With Evie being born in February, I feel incredibly lucky that we managed to spend the first 9 months or so of her life avoiding any really nasty weather. Now obviously I have absolutely nothing to compare to, and I can’t say whether having a baby in spring is any better or worse than having a baby in summer, autumn or winter. But, having now experienced two months of parenting during the cold, dark and depressing days we call a British winter, I’m eternally grateful that our daughter arrived when she did.
Because parenting in winter is tough. REALLY tough.
Perhaps I’m bias as spring is my favourite time of year. A time for renewal, a time to say goodbye to those winter blues and embrace the beginning of lighter days and colourful blooms and early sunshine. For me it felt perfectly apt that I should spend the end of my pregnancy cocooned in winter hibernation. To have the perfect excuse to stay home, stay warm and rest up. And for our baby to be born just as one season ended (a storm raged on the night I was in labour) and another began. She was born just as the first cherry blossom began to bloom, as the days began to get longer and that bright blue spring sky began to emerge.
My memories of those first few weeks and months are hazy but they feature sunshine, pink blankets of petals on the ground, tentative walks through green parks, days out to the seaside and plenty of time spent outdoors pushing our little lady around in her pram and feeding her in a shady patch while on the beach/in the park/ feeding the ducks.
And for me there’s no doubt that made things easier. My sanity was saved in those early months by being able to get out of the house at least once a day, to breathe in fresh air and fill my camera roll with the pretty pink marshmallows that adorned the trees. I didn’t need to fret about Evie being too cold or the noise of the rain frightening her as it batted against her buggy. I didn’t need to remember to bring extra cardigans and hats and attempt to put mittens on those wriggly little hands of hers. I could step out in a lightweight jacket and dress my new baby girl in a sweet little dress. Weekends as a family were spent adventuring, laying blankets down on grassy mounds and having picnics on the beach.
A spring that was for the most part dry and bright gave way to what I remember as a long, hot summer, and yet more days of sitting outside ensued. Bouncy chairs placed in the garden, patio doors permanently wide open, paddling pools filled and lunch served alfresco.
Now I realise that I’m heavily glamourising things here. I’m well aware that those should be the memories that stick out and probably the less exciting days spent stuck indoors at home while rain fell perhaps just haven’t imprinted. British weather is, in its essence, unpredictable and of course not every day was a walk in the park (literally). It’s also worth mentioning that summer with a baby comes with its own set of challenges (worrying about overheating, keeping them out of the sun, breastfeeding when both you and baby are a sweaty mess (yuck), knowing how on earth to dress them, and the trials that come with putting a baby to sleep, and keeping them asleep in extreme heat). But while those things were hard to deal with, they were manageable because, well… summer is fun. And that pretty much outweighs any other challenges. The sun was shining, the days were long and our moods were high.
The difference in winter is that things are just hard to deal with. Full stop. And winter with a baby isn’t all that fun. Here’s why…
8 reasons why life with a baby is tougher in winter
It’s a fact that babies don’t like the cold. I mean I don’t like it much either and I’m in my thirties so I can imagine for a little person whose been used to the warm comfort of their mothers womb, and then 9 months of warm weather, it’s quite an unpleasant shock.
They cry when you take them outdoors for a walk because – they’re cold. They cry when you change their nappy because – they’re cold. They cry when they wake up in the night because – they’re cold. And you worry about taking them out for a walk because – it’s cold, and they won’t keep that hat on their head/ mittens on their hands and is the wind on their face? You worry about changing their nappy and getting them out of the bath because – it’s cold, and even though you know you need to give them nappy free time to avoid the dreaded nappy rash you just want to bundle them up in layers and keep them cosy. You worry when they wake in the night because – it’s cold, and the room thermometer says it’s only 13C and you know that a baby’s room is supposed to be 16-20C and have you got enough layers on them? And should they have a thicker tog sleeping bag? And should you throw an extra blanket on top of them?
You get the idea. Keeping a baby warm seems paramount to their happiness and in winter it’s practically impossible to do so all of the time.
Getting up in the night is like an Arctic mission
Yeah. It’s not just cold for the babies, it’s cold for us parents too. No matter how long we have the heating on for, it’s always freezing in our house in the middle of the night (anyone with an old drafty house with open fireplaces can hopefully sympathise!). Getting up multiple times a night is never enjoyable, but when it’s a reasonable temperature throughout the house, it’s at least do-able. In winter, having to leave the comfort of your warm duvet in the dead of the night to traipse through to another room and spend up to an hour shushing and rocking and willing a baby back to sleep is TORTUROUS. The short distance from room to room feels like an Arctic mission you didn’t sign up for and definitely don’t have the right clothing on for, and don’t even get me started on the subject of breastfeeding during these missions! You can wear all the layers to bed, but that doesn’t help you when it’s time to expose half of your body to the icy cold air.
