Children don’t come with an instruction manual.
And as every new parent learns, it can be a terrifying job – with the feedback erring on the negative side: Your child will scream and cry for hours. Once he can talk, he’ll probably tell you how much he hates you. He may even tell you that he wants a new parent.
We compiled advice from seasoned parents, ranging from must-have baby items to emotional support that’ll get you through those early years.
“Take time for yourself before the baby arrives. Make plans with friends, have a manicure, see a movie,” said Lindsay Pinchuk, CEO and founder of Bump Club & Beyond, an organisation connecting parents and parents-to-be with resources and products through events in more than 25 cities in the United States.
The last three movies she saw in a theatre were Moana, Sing and Trolls. So before your viewing experience transforms to G-rated only, take advantage of your adult time.
“Having a baby is the best thing that will ever happen to you, but your life will change, and some of the things you are used to doing every day, or every week, simply won’t happen anymore because you’re now responsible for this little being,” Pinchuk said.
It’s hard to mess up
There are many shades of gray when it comes to things like how to get a baby to sleep, to eat and to develop in the best way possible, said paediatrician Scott Goldstein, a father of three.
“This means that by doing what you feel comfortable with, you – and your baby – will almost always be just fine,” Goldstein said. “The issues your child will have when they are an adult will most likely not be traced back to anything you did in the first year.”
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Connect with your partner
Set aside time each week to connect with your partner, said Janeen Hayward, founder of Swellbeing, a parenting resource in Illinois that helps with everything from potty training to sleep issues. “This is time to talk about what you need, what’s working and what’s not working.”
She suggested that couples set a weekly date, even if you don’t leave the house – to stay connected during this transition and appreciate that you’re both going through a major identity shift. “And when you’re ready, it’s so nice to be able to go out together, even if you talk about the baby the entire time,” she added.
Let your child know you
Bring him into your world, and don’t be a mystery to him, said John Badalament, author of The Modern Dad’s Dilemma and director of programmes at The Fatherhood Project, a programme empowering fathers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Tell them stories about yourself,” Badalament said. “Raise the verbal bar.”
Don’t let guilt rule you
If you are like most people, you will second-guess your parenting decisions and feel bad about perceived mistakes, Goldstein said. “I often suggest to parents that they commit to memory a few examples of when they felt like really great parents and, when they are having tough moments, to recall those bright examples, so that they have the confidence to know that they do a good job.”
A baby doesn’t need much
There are plenty of books, apps and products designed to help your baby, but your baby requires very little, Goldstein said. The Finnish government provides parents a box for newborns containing everything they need: a box doubling as a bassinet, a sleeping bag, outerwear, clothing, toiletries, bedding and diapers.
“Some people find the experience of gearing up for a baby to be fun, but if you find it overwhelming, then skip it,” Goldstein said. “A place to sleep, clothes to wear and something to eat – that’s about all your baby will need initially.” He added that you may want some diapers unless you want to redo your home.
Get a white noise machine
Hayward said she recommends this item for all new parents. “Since babies are used to constant white noise in utero, this sound is very soothing to them and can help with sleep,” said Hayward.
Purchase diaper pails
Keep a diaper pail on every floor of the house if you have multiple levels. “No explanation necessary – just trust me,” Pinchuk said.
Understand that nursing is hard
Yes, it’s supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, but getting the baby to breast-feed can be difficult and even impossible for some mothers. So all expectant moms should have the number of a lactation consultant (iblce.org) on hand if they plan to nurse, Pinchuk said.
Your best is good enough
“We can be very hard on ourselves and compare ourselves and our babies to others,” Pinchuk said. “Don’t forget to do your best, what works for you and your family, and to trust your gut.”
Ask for help
We are wired to want to do it all and to think we can do it all, but you can’t do it all right now. When friends and family ask what they can do to help, make sure you have an answer ready, whether it’s picking up coffee, holding the baby so you can shower, or throwing in a load of laundry. If you say, “Nothing,” the help is going to go away, and you’re going to regret it, Pinchuk said. – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service/Danielle Braff