Although I have almost four years of experience in parenting I often feel that I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm learning. In honor of my sister-in-law who could have a baby at any minute and my numerous friends who are pregnant or have recently given birth or adopted, here are a few things I've figured out that I wish I had learned earlier. Actually, many of these tips were told to me before I had a baby, but I largely ignored them. I hope you will be smarter than I was.
- Get a decent camera, and take a lot of pictures.
- Do the thing where you take pictures of the baby in the same chair or with the same toy every month to show growth. Those picture series are fun to look at, but you only get one shot at doing them.
- Hand the camera to someone else so that you can actually be in some of the pictures.
- Take video too.
- Always carry an extra camera battery to facilitate the above.
- Then put the camera down and interact with your child without a camera separating you.
- Go outside everyday, even if you just walk around the block.
- Breastfeeding can be challenging. Get educated. Try your best, and don't let either the lactivists or the formula feminists make you feel badly about how you feed your baby.
- Receiving blankets are awesome (although I'm not sure why they are called that). They can be blankets, play mats, burp clothes, sun shades, bibs and towels to clean up spills. Get a bunch of them.
- Time spent holding a baby is never wasted.
- Always take help when it is offered.
- Ask for help when it is needed.
- Babysitters are expensive but worth it.
- Sleep when your baby sleeps. Seriously. Everyone gets told this, but when the time comes they want to be social or finish watching this thing on TV or take a shower. Don't be stupid. Go to sleep.
- But do shower. It is time alone, and you will smell better.
- Put the baby in clothes that are too big. The window of fitting "just right" is small, and you risk outgrowing things before they've been worn.
- Put the child in your favorite outfits as often as possible before they don't fit anymore.
- Try your best to get stains out (I like Tide Stain Release nuggets.), but don't worry too much if you can't. Soon those clothes won't fit anyway.
- Speaking of clothes not fitting, if the baby weight is not coming off get new clothes. Continuing to wear maternity clothes and a few other formerly baggy items that now barely fit will only make you feel worse.
- You will have snot, spit up, milk and other things on your clothes constantly. Choose fabrics accordingly.
- Laundry never ends. Never.
- If you lower your standards for what you consider "putting away toys" you will be much more successful.
- Legos are not quiet toys.
- Buy a Dust Buster or similar handheld vacuum. Actually, consider buying one for each room.
- Do things the moment you think of them, or write them down. Sleep deprivation is bad for short term memory.
- Your diaper bag will become your purse, so get one (or more) that matches your style instead of matching the baby's stuff.
- Always carry plastic lunch bags for leftover snacks, unfinished lollipops and other sticky stuff.
- Baby wipes are not just for diaper changes. Keep them at the top of the bag for emergency mess clean up.
- If your child becomes attached to a particular toy find a duplicate. I used to thinking having a back up version of a favorite toy was silly until the first time we thought we had lost my son's Pooh bear. The extra money is worth avoiding that feeling of terror.
- Avoid loading kid games on your phone or iPad as long as possible. For years my son was convinced that "only daddy's phone can play games."
- Wearable baby carriers are better than strollers for outdoor festivals unless you want your baby to have beer spilled on him or to be burned with cigarettes.
- You don't need a fancy stroller. You need a stroller you can fold and unfold with one hand.
- If you have long hair and don't like it pulled always carry a ponytail holder.
- Snuggle often.
- Hug often.
- Say I love you often.
- No matter how tired or frustrated you are try to enjoy your child for everything they are today. They grow up way, way too fast.
- Write memories of the everyday whether online, in a paper journal or in a baby book.
- Don't worry if you haven't been writing things down. Start now.
- Potty training works...eventually.
Any other tips for new parents?
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You might also like my post "A Toddler's Guide to Co-Sleeping."
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