1. Buy the essentials, no unnecessary clutter.
  2. Baby needs to be fed, burped and dry to go down for a sleep.
  3. Feeding times up to weaning, 7, 11, 3, 7 (and the night feed10/11pm).
  4. Be relaxed on routine in the early days, get tough around 6 weeks.
  5. Swaddle in the first 8 weeks.
  6. Controlled crying does work, you just have to be strong but do it when you are ready (don’t leave it too long!).
  7. Don’t be afraid to wean when you feel your baby is ready (current guidelines state 6 months) I weaned my children at 17 weeks. Each to their own. Don’t be scared of it.
  8. Never compare yourself to other new mums. Half of what they say is not true anyway.
  9. Give a bottle early on, otherwise you will have trouble later.


  1. The Baby List

It’s easy to go wild, rein it in, just the necessary.

  • moses basket
  • blankets/sheets
  • pram
  • metanium/chamilosan
  • braun digital thermometer
  • nappies (number 1 to start)
  • wipes
  • cotton wool
  • Lansinoh (nipple cream)
  • Nursing bras
  • Big pants (useful after c sections)
  • Breast pads
  • Sanitary pads (post birth)
  • Calpol (not till 3 months)
  • Changing mat (2 are useful, one in bedroom/one in bathroom)
  • Swaddle blanket
  • Nail clippers
  • Baby towel
  • White long sleeve vests
  • Baby hat (seasonal)
  • Basic baby gros (get 0-3 months but also a couple of new born sizes)
  • Baby jumper
  • Breast pump (I had a manual one, I think electric is better)
  • Steriliser (microwave ones are brilliant and take up less space)
  • Baby bottles (I always used avent, keep it simple)
  • Dummy (essential in the early days to prolong time between feeds)
  • Bouncy chair
  • Infacol (for wind)
  1. Fed, burped and dry

 This one is self explanatory. If your baby wont settle there can be any number of reasons, but generally it is fairly basic. Would you go to sleep in a wet nappy, or needing a huge burp, or hungry???? And nor will your baby. If it is none of these things then your baby could be overtired. Failing that you must always check your baby is well. There could of course be something else going on so trust your maternal instincts. 

  1. Feeding times before weaning

You arrive back from hospital with a tiny baby that looks to you for its every need and it is terrifying. I had no friends with babies and no idea whatsoever. It’s a steep learning curve, but it doesn’t have to be as terrifying for you as it was for me. Relax!!! A lot of it is instinct!

Step 1 – feed on demand for the first few weeks.

Do not rush a routine, it will most likely fail and you will feel demoralised. BUT, take time with your feeding, make sure your baby gets enough and you aren’t jumping up and down making visitors tea. If the baby gets a good feed it wont get into the habit of snacking. Snacking is when the trouble starts, bad habits develop, and you will find yourself up all night with a baby feeding every couple of hours. Sleep deprivation is very debilitating. You will suffer from it but lets try and keep it to a minimum.

Step 2 – the night feed.

Try and establish this as early as you can. Get your baby up and feed it before you go to bed (it is often wise to leave this feed to your husband and get an early night). Most people do this about 11pm. Even if your baby only went to sleep at 9, wake it and give it a feed, pre-empting a feed encourages your baby to break the habit of waking out of hunger. With my first 2 children, I obsessed about always doing breast and it was exhausting. With number 3, it was breast in the day and always a bottle at this feed. There is nothing wrong with this, you have not failed, you are giving yourself every opportunity to get rest and be the best you can be for your baby the following day. I wish someone had given me this advice when I had my first.

There is conflicting advice on whether you turn on the lights, fully wake the baby or whether you feed the baby in a darkened room, barely waking the baby. I always did the later, see what works best for you. But change its nappy and burp it before you put it back down.

Step 3 – Daytime feeds.

Once you have the day sorted the night will follow so the saying goes. And as sayings go I do believe this to be true. Bad habits are hard to break, good habits can be easy to establish with a bit of perseverance.

After the first couple of weeks, start trying to prolong the time you leave between feeds. The optimum is 4 hours. So 7, 11, 3, 7 (the last feed is often split for before and after bath, bathtime can be stressful with a hungry baby). If the baby is hungry, it will feed well. If it feeds well it will go longer between feeds, and so the cycle begins. If you let your baby snack, you will have your boobs out constantly, or you will be sterilising bottles all day long. It is a bad habit to get into and hard to break. So how do you prolong time between feeds? Go for a walk, use a dummy, walk around with your baby in a baby sling, sing, dance, anything goes! Bouncy chairs are also great, my babies used to sit very happily in them whilst I sat beside with a foot gently rocking them.

