Your gorgeous little one has finally arrived. Now what?
Congratulations! Your amazing new arrival is here. Whatever your road to parenthood –surrogacy, IVF, sperm donation, adoption, or natural conception – the birth of a child is a life-changing event filled with wonder, love, and a steep learning curve. It’s little wonder that many new parents feel completely overwhelmed by their new bundle of joy and may even struggle to adapt to this complete lifestyle change. First of all, you should know that you are not alone, nearly every new parent has moments of feeling lost. The important things are to be kind to yourself, to absorb every precious moment of these fleeting early days, and to never be afraid to reach out for help and advice.
Here is our survival guide for new parents and what to expect in that first life-changing month.
Capture This Moment
You will be tired and emotional and overwhelmed, but don’t forget to capture this moment. Your teeny baby will grow up so quickly and you’ll regret not having plenty of pictures of them as a newborn. We are not suggesting that you spend the entire first month setting up Instagram shots, but make sure you have lots of first-month memories to enjoy.
Sleep is Precious
You will never think about (or talk about sleep) more than you do than in the first few months as a parent. You may run on adrenaline for the first few days but after that, the sleep deprivation is likely to hit you hard. You may feel irritable, dazed, and completely lose track of the time of day, but that’s ok. The advice ‘sleep when they sleep’ is a good rule of thumb for those first few weeks, and if you’re sharing this experience with a partner, be prepared to give each other a break and take turns letting each other get a few full hours wherever possible.
Practice Sleep Safety
Sleep safety is one of the most important things to be aware of when you have a new baby. Your baby’s sleep area should be clear of stuffed toys and loose blankets, and they should be dressed in warm, comfortable clothing that isn’t too loose. Babies should be put to sleep on their backs on a firm surface that meets US safety standards. Remember, babies have shorter sleep cycles than adults and they may make noise and wiggle around every half an hour or so; this doesn’t always mean they need to be picked up and you should give them chance to settle down before doing so. NEVER fall asleep with your little one on your chest, they can easily roll under you or down the side of a couch or mattress and be smothered.
Weight Loss is Normal
It’s easy to panic at that first postnatal weigh-in when your baby loses a few pounds but remember that some weight loss after birth is completely normal and they will probably have gained this back and more before your next visit. As long as your pediatrician is happy with their progress and weight chart, you should be happy too.
Learn to Swaddle
Many new babies react very well to swaddling; it gives them the same feeling of enclosure and protection they had in the womb and can stop themselves from scratching or hurting themselves. Swaddling may take a little practice, but the technique is actually very simple and once you have the hang of it you can quickly wrap your newborn up to keep them safe and calm. Not every baby enjoys being swaddled and most will have grown out of it by around 3 months old when they can graduate to a sleeping bag.
Feeding can be Complex
There is a lot of pressure on new moms to feed their baby the ‘right way’. And while breastfeeding does have a range of benefits, it’s not always a suitable or practical option. For parents who have used a surrogate or adoption, formula feeding can be an effective and nutritious alternative. While women who are struggling to breastfeed or encountering pain should seek expert advice from a lactation consultant. Remember that the most important thing is that your baby is full and happy. Newborns will also feed a lot, expect to be providing milk between 8 and 12 times a day or whenever they are exhibiting hunger signs such as sucking and lip-smacking.
It’s OK to Fail
You aren’t going to get everything right. Whether it’s a diaper put on back to front or forgetting to pack a spare pair of clothes in their baby bag. Cut yourself some slack and remember that this is as much of a learning experience for you as it is for your new baby. You will make many mistakes along the way and become a better parent as a result.
Don’t Forget to Look After You
Many new parents fall into the trap of putting their needs right at the bottom of their priority list. You cannot look after your baby if you aren’t getting the right nutrition, sleeping or making any time for self-care. Be prepared to ask for and accept help to make sure you’re in the right shape to take care of your new arrival.
Expect Intense Emotions
Whether it’s your hormones changing rapidly after birth or just the emotional rollercoaster of becoming a parent, it’s completely normal to feel emotionally exhausted when your baby finally arrives. You may feel overwhelmed by the strength of your emotions towards the newest member of your family or feel everyday emotions very intensely. This is all as expected for a new parent, but if you struggle to control your emotions or notice them negatively impacting your relationship with your baby, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Connect With Other New Parents
It can be really useful to connect with people why are going through the same baby milestones at the same time. Becoming part of a parent and baby group gives you the chance to ask questions, to enjoy a shared experience, and have some much-needed grown-up time. Although getting out of the house may feel like an unwanted chore at this stage, you should try and make an exception for your local parent-baby group.
Watch them Develop
Your new baby may be tiny, but they are developing rapidly. They are already attracted to light and can recognise familiar shapes and follow slow movement. At this age, black and white toys are most visible for them, so it can be useful to invest in a couple of early toys for them to enjoy. You should also speak to them and interact with them as often as possible – even if they can’t interact back yet. Familiar sounds, like your voice, can be incredibly soothing to a newborn and continual interaction can support healthy development.
Looking to expand your family or become a coparent? Visit the forums at coparents.com to connect with people who are in the same situation or those who are looking to help families grow.