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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 July 23, 2020

11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It)

11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It)

Have you ever followed your child around the playground? They may have been a toddler and you were worried they would take the wrong step and fall off the jungle gym. Therefore, you followed your toddler around, keeping them within arm’s reach so that you could prevent them from falling or having an accident.

I have been that parent at the playground in the past. With twin boys who had no fear as toddlers, I would follow them onto playground equipment because I was concerned for their safety.

After a few months of doing this, I stopped. I came to realize that children need to learn through their own experiences. They will fall, but they will also learn how to avoid danger and make calculated judgments about risks through their experiences. If I was always there to stop them from falling, they wouldn’t learn to stop themselves.

They had to learn things on their own. Of course, as a parent, it is still my responsibility to not place them in situations where they could be terribly injured.

For example, we started at playgrounds that were intended for children under the age of five. We didn’t move up to the big playgrounds until they were old enough and aware of their behaviors and the risks involved in playground play activities.

Why Parents Become Overprotective

The intention of overprotective parenting is well-meaning. These types of parents are highly concerned about their children’s safety and decision making. Their ultimate goal is to protect their child from harm. Parents should be concerned about the safety and well-being of their children.

However, on the flip side, parents should also be teaching their children about risk and responsibility. Those lessons are best taught through life experience. If we are always following behind our children, ready to catch them at a moment’s notice, then we aren’t allowing them to learn about risk and responsibility.

Unger, a researcher on overprotective parenting, suggests that parents should allow children to participate in activities on their own that are considered low-risk.[1] This means allowing children to engage in activities on their own that provide “manageable amounts of risk and responsibility.”

Unger cited that parents have become increasingly more protective of their children and are much more watchful of their children’s activities than previous generations.

The problem with being an overprotective parent is that the child misses out on the opportunity to build responsible behavior skills, build autonomy, and develop self-esteem. Their confidence can be undermined when mom or dad are always watching and guiding their behavior.

They can develop a sense that they are unable to make their own good decisions because they are never allowed to do so in life. Their confidence and self-esteem are hindered when they aren’t allowed to do things on their own without their parents hovering or watching over them.

What Are the Signs of an Overprotective Parent?

Parents with overly protective tendencies think that they are helping their child. Their goal is to protect their child, but it goes to the extreme. Below are some ways that a parent can be overly protective.

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This type of behavior can end up harming their child’s development when one or more of these behaviors is present. There are likely other ways that a parent can be overprotective of their child, as this list is not comprehensive.

These are examples so you can assess your behavior to determine if you need to loosen up overly protective parenting habits.

  1. You choose your child’s friends or direct them toward friendships with particular children.
  2. You don’t allow them to do activities on their own. For example, not allowing them to walk the dog in front of your home even though you live in a safe neighborhood and could even watch them from the front window.
  3. You are constantly monitoring your child. For example, you show up at their sports practices often to check in and see how they are doing or you go online to check their grades every week to ensure that they don’t have any missing work in any classes. If they do have missing work, you make sure that they get it completed and turned in before their final grade can be affected.
  4. You prevent them from making mistakes when you can see that they are going to make a low-risk mistake. For example, not allowing your five-year-old to put ketchup on their pancakes because you know they are going to dislike it and ruin their breakfast. You won’t allow them to chose to make such a mistake because you know that they will cry and get upset and you want to prevent them from becoming emotionally upset.
  5. You don’t allow them to go to friend’s homes without you.
  6. Sleepovers at other homes or camps are never allowed during their childhood.
  7. You drill them with questions about their life when they are out of your sight, such as wanting to know about all the details of their school day every day when you pick them up from school.
  8. You guide them to the extent that they are prevented from failing. For example, not allowing your teen to try out for the basketball team because you know that they will not make the cut.
  9. You make their decisions for them. For example, you don’t allow them to choose whether they can walk to school or ride the bus. You drive them and do not allow for any decision outside of this because you want to keep them safe.
  10. You are always volunteering to serve in their school classroom or chaperone the school trips because you want to “keep an eye on what is going on in your child’s class”.
  11. You do not allow them to have secrets or privacy. For example, they are not allowed to have a locked diary that you do not read or you don’t allow them to lock their bedroom door ever.

