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There’s this amazing thing that happens when you become a new parent. No, I’m not talking about the overwhelming love you now have for your little family. And I’m not talking about the exhaustion you’ll face. I’m talking about how there seems to be this big neon sign that flashes above you saying ‘give me all the new parent advice’.
Yup, it’s going to come at you, whether you want it or not. And a lot of the time, you’re probably going to roll your eyes (don’t pick the baby up too much, you’re spoiling them – please… loving your baby and meeting their needs isn’t spoiling them… but that’s a whole different post for another day). But there’s some good advice in there too.
Here’s some of the new parent advice that won’t make you roll your eyes and that you really should pay attention to.
Do What Makes Things Easiest For You
First and foremost, do what makes things easiest for you. As long as babe is happy, you are happy, and your family is happy, that’s all that matters. You’ll hear all kinds of advice about what is best and what is right and wrong, but you need to find what works for you.
When my son was little I was regularly told that if I kept breastfeeding him to sleep he would never learn how to go to sleep on his own and I was creating an unhealthy attachment. I was told over and over to stop. But I didn’t. Because feeding him to sleep was easy, it was meeting his needs and my needs, and our family was fine with it.
By the time my son was 18 months old he was putting himself to bed and by the time he was two he was asking to go to bed on his own. Clearly, I totally ruined him.
It’s Okay If Your Children Don’t Come First
Actually, I don’t believe you should put your children first. You should put yourself first, then your husband, then your children. There’s a reason for this, so before you scroll away hear me out.
We often hear that our children should come first but this puts so much strain in different areas of our lives, and it doesn’t do anyone any favours.
By putting yourself first, you are filling your own cup, meeting your own needs, and giving yourself the energy it takes to look after everyone else. It doesn’t mean you ignore your children in favour of a night out on your own. It means that you schedule regular self-care time in order to reset your own zen and take time to recharge your batteries.
By then making your husband and your relationship a priority, you are on the same page, your communication is strong and you still exist as a couple aside from your children. You were together before they arrived and you’ll still need each other and still need to be strong after your children are grown and move out. Nurturing your relationship along the way is essential.
Then together, you and your husband can make your children a priority too. Your needs are each being met, your relationship needs are being met, and therefore you can meet the needs of your children.
If Your Health Care Provider Isn’t Listening To You, Find One That Will
When our babies are unwell we are at one of our most vulnerable times. Our heart breaks for them and even if we understand what is happening, it can be difficult to watch. We feel helpless. Even as a Paramedic (myself) and a Midwife (Caitlin) we have both felt like we couldn’t do anything to help our babies when they have been sick.
Here’s the thing, a mother’s instinct is real, you know when something isn’t right with your baby. It’s one of the first things we ask the parents who call us for their babies “is this normal for them?”
If you find there’s something you’re worried about with your baby, even if you’re not quite sure what it is and they just seem ‘off’, ask your healthcare provider. And if they aren’t listening to you, find one that will.
This may not be a piece of advice you ever have to use, but if you do you’ll be grateful to have heard it.
Trust your Mama instinct.
Babies Aren’t Meant To Sleep Through The Night
You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise considering how many times you’ll be asked ‘so are they sleeping through yet?’ My response is always along the lines of ‘I’m 31 years old and I don’t sleep through the night still, I don’t expect my baby to do it.’
If you set yourself up with the expectation that your baby is supposed to sleep through the night, you’ll probably end up more frustrated, stressed and exhausted than if you understand that babies aren’t meant to sleep through the night.
There are studies that suggest a baby waking at night is their way of avoiding SIDS, other than that, a baby has been with their mother for the last 9 months, they are adjusting to life on the outside, learning countless new things each day, their brains are firing off like crazy, learning how to use their hands and feet, how to make connections in the world and everything in between. It’s exhausting and overwhelming, and sometimes this means they need a little extra love and care at different times.
Often after a run of particularly rough nights, I’ll notice my daughter has learned something new, like rolling over, or new babbles, or walking. All that restless sleep is because her little brain is working in overdrive connecting the new things she is learning.
Some babies do sleep through and that’s totally fine, but this isn’t always the norm. All babies are different, it’s absurd to think they would all behave the same. I seem to have babies that wake regularly, and as soon as I accepted that I stopped stressing so much and everyone was happier at night.
Parent In A Way That Makes Sense To You
There are all kinds of fancy names for parenting these days, free range, attachment, crunchy, helicopter parenting. They all come with a set of ‘rules’ of what falls under each and some parents are super passionate about their ‘categories’.
But here’s the thing. It’s okay to be a mash-up of all or none of them. It’s okay to parent differently to your friends. It’s okay to parent differently to your parents. And it’s okay to change your mind about how you parent.
You need to parent in a way that makes sense to you. If it makes sense for you to bedshare but you don’t consider yourself an attachment parent, that’s okay! If you bedshare and then switch to a separate bedroom, that’s okay.
You need to find your own feet as a parent and do what makes sense to you. Not what other people tell you is ‘right’. Only you live in your situation, and only you know what’s best (of course, as long as you’re safe and educated about your choices).
It’s Okay To Change Your Mind, Then Change It Again
Making decisions as a parent is bloody hard. You try to educate yourself as much as possible and make decisions based on that, but sometimes circumstances change and you need to reassess your parenting strategy. Sometimes this happens daily. Actually, often it happens daily. But that’s just part of parenting.
Just because you decide to do something, doesn’t mean you have to stick it out if it isn’t working for you anymore.
We wanted to use modern cloth nappies with our baby but it just wasn’t working for us, so we switched to an eco brand of disposables which worked for us. That’s just one example of the million or so times we’ve changed our minds about something.
And you know what? You can change your mind as many times as you want. This is your parenting experience, refer to points ‘do what makes things easiest for you’ and ‘parenting in a way that makes sense to you’.
Learn How To Say ‘No’ And Get Comfortable Using It
I saved one of the best pieces of advice for last – and it’s probably the most powerful new parent advice you’ll ever hear – learn how to say ‘no’ and get comfortable using it. Previously, you would have been able to drop all things and run to help anyone who asked for help. You would have been able to stay late at work, do dinner with friends 3 nights a week and do pretty much anything you want to do.
But saying ‘yes’ to other people often means saying ‘no’ to yourself. And while sometimes that’s okay, there are times when you really need to be mindful of your own self-care. Remember how you said you need to put yourself first – saying ‘no’ is part of that.
This doesn’t mean you have to say no to everything, just that it’s okay to say no to things you don’t want to do, or to places you don’t want to go, or when you need to take time out for yourself.
So, while you’re going to get a whole heap of advice thrown at you from every direction, take the advice you want to take, and ignore the advice you don’t want to listen to (including the advice in this article too!).