Your Survival Guide to Parenting
It’s a scary world out there. Especially for a parent. Especially for a new parent or even a parent-to-be. You find yourself in constant stress. Is she gaining enough weight? Did he just eat a whole tissue? Is it too early for her to sit? Is he pooping the right amount of poop? Is she breathing? Am I hallucinating from being overtired? What is that sad creature staring at me from the mirror? Stop the madness! Relax… Breathe… We’ve got you covered. Here’s your survival guide to parenting, carefully handcrafted by me and my husband — new parents like yourselves.
Be a team
This is essential every step of the pregnancy-parenting way. You both need to be engaged in raising this baby since you probably were both present at the time of making her. Mom and dad have to be equally involved — it is the first and foremost rule of a happy family. Girls, don’t make the mistake of leaving the father out. A husband who has been attending birthing classes with his wife, supported her during labor, survived night colic and visited the pediatrician together with his family will never reprimand a woman for a messy house, dirty dishes or an empty fridge. You have to be a team to make this work. Support each other, take turns, give one another time to rest. Parenting is a great test for your couple as a family.
Of course, there are different situations when, unfortunately, a woman or a man is left alone with a child. But I know for sure I wouldn’t have survived this without my husband supporting me.
Before I start doing something, I have to thoroughly study the topic. My pregnancy was not an exception. And I attribute a lot of my inner balance and serenity to the fact that I was ready for it. Here’s my advice to all the parents-to-be out there: take parenting classes. Don’t assume you will magically know everything you need as soon as the baby pops out. And don’t think you’ll have plenty of time to catch up on the baby basics while she sleeps. You will also be bombarded with opposing bits of advice, not knowing which to take.
The parenting classes I attended with my husband (yes, it’s important for you both to attend) were a life saver to me. I learned about the stages of birth, how the baby feels when it comes out, what positions are best for birth, what you can demand from your OB/GYN or midwife, why it’s important to nurse immediately after the birth, what positions are good for nursing specifically in my case, what conditions are normal vs. the ones that require calling a doctor, what daily baby hygiene routine looks like, what vaccinations are mandatory and when to vaccinate, etc. All this was immensely helpful and saved me some gray hairs — that’s for sure.
Find a good pediatrician
It can be hard to find a doctor that you connect with. I’ve had 5 pediatricians examining my baby before I found the right one. You need to find a pediatrician you can trust because there will be times when you won’t know what to do (uncontrollable crying, fever, rash, allergy, etc). Try to find a doctor who will be patient and gentle with your baby, share your views on vaccination and can explain his actions and prescriptions so you would understand. It’s also important to be able to directly contact the doctor in case of emergency, but don’t exploit this benefit.
Breastfeed if you can
In the parenting classes I attended, a lactation consultant told us that all you have to do to successfully breastfeed a baby is to really want it. I was skeptical about that until I heard a story about an adoptive mother who started to lactate after fostering a newborn baby. “If she could do it without even giving birth, so can I. How hard can it be? It’s all natural.” I was both right and wrong. It was natural, but it wasn’t easy. It probably took the baby a month to learn how to eat properly, 3 months to regulate the milk supply and 6 months to cease the breastfeeding diet. And now that my baby is almost a year old, I simply enjoy it. Plus, it’s much quicker and easier than weaning!
I know there are situations in which a woman can’t nurse. That’s okay too. Formulas nowadays are great, and you don’t have to feel any guilt if you’ve chosen this path. Though if you do want to breastfeed but are experiencing troubles or have questions, be sure to find a good lactation consultant.
Use a sling
I failed to teach myself and my baby to use a sling, and now I regret it. How much easier would it be to go outside and work around the house when your baby is securely wrapped around you, probably sleeping? I gave sling a try, but I had my reasons to give up: it was a very hot summer, so my baby and I were easily overheated from our bodies contacting, my back hurt and the baby was quite heavy (and keeps getting heavier). And now it’s too late — he’s already walking and won’t stand sitting in one place. I don’t know how people manage to keep their active toddlers in slings.
There are tons of varieties, materials and colors to choose from, just make sure to use it correctly to not hurt the baby and your back. I know I will give a sling another try if I have more babies.
Sleep when your baby is sleeping
This is essential. I remember my first week as a mom: hormones, stress, exhaustion and despair attacked me all at once. The only way I dealt with them was by crying. I was on the verge of tears all the time, and even the most insignificant thing could make me burst into tears. That was until I started napping when my son was sleeping. I also napped when my husband or mum would babysit him. A simple additional hour of sleep a day made a huge difference. But as soon as I missed my daily nap, I was a sobbing mess all over again. That taught me to never skip my baby naps.
A new parent is always a sleepy parent, but you have to cease every opportunity to get some sleep. The easiest way to do that is by going to sleep when your little one snoozes. Chores can wait. A man can feed himself. Friends can bring dinner. Parents can help you clean. But no one can sleep for you. So man up and try or even force yourself to nap at least once a day. Sure, if you’re not used to napping, it may be hard at first, but I, personally, can’t resist Morpheus when I lay beside my warm, soft and incredibly huggable baby boy.
These are the basic tricks my husband and I learned about parenting. We learned them the hard way, and sincerely hope they will help you on your tough but still amazing way to parenthood. If you have questions or your own baby-raising life hacks, feel free to leave them in the comments.