Advice for new parents
There must be something in the water.
A LOT of my friends are pregnant right now.
For the most part, I try to bite my tongue when it comes to dishing out advice to new parents. My head is still spinning from the wide range of instructions I was given after the births of both my children… everything from the absurd ‘hang him upside down if he coughs’ to the obvious ‘try singing to her if she cries.’
But I recently attended a baby shower that required us to write a few words of wisdom in a journal for the parents.
I wrote something pithy about not having any expectations. If I had my time again, here’s what I’d put down:
1) Take lots of photos. Of your pregnant belly, the wrinkly newborn, the awkward cuddles with friends and family. No one ever looks back and thinks ‘wow, I wish I didn’t take so many photos.’
2) Savour the scent of that baby. Close your eyes and inhale above its freakishly pulsating fontanelle. There’s nothing like it. And it’s so very fleeting.
3) Trust your instincts. I wish I followed my own advice here. For months I suspected Baby Two was hungry as he cried at the end of each breastfeed. Our doctor disagreed and diagnosed reflux, but I wasn’t convinced. Meds and natural treatments made no difference. Eventually I listened to myself and topped him up with a bottle. The change was immediate. He’s been a happy little buddha ever since. I had a similar experience when I suspected he was seriously ill and after being sent home from several doctors he was finally hospitalised with pneumonia. You can read more about that here.
4) There are no ‘shoulds.’ The minute anyone tells you a baby ‘should’ do something or that ‘they all’ do something – tune out. Babies are individuals just like older kids and adults. My two are chalk and cheese. Baby One read the text books, Baby Two didn’t. Baby One took four-hour day naps, Baby Two is lucky to make 30 minutes. My parenting style has been exactly the same for both.
5) Don’t stress about stamping out ‘bad’ habits before they grow worse. I was repeatedly told not to rock Baby Two to sleep, but it was all that worked. “He’ll wake up and need to be rocked again,” they said. “He won’t learn how to self-settle,” they said. Well, he’s one now and I rock him to sleep every night. Most of the time it takes about 10 minutes and he sleeps right through until the morning. Take that, experts. PS, Baby One settled on her own without a peep (see, they’re all different).
6) This too shall pass. Remember those words. Often.
7) It’s OK if parenthood is not enough for you. It’s also OK if it’s all you want to do. I went back to ‘work’ when Baby One was 10 months old and it was great. I’m staying home with Baby Two until his second birthday and it feels great too. Do what you gotta do to fill your cup (or pay the rent).
8) Toys schmoys. Mountains of craptastic landfill are really unnecessary. A wooden spoon and saucepan can occupy little ones for a good chunk of time. Oh, and books are beautiful keepsakes ;).
10) Be good to your partner. My husband will be laughing at this suggestion as he’s been on the receiving end of many sleep deprived snaps. Remember your baby is (hopefully) the result of your love. And parenting is so much easier when the load is shared.
PPS – This, and basically every parenting book on the market, is written with the wisdom of hindsight. No one truly understands what you’re going through in the moment that it’s happening. You’re the only real ‘expert.’