Okay the baby's here. So — now what? Here are a few survival tips from experts and parents who made it through their baby's first years and lived to tell the tale.
You did it! You're a new parent. Leaving the hospital and arriving home with your new bundle can be an amazing and surreal experience. But then what? Most new parents don't realize just how much their lives will change in that first year with their new baby — in wonderful ways as well as some frustrating and scary ways. (Hint: You may not get a full night's sleep for a while.) But parenthood is an incredible ride, and a child is a truly miraculous gift. Here, we offer some survival tips from experts and parents who have made it through their baby's first year and lived to tell about it!
As a new parent, you will no doubt be bombarded with advice from just about everyone — from your own parents to total strangers on the street. (Don't be surprised if, for instance, an elderly woman approaches you to ask where your baby's socks or hat is or why he isn't bundled up, even if it's 75 degrees!) Just smile, thank the kind person for her tip (she is only trying to help, after all), then either take that advice to heart, if you think it will work for you, or delete it from your memory and go about your life.
When it comes down to it, you have to do what works best for you and your child. So every now and then pay attention to that little voice inside your head instead of to what every other mom is doing or what the child-rearing books say to do — within reason, of course. Though this may be your first time as a parent, let your natural instincts be your guide.
It is natural to want to pick up your child to soothe him the second he starts crying. However, if your child is experiencing colic, there is little that can soothe him. In one of her articles, Vicky McEvoy, M.D., of Harvard Medical School, states: "Most of the time, as long as the baby is fed and changed and not uncomfortable, the advice for a colicky baby or for one who won't go to sleep is to let him cry. Easier said than done for most of us." She suggests, "For the colicky baby, get help and avoid feeling responsible. No one is at fault for this condition. In fact, no one can explain colic yet. Check with your pediatrician to make sure there is no sign of other problems, illness or allergies."
It's suggested that breastfeeding your baby for the first six months is ideal for him to receive the biggest health benefits from your breast milk — such as its protective antibodies — and to decrease the chances of his asthma and allergic conditions. If you have a hard time nursing, many hospitals have the lactation specialists that can help.
When it comes time to introduce table food, take it slowly. And remember a few of the big no nos for the first year — strawberries, nuts, chocolate, cow's milk and egg whites are all off limits until your baby turns one.
If you want your child to sleep through a thunderstorm, Fourth of July fireworks or the dog barking unexpectedly, it's best to get him used to normal background noise as early as possible. Let's face it: You can't always create a completely silent environment for your baby every time he needs a little shut-eye, so it's best to acclimate him sooner rather than later.
One thing is true for most babies: The longer they get used to something, the harder it will be to take that thing away from them. This holds true for bottles and binkies, and eventually for blankies and thumbs. Though there is nothing wrong with your child having an object of comfort, such as a special stuffed animal that helps soothe her, you may want to start weaning your baby from the bottle by the time she is one. Introduce a sippy cup long before you intend to replace the bottle with it, which will help for a smooth, gradual and hopefully painless transition.
Unless you plan on co-sleeping with your child for years to come, it's best not to start the habit at all. Many new parents let their newborn sleep in their bed to comfort her and make midnight nursing sessions more convenient. If you enjoy the bond of co-sleeping and don't mind losing the extra bed space (remember, your child is going to get much bigger very soon), then refer to numbers one and two on our list. However, if you want to keep your bed as a private sanctuary for you and your hubby, don't introduce it to your child as an option to help her to sleep.
For the first year of life, your child is already learning a million new things a day. Don't succumb to the pressure to get him involved in classes at such an early age. Not enrolling him in music, gymnastics or other developmental classes at this young age will not hinder his development in any way. You can provide everything he needs to develop in his first year by simply engaging him at home and in your neighborhood. Sing to him, read to him, play with him and present him with lots of different visual stimuli. When you are out and about, talk to him, point to various objects and explain what they are, and introduce him to different shapes and colors in the environment around him.
Life with a baby doesn't always go as planned or as you thought it might. Nothing teaches patience like being a new parent. The best advice here is to simply roll with the punches, but to be as prepared as you possibly can. Always make sure you have an extra change of clothes for baby (and perhaps yourself), along with extra provisions in the diaper bag (more than you think you'll need).
You may have already heard this from every other parent on the planet, but the first year really does go by fast. It will quickly become the second, the fourth and then the twentieth before you know it, and you'll wonder what happened to all those years in between. So, take lots of pictures, roll the video camera during special occasions and everyday occasions and enjoy every moment you have to spend with your precious bundle.
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