People are lying when they tell you being new parents is completely fantastic. It’s not all the time and there are some things you really need to know.
Bank Your Sleep
Bank your sleep. Every second of it. Savour it. Remember what it feels like right now to be able to sleep in peace. People mention you need to wake up for feeds and knowing you need to do this, prepares you for the early stages of it, but it’s far worse than you can ever imagine. It starts off easy, but the cumulative effects of long-term sleep deprivation begins to really take it’s toll on you, your partner, and your relationship not to mention your job if you’re working.
You will reach a point where you no longer remember what it feels like to have a good night’s sleep instead suffering from the insomnia of knowing you will probably have to wake up shortly for another feed.
Advice: Take it in turns to do the night feeds. This shouldn’t be one person’s responsibility regardless if you are working or staying at home. Broken sleep is seriously damaging for health and makes it harder for the person doing it all the time to be productive the following day.
Less Visitors is Good
The amount of times I’ve been to the hospital you would think my child should be on the “at risk” register for children. Children get ill really easily in the early stages and when they are born you have an influx of family and friends all wanting to hold them, kiss them and take pictures with them like it’s a social media contest to show them off. No.
My daughter ended up catching viral meningitis because of this and we were lucky it wasn’t the bacterial form which is deadly. How this happened we have no idea considering how we’re both clean freaks but we can only assume it was because of the many visitors. The learning point here is that visitors carry with them all manner of illnesses which although not serious for them, it can be deadly for children. When a baby does get ill, they don’t eat, they don’t sleep and all they do is cry constantly until the point of exhaustion for both them and you.
Advice: Refer to the assertiveness steps I outlined here to help you to speak openly to people about this issue and they will understand. Asking them if they have been ill recently or anyone they have been in contact with will make this discussion about visiting easier.
If friends tell you their kids never had any problems, they’re lying.
You’re going to start comparing your child’s development with other people, It’s going to happen. No matter how hard we tried not to do it we couldn’t help compare them against their peers developmentally. You may find your child’s development lags behind or other parents telling you how fantastically brilliant their kids are. Definitely take this with a pinch of salt.
Every child develops differently and parents have a habit of wanting to boast about their own kids like some trophy. Parents are biased and will paint their own kids in such a positive light you may feel like bad parents.
Advice: Don’t get hung up on how fast or slow they are developing and most importantly, don’t compare against other children. This is unhelpful and everyone develops differently. The fact that you are worrying about this means you are probably good parents because you evidently care.
Sleep training is tough. Nail it early.
Trying to sleep train a child isn’t easy especially if you leave it too late. Children become conditioned to be fed regularly when young and this can make sleep training harder especially when breastfed as they are use to the warmth and comfort of having someone next to them to snuggle with.
Sleep training and feeding are all intricately linked. Try to alternate between breast milk and bottle milk so they become use to both and give the bottle just before bed and during night feeds. They will come to associate the bottle with falling asleep eventually and this will make putting them down easier.
Advice: Learn the principles of how classical and operant conditioning work as children’s behaviours revolve around this up until they start to develop some self-awareness. You can learn more about how conditioning works on this psychology revision website here. This is really useful especially for sleep training.
Don’t make dinner time a battle.
Mealtimes can become a battle if you’re not careful. Trying to force a child to eat when they don’t want to eat creates it into a big issue and then the child starts to resist the food altogether. Force feeding children when they don’t want something can even develop phobias towards certain foods. As long as they are generally well, they should let you know when they are hungry and developing a strong routine (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) should make this easier. Don’t panic if they skip a meal as they normally make up for it later.
Advice: As long as they are not ill, you shouldn’t worry if they skip a meal every now and then. If they refuse to eat, just hold out until the next meal and you can try compensate a little for it then. Sometimes their mealtimes can be off by an hour or so, which means you just shift things later a little to adapt.
You know your child. Trust your gut.
You will get to know your child quite well and what their normal behavior is. Sometimes they are going to get ill and it may just be a harmless cold or teething. The worst thing you can do is go against your gut if you think there is something more that could be wrong. Sometimes even the doctors get it wrong so if you think there’s something else that is wrong, push to find out and keep going back to the doctor.
Advice: Learn to spot the signs of serious illnesses like bacterial meningitis, whooping cough, or even less serious but discomforting ones like ear infections. Doctors make mistakes quite often too, they are human afterall.
Featured photo credit: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater via flickr.com