Friday, April 08, 2005

Those First Few Months As New Parents

By Leanne Phillips

Bringing a brand new baby home from the hospital is probably the most joyous and exciting event in a person's life. Still, the challenges of becoming a new parent can make it difficult to relax and enjoy this most wonderful of experiences. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of those first few months as new parents.

1. Make baby's homecoming easy on siblings and pets. If this is not your first child, then you may have a little bit of sibling rivalry or jealously to deal with when you bring baby home. The best way to deal with this is to prepare brothers and sisters, and even pets, for baby's arrival well in advance. Make sure to focus on the positive. Emphasize the excitement of having a new baby. Remind baby's sibling that he or she will be a big brother or a big sister now. Let them know that this is a very important task, that you are going to be depending on them for help and that they hold a very significant position in baby's life. Celebrate baby's birth by giving older siblings a gift recognizing their status as a big brother or big sister when baby comes home from the hospital. If you have pets, let your pet get used to you giving attention to baby. Use a doll to practice, giving the doll hugs, attention and time, so that your pet gets used to another creature in the house sharing your time and affection.

2. Don't be too quiet. Babies are very adaptable. They will adapt to the normal noise in a household and will easily learn to nap right through the sounds of mom and dad carrying on a conversation in the next room or big brother or big sister playing outside. On the other hand, babies will also easily adapt to a completely quiet environment. If you require everyone to tip toe around the house whispering while baby naps, you can be assured that you will have to do so for many years to come.

3. Sleep whenever you can. Although new babies do sleep quite a bit in those first few months, they do so in short spurts because they need to eat often when they are tiny, to have their diapers changed, and to be cuddled. It will probably be several months before your baby sleeps through the night. Also, being a new parent takes a lot out of you. It is a drastic life change that, no matter how happy, requires some adjustment. For this reason, you should take advantage of every opportunity you have to nap. When baby naps, you should nap, too. It may be tempting to use this quiet time to catch up on the laundry, the dishes or chatting with friends, but getting lots of rest is the most important thing you can do for you and for your baby. Laundry and dishes can wait. Turn the ringer off on the phone, put a "do not disturb" sign on the door and catch some zzz's.
4. Relax and let it go. Speaking of laundry and dishes, one of the best things you can do during those first few months as a new parent is to lower your standards a little and to expect a little bit less of yourself. Learn to distinguish between those things that are really important and those things that can wait. For the time being, maybe you can vacuum once a week instead of every few days. It may not be the end of the world if books and papers are piled up on your desk or things are a bit cluttered. Maybe, just maybe, you can skip mopping this week and just give the floors a quick sweep instead. Learn to live with a few dishes in the sink. There are more important things in life than a spotless home.

5. Take advantage of technology. Doing things in the most difficult way does not always guarantee that it is the best way. Don't fall victim to the myth that doing everything on your own or from scratch makes you a better parent. There are so many products on the market these days to make your role as a parent easier. Make use of them and free up more time to spend with your newborn baby. Time is the greatest gift you can give to anyone, especially your children. Making lots of time to be with your newborn baby is what will make you the best parent of all.

6. Cook less. You have to feed your family. That's probably something you can't get away with not doing. But you can make it easier on yourself by skipping the homemade lasagna made from scratch and opting for something that's a little bit easier to make and takes less of your time, such as macaroni and cheese or a grilled chicken breast with some steamed frozen veggies. When you are cooking, take advantage of the opportunity to double up recipes and freeze some for later. If you make waffles one weekend morning, freeze some and have instant toaster waffles for later in the week. You might even skip cooking altogether on a particularly hectic day and order a pizza. The family will survive.

7. Accept offers of help. Your friends and family will likely be thrilled to help out with your newborn baby and even to give you a break now and then. Again, don't feel that doing everything yourself is required or that it makes you a better parent. A good parent takes care of himself or herself as well as taking care of baby. A well-rested and happy parent is a better parent. Allow older siblings to help with simple household tasks and with caring for their baby brother or sister. If they offer, let your friends and family help out with household chores or with taking care of the baby for a short period of time so you can have a little break. If they don't offer, ask.

8. Take care of yourself. In addition to getting enough sleep, make sure you are eating right, taking vitamin supplements and getting enough exercise. It is very easy to slip into the habit of putting your own needs on the back burner while you attend to the needs of your brand new baby. Remember, one of the things baby needs most is for you to be happy and healthy so that you can take care of him or her. Schedule regular time for exercise. Have nutritious snacks available so that you can eat small, quick meals throughout the day when you need to do so. Take vitamin supplements to make sure you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs during this busy and potentially stressful adjustment period.

9. Trust your instincts. If you are a first-time parent, it is important to learn to trust your instincts. Remember that human beings have been giving birth and raising children for centuries, without the aid of volumes on parenting or emergency hotlines or teething rings. Sharing information through books and the invention of time-saving devices and helpful tools have made it easier for us to be better parents to our children. But, to a large extent, we are born with parenting instincts that guide us in the right direction. When you are faced with a parenting dilemma, listen to what your instincts are telling you. More often than not, you know more than you think you do.

10. Enjoy your baby. Above all, enjoy these first few months with your new baby. Nothing can ever take the place in my memories of those quiet, late night and early morning hours I spent with each of my three children when they were babies, rocking them, holding them and singing softly to them while they gazed up at me with those wide, beautiful baby eyes. Don't worry that you will spoil your children by responding to their cries or giving them too much physical affection, love and hugs. There is no such thing as too much love. Remember, everything else takes a back seat to spending time enjoying this miracle with which you have been blessed.

Copyright (c) 2005 by Leni Leanne Phillips

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