Congratulations! You have a new baby! You’re up to face the most rewarding job in the world. It’s wonderful, but it’s no walk in the park. Looking back, we desperately needed advice for new parents. Especially about the hard moments, we were about to face.
After all, the better you know what you’re up to, the more prepared you can be!
1. Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is one of the most dreaded things about early parenting. We love (and need) our beauty sleep.
As it turns out, lack of sleep, or lack of quality sleep, affects the way you feel, the way you think, and your overall health.
How are you supposed to take care of another human, when you feel so tired?
I was grumpy, I cried all the time, I was bickering with my husband. And he was also turning into a sleep-deprived blob.
Yet there was this tiny, colicky, baby who needed us, and we had to grin and bear it. We didn’t know what to do.
Enter power naps.
The most powerful (and common) advice for new parents is to sleep whenever your baby sleeps if that’s possible at all.
Or, take power naps if it’s not.
We started sleeping short 30 minute cycles and taking turns caring for Oliver.
More than occasionally, our wonderful parents helped us with the baby as well so that we could take a full-fledged nap. It completely turned things around!
I love Brenda’s article on sleeping when your newborn is not sleeping. Because, in reality, it’s not always feasible to follow that good ol’ advice and sleep when your baby sleeps!
Breastfeeding looks so easy in the movies, right?
Moms just need to move their babies close to their breasts, and nature does its work… or at least that’s what I thought.
Naive… I know! I was so clueless when it came to breastfeeding that when I was pregnant it was the least of my worries.
It all became too real, of course, when my son came along. Boy, could I have used some advice for new parents back then!
My son was a preemie, and I had to pump breast milk for the first 6 weeks of his life.
When you breastfeed, you can come across several issues. Such as poor latching, low milk supply, sore nipples, mastitis, and many others.
The important thing is to be aware that they can happen and have a lactation consultant to talk to.
I love Life’s Carousel article about her top breastfeeding problems and how she solved them. It really puts things in perspective.
Something that’s fairly common in preemie moms, is having low milk flow. Since we lack the baby’s stimulation at the beginning, it can get tough to rely on a breast pump. You can check my breastfeeding tips here. You can also increase your milk production by adjusting your diet.
Make breastfeeding easier with these free breastfeeding trackers!
3. Baby Colic
Baby colic is one of the most challenging phases I had to overcome as a first-time mom. And no amount of advice for new parents can prepare you for it.
It happens to one in every five babies, and no one knows why. A colicky baby cries intensely for more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 times a week, for more than 3 weeks.
Apparently, nothing was wrong with our son, and it had no lasting effects.
But Oh the humanity! He cried from 5 pm to 1 am every single day for the better part of 6 months.
It was unsettling and frustrating, we tried everything, and eventually, it was much less intense.
If you’re curious, here’s an article on what we did to manage our colicky baby.
4. Understanding Your Baby’s Cues
Babies don’t talk, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate.
The problem is, we parents have a hard time understanding them!
I used to joke that kids should come with a manual. “If your newborn does this, then do that exactly.”
In truth, it’s far from obvious and we sometimes have to take our best guess at what the problem may be.
To make matters worse, each baby is different. This means that, even though there are guides on what crying means, they may just not apply to your newborn.
But on the bright side, they may as well apply, so don’t hesitate in reading and research about it!
Eventually, you and your baby will get to know each other, and you’ll understand exactly each cry, grunt, look, movement, and everything she does.
It just takes time and patience.
5. Coping with Worrying All the Time
I’m an anxious person. In retrospect, I should have expected my anxiety levels to shoot upwards when my son was born.
But I didn’t, and it hit me like a train.
Dealing with anxiety is difficult, and sometimes it requires additional help. So my best advice is: prepare for it!
Having a baby is wonderful. But, all of a sudden, the world becomes much more dangerous. There are germs, global warming, other people, the risk of falling, you name it!
It’s not as bad as you may think it is, you do need to take care of your newborn of course, but if you’re not reckless there’s no reason why anything should go wrong.
And, always remember to get help and talk things out if they are bothering you.
6. Managing Your Time
When my son was born, I was almost every day in the hospital for 43 days. I had barely time at home to take a shower and then nearly pass out in bed. I had a crazy routine!
After 43 days, he came home, and if I thought I’d have more time for myself, I was completely wrong. We were in kangaroo care 24/7. And our son was hooked to an oxygen tank.
Which means we were hooked to an oxygen tank.
