Wednesday, August 5, 2009

5 tips for first time parents.

When all of the waiting is over and your little belly buddy is finally here, it can be overwhelming. Just trying to figure out what the new chores are and who should do them and when can be quite a task. A lot of strain can be put on parents during this difficult transition time. Here are a few tips to help you find your footing, so that you can have confidence as you move forward into this great new world called parenting!

1. Talk to a lactation consultant.
First thing's first. If you can overcome the difficulties of adjusting to breastfeeding and are confident of your abilities to nourish your new baby you will have a lot less stress. If despite your best efforts, you are unable to breastfeed, a lactation consultant can put you in contact with outside sources to supplement your baby's diet with donated breast milk. Knowing your baby is getting the best nutrition you can provide will free up your worry center to think about other things, like how you are ever going to be able to take a shower again!

2. Cut a deal with your partner.
Both you and your partner should sit down and write a list of the duties related to child care that you personally find the most difficult. Then, you can compare your lists. If there are things that your partner hates doing that you don't mind, you can take the bulk of those things, and if there are things you can't stand doing, your partner can take up the slack for you on those issues . By the same token, if there are things you both dislike, you can share those duties more equally. An example of this is, "No one likes changing dirty diapers, so we will both try to take an equal load of this duty. You don't like getting up in the night for feedings, but I don't mind, so I'll do that, and in exchange, I hate washing and folding the baby laundry but you don't mind it, so you will do the majority of the laundry while I do most of the night feedings." Try to steer away from ultimatums like "I will NEVER do the baby laundry", because there will always be times when you'll both need to pitch in on duties you despise. Also, do try to keep the bargaining even, if one person hates all the duties, and the other doesn't mind any of them too much, this could lead to major resentments. Although, if one parent is staying home while the other works it is fair to exchange going to work for three or four baby duties, just not all of them. Just like the person who goes to work needs a little break when they get home, the person taking care of the baby all day will need a break every day too.

3. Work out a routine.
You may be a very impulsive, "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of person, but when you are taking care of a baby, an ounce of planning can alleviate a pound of headache. During the first month or three, getting on a really reliable schedule is next to impossible, but having an order in which you do things will ensure that they all get done. For the first two months at least, your baby will tend to go to sleep after eating. These naps might not last very long, but they are fairly reliable. You can use these little naps to schedule the things you need to get done throughout the day like this: 1st nap=put the babies laundry in and/or eat, 2nd nap=wash the dishes and/or take a shower, 3rd nap=put the laundry in the dryer and/or take a nap yourself, 4th nap=tidy the house and/or fold the laundry and eat, 5th nap=Make food for yourself for the next day and/or do some exercise. You get the basic idea. It may sound crazy to schedule eating, but trust me, it isn't so simple once you have a baby.

4. Put the cute clothes on now.
I have heard, more times than I care to recall, parents expressing regret over having missed the chance for their baby to wear one cute outfit or another because they were saving it for a special occasion. Babies grow fast! If there is a specific special occasion, like a wedding or a family reunion, clothes can sometimes be saved for them. But on the whole, if you got cute duds, put em on!

5. Don't sweat the small stuff.
There will be a million things in your baby's first few months that will give you a heart attack. It's a miracle the parents survive at all with all the stress and worry. Little things like keeping track of every feeding and every bowel movement are helpful, but not usually necessary. The amount, consistency and smell of your baby's "spit up", is another constant source of concern for new parents. All babies spit up their food from time to time, sometimes it seems like they spit up their whole feeding, but if your baby is gaining weight and sleeping fine it is most likely normal. Also, spit up changes consistency, smell and sometimes color, so the vast majority of these concerns are unwarranted as well. Another natural source of stress is, of course, the crying. Firstly you should know, your baby cannot consciously control her crying. She is not crying because she is mad at you, or because she is trying to tell you something. Babies cry because they are uncomfortable, pure and simple. Some discomfort is worse than others, but they assign no blame, and hold no grudges. Figuring out exactly why your baby is uncomfortable, and trying to make her comfortable (as long as it is safe to do so), is parenting in a nutshell. Take a breath, put in some earplugs if it helps take the edge off but you can still hear, and try something different, or let someone else try when your patience runs thin. You will get better at figuring out the reasons behind the cry as time goes on, and your baby will get better at crying in certain ways for certain types of discomfort.

Trick: Pick two or three baby information sources you trust.
When you have a baby EVERYONE suddenly has an opinion on what you should do, how, and when. If you already have sources you trust that you can go to when you have questions it will help you to sort through all of the unsolicited advice you are likely to receive. I'm not saying that you shouldn't listen to all of the advice, but if you hear something you are curious about, you can run it by someone you trust before you let it stress you out. Also, if someone challenges the way you are doing something, you can be less bothered by it because you will have an authority to cite as the reason you choose the systems you are using.

Becoming a new parent is a truly transformative time in anyone's life. You may find yourself looking around feeling completely lost in an unfamiliar world filled with unfamiliar priorities. However, whenever that feeling of alienation pops up, just take one good long look into your baby's face and you will find that you do belong here after all. If you have found these tips to be helpful, please pass them on to any new or expecting parents you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!


  1. Thanks so much for the very interesting posts you make on parenting, you should write a book!

  2. You are most welcome! I do intend to write a book as soon as I find an interested publisher. Thank you for your supportive comment. I will try to get you a copy for free if my book comes out very soon. :^)