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15 Things You Should Know About Having A Baby

15 Things You Should Know About Having A Baby

“I thought I was the greatest parent, then I had kids.”

Picture this, you are sitting with a gorgeous bundle of joy in your arms, a scene you have probably pictured in your head several times during your pregnancy, and it hits you, I mean it really hits you – I am a parent. I am responsible for this beautiful piece of life in my hands! What the hell do I do now? Babies don’t come with a manual.

When I became a parent, I remember thinking to myself often, in the first year, “Why didn’t anyone tell me this?” Like most parents-to-be, we did the usual antenatal classes, read books, signed up on BabyCenter, and spoke to friends who had recently had children. But nothing can prepare you for your experience as a first-time parent. It’s one of those crazy, magical, not to mention, extremely exhausting, roller coaster rides of your life.

Whether you love kids, or have doubts about your parental instincts, or think you’ve got this parental shindig all figured out, you are in for a surprise. Your life is going to change in an unbelievable way!
Here are a few important pointers to help you along the way:

1. Breastfeeding is hard, but not impossible

Breastfeeding is not easy and it takes you time to get it right. However, it’s a great start for your child and if you choose to do it, arm yourself with the right information. Most breastfeeding issues are easily solved if you reach out for the right support. Please talk to friends who successfully breastfed to get the real picture and for recommendations for helpful resources such as lactation consultants.
Get all the help you need while in the hospital, after delivery. Seek a good lactation consultant who can teach you how to breastfeed. You need to learn to identify a correct latch and if your child is feeding well or not. La Leche League and Kelly Mom are great websites for finding additional support and more information.

2. Not all babies sleep long hours

Every baby book and website will tell you that babies sleep 12- 16 hours a day. That makes it sound like they sleep all the time and you can go about your work. But not all babies sleep for long, uninterrupted stretches. They sleep between 2-4 hours at a stretch, even at night, initially.

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3. Hence, having a baby means you will miss sleep terribly

When I had been a mom for a week, I was awfully sleep deprived. I asked another friend with more experience, (having 2 older kids), when do I get to sleep properly through the night? She laughed and remarked, “Definitely not before they are 20!”

You come to slowly realize that sleep is a luxury for new parents. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is the best advice I ever received. Don’t clean, don’t do laundry, and don’t use that time to cook, please just sleep! Take turns staying up at night.

Whether you choose to co-sleep, sleep train, or whatever, do your research and decide what works best for your family. Go with whatever gets everyone more sleep, at least until you reach a phase where you aren’t constantly exhausted. Or else, not just the baby, but you too will end up in tears. You can always change plans as the situation changes.

4. The first 3 months are the hardest

They don’t call it the fourth trimester for nothing. Your newborn baby will be gradually adjusting to life outside the womb and you will go through all kind of hormonal and physical changes while recovering from childbirth. Our world is the complete opposite of the safe cocoon the baby emerged from. Adjusting to constant stimulation, learning to express their needs, life outside is a big deal to a newborn baby, some adjust easily, and others take their time. You need to empathize with your child and give them what they need. I promise you that if you soothe your baby by picking them up, they won’t be stuck to your hip forever, not even a few months down the line.

Your emotions will be like a pendulum, swaying from one extreme to another. It’s important to get rest, eat, and drink well. It’s only too likely that you’ll lose yourself in the busy life of a new mother, but take care of yourself. Factor in ‘me time’ in the week to reconnect with yourself and rejuvenate. A happy mother makes a happy baby.

5. Everyone will have advice for you, mostly unwarranted

From the family, to your neighbor, to your friends without kids, to random strangers you encounter when your child is in the midst of a crying fit, everyone will have an opinion on parenting your baby and offer advice and suggestions. You will feel like you are not good enough. Trust me you are. As a new parent, you experience this enormous desire to get everything right! So it’s natural to be worried and question what you are doing. But learn to listen to your parental instincts, find your own parenting philosophy, and not get too influenced by everyone’s advice. Also, if you are open enough, you will learn not to judge another parent’s choices.

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6. Get all the support you can get

They say, ‘it takes a village to bring up a child’, and they are right. Get all the help you can: you will need it. Ask family and friends to babysit, even if just for an hour so you can shower and eat a meal without having to rush to your baby. If you can get help with cooking and housework, don’t refuse. Let your partner share equally in the responsibility. Don’t worry if the house is untidy or meals are hastily thrown together, it’s ok to NOT be super mom or super dad. As your baby grows, these issues will sort themselves out. For now, just go with the flow.

