What nobody told you about parenting, and advice you won’t find in a book.
When you first find out you’re about to be a new parent, it’s natural to feel an overwhelming excitement and joy at the prospect of the new person entering your life. This is also usually followed by a curiosity of how your life will change, tinged with a good dose of concern — and perhaps even fear — about the months to come.
During my own pregnancy with my firstborn, I remember asking my best friend, a mom of two young children, what to expect.
“You’ll never sleep the same again,” she said.
And she was right.
A study in Germany found that new parents face a staggering six years of sleep deprivation, with data from thousands of men and women showing rest is at its worst three months after birth.
You may have heard from people you know who already have kids that newborn babies especially take a toll on how much sleep parents will bank. The first weeks with a newborn baby are a crash course in sleep deprivation that nobody fully does justice to when explaining what you should expect.
Few talk about how the lack of sleep (as if it weren’t hard enough to handle by itself) will be accompanied by haywire hormones, a grueling wait for breast milk to come in, post-delivery physical recovery, and constantly crying baby, or how the combination of all those things added to the stress of initial parenthood.
However, even in those first months, things definitely get easier every week into newfound parenthood. You do settle into a routine with your newborn eventually — but it can take longer for some more than others. And even after a good schedule gets into place, at eight months in you still can find yourself waking up throughout the night to check that your baby is breathing.
Everyone’s experience as a new parent is typically quite similar — a small comfort that nobody is alone in the struggle to adapt to a new parenting lifestyle.
It may be a relief when you finally reach the age that most of your friends and peers are starting to have children at the same time. And while Pew Research indicates that millennials are waiting longer to become parents than prior generations did, the research also shows that those born from 1981 to 1996 accounted for 82% of U.S. births in 2016.
Having other parents to ask questions and bounce things off of is a powerful gift.
You will find yourself with a new question everyday and should be relieved that other new parents can lend you the benefit of their experience. A few common questions about parenting your baby will likely fall between two camps of “Is this normal?” and “How can I do this better for them/for us?”
To get a sense of the unique experiences of a few new moms and dads, here are tips from real parents who have had children for new parents who are expecting. This helpful variety of perspectives range across many topics new parents can expect to encounter.
Parenting Tips for New Parents: The Do List
It’s OK not to be OK. If you need to cry and ask for help, do it — and accept help when it’s offered. It’s fine to struggle, that doesn’t mean you’re failing. Take care of yourself, don’t feel guilty making time for you and your partner so you can recharge and take good care of your child. Also, everyone is going to give you advice, but only you know what’s best for your baby. — Diana
Use positive reinforcement whenever you can to reward your child’s good behavior. — Sabrina
First, know that all babies cry. Second, keep in mind that it took a year to put on the baby weight and it will take a year to take it off — be patient with yourself. — Heather
If you’re thinking of traveling, know that a vacation is no longer a vacation as you’re used to it before having kids. It’s more like a relocation of your normal routine to a different place. The best time to go is before your child turns a year old, since after that they are harder to entertain and very mobile. — Victoria
Parenting Tips for New Parents: The Don't List
Be careful not to overstimulate your newborn. We found out later that’s one reason our baby was so fussy the first months. She was awake for too long and was upset. Now we’re good about putting her to bed after she’s been up for shorter amounts of time and she’s a lot happier getting more sleep. — Jon
Don’t underestimate breastfeeding a second child. It’s much harder, much more work, too much body sharing and much more exhausting than anyone ever warned. — Gloria
Don’t blame yourself when your baby is having challenges, a lot of new parenting is trial and error. Every baby is different and unique in what they will experience, so don’t compare one child to another. — Sarah
Don’t rely only on your words to teach your kids. You have to train your children and lead them by your example. Follow through and practice what you teach them. — Sergio