Babies are a game-changer. Even if you read all the baby books on the market, listen to every podcast, or ask your parent friends for their must-have tips, you still won’t get the A-Z baby guide that you are hoping for. The truth is that there is no one roadmap to parenting. It is beautiful and scary, breathtaking and heartbreaking, predictable and ever-changing, and so much more. Yet, just because you can’t see the future when it comes to how best to raise your new little one, there are a few hidden parenting gems that can set you on the path to success.
New Parent Tip #1
“Dads, breastfeeding is not just about mom.”
When we think of breastfeeding, we typically think of the needs and bonds of mom and baby. Of course, this makes sense, but we can’t forget that dad is just as essential to the breastfeeding relationship. From being a part of the decision on how to feed your baby, to helping the new mom and baby find a rhythm, dad surrounds his family with his love and protection during those tenuous early days. He can help mom find the most comfortable positions, feed the baby pumped breastmilk after the first few weeks, and take care of the post-feeding activities like burping, changing, and of course, snuggling! Taking care of his new baby is not just helpful to his partner; it can also help him regulate his own uncertain emotions. Research has shown that dads experience hormone changes, including decreased testosterone and increased oxytocin.
New Parent Tip #2
“Be okay with throwing your agenda out the window.”
If you or your partner are used to having everything organized and your schedule perfectly lined up for the day and week ahead, you may be in for a rude awakening. While establishing a routine is essential for your baby by repeating patterns of behaviors and activities, babies don’t quite stick to a schedule. New parents often make the mistake of setting a schedule and expecting the baby to follow it. This can lead to tears for both the parents and the baby. Instead, take the lead from your baby during the first few months. Look for hunger and fullness signs, note when your baby starts to appear tired or is more alert, and then respond accordingly. Find things you can do each time you feed or put your baby to bed to help teach her what is happening—for example, playing the same music before putting your baby to bed. These routines can help your baby get on a schedule of his own, and as he grows, you can adapt the schedule to what might work best for you as a family.
New Parent Tip#3
“Make the time to connect to each other and those around you.”
Too often, the last thing that two tired parents want to do is go out and be social. Yet, whether it is to have a special date night or to meet up with friends, this adult time can help offset the emotional rollercoaster of parenting. When you take a pause, catch your breath, and refocus on yourself and others, you can re-energize and better care for your baby and each other. Practicing self-care is not a selfish act or one to just be fit in when you have a minute. It must be intentional and can be as simple as setting aside time to be mindful and grateful for all you have and all you wish to be.
New Parent Tip#4
“Remember your health is important too.”
When you have a baby, you immediately begin scheduling pediatrician visits and keeping up on routine immunizations and well-care visits. While these are very important for your baby, don’t let your health go on the backburner. From eating healthy to being active and getting your preventive care from a health care professional, you have steps you need to take to be your best for your family. Kids model what their parents do. As your little one grows up, she will only benefit from watching you and your partner living your best and healthiest life.
New Parent Tip#5
“Tomorrow is always a new day.”
This last one may seem silly or obvious, but even the best parent has an off day. Lack of sleep, a disagreement with your partner, or difficulties adjusting back to work after having a baby can all make for days that do not seem to go your way. You may have less patience for your partner or your baby. That is okay. We all have days where we aren’t our best. The key is to take the time to recognize and acknowledge these feelings and find healthy ways to cope with them. This can include asking for help so you can rest, taking time for meditation or prayer, engaging in a favorite hobby, calling a friend, or taking a walk outside. Each day is a chance to reset and learn from the day before. As your baby grows and you prepare for the challenges of toddlerhood, you will benefit from remembering to take one day at a time – and to take time to enjoy every minute you can.