Congratulations on becoming a parent! Welcome to an awesome, hilarious, challenging, wild ride. My husband and I had 3 kids within 19 months, and I’m not going to lie, those first months with the twins are pretty much a blur. The first weeks with a new baby are a mixture of more love than you ever imagined possible, over-the-moon joy, and complete, total exhaustion.
Here are some tips from my friends and I to make the first months with your first born baby easier.
Items to purchase
1. More isn’t always better. “You don’t need all the stuff they tell you to buy. Keep it simple,” advises Jennifer Thorson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
2. Hand-me-downs are great. We’ve inherited tons of clothes from friends whose kids outgrew them. As our children outgrow them, we pass them along to other friends who are having babies. This has saved us — and our friends — so much money, and has been especially nice when the kids are growing fast and going through different sizes quickly.
Outings with your little one
3. Get out of the house with your baby. “Don’t be afraid to do things with your kids, even when they are teeny tiny. Bring them everywhere. They will get used to being out and about,” advises Cassidy Bjorklund, a mom of 3 in Moorhead, Minnesota.
4. Fit baby into your life. If you like to travel, continue to travel. Sara Hagenbeck, a mom of 3, shares some of her favorite advice. “The best advice I received was to fit your baby into your life — don’t change your life for your baby…If you travel, travel with baby. If you’re outdoorsy, bring baby with. Then picture you traveling with the special light/sound machine, wipe warmer, giant special toys, bottle warmers…all those extras you realize you don’t really need. From day one at home, bed time has always been simple. Put the baby on his or her bed, no lights/vibrations/music, no toys, because we travel to grandparents houses, hotels, etc. It makes life so much easier that our kids ‘fit’ into our lives!”
5. Bring your child many places. Alison Krueger, a mother in Mapleton, North Dakota, has enjoyed bringing her daughter just about everywhere. “While creating a schedule is helpful, don’t be afraid to go off of schedule to be able to experience things with your child. Take them anywhere and everywhere you can. You learn so much about your child and yourself by experiencing all things. I’ve loved to watch Lia grow and love that at a young age she could hold conversations with adults. She has grown to be a curious and fun child with all she’s gotten to experience with us.”
6. Stroller rides are awesome. All 3 of my kids loved, and still love, stroller rides. Taking them on stroller rides has benefits for parents, too. Getting some exercise and fresh air feels great.
7. Sleep when baby sleeps. “Sleep when they sleep. You’ve gotta get some rest or you won’t do anybody any good. The baby’s going to wake up every two hours, even in the middle of the night, so sleep when they sleep,” says Jason Brookshire, a father of 2 in Hawley, Minnesota.
8. You’re better off rested. Missy Conrad agrees with catching some zzz’s when you can. “Sleep when baby sleeps! Easier said then done, I know. But you’re so much better off rested.”
9. Be flexible. Lynette Triebwasser, a Hawley, Minnesota mother of 3 (including a set of twins), has this advice for parents: “Follow “routine” and not a rigid schedule. Babies are flexible if parents are flexible. The routine can travel with you easily. Also if nursing — nurse as long as it it mutually agreed upon by both parties. If you nurse 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years your baby got what they were supposed to get. Don’t let anyone else tell you how long is the “correct” amount of time — or if it’s even the right fit for you.”
10. You’re not a failure if you quit nursing. Christy Ambrose, a mom in Fargo, North Dakota, offers encouraging words to new moms: “If nursing doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Nursing is frustrating and hard, and can be really painful. And you will probably cry. And all of that is normal, even if it doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, it is! Never let yourself feel like you’ve failed, because as long as you are doing your best, you are doing amazing!”
11. If you want to nurse your baby, seek help. Lactation consultants in the hospital are very knowledgeable and know many tricks to make nursing more manageable.
Soothing your baby
12. You’ll learn by trial and error. All 3 of my kids have needed different things to soothe them. You’ll get to know your baby’s cries and how your baby is best soothed, but it can be stressful to figure out at first. I found the book The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD, to be incredibly helpful.
