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Commentary | June 25, 2012

Tips for New Parents

By Julie Couture Family Advocacy Program

Although having a baby can be a joyous event, it can also be a time of anxiety. Nothing can truly prepare someone for what lies ahead once the baby arrives.

However there are some tried and true tips that can ease the transition into parenthood. Although they might seem odd initially, establishing good habits in the beginning can benefit the entire family.

Tip 1: Shower/bathe and get dressed each day.
It is important not to get into a rut. Exhaustion can take over after having a baby. Between giving birth, and the new unpredictable schedule, it's no wonder that parents are sleep deprived. Instead of thinking of a shower or bath as a chore, think of it as 'me time'. It is impossible to take care of others without first taking care of yourself. Even if the shower is just for five minutes, it gives you an opportunity to have some time to yourself.

Tip 2: Avoid the urge to criticize your partner's method of dressing/diapering the baby.
Everyone does things differently. Some things , like bedtime routines and discipline, should be consistent as they benefit the baby. Other things, such as choosing what clothing to wear and changing a baby, are smaller matters. If your partner's way of doing things really bothers you, then it can help to leave the room. Not only will you get a chance to unwind, but it will allow for your partner to bond with the baby. It's important that both of you are involved in caring for the baby, not competing.

Tip 3: Nap when your baby naps.
Many people use a baby's naptime to get caught up with cleaning or other things. Resist the urge. You need sleep too, which is more important than whether the dishwasher needs to be loaded. For most people, priorities change when they have a baby. Use the time to sleep so that you can focus on your new priorities.

Tip 4: Let others help you.
If someone offers to cook meals or grocery shop for you, by all means, take them up on it. Accepting offers from people benefits the entire family. It eases the transition into parenthood and allows you to focus on what is truly important - your baby, yourself, and your partner.

Tip 5: Limit the number of visitors.
Many family and friends love to see new babies. Who can blame them for wanting to see your little bundle of joy? However, it is important that you choose your visitors carefully. Good friends will understand that you are tired and are trying to establish a new routine. Let phone calls go to voicemail, and let others know when it is convenient for them to stop in. You will be setting limits with your child before long, so you might as well get some practice with your friends and family.

Tip 6: If possible, set up a sleeping/changing area for the baby in two areas of your house.
Babies are not usually conveniently located when they need to be changed. If possible, try to set up changing areas on each floor, or in areas of your home where you frequent the most. If you can't set up two separate changing areas with necessary supplies, put some items in a tote or box that you can easily carry.

Tip 7: Have things set up for nursing/feeding in comfortable areas.
Why should you be bored when your child is eating? Once your baby is settled in, get your favorite book or magazine. Just because you're a parent doesn't mean that you cannot enjoy the simple things.

Tip 8: Feel comfortable with the feeding method you choose.
Breastfeeding has many benefits. For example, breast milk is easier for babies to digest, it can protect against illnesses, and it's cheaper than formula. However, if you are not comfortable, or if you have other concerns, then it's acceptable to use a bottle. If you are uncomfortable while breastfeeding, it is possible for your baby sense it, and this will not do much for the mother-baby bonding. Like other family members, such as fathers and grandparents, it is possible to bond without nursing.

Tip 9: Take time for each other.
Some people think that all of their energy and focus must go towards the baby. It is important that you spend time with your partner. Although dates and trips are not always options, you need to focus on quality, not quantity. Spend a few minutes with each other in the morning, or develop a new routine.

Tip 10: Enjoy your baby.
Now that the pregnancy is over, and your baby is finally here, enjoy your time together. He or she will grow and change right before your eyes, and will change your life in ways you never thought possible.

And Finally: Never, Never Shake Your Baby.
Babies cry - a lot. If you feel overwhelmed, or you are losing patience, put the baby in a safe place and take a moment to compose yourself. Call a trusted family member or friend to help. If no one is available, go into the next room and practice some stress management techniques such as deep breathing, journaling, or anything that can help to calm you down.

For more information, contact the New Parent Support Program at 764-2427 (Langley) or 878-0807 (Ft Eustis).