  1. Routine

This always throws up a big debate. Some mothers believe in the more earthly natural approach, feed baby on demand, be led by your baby. I don’t. I am not suggesting that you impose a rigorous sleeping and feeding schedule on your newborn the minute you get back from hospital, but when you feel ready (hopefully within a few weeks) establishing a routine helps your baby to develop good sleeping and feeding patterns which makes calmer happier babies and calmer happier parents. We made BIG mistakes with our first child and still suffer repercussions from this now. We listened and learnt and got it right 2nd and 3rd time.

Establish a feeding routine as above and regular daytime sleeps and a consistent bedtime with a no nonsense approach.

Your baby will need 2 daytime sleeps (one short, one longer) until it is about a year and then just one sleep in the middle of the day till it is about 2. This is an arbitrary figure and is completely different from child to child. My first kept his lunchtime sleep till he was 3, my second till he was 20 months, my third till 30 months. If your baby stops sleeping so well at night it is an indication of too much daytime sleep.

However, do not be so strict that when you are out an about life takes on an unbearable mass of time pressures and an impossible sleeping and eating targets. Relax, keep to roughly the same times, it will not matter for a day.


  1. Swaddling

Swaddling is an old fashioned method of wrapping your baby in a blanket to restrict movement to make your baby feel safe and secure (as they do in the womb). Your baby’s face and head MUST remain uncovered at all times and there is often no need for another blanket, do not overheat your baby.

I swaddled all my babies up to the age of about 6-8 weeks. I believe it helps them to settle and sleep more securely. It stops your baby being disturbed by its own startle reflex. Swaddling blankets are brilliant and come with instructions.

  1. Controlled crying (not for very young babies)

Once your baby is in its room at 7 o’clock, that is where it stays until 7 the next morning. If it cries, check on it after 20 minutes (make sure it is not unwell). Again after another 20 minutes, do this no more than 3 times and then leave it. Do not feed your baby if it wakes in the night (unless it is the 11pm feed) as this will encourage your baby to wake out of hunger and it will become a habit (this happened to us). Obviously this does not apply to newborns, I began this type of routine at about 2/3 months with babies 2 and 3.

 It is really important to do this when your feel ready, it is hard listening to your baby cry. It took me a year to feel up to doing this with our first, and was ridiculously up 3 or 4 times a night feeding him, soothing him and was exhausted. Life felt like an uphill battle with no energy for anything. I was much quicker with 2 and 3 and as a result they are much better sleepers now, we rarely get disturbed nights from them. Our 8 year old will use any excuse not to go to bed and to come downstairs to see us. He developed bad habits very early on that have been very hard to break. DO NOT LEAVE IT TOO LONG.

  1. Weaning

 I am not even going to try and re-invent the wheel on this one. Gina Fords weaning book is completely brilliant. I followed it to the word for the first 2 months of weaning, and all of my children are brilliant eaters. They eat what they are given, and have a healthy diet and will eat food from all the food groups. I weaned a lot earlier than government guidelines would state and with no medical expertise I cannot recommend the perfect age to do this, it is currently 6 months. However, what I can say, is that if you have a baby under 6 months that is sleeping through the night, content with all its milk feeds it then it is obviously getting what it needs. If your baby is over 17 weeks and is starting to wake at night having been sleeping through, then it is entirely possible that its nutritional needs are not being met through milk alone and you may need to start weaning.

Invest in a good high chair. As usual, I ended up buying twice, realising my mistake not long after I bought my first useless high chair. It is really only the stoke trip trap that you want.   You can have them at the table, they are secure and it turns into a useful chair that grows with them.

  1. Other mums

 I don’t think I really need to expand this point. Safe to say, other mums can be a competitive pain in the backside. You meet up with your NCT group after 6 weeks of sleepless despair and they tell you their babies sleep and eat when they are supposed to and on top of that they look fabulous. You feel frumpy, exhausted, pale and pasty. Well, they have probably caked on the make up, and are secretly despairing but can’t admit to any kind of failure. Don’t believe all you are told. Relax!!!!

  1. Bottle or breast

I always wanted to breast feed my children, and was lucky to be able to do so. With number one, I was paranoid that formula should form no part of his diet, and so it didn’t. When I wanted my boobs back after 6 months, they were hard to reclaim. He was bottle resistant. It took a lot of hard work from my mother and husband to get him to take a bottle, if I was around he expected a boob. With 2 and 3 the night feed was always a bottle of formula from about week 2. I don’t really believe in expressing, more hard work and soreness for you. As a result, boob reclamation was far easier when I was ready to stop and I was able to leave my baby and get out and about when I needed or wanted to.

Right, baby bit over. Lets move onto boys.

Bikes, balls, boisterous, boundless energy, bleeding knees, brawls, brave, bare no grudges,


Annabelle, Shorters Founder and mother of 4 boys...