How to Survive the First Year of Parenting

Congratulations! You are about to embark on one of the most rewarding and exciting adventures of your life – becoming a parent! After months of anticipation and planning, you will finally be able to meet your bundle of joy and stare into those little eyes. Sounds great right?! But what if I told you that parenting would also be terrifying, exhausting, and physically and financially draining? You are probably wondering why anyone would want to take on something like that. Well, parenting can be difficult and you may find yourself wanting to pull your hair out on more than a few occasions but fortunately there is much more positive than negative. Contributing to the growth and well-being of a child is one of the most satisfying experiences a person can have. Don’t believe me? Go ask a teacher!

Surviving the first year of parenthood is definitely not a feat for the faint at heart. And while you will learn what works and does not work for your family through trial and error, it doesn’t hurt to get a few tips!

Accept Help – There is a reason why this is the first tip that I mention. Regardless of whether or not you feel that things are under control, always accept offers of help. An infant’s demeanor can change in an instant and you can quickly go from being in control to feeling overwhelmed. Accept help in any form; whether it be cooking a meal so you don’t have to or watching the baby so you can get a nap. Chances are you will never regret accepting the help but you probably will regret turning it down. And don’t forget to be thankful to your helpers. People are much more likely to want to help you if you are gracious.

Do What Works – By now, you have probably read the million and one baby books on the market and know everything there is to know about things like the Ferber method, breast versus bottle, and parent to child bonding. Now forget all of that! Most of the material is in those books because those solutions work for most people but not necessarily all people. The bottom line is that you must get to know your child – their likes and dislikes. Take advice and use what you can but always do what works best for your family. Every family has a different schedule, different needs, different wants, and different idiosyncrasies.  Don’t stress too much about doing everything by the book.

Sleep Deprivation – For the first few weeks you will probably be feeling great, still riding the euphoria of becoming a new parent. Shortly after that, the demands of parenting a newborn will set in and so will the exhaustion. While infants do generally require twice as much sleep as adults, they also require much more frequent feedings since their stomachs are tiny and cannot consume very much at a time.  This exhaustion may be worse for parents of babies who have special dietary needs or moms who are nursing and can’t necessarily let anyone else “take over” so they can rest. Combat sleep deprivation by first accepting offers of help, as discussed previously. And getting sleep whenever possible. If that means neglecting the dishes for a day then so be it. Your health – and sanity – and more important than dirty dishes.

Baby Bonding – Wondering why you haven’t immediately fallen head over heels in love with your child? Sometimes parent and child bonding takes a little while to grow and that’s ok. In my opinion, you can’t hold a newborn too much. Babies love to be held and made to feel secure. Hold your newborn as often as you wish. And as your infant grows and becomes more independent, replace some of that cuddling time with play time. Get down on the floor and begin to see the world form your baby’s perspective. Just as your child learns from playing, you will learn about them and their world by playing with them.

Your Health – If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your baby. Now more than ever, your health is extremely important to the well-being of your family. Try to eat well, get as much sleep as possible, and whenever possible get in a little exercise each day (even walking the baby in their stroller counts!). Exercise at home or try out a new class at a gym like Brick Bodies in Reisterstown. In addition, try to arrange a few minutes for yourself whenever possible. Treat yourself to a coffee at Java Mama’s in Reisterstown or grab a frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog in Owings Mills.

Going Back to Work – Going back to work will be the first of many separations you will have to endure with your child (college anyone?!). Children are extremely resilient and usually tend to have a great first day at their new daycare or babysitter. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for parents. Going back to work is extremely difficult yet a necessary evil for many parents. The first thing to do is to get rid of any guilt about working and realize that you are doing this to provide a better quality of life for your family. You should also work to get your baby on a bedtime and morning routine. And don’t worry, it does get easier!

Most of all don’t forget to enjoy being a parent. Appreciate every minute and have your camera ready! J

 

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