How to shower, do your teeth and wee with a newborn baby

'Your shower lasts a luxurious five minutes. You shave nothing, you don’t wash your hair. You also, to save time, pee in the shower'

multitasking new mum with newborn baby

by Rebecca Holman |
Updated on

Do you know how much paternity leave my partner got when we had our baby? Five days. One working week. And that was entirely at the discretion of his boss, as he was still, technically, a trainee. Great work, Britain; we’ve really knocked it out of the park on this one.

Five days isn’t much time to get to grips with every single facet of keeping a small, helpless, crying and utterly vulnerable human alive. I mean, I think it took me five days to learn how to play the theme tune from Hook on the piano. But coping with the hundreds of mysterious ailments that send a newborn into a howling, milky mess every twenty minutes, when your body is still bleeding and you haven’t slept for more than an hour at a time for a week is quite a significant undertaking.

Then, of course, there are the appointments. Like all right-thinking British people I owe my entire life to the NHS and will never vote for the party that is currently privatising it. But even for me the time, the worry and the logistics of making all those midwife, doctor and health visitor appointments would occasionally make my eyelids twitch and my spine feel rusty. (Which is, I know, nothing in comparison to what it must feel to be a midwife coming to the end of her fifth 12-hour shift in one week).

new born baby yawning
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Firstly, you have to pack a bag with everything you might conceivably need for the next two hours: nappies, an entire change of baby clothes, your blue or red book (where you keep your baby’s medical records), wipes, a couple of muslins to catch the inevitable shower of vomit, breastpads, sanitary towels, perhaps a change of clothes for yourself if, like me, your baby has a tendency to projectile vomit on a daily basis, water (you have never known thirst until you have breastfed, my friends), a bottle if you’re bottle feeding, phone, wallet, keys, snacks, a hat for the baby, nappy rash cream, cotton wool, plastic bags (to quarantine any, ahem, ‘soiled’ items from the rest of your luggage), perhaps a rattle to distract them while they’re being weighed, tissues (those hormones can kick in at any time) and, if you’re feeling really ambitious, something to read.

new mum feeding newborn baby
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Once you’ve managed to get all this in a bag, plus your sling or buggy, your baby will inevitably have woken up and is now screaming to be fed. You only have forty minutes before you have to leave the house: you haven’t had breakfast, done your teeth, washed or been to the toilet since your partner left for work two hours ago but all that will have to wait while you sit down, trying to stay calm, and feed your baby. The baby takes ten minutes to latch on properly, then needs to be winded half way through for a couple of minutes, then feeds for another ten minutes, then another few minutes of being patted, rubbed and gently bobbed about to bring up a burp. As you walk towards the bathroom, the baby vomits lustrously all down your back, over the hallway floor and their buggy. Right, sling it is. You’ll just have to hope that enough stayed down to get you to the doctor’s surgery where you can feed them again in the waiting room. You’ll clean up the sick when you get back. Hopefully.

new mum brushing teeth with baby
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But where do you put a likely-to-vomit, unable-to-roll baby while you wash? Well, in my case you drag either the moses basket, the bouncy chair you borrowed off a friend or just a big folded towel into the bathroom and put them on the floor, as far from the toilet brush as you can manage. You then have a shower sitting in the bath, with the curtain to one side, so you can watch your baby’s tiny rib cage rise and fall and watch their strange, jerking, fluttering limbs as they listed to the hum of your water pump and suck on the damp air. Your shower lasts a luxurious five minutes. You shave nothing, you don’t wash your hair, you simply concentrate on the most fragrant corners and get the job done. You also, to save time, pee in the shower. Of course you do.

new mum watching her baby
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While standing naked in the bath you also brush your teeth while singing Don McClean’s Starry Starry Night because people keep telling you that your voice is the most reassuring thing for your baby to hear but you cannot think of a single word to say through the fog of sleep deprivation, emotional exhaustion and loneliness. Now, my friend Sarah, who is currently raising her fourth son, takes her three-month-old into the shower with her. She puts him, naked, in one of those recliner seats meant to go in a baby bath so he can watch her wash and piss himself with aquatic glee. I wish I’d thought of that. And I wish I had a bath big enough, too.

new mum dressing her baby
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You then have less than ten minutes to get dressed in a collection of the cleanest and most elasticated clothes to hand. You don’t care that anyone out the window can see you getting dressed: there’s no time to close the curtains and, frankly, so many people have seen you either semi or entirely naked in the last month that you’re starting to lose touch of what nudity really means. You still haven’t had breakfast but as you’re now only five minutes late you decide to get a banana on the way and push on with the matter at hand. Namely, getting the baby dressed in enough layers to leave the house, and in a sling, and under your coat without them going full nuclear.

new mum and her baby
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The moment you get the last limb in the last fleece pouch and the last press stud popped you realise, with some seriousness that you need to go to the toilet. Quite badly, and now. So, like so many mothers and father before you, you do the right thing and just drop trouser with your baby clasped to your front in the sling. Until their legs get long enough to hit the stream, this is how you will do the majority of your toileting until they can sit up on their own. Enjoy!

new mum feeding her baby
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When you get to the appointment, breastmilk spurting out of your front like the Trevi fountain, you baby’s nappy threatening to unclasp at the side, your rucksack like an anvil at your feet, you happen to look over at the midwife’s checklist and notice that, beside the box that says ‘Mother and baby suitably clothed and presented’ they have put a tick.

Sister, you nailed it. Go home and make yourself a cup of decaffeinated milky coffee to celebrate. Then discover that same cup of coffee, now cold, two hours later when you finally get a chance to sit down. You’ve earned it.

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