Parenting is hard, but most of the time, new parents feel as if they have to live up to certain expectations. First of all, social media is a lie. Those perfectly posed photos are a hoax. Most of the time, parenting is messy. If you go into this new chapter of your life with open eyes, you're much more likely to enjoy it. Here's some sage advice for new parents to help avoid the hurdles that the rest of us had to clear.
Advice for First-Time Parents to Make Your Journey Easier
One of the most frustrating parts of parenting is that by the time you figure everything out, that phase of your child's life is over, and the both of you are on to the next challenge. These simple pieces of advice can make your parenting journey a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
We all want to be the perfect parent. Sadly, that doesn't exist. The good news is that you can get pretty close when you strategize your parenting duties! Here are some easy things you can try to make your life a little simpler with a new baby:
- Buy puppy pads, especially with boys. That changing table is going to get dirty, regularly. You can use puppy pads or disposable changing pads at home and on the go. They can be reused until those messy moments when you can easily throw them away!
- Use the dishwasher as much as possible. Hand washing can be time consuming. Think about buying dishwasher-safe bottles, snack containers, bowls, and spoons and turn on a steam sanitize cycle.
- Invest a waterproof mattress cover and extra bed sheets. Spit up is inevitable. So is poop and pee. Save yourself a headache in the middle of the night and make cleanup easier by protecting your mattress.
- Pump your milk directly into the storage bags. Many brands of breast pumps make bags that attach directly to the flanges. This makes the transition to the fridge simple, and it eliminates your cleanup after every pump.
- Tummy time is good for your baby, and for you. By doing tummy time daily, you can help your child reach milestones on time, if not early, and you can make sure they sleep well at nap and bedtimes!
Say Yes to Help, and No to Everything Else
Does someone want to drop off dinner? Or come hold the new baby? Take advantage of this time! Let people know you may not be in the mood to socialize, but you would love the time to take a shower or nap. However, if you're not up for visitors, don't feel guilty about saying no. Giving birth is rough. Prioritize your needs and your baby's needs above all else. You'll get in a rhythm with time and then you can start hosting people once again.
Be Ready for Tears, From Both the Baby and You
In the first few weeks following birth, your hormones will be all over the place. It's normal to get emotional. This is especially true for the parents who find that their little one's sleep schedules are slightly skewed from the norm. More importantly, babies cry a lot. This is how they communicate with you. It is normal. Go in with the expectation that there will be a lot of tears in the first few months, but it will diminish at some point!
Live in the Moment: You'll Never Get It Back
That beautiful baby is going to change in the blink of an eye. Don't miss it. Put off the unnecessary tasks in your day and enjoy the little time you have with your little one. They will be big before you know it. Take pictures and videos, and make sure to back them up on a flash drive!
Let Go of Perfection and Embrace the Chaos
Children bring chaos. There will be countless bottles in the sink, more loads of laundry than you could have ever imagined, and messes will accumulate. This is a part of parenting. One day, in the far off future, your house will be quiet and clean once again and you will miss the mess. In the meantime, try to embrace it. Do what needs to be done, but focus on what matters - enjoying time with your sweet baby.
Do These 3 Things Every Day When You Have a New Baby
Postpartum depression, anxiety, and stress are real things that impact a large percentage of new moms. Don't let these feelings get the best of you. How do you do this?
- Soak in Some Sunshine: Spend 30 minutes outside every day. The big boost of Vitamin D, the feeling of the breeze on your face, and the beauty of nature can help you to de-stress and breathe a little better.
- Shower: Part of being a good parent is remembering that even though you are now responsible for this little human, you still matter. Your well-being matters. If you are not in a good spot, then you cannot effectively take care of your baby. Take a shower, brush your teeth, take the time to moisturize. You don't need to look like a runway model, but take the time to exercise self-care.
- Savor Some Food: You need fuel to function. Eat some color and protein every day. These are proven to bolster your mental health.
Legit, Sleep When the Baby Sleeps
Once your baby comes, you will never sleep the same again. Even if you have an angel baby, illness happens. Regressions happen. And someday, early daycare or school drop offs will enter your life. If your sweet baby is sleeping, put off everything unnecessary and take a nap! You'll thank yourself later, probably around 3AM.
Take Regular Breaks
Babies are the most wonderful additions to our lives. However, they can be a lot. Take a break at least once a day from your baby. Have your significant other tag in so that you can detox mentally. Or, ask for help from friends or family members. We all want to do it all, but we can't. Don't let frustrations and exhaustion bottle up to a breaking point - prioritize your physical and mental well-being.