Seek other new parents at playgroups, parenting support groups, breastfeeding cafes, and even online. It’s easier to turn to those going through the same stage in life for help, advice, support, and guidance. I didn’t have my family around when I had a baby so I set up a support group on Facebook to create my own community of friends and family for support. It was an immense source of comfort to me as a new mom.

7. Babies are stronger and more resilient than you know

Accidents such as minor falls and bumps with babies are common, but most do not cause much harm. Babies are, explorers by nature, which doesn’t help when you are exhausted parents. Luckily, infants have flexible bones and what might cause serious damage to an adult, will often, not do much harm to a tiny baby.

Other than accidents, there is so much that a new parent worries about: is my baby drinking enough milk? Is her weight ok? Does she have enough teeth? Why is she crying? It’s a never-ending list and parents are concerned that they might be doing it all wrong and may ruin their baby.

While it’s sometimes tough to gauge a baby’s signs- it takes practice and careful observation- babies are intelligent humans and if we don’t get in their way much, they will grow beautifully.

8. Milestones: don’t compare, because it’s not a race

Milestones are meant to be indicators of development, not a yardstick to measure your child’s growth and progress. Celebrate your child’s milestones and let them get there by themselves. Many parents think they need to help or teach their child to turn on their stomach, crawl, and walk. Please let nature do its own thing. These are instinctive and children will achieve these in their own time. There is no need to prop your child up to sit or hold their hands enabling them to walk even before they are standing up properly by themselves. Leaving them to do this by themselves is not just good physiologically (helps build strong muscle and bone structure) but allows your child to trust their body from a very young age.

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9. Capture their childhood

My husband has very few baby pictures and he wishes there were more photographs to cherish. So he insisted on upgrading to a better camera when we knew we were having a baby. In fact, it was probably the most expensive piece of baby kit we invested in. And I’m very glad he did that as we have so many lovely photos and videos of a phase that passes by so quickly to reminisce over. I look at my daughter’s baby pics and think to myself, “Oh my! I had forgotten that!” Sometimes it feels as if those photos are of a different baby altogether. They change so much so fast, it’s incredible. Not to mention you are mostly too tired to remember everything.

Needless to say, you will want to capture every single moment. New parents are unsurprisingly obsessed with their newborns.

10. Babies don’t need a lot of things

Just lots of nappies, a few baby sleep suits, a few blankets, and your set. A newborn doesn’t need fancy gadgetry. So think before you buy that fancy toy. All they need in abundance is your love and presence. Most first-time parents tend to overdo it, buying all the latest gadgets to make life easier. But go slow, check parent recommendations and really think if you need it. You can save that money for the future instead.

11. Plan your finances

Having a baby is an expensive proposition. Parents from previous generations set aside money for college and maybe weddings, but many parents today need to think of childcare too. Childcare is expensive so factor it in before you have the baby. These days, childcare expenses are among the largest part of a family budget. This is understandable, as childcare costs have often been said to be at par or higher than college expenses.

12. Going anywhere will become a massive task

A quick run to the shops to buy milk and bread will require 45 mins of preparation. It’s like packing for an overnight trip. You will have a long list of things to carry and forgetfulness that is a result of sleep deprivation and sheer exhaustion will slow you down. Keep a nappy bag always stocked and ready to go. Keep a checklist handy when you are too tired to think but need to pop to the shops for essentials. If and when you plan to go out for a nice evening, it will need detailed organizing and providing troubleshooting instructions to your babysitter.

13. Reconnect as a couple

“In the happiest of our childhood memories, our parents were happy too” – Robert Brault.

Parenting is hard on your relationship; especially in the early days when the new situation is challenging to both of you and survival is the main goal. It takes a toll on the best of couples. There are never enough hours to finish housework or errands, you are both exhausted and with a baby around, romance isn’t top of the agenda anymore. So it’s important to spend time with each other as a couple, without talking about responsibilities or your baby. Set up date nights at home if you can’t organize a babysitter often. If you argue in front of your baby, make sure to make up in front of your baby too. It’s important to create a healthy, happy, and secure environment for your child to grow up in.

 14. You will gain new skills

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about,” – Angela Schwindt.

Children teach us so much about life. A child will find true joy in the simplest of things. Children teach us how to love unconditionally, how to forgive, to be giving, to be honest, to be carefree, to trust your instincts, patience, and perseverance, among many other things.

On a lighter note, you will learn to become a ninja around your baby when she sleeps. You won’t remember things that need to be done, but you will know the words to every rhyme even in the middle of the night. You will learn to eat your meals super fast or single-handed. You will learn to do many things single-handed. You will become an expert in non-linguistic communication and baby language. For a while, only you will seem to be able to interpret what your baby’s words mean. You will learn to sleep anytime, anywhere.

