First-time Parent Guide: 23 Top Tips From Real Parents
For what might seem like the biggest change in your life, feeling totally prepared for birth, babies and parenthood is almost impossible. Apart from buying your baby essentials, clothes and enough nappies to last a lifetime - there are some things you just can't prepare for (one size doesn't necessarily fit all) We asked parents honestly what their 'best piece of advice for a first-time parent would be'?!
1. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps
You’ll need as much energy as you can get to look after your little one in their first weeks and months, plus your body needs some SERIOUS rest to recover from the exhausting process of the birth. Although it may feel like the perfect stop-gap to get the washing on, use their nap-time as a moment for yourself too.
2. "Don't worry about decorating your house before the baby arrives too much in order to 'be ready'. No matter how much you try and keep it as perfect as you can, they are a baby for a only a short while and soon enough a whirlwind of destruction will arrive."
Mum to 1 year-old Lily
3. Don't worry about keeping the house silent during daytime naps
It's good to acclimatise baby to sleeping through a certain amount of ambient noise.
4. "If after trying for hours you cannot settle baby, put them in their cot or Moses basket and take 5 minutes to breathe, get a glass of water, regain sanity! -and then try again. It is true when they say if you’re stressed baby will pick up on it. Alternatively let your partner try. Calmness is key. I remember trying to settle Evelyn and after 3 hours of tears I went to my husband in tears, so upset that I couldn’t settle my own baby. He then proceeded to settle her within 5 minutes..."
Elle, mum to 7-month-old Evelyn
5. "Remember that every challenging stage is just a phase! Babies, toddlers and children aren't born to make your life difficult. They need your help and guidance about how to behave. Make friends with other mums and dads at baby groups - chat about concerns and you'll never feel alone."
Kat, mum of 2
IG + blog @thelittlemenu
6. Start calming things down an hour or so before bedtime
Swap tickles and play for cuddles and whispers. A bath before bed can help establish your baby's sleep routine.
7. Baby 'bare bottom' time
Going nappy-free for a bit helps prevent nappy rash, especially if your little one has sensitive skin. Remember to keep baby’s bottom on the changing mat to keep mess to a minimum!
8. "Baby poo has a mind of its own! Be prepared for the leaks, smells and looking down to find it all over you – somehow!"
Mum to 4month-ld Austin
9. Don’t be scared to cut baby’s nails
First-time parents are often scared of cutting their baby’s nails in case they snip baby’s skin. But baby’s nails can become quite long and sharp, creating a risk that baby could scratch themselves. Baby-safe nail clippers minimize this hazard.
10. Get to know symptoms of serious illness
It’s wise to know what to look for, just in case. NHS guidance: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/spotting-signs-serious-illness/
NHS guidance on choking: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/helping-choking-baby/
11. "With breastfeeding, when you have your baby the key is persistence. Get them on your boob straight away, if you want to breastfeed, and keep putting them on."
Emily, mum to Oscar, Louie and Tillie
12. "This might be cliché, but for me it’s about listening to your instincts when deciding what is best. It can be overwhelming trying to do everything ‘right’ but trust your intuition and do what works for you and your family.”
Laura, mum to 1-year old Alfie
13. Make plenty of skin to skin contact
In the first few days and weeks you and baby will be getting to know one another. Lots of eye contact and skin-to-skin touching will help develop your bond – especially during feeding.
14. Store some back up bits in your car
Nappies, wipes, spare clothes and formula are things you can easily keep in the boot, as one day you might run out of these things on the road and be thankful you thought to prepare in advance.
15. Look after yourself
It can be easy to get so wrapped up in baby’s world that you start to neglect yourself. But simple things, like eating a healthy diet, getting some fresh air, doing something active, chatting to people and getting enough sleep to function, are vital to ensure you’re in the best possible state to care for baby.
16. "Being a mum of twins, routine for me is absolutely key! Getting them onto the same schedule was my goal but equally embrace everything inbetween. Sometimes I would be so concerned about sticking to routine I didn’t take time for extra cuddles or time to just enjoy them.”
Twin mum to 10-month-old Blake + Ivy
17. Help baby learn to associate night time with sleep
By dimming lights, talking quietly, cuddling and playing gently with baby, you can reinforce that night-time is bedtime from the very beginning.
After the initial excitement and buzz of what seems like hundreds of visitors, you may find that you and baby are starting to feel isolated at home. Meeting friends, getting outside and going along to parent classes and events can be fun for both you and baby.
19. "My advice would be to enjoy the baby bubble. They really do grow up fast and if you want to spend the first few months in the blissful baby bubble snuggled and cuddled, that’s more than okay!”
Tara, mum to Idrees and Zakky
20. You’ll quickly recognise when baby is tired
Rubbing eyes, yawning and stretching are some indicators. Babies around six weeks old can't usually stay awake for much more than two hours at a time.
21. Stimulate baby’s senses, using sound
Babies usually love vocal sounds like talking, babbling, singing, and cooing. They’ll also probably love listening to music. Baby rattles and musical mobiles are other good ways to stimulate hearing.
22. Bathe in just water for the first few months
You don’t need to bathe baby in the first few days – you can “top and tail” instead (washing their face, neck, hands and bottom carefully using cotton wool). It’s advised that plain water is best for your baby's skin in the first month.
23. Check your clothes are safe for holding baby
Before you pick your little one up, be aware of anything like zips or buttons on your top – they could graze or scratch baby or be a choking hazard.
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Feature Editor Jasmine Davies