WHEN it comes to having children nothing is easy, particularly if it's your first one.
But what can make every other decision and action a million times harder is when you're completely exhausted.
Baby and child sleep specialist Gemma Coe advised of the dangers of falling asleep with your baby on your chest Credit: Getty
Certified baby and child sleep specialist Gemma Coe knows all too well the importance of helping your baby get some good kip – so you can get a rest too.
The expert explained the danger of “helpful tips” like “sleep when the baby sleeps” and “make sure you're looking after yourself”.
She said: “It's hard to get generic advice from others, because every experience is different.
“Someone may tell you to sleep while the baby sleeps, which is all well and good, but most mum's are thinking: 'That sounds lovely but the house is a tip, I haven’t eaten yet, I've got to deal with the grandparents round all the time and I have a million other things to do.
“And when someone says 'look after yourself', most people just think: 'I'm trying really hard but I have a new baby to look after first!'”
Cutting through all the well meaning, but ultimately unhelpful advice, Gemma spoke to Fabulous about the three things every mum should know when they're caring for their newborn.
Even when you're wiped out, safety has to come first
I know, I know. Safety isn't sexy. But it is important.
Gemma warned against taking short cuts and easy fixes when it comes to helping your tiny tot get down to sleep.
She said: “You can get all the advice and guidance in the world about how a baby should sleep but at 3am, when you are sleep deprived, most of us would do absolutely anything to get back to bed.
“But falling asleep with a baby on you on the sofa is the most dangerous thing you can do. It's very common, but people don't realise the potential harm.
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“It happens mostly is the early hours of the morning when parents are so desperate to sleep that they just pull them in for a cuddle and drift off.
“It's so simple to do but you run the risk of fatal problems like sudden infant death syndrome. Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them, but please don’t take the risk.”
Gemma also explained that new parents can be sucked in by all the gorgeous baby accessories like cot bumpers and loose bedding, but actually the child needs a clear space for their sleep.
She said: “Ideally the bedroom would be between 16-20oC and the baby would be on their back with their feet at the bottom of the crib.”
Every baby sleeps for a different amount of time
We've all seen those Instagram quotes about comparison being the thief of joy, and when it comes to child-rearing that has never been more true.
When Sandra down the road says her little angel sleeps through from 6pm to 8am without a peep and rarely cries, just smiles, sings and occasionally plays the piano forte, Gemma would encourage you to ignore her.
The baby sleep expert said: “There's always the smug mum at NCT, or worse on Instagram, who has these wonderful photos of how much they're enjoying parenthood. Ignore it.
“Everyone has different parenting styles and every baby's temperament is different. As each child is brought up in a different environment, they will naturally react in different ways.”
Plus, and Gemma's too nice to say this, but that Insta mum's snaps are probably a bit of a lie.
Gemma said: “Everything about a newborn is completely erratic. We live in a society where we can measure everything and compare everything against the day before and against the progress of others.
“Some newborns will be ready for their next nap just 30 minutes after waking up from their last. At about 12 weeks, you'd expect a baby to be sleeping for two hours at a time, and hopefully you will be in a more predictable pattern by the three-four month stage.
“But everyone is different so it can be really up and down.”
Your mental health matters
We talk so much about what's best for the baby that we often forget to focus on the one who's just signed up for the 24/7 job of full time carer/chef/cleaner/chauffeur/executive assistant.
There are so many things that can rattle a new parent and it's important to do what you can to make sure you're not under too much stress.
Firstly Gemma reminded parents that noises in the night are often not the sign of something awful.
She said: “Mums always stress about the noises their newborn makes while they sleep.
“Babies can grunt, groan, whine, yelp and do all sorts of weird stuff and it doesn’t mean they’re awake.
“Some parents of newborns, who aren’t expecting the weird sounds, can jump in too early thinking the child is awake.
“They end up waking the baby themselves. The best way to tackle this is by giving your baby space and time.
“As strange as it sounds, less is more.”
Another thing that can help your own sanity, is knowing that in true Frank Sinatra style, you're doing it your way.
Gemma said: “New parents can feel pushed into one way of thinking and mothers especially have always been judged for their choices.
“Some mums go into this newborn phase, after a difficult pregnancy and childbirth, so we all just need to be kind to ourselves.”
It's not 'baby brain', it's fatigue. It's incredible hard and makes postnatal depression more likely.
Another thing Gemma flagged up was the language around parenting young ones.
She said: “Also, let's all stop talking about baby brain and take it more seriously! It's not 'baby brain', it's fatigue. It's incredible hard and makes postnatal depression more likely.”
For those who are feeling exhausted and even depressed the baby sleep expert suggests reaching out where possible.
She said: “It's important to speak more frankly to friends and family members who check in on us, instead of just saying 'I’m fine'.
“It's ok to ask a friend to watch the baby for 30 minutes so you can take a shower, or even better two hours so you can have a shower and a nap!”
Another thing that will help your mood in the more difficult times, is remembering how great the good times are.
Gemma said: “Take a photo of the best moments and allow yourself those times when it feels good. It's too easy to get consumed by the low times.
“Newborns days are full of cuddles and sweet moments when they're napping.
“Make sure you also put them in the pram every day and get out the house. The fresh air and exercise is so positive for your mental health.
“Plus going out for a walk gets you out of the house, so you don't have to feel trapped indoors all the time!”
Please visit the NHS website for more information on post-natal depression or sudden infant death syndrome.
For more information on Gemma Coe and her work you can check out her website, Instagram and Facebook.
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