Ten Tips for First Time Parents
The journey into parenthood is a one of a kind adventure. About a year and a half ago my husband and I started exploring all of the necessities for our soon to be bundle of joy. Overwhelmed doesn’t begin to describe our confusion as we walked into Babies R Us for the first time to scout the options. The wedding industry and the baby industry. Their main purpose is making us believe we cannot live without whatever it is we just saw, the item that just five seconds before we didn’t even know existed.
I would have to phone a friend on this one.
Babies do require many attachments but unfortunately are not equipped with a user’s manual. However, they do not need as much as the American society may say. Starting out with some diapers and wipes, milk, onesies, blankets, and somewhere to lay them while they sleep twenty hours a day will just about do it.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to modify expectations as soon as possible, especially when it comes to the preparations before baby arrives. It is a nice thought to have clothes washed, the nursery ready, bags packed, and birth plan in place. If you are one of the few that this happens smoothly for, congrats! For the rest of us, for the overwhelming majority of us, let’s keep things in perspective. As much as I love to plan and for life to go according to that plan, I was once again reminded with the birth of my first that life rarely does go according to plan. With my water breaking six weeks early, gender unknown, no name chosen, and on the brink of a move to another state, let’s just say none of my ducks were in a row. I quickly learned the important part of being a mom was not having the nursery painted a gender specific color.
Before you have that first child you are pretty much lost (and probably still a little lost with subsequent children because every child is unique). And while being a mom for fourteen months certainly does not make me an expert, I would like to pass along a few tips that I have found useful, especially if you are just launching the journey of parenthood.
- Breast is best. From a health and nutrition perspective, there is no question that breast milk is superior to formula. It is incredible the way God made our bodies to produce the exact composition of milk that the baby needs during each stage of growth. Absolutely amazing. BUT, there are certainly situations where breast milk is not available or the mother does not produce enough milk to meet the baby’s needs. If you are one that is determined to breast feed and after months of trying it just isn’t happening, it’s okay! Remember how life doesn’t always go according to plan? Give yourself a break and know that your baby will still grow and develop even if breast feeding is not an option. But if you have the option to breastfeed, you better do it!
- Keep a breast pump easily accessible. Yeah, I didn’t think I needed one either, but I used it more times than I can count! It took a couple months for my preemie to get the hang of breastfeeding. Pumping can keep your milk supply up even when baby isn’t nursing consistently. Also, many insurance companies will pay for one pump per pregnancy. Whether you are planning on breastfeeding or formula feeding, have a breast pump on hand. You just never know how feeding is going to play out.
- Purchase reusable nursing pads. Leakage is going to happen. Yay for motherhood! Breast pads, at least temporarily, are a must. Check out Breast Pads, LLC. They have many options and discounts available. It is cheaper to buy washable pads than continuing to purchase the disposable pads. Plus, they are soft and have cute designs! Depending on how often you wash, I recommend purchasing eight to ten sets. Keep them at home and in the diaper bag. You won’t regret having a few extra.
- Stash burp rags everywhere baby goes. Buy more burp rags than you think you need and store them all over the house, car, diaper bag and anywhere else baby may be. This is one item you can never have too many of.
- Consider cloth diapering. Before you run for the hills, hear me out. I thought people who used CD were tree huggin’, granola lovin’ couples who wore Chacos and went hiking every weekend. I pictured the old school, thin as a t-shirt “diaper” with safety pins, but CD have come a long way! Yes, there are certainly times the diaper is extremely dirty and cleaning is disgusting. As a whole, the main extra steps required are washing and stuffing. For example, typically we run a quick wash cycle in cold, followed by a hot wash cycle with other clothes included. The liners hang dry and the inserts tumble dry. Then the inserts are placed back in the liners. And that’s it! We did have some trouble with leakage and come to find out the elastic had loosened. I called Cotton Babies (makers of bumGenius 4.0) and they REPLACED all twenty diapers! They have excellent customer service and stand by their products. Sure, there is more upfront cost with CD but in the long run it will save you money, especially if they are used for multiple children.
- Refrain from washing all the clothes at once. While we are on the topic of washing, let’s talk about that preparation before baby comes. As exciting as it is to get those cute little onesies washed ahead of time, abstain from washing everything you own before the baby grows into the next size. Babies grow at different rates (obviously) and more than likely there will be clothes your precious bundle doesn’t ever wear. If unwashed, you can exchange those extra adorable outfits for a bigger size.
- Use a simple high chair. There are hundreds of different styles and brands. I recommend one of the simplest you can find for ease of cleaning. You will be cleaning. A lot. And when the peas are smashed in places you didn’t even know existed, you will wish you had listened to this piece of advice. While I haven’t tried this type, I would consider purchasing a hook on table high chair. Then baby can be part of the gathering at the table and the high chair isn’t taking up a large space. Plus, it’s easier to store once baby grows out of it.
- Buy a basic bouncer. Just like the high chair, there are endless styles of baby bouncers. You can spend hundreds of dollars on a device that essentially does the same thing as the $25 one from Walmart: both hold your baby as he or she naps. It’s like paying a couple hundred bucks for a refrigerator that keeps your food cold verses paying $5000 for a refrigerator that keeps your food cold. Just keep it simple. And remember you have to store all this cargo in a couple months.
- Explore the concept of baby led weaning. In short, baby led weaning recommends introducing solid foods instead of pureed foods when baby is ready for something more than milk. This is another concept that at initial glance I thought was a terrible idea. As with most things, the more you understand, the more it makes sense. The baby feeds themselves from the start of weaning. This allows baby to experience textures and tastes of solid foods. Remember, they are still getting the majority of their nutrition from breast milk or formula. We did a combination of baby led weaning while also giving pureed foods. Check out the website for more information on baby led weaning.
- Smile for the camera! A baby monitor is one item I was convinced was excessive and certainly something this momma didn’t need. Thankfully we had some friends who were wiser than my preconceived notions and surprised us with this gift. No doubt, the baby monitor is one of the best items we own! If you are a heavy sleeper, the sound option is great for waking you up even if you cannot hear baby across the house. It is also nice to be able to check on baby without having to open the door. Sleep is precious and avoiding the possibility of waking a baby is worth the money to purchase this item. Plus, now that our daughter is a little older, we enjoy watching her play in her crib. A baby monitor is a must have!
Above all else, more than all the do’s and don’ts and must haves and have-nots, cherish every moment with your new little one. There are many, many challenges that lie ahead, many that test our endurance and try our strength. A friend of mine gave me the advice to savor every minute, even the tough ones like late night feedings. Being tired is one of my biggest fears in life (really, it is) so this piece of advice is something I have held tightly to. With baby number two on the way, the lack of sleep is something I am nervous about. But those late nights and early mornings, just the baby and me, are oh, so sweet. It is in those moments when the rest of the world sleeps and the house is quiet that I have the sense that God is calling me…waiting for me. He is present at all times, yes, but the times when I am exhausted, in the stillness of the dark, that I feel the invitation to commune with Him and to pray for the life I am holding.
Buy what you want for your baby. Do what you think is best. Enjoy the preparation process. But just like the wedding can overshadow the marriage, the showers and baby room and baby “necessities” can overshadow the life that is coming. Just keep it in perspective. And remember that at the end of the day your job is to meet the baby’s needs physically and to teach them about Jesus, even before he or she can understand the gravity of what you are teaching. Keep the main thing the main thing. If you can do this, you will be one good momma or daddy.
And with that I leave you to hold my crying baby girl.