15. Enjoy your baby – they grow up too fast

Being a parent is mostly about being full of love, joy, hope and unimaginable delight, even when you’re bone tired. You will laugh more than ever before. All the craziness will soon end – the sleepless nights, the toilet training, and tantrums. Time will run swiftly and in the blink of an eye your infant will be a toddler and before you know it, ready for school. Savor the baby stage; it’s so special and so short-lived that you will miss it dearly when it’s gone. Watching your child grow is one of the most magical and mystical experiences of your life. Don’t be constantly worried and panicked about the baby.

You will be fine. Don’t take life too seriously. Remember to relax and have fun as a family enjoying this beautiful gift that you have been blessed with.

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Featured photo credit: Lisa Rosario via albumarium.com

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Published on September 21, 2018

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

Becoming a mother is one of the most difficult challenges a woman can take on in her life. Whether this happens the “natural” way, with the help of science, or through adoption, being in charge of nurturing another human being is a herculean task to take on.

Typically, when we think about parenthood, we imagine two parents sharing the responsibility and having each other to lean on. However, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a single mother.[1] This is a significant portion of the population that often gets overlooked.

If you are one of these mothers raising your children on your own, you are undoubtedly aware of the additional challenges that motherhood has placed upon you, including the constant struggle to find sufficient time, energy, money, and support.

For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don’t be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation.

1. Find your community and ask for help

As the sole caretaker of your kids, going through the successes and struggles of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely. You have probably developed a strong sense of independence because you’ve had to go at it alone.

Being self-reliant is necessary in many situations that you have to face, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need support from others. If you have family nearby, strengthen your relationship with them by visiting and talking more often. Find time to catch up with old friends or co-workers, and don’t assume they don’t want to hang out if they are not parents themselves.

Would you prefer finding mom friends[2] who have more in common with you? Use resources like apps, Facebook groups, and community events to meet local moms in your area.

After you have established a support group that you can depend on, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is NOT a sign of weakness or incompetency to admit you can’t do it all, and others are probably more willing to lend a hand than you think.

If you feel uncomfortable burdening others, suggest trading favors such as taking turns babysitting. Because after all, helping is each other is what community is all about.

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2. Make peace with the past

Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with.

You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future.

3. Make plans and set goals

The daily repetition of trying to balance work and home life can make you feel like you are on operating on autopilot. However, it is imperative to set goals for yourself and to keep working towards self-improvement.

In your personal life, you can set a fitness goal (train for a 5k), a reading goal (read 20 books in a year), or a travel goal (take a trip to Europe). At your job, you can set career goals such as gain leadership experience, get a promotion, or earn a degree or certificate.

Spend time creating a realistic plan to on how you can go about achieving these goals. Not only will working towards these goals make you a more well-rounded and successful person, they will bring more purpose and fulfillment to your life.

4. Look for role models

A great way to jump start your plans for the future is to find a role model or mentor who is further along in their life or career experience. This person can be a great resource when you need guidance on what types of goals to set for yourself and how to achieve them.

It’s also important to have people to turn to for encouragement during difficult seasons of life. Someone who has been through it before can provide the most genuine reassurance that tough times will get better and that staying positive is best approach.

5. Rethink your priorities

Single parents have twice as many responsibilities to take care of, so priorities and expectations must be adjusted accordingly.

Know that you are not superwoman and striving for a perfectly clean home, no dirty laundry, and home-cooked meals for your kids every day is not a reasonable expectation. It’s okay to take shortcuts sometimes, like serving your kids cereal for dinner or waiting until the next day to wash the dishes.

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Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and let go of the guilt that you feel for being the only parent that your kids can count on. Give yourself a break and don’t sweat the small stuff.

6. Make time for me time

Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance.

If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets.

Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids.

Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run.

7. Stay organized

With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities.

Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis.

8. Be flexible (Don’t be a control freak)

Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don’t always go according to plan.

When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer.

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For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up.

Most of all, don’t let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day.

9. Learn to say no (Don’t feel guilty)

Single mothers have limitations in time, energy and resources that families with two parents wouldn’t be able to understand. Because of these circumstances, it’s important you let go of feelings of guilt and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere.

You don’t have to say yes to every single birthday party your child is invited to. Your kids don’t have to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities every night of the week.

Limit the things you do to only the ones that are the most enjoyable and meaningful for you and your family. Doing more things does not make you a better mother; simply a more tired one.

10. Live within your means

When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever.

If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over.

Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals.

After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies.

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Don’t let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time.

11. Spend quality time with your kids

The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count.

Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with.

When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits.

Final thoughts

Being a single mother is not an easy job. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier.

Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It’s also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances.

Most of all, don’t forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love.

Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

Reference

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