13. Stock up on pacifiers. If you’re going to use pacifiers, buy lots of your baby’s favorites. They often get dropped on dirty floors or lost, and having pacifiers available around the house, in your vehicle, and in the diaper bag is very helpful. You don’t want to be scrambling to find one when you need it.
Get professional medical advice
14. Getting an eye exam is important. “Get their eyes checked. This is actually recommended in the first year or less but not communicated very much. Can have a large impact on their development,” says Kara Dietz, a mother of 2 daughters in Fargo, North Dakota.
15. Call your doctor. Touch base with your baby’s doctor or nurse with medical questions or concerns. When you have non-urgent questions about your baby’s health, write them down, so you remember to ask your doctor at your baby’s well-child checkup.
Connect with others
16. Parenting classes can be a great way to connect with other parents and learn great information too. “Take a new mom class! Amma Maternity in the Twin Cities is amazing!” says Callon Siebenahler of Shakopee, Minnesota. Rachel Butkowski-Payette agrees. “A new moms class is a must,” she said.
17. Offer encouraging words to other parents. Kristen Halden, a mom in Hawley, Minnesota, says: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It really does take a village! And know that everyone is just doing their best like you so support each other, even if it’s an ‘I’ve been there too!’ when they have a tantrum-throwing toddler at the Target checkout!”
Do what works best for your family
18. Everyone will have advice for you. You don’t have to follow it. Elizabeth Hoekstra, a mom from Hawley, Minnesota, says: “Remember, YOU are the parents. Many people will tell how you should raise your kids, but that’s the kicker, they are YOUR kids. Raise them the way you feel works best for your family.”
19. Make your own rules. “Don’t follow the “rules” of how to do this parenting thing. There’s no reason you can’t make your own rules and own way of doing things,” is advice offered by Kaila Jones of Twin Valley, Minnesota.
20. Trust your instincts. “Go with your gut,” says Kristi Krueger Roscoe, a mother from Fargo, North Dakota.
21. You’ll do just fine. When asked what advice she has for new parents, Missy Daggett, a mom in Alpharetta, Georgia has some great words. “I’ve been asked this question often and my response is always the same: ‘Shredded cheese is easier to sweep up if you let it dry out first; you’re going to do just fine.’ I think it’s important to share that we all struggle and second guess ourselves, but each mom has to figure out what works best for their family.”
22. There is more than one ‘right’ way to do things. Audrey Kankelfritz, a mom in Fargo, North Dakota, has helpful advice for parents: “Don’t stress out about your children’s sleep schedule, eating habits, etc. I often questioned myself to wonder am I doing this the ‘right’ way. Honestly, there is not just one ‘right’ way but many. Every child does things a little differently and develops at their own pace. Do not compare your child’s schedule or habits to another. Raising a child is an adventure; you learn what’s best for your children as you go and as you get to learn their personality and abilities.”
23. Each child is different. Kim Benscoter, a Detroit Lakes, Minnesota mother, reminds us of this with her advice: “Try not to compare your babies growth or development with other babies. Each little one grows, learns and creates their own little self at their own rate.”
24. Keep a journal. Aja Joseph, a mother in Burnsville, Minnesota, wishes she would’ve taken more time to journal. She says, “Take the time to truly savor every moment. It sounds cliche, but the stages go by so quick. As a new mom, you are often exhausted and sometimes just trying to get through the day. The fact is that one day they will be much more independent, and when they don’t need you to help them potty, feed them, or wipe their mouth, you will miss it! Take the time to journal about each day’s experience, even just a few minutes. So much happens that you will forget if you don’t record it. I wish I done this more diligently because my kids say and do the darnedest things daily!”
25. Videos and pictures are great keepsakes. Kelly Binfet, a mom in Fargo, North Dakota, “Take lots of real photos in albums and video!” I agree. We got a video camera from my parents as a baby gift, and I love grabbing it and recording everyday moments and special occasions.
Let others help
26. If you have a partner, let him or her help with baby. Hold your tongue instead of constantly correcting when he or she does baby-related tasks. There’s no perfect way to parent, and if you’re overly critical, the other parent will feel inadequate.
