Becoming a parent for the first time is a life-changing experience like no other. No amount of reading parenting books can prepare you for when your baby enters the world, and you become responsible for their everything. Becoming a new parent can be daunting, especially when coupled with the severe sleep deprivation that goes hand-in-hand with a brand new baby. However, there are things that can help. For example, finding a like-minded group of friends with babies at the same age and stage as yours will provide you with people who are eager to discuss the exact same issues you are experiencing. Below are some tips to help you get through those first few months of parenthood with ease.
Find like-minded friends
Finding a group of like-minded friends can truly be a lifeline for new parents and in particular new mums. Going from an independent woman to caring for a newborn alone at home if your partner goes out to work can be a big shift for many women, and having friends who live close by can help limit feelings of isolation. In the run-up to having your baby consider joining your local NCT antenatal course, run by the UK’s largest charity for parents, designed to help you feel prepared for labour and beyond, as well as introducing you to a group of people with babies due around the same time. The NHS also runs free antenatal classes so ask your midwife if there are any running in your area where you can meet other soon-to-be parents whilst learning about how to change a nappy.
After your baby arrives, there are many ways to meet other new parents. Check out what baby playgroups run locally to you, as these can be fun, offering new things for your baby to look at and play with, and new friends for you to talk to over a cup of tea. Ask your health visitor if they run any groups specifically for new parents. Check out your local library as these often run free rhyme time sessions, with nursery rhymes to entertain the babies and a chance to meet other local parents.
Sometimes you need to feel that other people understand what you are going through even if it’s three in the morning. In these cases starting a WhatsApp group with your other mum friends can be a good way to communicate whatever time of day or night. Joining parent social media groups can also be an excellent way to ask questions or find support, and if you join local social media groups for parents, they may host regular meetups so you can talk in person too.
How to leave the house
Once your baby is here leaving the house can become a military operation. Whereas pre-baby you might not have thought twice and left with only your purse, phone and keys suddenly you need to take nappies, wipes, a spare set of baby clothes in case the nappies leak, another spare set of baby clothes in case the baby throws up, toys to entertain them, muslins, dummies and a bottle, depending on your preferences. It is wise to invest in a sturdy nappy changing bag that can hold all your new essentials. Keep this bag continuously stocked with nappies, wipes and a change of clothes and store it near your front door and leaving the house will become easier as it will be one less thing to have to think about.
Feeding your baby
Breastfeeding is a wonderful, convenient and free way to give your baby all the nutrients it needs. As a biological mother, your body will produce exactly what your baby needs, and in the first few weeks and months of getting a feeding routine established it can be good to feed on demand as your baby knows when it is hungry or needs comfort through feeding. If you struggle initially with establishing a comfortable breastfeeding technique, then know you are not alone. If a position is not working for you, then try a different hold as this can improve things, for example, if you are feeding lying down then try a side-lying hold with your bodies parallel. Contact your midwife if you are still under their care or health visitor and ask for support. They should also be able to tell you about any local breastfeeding support groups you can attend where a helpful volunteer, usually an experienced mother or health visitor, will listen to your concerns and advise you on any changes to a position that could help.
Breastfeeding is not for everyone, however, and some women find they can’t or don’t want to breastfeed their baby and opt instead to bottle feed. If that is the case, then there are alternatives. There is a range of different formula’s available, from organic to those designed especially for hungry babies, and you can buy ones specific to age groups or special dairy-free ones if your baby has a dairy intolerance. If you are travelling overseas with a little baby, for example to America, then don’t forget to take a supply of the same formula you are already using, as your baby will be used to it. There are also sites such as Formuland Hipp formula that may provide the answer for you.
What to do about weaning
You’ve survived the first six months of your baby’s life, and it is now time for them to begin trying food. There are a couple of different approaches you can take when it comes to weaning your baby, namely baby-led or spoon-fed feeding. Baby-led weaning puts the control in your baby’s hands as they decide what to eat and how much of it. Serve your baby what you are eating (minus the salt) and try to have family mealtimes together so your baby can follow how you eat. Begin by cutting softer food into pieces that are big enough for them to hold in their fist, and be prepared for things to get messy. Be aware though that in order to do baby-led weaning safely you must first ensure that your baby is six months old before beginning, can sit up well without support, can chew even without teeth and has developed their fine motor skills enough to feed by picking their food up between their thumb and forefinger. With baby-led weaning, your baby’s gag reflex will likely come into play at least the first few times. This can be alarming to watch, but baby-led weaning advocates say this actually helps your baby to learn at a younger age about how to chew and swallow. Whilst this will mostly be simply their gag reflex working and not actual choking, it is important to know what to do should your baby begin to choke, so watch this St John’s Ambulance video for how to react in a choking emergency.
Spoon-fed weaning involves giving your baby pureed fruits and vegetables, yogurts and baby rice or porridge on a spoon. Because everything is soft and mushy, it is easy for your baby to consume the food and for you to control how much they are eating. There is no right or wrong approach, it is whatever works best for you, your baby and your family. Whatever you choose make sure you always supervise your baby closely when they are eating.
It is essential to put safety first and baby-proof your home when you have a baby in the house. Add safety latches to your kitchen cupboards and medicine cabinet, ensuring that anything sharp or dangerous is stored well out of reach and sight. Make sure that your baby is not going to get adventurous and climb the stairs until you are with them and they are ready by installing stair gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. For ones situated at the top of your stairs make sure they don’t have a bottom rung that can be tripped over as this can be very hazardous. Get a reliable baby monitor so that once you put your baby down at night or for a nap, you can relax, knowing you will hear them should they wake. There is a wide range of monitors available at an equally wide price-range, from simple one-way sound monitors to those that have two-way sound so you can talk back and soothe your baby or video monitors so you can see what is happening in their room.
Mark their first birthday
First birthdays are as much a celebration of you surviving the first year as they are of your baby reaching one year old. If you have any family traditions you grew up with that you want to continue with your own children, then this is the time to begin, or if you wish to establish your own new traditions then go for it. For example, new parents often take hundreds if not thousands of photos in their baby’s first year so why not start a birthday tradition and get a photo album featuring the highlights from the year printed professionally. Make sure you keep it up, one album for each birthday, and by the time they are eighteen you will have a whole bookcase full of photo albums, one to mark each passing year. A trend that has been adopted over here from the US is a cake smash photo shoot to celebrate your baby’s first birthday. Make a birthday cake and let your baby go wild with it, making sure to have your camera at the ready to capture the moment. Smash and splash parties are also popular, with parents taking photos of the cake smashing followed by a photo of their little one in a bath surrounded by bubbles as a fun way to remember their first birthday. However, you celebrate, make sure you also take the time to congratulate yourselves for surviving too.