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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 January 24, 2020

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed)

5 Ways to Improve Your Parenting Skills (Psychology-Backed)

There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Parenting is hard. It takes a great deal of effort to be even a decent parent. My husband and I are raising our three children ages 6, 6, and 7.

Yes, I have my hands full. Twin six-year-old boys and a seven-year-old girl keep me on my parenting toes, so to speak. It is not easy, but I do my best to be a good parent. Having a PhD in psychology is helpful, but I still devour plenty of parenting books and research articles to continually try to do better. I am still a work in progress just like all parents.

    It would be great if we knew exactly what to do and how to do it with our kids. But not all kids are the same and they are not born with a manual that provides us with instructions on how to raise them right. However, we do have research on parenting and psychology that can help us out and point us in the right direction.

    Below I have five tips on how to improve your parenting skills starting today! These tips are backed by research. The first step toward being a great parent is knowing how. It is difficult to be a good parent without knowing first and foremost the how and why.

    1. Practice Loving without Conditions

    Loving unconditionally seems like a given that we all assume we are doing as a parent. However, we may have behaviors or words spoken that undermine our ability for our children to feel unconditionally loved.

    For example, asking our child if he wants another mom when he is acting out is not practicing unconditional love. The message that is being sent to the child is that if they act out or misbehave, they are at risk of losing you as a mother, since you ask “do you want another mom” or “do you want to live somewhere else?”

    If you have ever made these statements, it doesn’t mean you are a terrible parent. However, if we want our child to feel loved unconditionally, then we need to stop saying things that make the child feel like the relationship could ever be severed because of their behavior.

    Another way to look at these threats is comparing them to threatening divorce. If you have ever been married, or lived in a home with married parents, then you know that when one person threatens divorce, it cuts to the core.

    Threatening divorce damages the relationship, because trust is lost. The other person begins to feel that that their relationship may not be forever, and that the relationship can be ended because their spouse is threatening divorce. Even if the person threatening doesn’t really mean what they are saying and they truly love their spouse, the words are damaging none the less.

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    The same principles go for parent and child relationships. If a child has been threatened with loss of their current home life, the parent leaving them, or being placed in foster care, then that child does not feel loved unconditionally. They will believe that love from their parent is contingent on their behavior. It is conditional love which means that they are only loved under certain conditions.

    My son Charlie has recently gotten into the habit of saying “I love you Mom” every time that he gets in trouble. He kicked the dog the other day. Not hard, but nevertheless he kicked our family dog. I was fuming. I yelled at him and he was sent to his room for a long time out (I know the yelling was not a good thing to do). I couldn’t even think of a consequence in the heat of the moment so I said “go to your room, I don’t want to see you right now, I will think about your consequence later.”

    He cried, and as he was running up the stairs and he was saying “I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy, I love you Mommy.” Why was he saying that? Because in his six-year-old mind, he is worried that I will stop loving him if he has bad behavior.

    Kids don’t know that we love them unconditionally. They are learning though and we must teach them that we do. My response in this situation and always is to say “I love you too.” I then usually follow it up with “I don’t like your behavior right now, but I will always love you.”

    Kids need to be told that they are loved regardless of their behavior. It needs to be ingrained that they are loved even if they act out, break the rules, or misbehave.

    An article by Elite Daily examined several research studies on unconditional love.[1] The findings from these studies showed that children become more well-adjusted, emotionally healthy, and physically healthy adults when they experience unconditional love in childhood. When children are exposed to conditional love in their parent-child relationship, the research showed that, children have higher levels of anxiety which in turn negatively affects their long-range health, such as heart health.

    Loving unconditionally means loving without conditions. Unconditional love is loving someone just the way that they are, flaws and all. Tell your children that you love them, even when they break the rules, misbehave, or they tell you that they hate you (most kids say this to their parents at some point in time).