Why Being Overprotective Is Not a Good Idea

Kids learn from natural consequences. If they are not allowed to have natural consequences because their parent is continually protecting them from failure and harm, their development is being hindered.

For example, let’s look at a child named Sally who is 13. She is a child who is overly managed by her parents and is not allowed to go to sleepovers or even go to another friend’s home. Her parents are worried about stranger danger and what can happen if they are not with their child.

Sally is allowed to have friends at her home, but her parents are always watching the kids. Whenever Sally and her friends begin to disagree, the argument is squelched before the children can even begin to work things out between themselves because Sally’s parents will intervene and solve the problem.

Sally is never alone with friends outside of school because her parents are always present. The presence of her parents in her socialization is hindering her development.

She doesn’t know how to work out disagreements between her peers because she has never been allowed the opportunity to even try. Her social skills are lacking because parents intervene to direct her behavior while she is with her friends.

Kids Need Space and Time

Kids need space and time to be independent while they are children. If Sally were to be left alone with her friends, her friends would eventually push back at her bossy behavior when her parents are not present.

However, because Sally’s parents are always present she gets away with being overly-bossy to her friends. She is not learning about the natural consequences of her bossiness but someday will when it may be difficult to change her behaviors as she is older in more set in her ways.

It is easier to learn through natural consequences at a young age. Sally will likely end up going to therapy as an adult because she can’t keep friendships intact. Her bossy behaviors and lack of awareness have led to her having severed friendships repeatedly as a young adult.

She will have to work with a therapist to uncover the reason why she is losing friends and then work to change her behavior to learn better ways to act towards her friends in the future.

Effects of Overprotection

There are a variety of effects of overprotective parenting. It is often dependent on the methods the parent utilizes and the extent of the overprotective behavior.

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For example, let’s look at Tina who is a girl age 10. She wants to run and participate in her school’s after-school competitive track program. However, she is not allowed to participate in after school activities because her parents are worried that she will be exposed to boys and may start having relationships with the opposite sex too young.

Another concern is that a boy may “take advantage” of their daughter, so they want to protect her from being exposed to boys outside of school and their supervision.

The problem with this is that Tina is missing out on participating in a sports activity that could help her develop friendships. She is also missing out on the opportunities associated with being a part of a team, working hard physically to compete, and developing sportsmanship skills.

Her parents are well-meaning, but their over-protection is preventing her from participating in a sports activity that she deeply desires to engage in.

There are other effects of overprotective parenting. Below are some examples.

Examples of Overprotective Parenting

This list is not comprehensive, as every parenting situation and family is unique. However, this list can help provide some insight into the detrimental effects that overprotective parenting can cause.

1. Lack of Self-Esteem Development

If children are not allowed to try things on their own, they cannot build self-confidence and self-esteem.

2. Lack of Autonomy

If a child is always accustomed to having a parent around and supervising their behavior, they can become dependent on the decision making of their parents because they are never allowed to be alone or do things alone.

3. Anxiety

A child who is never allowed to try to do things on their own can become anxious when they are finally allowed to try things out on their own. They worry about making mistakes or failing because they have continually had a parent to help them avoid mistakes and failure.

4. Lack of Responsibility

When parents are always helping and guiding their children to an extreme, children will fail to develop their own responsibility skills. If they are never held responsible for anything, how can they develop a sense of responsibility?

5. People-Pleasing Tendencies

Youniverse explained that children who have overprotective parents who constantly direct their children’s behavior end up seeking the approval of those in their life.[2] These children will grow up accustomed to someone always telling them what the “right behavior” looks like.