It’s dark all the time
In addition to the cold, there’s also the darkness. The grey depressing fog that seems to linger over at least 18 of those 24 hours per day. You head out for lunch/coffee/to run errands while there’s light in the sky and the world appears to be operating in a normal fashion, you step back outside of the restaurant/cafe/shop having completed your lunch/coffee/errands, and suddenly it’s pitch black, feels more like midnight than 4pm, your walk home is lit only by dim street lights, there’s not a soul on the street and every shop seems to have shut up for the night. There’s been times I’ve practically ran home with the buggy, praying I don’t bump into anyone and feeling like the worst Mum in the world for having my baby out in the dark at such a late hour (even though I know it’s still the afternoon).
It’s not as easy to get outdoors
Getting outdoors is, in my opinion, critical to keeping your s**t together when you have a baby. Baby won’t sleep? Take them out for a nice long walk. Baby kept you up all night and you are struggling to keep your eyes open? Get some fresh air, buy yourself a coffee and wake yourself up. Baby being
a total f**king nightmare difficult to handle, you feeling unable to stop crying and praying for some sort of miracle that can save you from this hell that now appears to be your life? Get out of the house, talk to an actual human other than your baby, get some clarity, reassure yourself that your baby isn’t the devil, reward yourself with cake and realise that things aren’t actually that bad after all. Yup, being able to get outdoors is pretty darn life saving.
And, you guessed it, winter makes this simple task a lot less simple. It’s dark until about 9am (by which point you’ve already had to entertain your baby for at least 3, maybe 4 hours) and gets dark again about 3pm (which leaves 3, sometimes 4 hours to wile away until bedtime), and the hours in between are often filled with rain, snow, sleet, and zub zero temperatures, all of which make getting outdoors a much less pleasant experience for both you and baby (see point 1 about the cold).
In the warmer months I thoroughly enjoyed taking E out for a walk, I’d happily do it at least once a day, sometimes more. Pushing her pram up and down hills, over grass, around lakes, through parks and down high streets was great! I’d clear my head, get some exercise, run errands, we’d enjoy quality time together singing, chatting, laughing, playing goo goo, I’d snap photos along the way for Insta, we’d take our time, meander, stop to sit on a bench and watch the world go by, we’d throw a blanket down on the grass and practice signs for dog, cat and squirrel learned at baby sign class the week before, I’d give E her milk while I had lunch. It was lovely.
In winter it’s a chore. Traipsing through puddle lined streets and muddy woodland tracks, braving cold winds and harsh rain, listening to E whine and complain because she hates having her rain cover on, panicking she’s not warm enough and trying repeatedly to get her to keep her hands and feet under the blanket, feeling like my hands might drop off and getting a headache from the wind tearing through my ears, not being able to play ‘where’s the birdies?’ or shout ‘woof woof’ when we see a dog, getting drenched from head to toe, and instead of stopping to watch the world go by, running home as fast as I can the minute E falls asleep.
Keeping a baby at home all day is hard work, I know it’s good for E to get some fresh air and a change of scenery and it gives me a break. But it’s certainly a lot easier to achieve that when the sun is shining.
It’s much harder to keep a baby entertained
In summer there’s a whole world of entertainment on your doorstep, and it’s all free and easy to find. You can visit the swing park, feed the ducks, head to the seaside, pack some toys and have playtime in the park. You can break up the monotony of the everyday by setting up paddling pools, and bubble machines, and sand pits in the garden. You can make lunch more exciting by taking the high chair outside or having a picnic on the grass.
It’s generally a lot easier to keep a baby occupied all day when you have the option of outdoor activities at your disposal. In winter most of those activities are out, and aside from maybe swimming and soft play (both of which come in pricey and are generally a – two parents needed – activity), there’s not a whole lot else you can fill your day with. Cue a whole day of reading the same books over and over and hoping your baby doesn’t notice she’s been playing with a rotation of the same toys on repeat.
Illnesses and viruses are non stop
GAH!!! The illnesses! Babies pick up everything going, and as we all know, viruses are rife during the winter. Evie was 9 months old before she got any sort of illness. Up until that point she hadn’t had even so much as a cold or a sniffle, then suddenly in the space of a couple of months we got hit with three viruses, one after the other! And when I say ‘we’ I mean we. I spent those first 9 months dreading E getting ill for the first time, thinking I couldn’t possibly watch her suffer and hoping I could keep her safe and snot free for life. When she did finally get ill for the first time, it was far worse than the scenario I’d laid out in my head. I realised that yes, watching your baby suffer is the single worst thing as a parent… but watching her suffer while you also feel so ill you can barely lift your head off the pillow without throwing up, yeah that’s a hurdle I wasn’t expecting to face so soon. That first illness (we suspect noro virus) hit us like a tornado and struck us all down in one fell swoop, leading to what was undoubtedly the worst 72 hours of our parenting journey so far. IT WAS HORRENDOUS.