    You must always respond with “I love you regardless of your behavior.” It doesn’t mean that you are accepting or allowing the bad behavior. There should always be reasonable consequences to match the behavior. However, they shouldn’t ever be made to feel that the love of their parent can be revoked because of bad behaviors.

    2. Develop a Bond That Will Last a Lifetime by Creating Memories

    You need to spend time with your kids in order to create a bond. Quality time matters, but so does quantity time.

    Kids want to be with their parents. Spend time together as a family. For example, make it a point to have dinner at the kitchen or dining room table at least a few nights a week. Make a rule that no technology is allowed at the table during that time, so that you can talk and spend time together.

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    Before you know it, that child will be grown and out of your home. Take the time to spend meal times together, talking and truly getting to know your child before they leave your home as an adult.

    Barking Up the Wrong Tree looked at research on how to create happy memories that last a lifetime. Some of the things discovered in the research included:[2]

    • Memories are made when our senses and emotions are elevated.
    • If we are pulling out the camera phone, it is likely an elevated experience that you want to remember.
    • Celebrating milestones and praiseworthy moments (graduations, winning seasons, etc.) helps to create positive lasting memories.
    • Struggling together creates a bond. If you have worked through conflict in your relationship and made it better in the process then you have created a bond. Fraternities haze, soldier fight together, and families overcome struggles together. These all make for lasting bonds. When you struggle together as a family, celebrate the success at the end of your victory, once you have overcome the challenge together.

    Take the time to make memories with your children. They are only little once. Go on those vacations, hike to the top of a mountain together, sail across an ocean, go camping, or teach them to ice-skate.

    Do anything and everything that will help create memories, bonds, and experiences that will last a lifetime in their memory. Those memories are what will carry them into old age with happiness in their heart.

    3. Stop the Yelling

    Yelling at our kids is not good parenting. Yet it is still happening on regular basis in most homes. I admit, I am still continually working on this one. I think this quote summarizes the situation.

      However, I know I need to continually work to not yell or raise my voice, as I would prefer a household with zero voices ever raised.

      Yelling causes our children to become anxious. It also affects them emotionally and mentally in a negative manner. If you have ever been yelled at by a boss or superior, you probably remember it and it is not a fond memory. It made you feel bad. It is hard enough to be reprimanded in a calm voice.

      When someone, whether adult or child, is yelled at while being reprimanded it causes anxiety, stress, and negative emotions to abound. When the yelling involves name calling or insults it becomes emotional abuse.

      Heathline Parenthood examined research on the topic of yelling and found that parents who yell at their kids end up with children who are more aggressive verbally and physically.[3] Children learn from their parents’ example. If yelling is a regular occurrence in your household, then your child is learning that when dealing with behavior or situations that they don’t like, it is appropriate to yell. None of us want to teach that to our children, so we must take action to stop the yelling.

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      Healthline provides some tips on how to stop yelling:

      • Know what triggers the yelling. What are the behaviors occurring or situations where you find yourself yelling at your children?
      • When you feel that you are going to yell, give yourself a time out or count to ten.
      • Practice responding in a calm, even tone. Practice makes the action a habit.
      • If you do yell, then admit the mistake and apologize to your child. They will then learn that it is not an acceptable behavior and that they too should apologize if they make a mistake and end up yelling. (Yes, I apologized to Charlie for yelling and he had to apologize to our dog Max.)

      My article about yelling less at your kids less is also helpful: The Only Effective Way to Talk With Children When They Are Acting Out. This article outlines the steps to use the “one-ask” parenting approach. This approach is used to help parents follow up with consequences more quickly so that situations don’t escalate to worse behavior by the children and yelling from the parents. Some tips from this article on talking to your children without yelling include the following.

      • Get on their level, talking face to face in a calm voice.
      • Don’t make repeated threats about a consequence that is coming to them and wait for the situation to become more heated.
      • Follow through with the consequence (i.e. loss of playtime or time-out) immediately after they violate your warning. Don’t wait for them to repeat the bad behavior several more times. One warning is all that is needed. Then, if they break the rule or don’t obey, the consequence should be immediately implemented.