If they don’t have that praise or comfort of someone saying they did things right, they can become anxious or depressed. They become people-pleasers who seek the appraisal of others.

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6. Risky Behavior

When children are raised in an overly protective home, they often engage in risky behavior when the reigns are lifted. They haven’t experienced the failures associated with low-risk situations at a younger age because of their overly protective parents.

Therefore, when they get older, access to high-risk situations becomes more easily accessible, and without understanding high risk versus low-risk situations, they engage without the wisdom of previous experiences.

Because of their inexperience with risks in general, they may engage in high risk because they are unaware of consequences.

7. Diminished Development Regarding Fear, Social Skills, and Coping Skills

Psychology Today explains that children with overprotective parents have developmental issues, such as not being able to deal with stress and poor social skills.[3]

For example, a child who isn’t allowed to play on a playground because the parent wants to protect their child from injury is prevented from learning about risk-taking on the playground and the bumps and bruises from consequences.

Such a child may grow up to either having too much fear because it was instilled by their parents or have no fear because they have no concept of high-risk versus low-risk behavior.

8. Lack of Immunity

The Psychology Today article also explained that children who have overly protective parents that do not allow exposure to germs can become children who have a compromised immune system. Exposure to germs as children is needed for them to develop a healthy immune system naturally.

When parents are disinfecting everything the child encounters and not allowing exposure to germs (e.g., not allowing them to go to a petting zoo or to play in the sandbox because of the germs in those places), they can be stunting their child’s ability to develop their immune system.

9. Control Freaks

Children who have been parented by control freaks learn this behavior from their parents. Parents are the primary role model of behavior for their children. If children see their parents acting as though they must have control over others and every situation at all times, then they too will learn to behave in this same manner.

What to Do If You Are an Overprotective Parent

If after reading this content you feel that you may be an overprotective parent, there is hope. You can change.

It begins with loosening the reigns of control over your child in a calculated and reasonable manner. Allowing for low-risk behaviors and the consequences involved can help your child become more independent.

There is definitely a balance to protective versus overprotective parenting. Allowing for activities and exposure to experiences that are low-risk is a good way to start.

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For example, allowing your child to play on age-appropriate playground equipment (without following them) is a good first step. They will experience some bumps and bruises, but this is a part of normal development and learning about consequences.

You will want to research authoritative parenting methods if you feel you are an overprotective parent. Overprotective parents tend to be authoritarian parents.

Here is a LifeHack article I previously wrote about authoritarian parenting, so you can understand the drawbacks to this parenting method: Authoritarian Parenting.

Authoritative parenting is not control-based parenting. It involves teaching consequences naturally, allowing age-appropriate decision-making, and having conversations with children rather than dictating for ultimate control and compliance.

MSU Extension provides some great guidelines for authoritative parenting.[4] Below are some of the behaviors they described with authoritative parenting methods:

  • Provide reasonable, age-appropriate expectations for children.
  • Stress and anxiety for children can have positive outcomes, as they are allowed to experience these feelings in small doses as children. They can then build their coping skills and ability to deal with stress and anxiety through experience.
  • Encourage independence, as it helps children build their confidence and self-esteem.
  • Allowing for failures when they are young helps them learn how to pick themselves back up and try again. Developing this ability at a young age regularly will help prepare them for bigger failures when they are older, such as breakups, failed classes, or losing a job.

Final Thoughts

It is never too late to work on our parenting skills. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, therefore, we can always be working on improving our parenting methods.

We all want our children to be successful, happy, and competent as adults. It does not happen overnight. Parenting is a continual process of trying daily to help our children live and learn through their own life experiences.

If we try to protect them every step of the way, then they are not being allowed to truly experience life.

Allow for age-appropriate experiences and allow for failures so that they can learn how to pick themselves back up and try again.

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Featured photo credit: Sue Zeng via unsplash.com

Reference

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