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Becoming Mum

How to get through the first year of motherhood with your sanity intact.

Motherhood is a life-changing, magical experience, but it’s also a time in your life that’s emotionally charged and physically exhausting. Not only that, but you’re trying to care for a tiny human being who needs you 24/7. Self-care couldn’t be more important to you than it is right now. Here Zeena Moolla, author of new book 365 Days of Self-Care for New Mums, shares her top tips for your baby’s first year.


Were your first thoughts when they discharged you and your baby from hospital less of elation but more of horror at the thought that you were expected to raise a child unsupervised, without some sort of manual for reference? “Maternal instinct” can become a form of pressure for new mums with notions of motherhood as something innate widely touted in society. You will undoubtedly develop a gut instinct about your child. Some things will come naturally, other stuff, you’ll learn. Motherhood is often fraught with self-doubt, but never take this to mean you don’t have a connection with your child, or worse, view it as a barometer for the kind of mum you are.


Sneezing, laughing, running for a bus – ask most mothers how their relationship with these things changed post birth, and you’ll be greeted with a wry smile. It’s hugely common for a new mum to experience urinary incontinence after having a baby, and often simple things like bursting into laughter or breaking into a sprint can cause a little bladder leakage. Symptoms should improve within a few months, but if you’ve any concerns, speak to your midwife (or doctor).


Motherhood, as may already be apparent to you, is awash with unsolicited advice: “I’d put a hat on that baby if I were you.” “She’s a thumb sucker. You’d better put a stop to that now unless you want a bucktooth baby!” “Have you got that book, How to Make Your Baby Sleep All Night the Minute You’re Home From the Hospital? Oh, you HAVE to read it!”

No matter how well-intended or thinly-veiled it is, uninvited opinion can drive a new mother to distraction. Confrontation in such circumstances is rarely helpful, so try mastering the art of deflection: smile, nod and then change the subject. Remember, your instinct and your child are all that matter.


All mothers could probably do with a mum mentor: someone to walk them through motherhood every step of the way, showing them there’s light at the end of the tunnel on the tough days and reminding them there’s so much to look forward to. This is perhaps especially true for single mums. If you’re that person, try to connect with another mother, perhaps a few or more years ahead of you in parenting terms, and speak regularly to this person. If finding another single mum is tricky, speak to a local single-parent charity. Just having someone at the end of the phone can be such a tonic when you’re in need of a chat with someone who truly gets it.


Are you a good mum? Yes, undoubtedly. Why? Because you care enough to ask the question. While it’s not good to let self-doubt spiral, this sort reflection only shows how much you love your child. And of course, you’re not just a good mum because you worry about motherhood – you’ve got the actions to back it up, too! You’re not skiving or doing the bare minimum like some indifferent, clock-watching office worker (chance would be a fine thing!) You’re grafting day and night, quite literally, to meet the never-ending demands of your child. Your baby wants you above anyone else because you’re meeting those needs, no matter what. On the days when you’re disliking, resenting, even hating motherhood, this will always make you a good mum. Remember that.


Wipe warmers, nappy bins, baby robes, dummy cases – the list of things you don’t actually need for a baby is endless, not to mention expensive. Gadgets and products are likely to be marketed your way in the coming months as algorithms, as if by magic, pick up on the fact that you’ve got a new baby. But do you really need that baby blender for weaning when a cheap handheld one would suffice? What about that bottle warmer when a pan of water and a stove would work just as well? Pricey branded baby food or the cheap stuff? Seriously! A baby is not going to sample the goods and ask if it’s handmade or organic…


Research suggests that a toddler’s eagerness to explore stems from feelings of security. They’ve established so much trust in you, they feel ready for adventure! Remember this a) when you’re chasing after your toddler in the supermarket, and b) whenever you question your bond with baby. Never underestimate the power of your relationship.


How many times have you introduced yourself in relation to your child? It’s inevitable, in certain circumstances, you’ll present yourself as “mum”, but don’t lose sight of YOU! Motherhood is without a doubt something to be enormously proud of. Solely defining yourself as a mum can be stifling, though, and can make your world feel very small. Greeting people with your name doesn’t mean you love your children less.

Extract taken from 365 Days of Self-Care for New Mums by Zeena Moolla, published by Vie, £9.99. Available from Amazon and all major book sellers.