Never Compare Your Baby
"Every baby is different. They are all on their own timetable." As a new parent, this is quite possibly the most annoying statement to hear. Clearly, the person who said it just doesn't know what they are talking about. Right? This is how a lot parents feel when they ask questions and receive this blanket response. The funny thing is, it could not be more true. Most parents with more than one child will confirm this for you.
For instance, I have one child who was crawling and standing by six months, walking by eight months, and had four teeth by his half birthday. My younger son is eight months, and he still has no teeth and has just started scooting across the floor. Every baby is different, and that is good. It makes them unique. Don't feel like your baby isn't anything but perfect. Comparing them to other children their age is a recipe for disappointment.
Remember that these guidelines are markers for when approximately 75% of children meet certain milestones. Your baby will get there in time. If you have concerns, talk to your child's pediatrician. Something could be wrong, but most of the time, you just have to have a little patience.
Prioritize Your Baby's Safety
Safe sleep is one of the most important things for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you sleep in the same room as your little one for the first six months of their life. There should be no bedding besides a fitted sheet, they always need to be placed on their back, and room temperatures should range between 68 to 72 degrees. You probably already know all this, but what about all the other areas that your baby dozes off in?
Car seats are designed to sit in a particular position. This means that when you get home from the store and your baby is snoozing, you need to take them out of the car seat. Positional asphyxiation is a real threat when the car seat is not sitting at the right angle. Infant swings are not a safe sleeping space either. Prioritize your baby's safety over convenience.
Buy Baby Items That You'll Really Use
The amount of Fisher-Price, Baby Einstein, Step2, and Graco items that might invade your home over the next few years can actually become overwhelming or frustrating. Don't fall under the misconception that more is better. While there are key items that you are going to need, focusing in double-duty items or more practical things can help ease the chaos. For instance:
- Skip the bassinet and buy a multi-purpose play pen instead. They serve the same function, but one will last weeks to months and has limited potential, while the other last years can convert into a travel bed, and you can use it as a toy bin when they grow out of it.
- Buy a convertible high chair. It will save you time and money in the long run. Look for one with a booster seat and floor option included. This will ensure that you have everything you need for your child's different stages, and if you choose to have a second baby, they can both use it simultaneously.
- If you are going to formula feed, nix the bottle warmer. Your baby will not know the difference, and it will actually make feedings on-the go, when you don't have the ability to warm the bottle, much easier.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Again, no one is going to be the perfect parent. Social media is lying to you. If you kept your baby clean, fed them, and loved them, you did your job well. Remember that you are your baby's entire world, and they think you are amazing. If the dishes didn't get done, if you had the baby blues today, if you didn't have time for tummy time, that is okay. That's why one of the most important pieces of advice to new parents is to give yourself some grace.
And if you feel like you are going to a dark place, call another parent with kids around the same age. They have very likely been in your shoes and can genuinely relate to what you are going through. Sometimes knowing that you are not the only one who is struggling can make all the difference.
More Ultra-Practical Tips for Parents of a New Baby
If you are new to the parenting world, here are some helpful hacks to make those first few months easier.
- Invest in mittens! Without them, your new baby will transform into Rambo. Avoid scratched faces with this simple accessory.
- Clip your baby's nails while they are sleeping. Wiggly babies and nail clippers do not mix.
- Always put up barriers when leaving the baby on a raised surface, even for a second. They will roll when you least expect it.
- Add white noise to their sleeping space. Whether this be a noise machine, a HEPA filter, or Hey Sensory Bear - Mindful Moon and Stars YouTube video, drown out the outside noise so that they can sleep better.
- Use your diaper fully. Most of the time, when poop comes out, it lands in the bottom of the diaper. Thus, use the clean front half to make sure the first wipe. This can greatly limit the mess and the number of baby wipes you use.
- Get into a routine early. They will not sleep through the night for the first few months, but it can help to soothe them in the present moments, and aid in the transition later down the line.
- Avoid eye contact and noise during nighttime feedings. They will go back to sleep faster when you limit stimulation.
- Zip up pajamas are your best friend at bedtime. Avoid buttons and snaps.
- Keep a second diaper bag in the car. Diapers and wipes run out at the worst possible times.
- When big messes happen, remove envelope style onesies from top to bottom. Those little layered tabs on their shoulders are there for a reason.
Turn to Friends and Family
Who do you know who just had a baby before you? These individuals are your biggest resource. Every few months, bend their ears about tips and hacks they may have discovered. There's a reason they say that it takes a village. Be patient and know that every day will get easier.