My husband and I took turns during his one-week paternity leave to hold him in kangaroo care. The one that was free used to cook, do the cleaning, freeze meals, clean our baby’s bottles, do laundry, get the shopping, and if we were lucky, take a bath.
Phew, that was a lot to take in! I had to schedule my bathroom breaks!
After my husband returned to work, I was holding Oliver in bed next to his tank all day long! He worked from home, so it was more manageable, but time was thin.
It’s true, not all experiences are like ours. Some are more intense, and some are a bit less tough. But, having a baby implies a huge change in your life. A positive one, it just takes adjusting to it.
You’ll find that, at first, you won’t have time for yourself. So freezing meals, shopping online (even the groceries), and asking for help are always good ideas.
Just try not to get too overwhelmed, it’s just a temporary phase, so enjoy it as much as you can!
You’ll be yourself soon enough, and you’ll miss those sweet early days of parenting!
7. Post-Partum Depression
Post-Partum Depression is real. And it doesn’t necessarily mean being sad.
Having my son has been the happiest moment of my life.
But PPD just happens. And you never know when it’s going to hit.
In my case, Ollie was around 3 months old when it happened. It was progressive, I just didn’t notice it on time.
A potential danger of not having time for yourself is that the depression can get deeper, and, when you notice it, you’re too far down the hole to get out.
Understanding that you have a tiny human that depends on you can help. But what really got me out of the PPD was doing small tasks centered on me every day.
I had a list. And every day I changed it a bit. So one day I would get a new haircut, and the next day I would write an article. But every day the tasks relied heavily on me-time.
It took months, but eventually, I was out of the woods.
I needed professional help, of course, and my husband’s unconditional support. The key was recognizing the signs, and understanding that I needed to take action.
8. Dealing with Unsolicited Advice
Ugh! Don’t get me started on this one.
When you’re a new parent, it’s like you wear a big neon sign that reads “I need advice for new parents, please, now!” I hated it. In fact, more than 2 years later, I still do!
I couldn’t walk a few blocks without people giving me random advice.
Without context, without me wanting it.
At first, I tried to smile politely, but it soon became overwhelming, and I just told people to butt out. It was harsh but effective!
I mean, people would see Ollie with his binky and come near me to tell me to wean him off. They even shouted at me from the other side of the street! These were random strangers! True story!
They told me to cover him more because it was cold or strip him because it was hot. If he randomly cried on the street, people asked me if I was breastfeeding and demanded I fed him.
The nerve of those people! And these were just strangers on the street.
Dealing with friends and family was a whole other matter! This brings me to…
9. Handling Friends and Family
Luckily for us, Ollie has a lot of people who love and care for him. This also means that some of our close relatives felt the need to criticize things they didn’t feel that we did right.
In most of the cases, I had to put on my polite face and smile.
And then ignore them if I didn’t think they were right.
But, in others, I really couldn’t take it anymore and asked them to keep their advice to a minimum. Just be careful, the few cases in which I had to do this don’t speak to me to this day. So, choose your battles wisely.
In our case, we also had a strict visit ban when Ollie came home. Because of our son’s prematurity, he was extremely vulnerable to RSV, and if he got sick, it could have been catastrophic. So the doctor imposed a 0-visit policy.
This meant that we had a lot of friends and family calling us daily to ask when they could come to visit. And a few of them visited us unannounced.
But we were strict and didn’t let anybody in until our son had his first 3 Synagis shots (used on preemies to prevent RSV.)
We weren’t insensitive, though, we sent numerous emails and messages about our son’s progress, and reiterated our reasons for keeping the closed doors.
We aren’t sure if they understood or not, but when they met Oliver, it was all in the past.
Be firm with what you believe is right for your baby, and accept advice from those who care for her, but always take it with a grain of salt.
10. Being a Strong, Independent, Fully Functioning Adult
Ha! This was hard enough before Ollie was born… and it became a lot harder!
We couldn’t believe it… we were parents! But, we hardly could take care of ourselves, let alone another human.
Add to that the other 9 items on this list, and we felt like we had the weight of the world on our shoulders. We wanted to be the very best parents in the world (who doesn’t), we wanted to become better persons for our baby.
So, we have so far tried our best every day, and hope that it’s enough. From breastfeeding to potty training, from first words to first sentences, parenting has been so far an exciting journey, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in the future.
But, we haven’t been able to fully become strong, independent, fully functioning adults just yet… so if you have, please let me know how!
Did you find more challenges during early parenting? What were they? Please leave your comments below!
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