I’ve worked with pregnant families and in pregnancy programs for over 10 years as a dietitian so, you might assume that I’d feel more than prepared to have a baby of my own. The truth is that even with everything I knew, or everything that I thought I knew, I was often surprised by the realities of being a new parent. Can you relate?
Here are 5 things I’ve learned:
1) Lack of sleep.
Okay, it’s not that I didn’t know about it. I had been warned. It’s talked about at a lot at pregnancy programs, among parents and caregivers. But being told about it and experiencing it, are VERY different. My baby has never been a deep sleeper. She would (and still does) wake at the slightest sound. So, once she is down for a nap, I’ll do everything I can to not wake her. I’m that mom who will get down on the floor and crawl or shuffle to get out of the room without waking her. Yup, that’s me.
2) Accept help when it’s offered.
It’s the one thing I tell all my clients now after having a baby – accept help that’s offered or ask for help when you need it. This doesn’t mean you have to let anyone you don’t trust watch your baby – ask those in your circle of support. But it does mean accepting those little offers of help, like an offer to make you a meal, buy groceries, to travel with you to an appointment, or to let you sleep while they care for your baby. If you trust the help, I say take it. It may be just what you need.
3) Babies are all different.
What works for one baby, won’t for another. For example, I was really excited to try out a baby carrier I borrowed from a good friend; it would allow me to carry my baby close to me, especially in her first few weeks while we were working on breastfeeding. My friend assured me it was a lifesaver for her when she needed to make her baby calm but also wanted to get other things done.
Sadly, it didn’t work for us. When I put my daughter in the carrier, she immediately began to cry and fuss. Not just a little cry. She cried with everything she had. I tried again on another day, thinking she just wasn’t ready. But no, it didn’t work then either. I think I tried four different types of carriers before giving up since she refused them all.
So, a carrier wasn’t for her but she loved (and loves) her stroller. Babies are different. Some like motion, other hate it. Some like to be held close, others would rather be free. Some are active and eager to get moving and others would rather sit and play.
Babies are different, so it’s important to be patient and find what works best for you and your baby.
4) You don’t need all the baby gear to be a good parent.
I never realized how many products there were on the market that target parents with young children. It’s hard to know as a first time mom what I’d need versus what was fun to have. Since I didn’t live in a large space in the City, it made sense that we only bought the things we thought were essential. But deciding what those things were was difficult. Knowing what to pack for the hospital was a good start.
5) Let go of expectations – yours and others.
After I had my baby, I don’t think I ever got everything on my to-do list done. I’m okay with that now but it took me a while to accept how different my life would be. When you’re home all day with your new baby and you see the list of chores growing (the dirty dishes, the laundry, the toys) it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
So, let’s go back to my second point above. If someone, like your partner, family, or friend, offers to help you tackle some of these things, let them. Even if it doesn’t get done exactly how you would do it, it can be a big help. And if there is no one there to help, you’ll need to accept that some things, like the dishes, can wait. If you’re able to let go of your expectations and make time for you, your baby and your family, the rest of your to-do list can wait.