Wondering what surprises wait for you in the realms of new parenthood? Look no further than this honest, straight-from-experience heads up from expat mum Camilla Hassan.
1. Breastfeeding is hard!
It's not as simple as pop them on the nipple and wait for nature to take over. Breastfeeding requires serious fine tuning - from correct positioning and latch, to the speed and quantity of your flow. For me, the first few days were just dribbles of golden colostrum, but come day three, I woke with rocks for breasts and a gushing Dubai Fountain-style display - which is pretty tricky to handle while trying to suckle a hungry baby. Cue soaked tops, oversupply, undersupply, the lingering smell of stale milk and the inability to take a shower without leaking everywhere. You may go up several cup sizes so a well-fitting bra is a must. I had no idea that newborns nurse 8-10 times a day, so a proper breastfeeding cushion, plenty of swaddles to soak up milk, and an obliging husband bringing drinks and snacks were my must-haves - it's thirsty and hungry work.
2. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture
We've all had sleepless nights before children, but can recover from them the following night. Nursing a newborn round the clock means several months of sleepless nights in a row, which was a huge shock to my system. It's all about survival - however you need to get through the day, do it. Whether that's endless coffee, going to bed at 8pm or pumping so your husband can take over with the feeds. Everything non-priority takes a backseat, so batten down the hatches. It doesn't last forever though, and once you manage a four-hour stretch, you'll feel like a new woman.
3. Poop (sorry!)
A newborn's first poop (meconium) resembles dark green lagoon slime, which was quite alarming! Do not panic; this is normal. As is pooping after every feed - this could be 6-10 times per day! As is not pooping for a week! Basically, there are huge variances on normal poop habits and most of your conversations will now revolve around poop.
4. It's easy to get new-mum agoraphobia
You may be tempted to stay at home for months, as the thought of leaving the house fills you with panic and anxiety. Don't feel you have to. Even a 30 minutes' coffee outside or a stroll round the block can revive you and make you feel part of the real world again. Grab your feeding cover and some nappies and wipes, and off you go.
5. You can and should ask for help
No-one wins any medals for doing everything on their own. The UAE may be an expat country and your family may be far away, but don't try to be a hero. Whether it's booking in a weekly cleaner, ordering a meal plan service or accepting the offer when friends want to pop round with a lasagne, don't be too proud to receive all the additional hands you can get. Most of your mates would love to come round to cuddle the baby for a few hours while you sleep or take a shower, so let them! There are also so many mum communities on Facebook that you can reach out to, where you can ask questions or seek advice. Chances are someone has experienced baby acne/colic/mastitis before and can reassure you, and you'll need a safe space and supportive environment for when they become toddlers and smash up the house.
Camilla Hassan is the owner of Five Little Ducks, a premium baby and kids' store located in both Town Centre Jumeirah and Arabian Centre.