Handy Tips for New Parents

The internet is full of these lists, and obviously I haven't read them all, but here are some ideas that I don't see often. I've found them especially useful during the early years of being a parent. 

1. Do what works for you, your family, and your baby. If you're taking the time to read up on parenting, you're already doing a great job. Okay, this one is more of a disclaimer than a tip, but it needs to be said. Often. Really, you're not going to screw up as badly as you might feel.

2. A Bottle A Day: if you want to be attached to your baby at all times, that's awesome. Go with it (see #1). If you don't, I would suggest a bottle of something once a day, be it pumped breast milk or formula, starting as early as you are comfortable. I'm not guaranteeing that this will prevent your baby from going on a bottle strike three days before you're due back at work, but it should improve the odds in your favor. [Aside: if you're breast feeding, try to time the bottle feed with the first middle of the night feeding and have someone else do it, if possible, to get yourself a longer stretch of sleep.]


3. Command Central: set up a spot for the new Mother/Father where the parent can sleep, feed the baby, change a diaper, and have the following in arms reach: TV remote (if near the TV), laptop/tablet, phone, large bottle of water, and snacks. For the first few weeks after bringing a new baby home, expect to spend a lot of time at command central, especially if you're a breast feeding Mother. If you're a breast feeding Father, I know some news outlets and biologists who would really like to talk to you.

4. Sleep Training: if you're going to do it, I suggest you do it before the baby is trying to do back flips over the crib wall, i.e. between 4 and 8 months. If you fail spectacularly at training your baby to sleep through the night, do not despair. They all figure it out...eventually.

5. The Sheet Parfait: have at least two layers of sheet + waterproof mattress pad on any surface where the baby/child will be sleeping, be it a crib or bed. This ensures minimal disruption in the middle of the night when any kind of accident might occur. I've found this to be extremely useful even in later years to deal with pee accidents and random cough-induced vomiting. If you live in a place with cold winters, keeping an extra blanket or two on hand is a good idea, too. Fluids can be...challenging to contain.

6. The Link Collection:

http://kellymom.com/ (breastfeeding issues/support; sometimes a little too "rah rah" breast-is-best, but the information is sound)

http://askmoxie.org/ (everything...lots of good ideas in the comments; will make you feel a lot less alone about whatever problem you're dealing with)

http://parents.berkeley.edu/advice/ (various topics; many useful personal stories and suggestions)