      If you find that your yelling is so entrenched in your daily behaviors that you have a hard time kicking the habit and you need more support, then buy, or find at your local library, the book Triggers by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake. Their tips were even featured on the Focus on the Family national radio program and were rated as a number one show for 2019. Their gentle parenting methods simply work.

      A quote from the book:

      “Peacemaking moms produce peacemaking kids.”

      Wendy and Amber also have a Facebook group that is free to join. It is Gentle Parenting with Amber and Wendy. In this group, you will find thousands of other parents looking for support to yell less in their homes. Check out the group if you want more connected support to stop yelling at your kids. I am a member of this group too. Nobody is perfect, but we can do better as parents by yelling less starting today.

      4. Provide Experiences Over Toys

      Toys are fun. But our kids don’t need an excess of overcomplicated, electronic, and expensive toys in order to be happy or develop in a healthy manner. Focusing on experiences over toys is a way to improve as a parent now.

      The next holiday or birthday that comes up, think about gifting your child an experience, for example, a year membership to the children’s museum or zoo. Another experience is a trip to someplace interesting such as a National Park. These experiences help to create memories. They also help to make your child a more well rounded individual as they are out in the world experiencing activities rather than sitting in their room playing the newest video game.

      Motherly posted a recent article that delved into the science that experiences are better for our kids than toys. Here is a quote from that article that is worth noting.[4]

      And if we need one more reason to cool it on the toy giving, researchers have discovered that gratitude and generosity increase when experiences are given instead of objects. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, conducted many studies over many decades and found that happiness is derived from experiences, not things. Bottom line: The happiness derived from a childhood experience is far more significant than the fleeting excitement of toys under the Christmas tree. Giving experiences that involve spending time together instead of gifting toys brings greater and longer-lasting joy. Don’t stress about the number of toys, mama. Focus on making memories.

      Creating family experiences and making memories go hand-in-hand. Our money and resources get more bang for their buck when they are used on experiences for the family instead of things. The research from the Motherly article shows that families are happier overall when they have more experiences together and less toys.

      5. Let Them Play and Be a Child

      Play and childhood development go hand-in-hand. However, the amount of playtime our children are getting has been diminishing in recent decades.

      We are so intent on our children learning, that we take away from their playtime. Play is learning. We need to get our children back to basic playtime so they can develop and learn in a natural way.

      Increase their playtime and limit the electronics. Research by Very Well Family found that too much technology is damaging to our children.[5] When children get too much time on electronic devices, their research found that children have sleep issues, obesity, behavior problems, academic problems, and emotional issues. Limit your children’s time on technology.

      According to We Can, we need to aim for less than two of screen time per day for our school aged children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends far less time for children under the age of five. We Can offers a free screen time chart so you can track your child’s time on digital devices.

      The goal is to get children playing and off the technology. Playing will help them developmentally. In my book Let Them Play, I explain the importance of play and provide 100 child developmental play activities. Some great play activities that promote development and learning that are listed in the book including Play Doh, magnet blocks, Legos, puppet shows, and hopscotch.

      Parents can teach their children different play activities while they actively play with their children. Fifteen or twenty minutes of playtime together can help to create bonding time between parent and child. Then the parent can allow their children to continue playing the activity on their own. This play time is crucial to the child’s healthy social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

      They are only little once. Let them be a child when they are little. Two-year-old children aren’t meant to sit at desks for hours completing school work. They were made to play, explore, and be active physically. This is how they learn and develop best.

      Final Thoughts

      These are not the only ways to improve as a parent. However, these are five ways that you can begin improving as a parent starting today.

      Nobody is a perfect parent, which means we all have room for improvement. Look at your own parenting methods objectively and decide where you can improve. Then do something about it.

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      Featured photo credit: Jonathan Daniels via unsplash.com

      Reference

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