We’d not long recovered from that ordeal, when E came down with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, was covered in a nasty rash, had a temperature and once again clung to me so much that I didn’t think we’d be able to attend the wedding (and our first planned night away from E since she was born) that we had booked in for that weekend. Luckily she worked through it quickly and aside from keeping my Mum up all night while we partied, as back to herself in a few days. That was the start of December and by Christmas she had a nasty cold that lasted nearly two weeks.
It’s relentless. As one thing clears up, another bug appears on the horizon ready to take you all down again. The sickness virus was so bad, I’d happily never go through that ordeal again in my lifetime… somehow I don’t think we have that luxury now that we have a baby who’s inevitably going to pick up every germ going.
I’m so ready for spring times and healthier, less germ filled days.
The cold dark days make you EVEN more tired
Spoiler alert! When you have a baby, you feel tired ALL the time. Or at least, I do. I’m forever chasing sleep – that elusive activity that used to come so easily but is now a rare luxury. I spend all day, every day dreaming of the moment I can get back into bed and close my eyes. Usually of course that moment doesn’t come when I imagine it will as E has a habit of timing her wake ups for the very second I lay my head on the pillow, regardless of how early I crawl to bed.
Anyway that’s life with a baby (or at least life with my non sleeping baby). 10 months in, I’ve all but accepted it. I’ve come to terms with the fact a full nights sleep may never be mine again. It’s a-ok.
Winter though, winter does this thing where it makes you even more lazy, lethargic and lacking in motivation than you already were. As if it’s saying ‘oh you think you’ve got a handle on this broken sleep life do you? Well we’ll see about that! Here’s some low cloud, grey days and depressing weather which will combine to make you massively lacking in energy on top of also being sleep deprived. HA!’.
It’s impossible to know how to dress your baby
Granted this is also a huge problem in summer. There were days during summer where I actually seriously considered whether it was acceptable to take E out in only her nappy, it was that hot. I spent the majority of those hot days wondering how few layers I could get away with dressing E in, and mopping the sweat off her back when she came out of her car seat/buggy. But the task of getting your baby dressed is equally as mind boggling a conundrum in winter. Although now I spend my days wondering how many layers I can get away with dressing E in and constantly checking her chest to see if she’s warm enough.
Are trousers and socks enough or should there be tights under the trousers? Short sleeve vest vs long sleeve vest? Long sleeved top + thick cardigan/jumper and then also snow suit? Or one or the other.
It’s a minefield.
Tips to see you through the tough winter months
I realise this post has been erring on the negative side and of course, it’s meant in a light hearted fashion. Life with a baby is anything but boring so a few challenges along the way are to be expected. If you too are finding these winter months more difficult than usual and longing for the return of spring, here’s a few tips I’ve learnt that might just save you.
Meet up with friends regularly (preferably ones with babies) – solidarity in numbers and all that. If things are destined to be tough, at least surround yourself with people who are in the same position and will happily spend an hour ranting about how tough things are over coffee.
Utilise your local library – need to get out the house and see something different than the four walls of your living room? Your local library is a godsend during winter – I’ve taken shelter in their baby zone on many a rainy day, letting E loose in piles of new books while I have a cuppa. It’s free, always open, usually has decent changing facilities and our one runs baby bounce and rhyme classes twice a week as well as openng their baby room full of books and toys daily.
Take help here you can get it – We don’t have family near by, and E isn’t yet in nursery or childcare so most days, it’s just me and her. 5 (sometimes more) days a week alone with a baby (even your own which you love unconditionally) can send even the best of us mad at times. As such if anyone I know offers to even so much as hold/play with/ talk to E for more than ten minutes, I jump at the chance to drink something while hot, sit back on the sofa and scroll through my phone for a mind numbing second. If you have anyone willing to help out and give you an hour/an afternoon/a day to yourself, TAKE IT (and don’t feel one bit guilty).
Get out anyway – it’s tough when you wake up to stormy cold weather and all you want to do is stay indoors, stay warm and hunker down. But, if you’re baby is anything like ours, this will quickly become boring (I’ll get 5 mins tops of snuggling these days) and then you’ll be back on your hands and knees wishing for something, anything to break the monotony. So just get out anyway, wrap up, brave the weather, and leave the house. Go round the corner to a coffee shop, take a walk to your local children’s centre and pretend you need your baby weighed (even if you only did it last week), find a class or playgroup near by. Go somewhere, do something, anything.
Remember that every day is a new day – the one saving grace of life with a small baby is that despite what difficulties occur over the course of one day, they go to sleep, wake up and all is forgotten. Despite you battling through screams to get them down for a nap, they wake up, give you a big smile and let you know you’re still their favourite. So leave any guilt after a bad day with that day, and start afresh again the next.
Spring is just around the corner!