27. Accept help from others who offer a helping hand. When people offer to help you, whether it’s to bring meals over, clean your house, run errands, or hold baby while you take a shower, let them. When people want to help but aren’t sure how, give them specific directions about what you need.
28. Hired help can be great. When our twins were babies, my husband and I hired a college student to come over and clean our house on a regular basis. It was awesome. Then, after the twins went to bed, we didn’t need to spend so much time on these chores.
Other tips to make life easier
29. Childcare can be hard to find. “If you are going to need a daycare start looking as soon as you know you’re expecting,” says Gabe Hagenbeck, a dad in Moorhead, Minnesota.
30. Don’t stress about keeping things perfect. “Ask for help if you need it! Don’t feel like you have to do it all alone. Don’t stress about having a clean house and keeping everything perfect like other ‘super moms’ because they don’t have it all together like they want you to believe,” says Mandy Runyan, a mother of 2 from Park Rapids, Minnesota.
31. Stock up on items ahead of time. Before our twins were born, my husband and I stocked up on many household items we would need in the upcoming weeks for ourselves, such as toothpaste, soaps, and paper towels. This prevented us from having to run a bunch of errands in those first few weeks.
32. Take a shower and put on some clothes you like every day. This helped me feel refreshed and somewhat human during those initial weeks of massive sleep deprivation.
33. Bring a change of clothes with you…for you! When I brought my newborn with me to meet my friend’s new baby, my little one had a massive blowout all over my jeans as soon as we walked in the door. While I had packed several outfits for my infant, I hadn’t packed a backup outfit for me. I learned my lesson and brought clean clothes for myself after that, and still do, even now when my youngest is 19 months old.
34. Don’t rush childhood. “Don’t rush your kids to grow up. This includes once they get to the “preschool” age. Just let them play, and learn how to play with other kids. There is plenty of time later to learn ABCs and 123s…learning how to play and experience things is more important. Don’t be a helicopter parent,” advises Angie Frederick, a preschool teacher in Fargo, North Dakota.
35. Be patient while they learn. Jodi Schultz, a mom from Moorhead, Minnesota, has these tips for new parents: “Remember that they have to learn everything. Just because you as an adult think something is easy, they know nothing from birth but how to cry and eat and sleep. Don’t get frustrated and expect them to ‘act older’ than they are.”
Take time away
36. Take time away from baby. Meg Barker, a mom in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, had this to say: “Every baby is different. Relax and enjoy the simple moments. Do not forget to take time for yourself and/or date nights.”
37. Go on date nights. Brittaney van der Hagen is a mother in Fargo, North Dakota. Her advice? “Don’t forget to take care of your relationship with your spouse/significant other. It’s so easy to push that to the side when a baby comes. It’s important to continue to find time for your hubby and vice versa. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Dinner. A movie. A walk around the block! Our motto: Date night is cheaper than a divorce!”
38. Don’t lose your sense of self. It’s easy for parents to become so absorbed in parenting that they lose sense of who they are. I believe it’s absolutely necessary to have interests outside of parenthood, and it is possible to continue to follow your dreams while still being a very hands-on, amazing parent. Whether it’s setting some time aside to do a hobby you love, spend time with friends, exercise, or do work you love, I believe being passionate and excited about something other than your child helps improve both your lives.
Enjoy the journey with your first born
39. Put things into perspective. Heather Stephens, a mom in Fargo, North Dakota, advises new parents, “Keep a perspective on things. Having a newborn not the way parenting is forever. Children move through developmental stages quickly, even though some days feel like forever. Every stage has it’s good, bad and ugly.”
40. Enjoy the awesome journey that is parenthood. As difficult as the sleepness nights and adjustments to welcoming a baby into your life can be, life with kids is an amazing adventure every day, and parenthood is truly awesome. Andria Spaeth, a Grand Forks, North Dakota mother, echoes this sentiment, stating, “Remember that life does not END with baby being born. It’s just the beginning and its better than before.” I definitely agree.
Do you have additional tips you’d like to give to new parents? I’d love to hear them!
Featured photo credit: Newborn Grip/Jason Pratt via flickr.com