One of the most surreal moments in the life of a new mom or dad comes when you first arrive home with your new baby. You’ve endured (or cherished!) your pregnancy, gone through labor, and experienced the absolute joy and wonder of holding your child for the very first time. And now you’re ready to start your new life as a parent.
This is where it can get a little overwhelming.
The realization that you are now fully responsible for feeding, cleaning, and nurturing a brand-new human life can make your baby’s homecoming a somewhat stressful experience.
We’ve compiled nine valuable newborn parenting tips to help make your transition into parenthood as easy as possible.
Believe in yourself
Hey, we get it: Parenting is a huge responsibility. And unless you have a background in childcare, chances are you’re stepping into your new role as a complete novice. But even if you don’t have a lot of experience with children, you do have your maternal or paternal instincts.
These same instincts helped guide your parents, and your parents’ parents, and so on, as far back as humanity goes. Your instincts may not provide all of the answers, but they will help you keep your baby’s welfare top of mind. And as long as you love your child and give them the attention and care that they need, you’re being the best parent they could ever possibly have. So believe in yourself. You know you and your baby best.
Be teachable… to a point
Being confident in yourself doesn’t necessarily mean thinking you already know everything. If you have friends or relatives who seem like they’ve mastered this whole parenting thing, then don’t be afraid to reach out to them for advice. Chances are, they have a lot of hard-earned wisdom to share, and they’ll also have the added benefit of knowing you and your specific situation on a personal level.
On the other hand, don’t feel like you have to listen to every bit of unsolicited advice that gets thrown your way. As a new mom or dad, you’ll likely attract a lot of unwanted input from strangers—feel free to politely ignore it. Or better yet, listen and consider what the person has to say, but recognize that you’re the final authority on how you raise your baby.
Take care of yourself
In many ways, parenting is about sacrifice. But if you completely disregard your own physical and mental health to focus all of your energy on your child, you could end up causing more harm than good. Self-care is just as important for new parents as it is for anyone else, and will help prevent parenting burnout. Work with your partner or a designated respite-care provider to set aside times when you can relax and just focus on your own needs.
Going along with this tip, you should also be willing to reach out for help around the house. Work with trusted friends or family members, look into professional cleaning services, or even hire a responsible teen from the neighborhood. This will help ensure that many of your household tasks and responsibilities are taken care of, while you focus on enjoying your time with your precious little one.
Make time for bonding
One of the best parts of having a new baby is snuggling. Cradling a baby is something that many parents desperately miss once their kids start to grow up. But more than just being a pleasurable experience for moms and dads, snuggling time is also essential for your baby’s emotional and physical growth. Children need to know that their parents love them, and this essential bonding time is perhaps the most clear and direct way to express that love in terms that a newborn can understand.
Set aside time to hold your baby. Talk to them. Gently stroke their skin. Let them rest against your skin and listen to your breathing and heartbeat. No single chore or other commitment is quite as important as regular cuddling and bonding time, so feel free to leave the dishes in the sink, the laundry unfolded, or the grass overgrowing as you make time to connect with your baby.
Maintain your sense of humor
When your child suffers a diaper blowout in the middle of the grocery store, or manages to get sick in your hair without you noticing right before you meet with an important client, you have two options: You can either get upset, or you can laugh it off.
Look, babies are absolutely absurd. They’re miniature people with no filters, boundaries, or senses of propriety, and that makes them possibly the funniest things on earth. See the humor in the absurdity, and laugh out loud when your child’s bodily functions derail your carefully-curated plans. Not only will it keep your stress levels down, it will also help your child learn to recognize and enjoy the lighter side of life.
Work on your other relationships
Your baby needs you, but so do other people in your life. If you shut out everyone else to make yourself exclusively available to your newborn, you might end up damaging important relationships. Friends, parents, siblings, and especially your partner all want to enjoy this time with you. And while you certainly shouldn’t neglect your baby, you don’t have to feel guilty about meeting up with an acquaintance or taking some special one-on-one time with your significant other.
Healthy personal relationships boost mental health, improve self confidence, and provide a support group for when you need to vent about the stresses of parenthood. As the saying goes “Make new friends, but keep the old.” Enjoy the benefits of building your relationship with your child, while also cementing your bond with the other important people in your life.
Be prepared for colds
To the average adult, a cold is usually little more than an occasional nuisance. But to a baby, a runny nose, sore throat, or upset stomach can be a major event. And, because a newborn won’t be able to let you know when they feel those first creeping symptoms, it may seem like baby colds come on fast and without any warning at all. Be prepared for the inevitable, by stocking up on infant-cold-care essentials well in advance.
Nasal suckers, cool-mist humidifiers, aloe-soaked tissues, infant ear drops, and approved over-the-counter infant medicine (check to make sure that it’s safe for your baby’s age) can all help you take some of the edge off of your baby’s cold, and speed up the recovery process. Additionally, you should always keep rehydration drinks on hand to help children recover lost fluids after vomiting or experiencing diarrhea. Having a supply of these essentials available when you need them will cut down on middle-of-the-night pharmacy runs.
Don’t beat yourself up about breastfeeding
Are there benefits to breastfeeding? Sure. Nursing provides optimal nutrition, allows mothers to share their antibodies with their child, and can help new mothers bond even more with their new baby. But that doesn’t mean that your ability to breastfeed is the absolute, defining factor in your child’s health or happiness.
The simple truth is that formula can also provide for your child’s needs. If you or your child are unable to make breastfeeding work, for whatever reason, then formula is a valid alternative that can give your baby the nutrition they need to grow. Don’t feel guilty if nursing isn’t working out, and don’t let anyone shame you for your choice.
Get as much sleep as you can, whenever you can
Your baby will sleep when they need to—at night, day, on car rides, during cuddle time, or even right in the middle of a feeding session. In fact, most infants sleep about 14–17 hours per day. What can make things tricky is that they don't take all of those hours at once; baby sleep tends to consist of many short-duration naps, separated by a couple hours of wakefulness. That’s great for your child, but not necessarily great for you if you’re used to getting a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep at night.
There’s really no way to sugar coat it: Parenthood is going to cost you some sleep. However, you can offset this by adjusting your own sleeping schedule. If your newborn likes to take a nap right after lunch, then feel free to grab one for yourself. If your baby falls asleep while playing, then curl up next to them and grab some extra shut eye. You can also rely on others to help out, such as setting up a schedule with your partner that will give each of you a chance to take a break while the other watches the baby. Finally, help get the most out of the sleep hours you do get, by creating a relaxing, comfortable, uncluttered bedroom environment.
Getting the best out of baby time
A new baby is a miracle, but it can also represent a difficult transition for new parents as they figure out their roles and responsibilities. These tips are designed to help you get a handle on parenthood, but if you’re still struggling, don’t ever hesitate to reach out for help.
Although it may seem like your child is taking a long time to outgrow some of the more difficult aspects of infancy, the truth is that this phase will be over before you know it. Enjoy your time with your newborn, so that you can look back on it with fondness as you and your baby enter the next stages of your lives.
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