Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Random Tips for New Parents

Once you do the parenthood thing for a few months, you’ll understand why these are “Random”. They’re the only sort of thoughts you’ll have for a while….

Relax! Many people have done this before you. Everything will be fine. If you do mess up, don’t worry – studies show kids are extremely resilient and it’s much harder to ruin them than previously thought.

Even though you may have read every baby book in print, nothing can prepare you for how you will feel when you see your baby for the first time. In the first few weeks, you will experience something similar to multiple personality disorder with a touch of bi-polar thrown in. The highs are high, the lows are low and you will feel every emotion known to man at any given moment. Parenthood is the most joyful, terrifying, depressing, rewarding, exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, most natural thing in the world. In a nutshell.

Here goes:

  • If you are eating spaghetti while holding your newborn, cover their head with a burp cloth. Ditto for soup.

  • It’s inevitable that you will be rocking your baby to sleep, when you are struck with an urgent need to pee. The baby is just about asleep, but not quite which means if you try to put her down now – crying will probably be involved. You’ve had a long day and the idea of a crying spell does not appeal to you. What do you do? That’s a personal choice.

  • When you have a napping baby, all the usual sounds of the day seem to be louder, more menacing, and somehow - intentional. There’s nothing you can do to stop the ambulances and barking dogs of the world. A white noise machine definitely helps.

  • Your baby’s favorite time to poop will be:

a) Just as you are headed out the door.
b) Just as you have dressed your baby in tights and a fancy dress.
c) Just as you place her in the tub.
d) Just as you are drying her off
e) While on mass transit with no changing table in sight
f) All of the above.

Take a good guess.

  • Babies can sense tension in their caregiver. They react negatively. Let’s say baby is having an evening crying spell and nothing you do seems to help. Just forget about the migraine inducing shrieks and do your best to go to your happy place. If that doesn't work, put the baby down in her crib and scream into a pillow for a few minutes.

  • Baby poop can be projectile and quite explosive. They don’t tell you that in baby books. Defensive diaper changing is recommended, as is an apron. Also – newborns seem to like to make wee wee the moment after you take off the dirty diaper, but BEFORE you have the clean one in position. Having at least five changing pad covers on hand is ideal.

  • Babies don’t really require warmed bottles. If you do use formula, use the powdered kind. Get a small Brita type pitcher and keep your filtered water at room temperature. When away from home, pre-fill your baby bottles with water and have coordinating pre-measured amounts of formula on hand. All you have to do is pour and shake.

  • Always carry more diapers and wipes than you think you will need. Plus a couple changes of clothes for baby. It’s always better to be over-prepared. You might want a shirt for yourself while you’re at it.

  • Trim baby’s nails while she’s sleeping. If you are afraid of taking off a chunk of skin, just use a baby emery board instead. Or beg the other parent to do it.

  • It’s true what they say – if you are tired (and you will be), nap when the baby is napping. Sure it’s tempting to catch up on other things, but when the baby gets up well rested and you are about to drop from fatigue, no one wins. I learned this the hard way.

  • Try to get out of the house each day – even if it’s for a five minute walk around the block. If possible, leave baby at home. Not alone, though. A few years ago, I read a story about a Mom who had run out of formula. The baby was asleep and was young enough that she wasn’t going anywhere. Mom decided to duck across the street for the formula. She expected to be back within 5 minutes. Well, she had a fender bender in the parking lot and it took a while longer. She told the police officer on the scene she had to get home because she had left her baby alone. Apparently, leaving the baby home alone is frowned upon. She was escorted home, by the kind police officer, when she discovered she had locked herself out of the house. True story. No – it wasn’t me.

  • Immediately after becoming a parent, the world looks a bit different. Even your familiar surroundings seem strange for a while. It’s unsettling, but normal.

  • Don’t drink hot beverages while carrying your baby. Especially if you are clumsy. If you must, at least use a travel mug with lid. You may have never spilled your morning coffee before, but why take a chance?

  • Accept help. Even if it’s from someone you don’t like. As long as they know what they’re doing, don’t let pride or personal feelings stand in the way.

  • People who give your child toys that have more than 10 pieces, or musical toys without an “off” button are not true friends.

  • You know you are a parent when you:

a) start calling your partner “Mommy” or “Daddy” in public.
b) excuse yourself from a meeting to “go potty”.
c) know every make and model of stroller ever made
d) know where to locate restrooms and elevators in every department store.
e) sway and rock, even when not holding the baby.

  • Dining out hint – stick with loud casual restaurants and save the upscale dining for occasions when you have a babysitter. It’s not you, it’s me. I don’t want to get all gussied up and go to a fine dining establishment, only to find myself seated next to a crying baby. I can get that at home, thank you.

  • After you have a baby, you will miss the little things. Things like: eating a meal in a seated position, going to the bathroom with the door closed, a toy-free abode, and setting your own sleep/wake patterns. Don’t worry! Little by little, the universe returns these things to your life, and you will appreciate them like never before.

  • Speaking of sleep/wake patterns…you will discover some new things in the early months. Things like: what t.v. programs are on at 3:47am, what exact time the newspaper is delivered, and what the rising sun looks like 8 days in a row. Although it may seem like the rest of the world is sleeping and you’re not, take comfort in the fact that across town – many other parents are in the same boat. Eventually, you will meet them and they will become your play group buddies.

  • Always check your feet before you leave the house. Make sure you are wearing shoes and the left one matches the right. Sleep deprivation does funny things to you.

  • Always make sure you have enough diapers in the house to get you through at least a week. Almost nothing sucks more than realizing at bedtime that you have just used your last one. Stash an “emergency” diaper or two around the house. It’s like a finding a $20 in your pocket, provided you remember where you stashed them.

  • Accept the fact that you will take your baby girl out for a stroll – she will be wearing a frilly dress, bows in her hair, and full make-up. Someone will still ask you if it’s a boy or a girl.

  • That same someone will also ask you when you are due. This is usually the same day you vow to stop wearing your maternity clothes post-partum.

  • Familiarize yourself with all moving parts of your nursing bra before you actually need to wear it. Same goes for the Baby Bjorn.

  • Never allow your baby to catch a glimpse of Barney. For reasons unknown to me, they will love him, but his voice will make you want to punch someone.

  • If you feel like you are experiencing the baby blues, don’t watch the evening news. Or any of the SAW movies. Stick with comedies and reality TV. Project Runway got me through many a night.

  • And finally – don’t worry about being perfect and doing everything right. Do what feels right for you and your child and ignore the Joneses. There is a new parenting trend evolving and it doesn’t involve any “whisperers”. People are going back to basics and trusting their instincts. Enjoy your baby as much as possible, as often as possible. Next thing you know, you are having a heck of a time sorting laundry because the “baby” is now wearing adult sizes. SIGH.

NOTE:  Please understand that I am not a professional baby expert.   In fact, my toddler doesn't sleep in her own bed and is not yet potty trained, and YET - I feel perfectly comfortable doling out advice, thank you.

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