Like any first-time mom, I have been riddled with parenting advice since the day we conceived. Some of the opinions are helpful and others... totally useless. While everyone and their mother will smother you with opinions, whether or not you ask them, ultimately, it is up to you and your partner to chose the best path for your baby and family.
Before our son was born, I dove into researching sleeping and feeding schedules, breastfeeding techniques, baby development and whatever else I could think of at 2:00 a.m. I found multiple online articles promising to provide the "best advice" for new moms. The advice included lots of common cliches like, sleep when the baby sleeps and accept help from others.
While I personally disagree with those two particular suggestions (which is another story), I didn't find the majority of these "best advice" articles helpful. In fact, I found many of them redundant and useless. What I did ultimately find useful were the opinions of friends and family, observations by families in our circle and my own "mothers intuition."
Here are five lesser-known pieces of advice that have dramatically helped us as new parents.
1. Set baby's circadian rhythm immediately and extend nighttime
Newborns have no concept of day or night, so they need to learn and have their circadian rhythm "set" during first few months of life. This means making sure they are getting the majority of their sleep at night versus the day. Research shows parents can help set their babies circadian rhythm by making a clear difference between day and night.
During the day, our son napped in the living room where it was lighter and wore clothes (not pajamas). At night, he would sleep in his crib with the room dark, in his pajamas. It also really helped us to extend "nighttime" as long as possible! After those early morning feeds, keep babies in their pajamas with the lights low and put back down for sleep. Get your newborn into the routine of going back to sleep after feedings when it's nighttime. Once it's time to get up for the day, change their clothes, turn on the lights, etc.
During maternity leave, our son and I wouldn't come out of the bedroom until 11:00 a.m. At 6 months, he no longer will sleep until 11:00 a.m., but he does sleep until 8:30-9:30 a.m. This was great advice that was given to us and it worked, but each family needs to set up the ideal sleep situation for them.
2. Go out!
Yes, enjoy those first precious few weeks relaxing, snuggling and getting to know your new baby. However, it's important to get back to "real life" situations as soon as medically possible. Waiting for your baby to turn 8 weeks old before going to the grocery store is only going to make going to the store harder. Challenge yourself each day to get a little outside your comfort zone. Try enjoying a dinner date before baby's 2-week birthday and get a babysitter within a month. Just do what makes you feel like normal, pre-baby you! This will help your confidence and attitude as you adjust to having a baby in the home. Real life is going to hit you harder if you stay cooped up inside your house for baby's first six weeks.
3. Set realistic expectations
Babies are a huge adjustment! Expect the worst and anything better than that is a pleasant surprise. Newborns cry an average of three hours a day, they eat every two hours and take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to feed. This means you are feeding your baby approximately 10-12 hours in a 24-hour period. Babies are cute, snuggly and such an amazing blessing, yet be prepared and set the appropriate expectations for the change they will bring to your life. By being realistic, you might enjoy the adjustment a little bit more.
4. Keep your noise level the same as before baby
Whispering and tip-toeing around your house will only help your baby get accustomed to quiet. Continue your normal routine during naps and bed, otherwise you will be whispering the rest of your life. Plus, newborns are used to noise -- the womb is not a quiet place! Adjusting to noise is part of normal development.
5. Dump the bottle warmer
Often, a baby needs a bottle when you are out and about -- restaurants, errands, hikes, etc. Is it realistic to have a bottle warmer always handy? Just run the bottle under warm water if you want to heat the milk, but make sure the milk isn't too hot for baby! Experts say you can lose nutrients in milk if it is heated too much or even if it is refrigerated or frozen too long. It is best to use milk as quickly as possible.
Think about some of your own unique pieces of advice that have benefitted you as new parents and share with friends and family (when they ask!). Most people are always looking for fresh ideas to help make our parenting easier, efficient and more effective.
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