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)

You'll Never Sleep Again

I had heard plenty about sleep deprivation after having a newborn baby so I was prepared for a few months of disturbed slumber. My baby would be sleeping through the night sometime between six months and a year old, according to all that I'd read.

Yeah, right.


Not only did that not happen, but not one piece of writing admitted that I would never again have a year with unbroken sleep. 

Here's the rundown.

0-3 months: you slept for 3 hours straight? Lucky you!

3-9 months: did you know that all those sleep experts' definition of "sleeping through the night" means five hours straight? That's right, FIVE whole hours. Actually, five hours sounds pretty good after you've lived through those first three months. If you have the luck of the ages, your baby will sleep for 12 hours at night. If you're one of the ordinary folk, your baby will continue to have diaper blowouts and hunger pangs at why-oh-why-o'clock.

9-18 months: pretty much the same story as 3-9 months, but now you can add in wake up calls for stuffy noses, vomit, and attempts to stand or walk while sleeping. Variety is the spice of life!

18-36 months: I'm going to assume the best here - no more middle of the night eating! You might actually sleep a normal 6-8 hours a night, most nights. Bodily fluids will still escape from containment, however, and you can add in night terrors (about five orders of magnitude worse than nightmares), and getting yourself out of bed to put the kids back in bed. Oh, and if you're working on night time potty training (Exciting and exhausting! A two-for-one deal!), you can tack on middle of the night calls for help to either visit the bathroom or change the bedding.

3 - 8 years: you might be wishing your child were still wearing night diapers at some juncture during this period. Other than that, the laundry list (ha ha ha) is about the same as before, plus run of the mill nightmares. On the flip side, your child now knows that the house does not go to sleep when s/he does. You may even reach the milestone of seeing midnight on New Year's Eve again.

8 - 12 years: these are the years when your child will be able to handle everything on his or her own all night long, and you will find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Okay, fine, I can dream, can't I? Night terrors and bed wetting should be in the past (if not, you have my sympathies), and your child may even deal with middle of the night bathroom trips alone. Vomit, high fever watch, and bad dreams are still on the agenda. 

13-18 years: you will now be imagining all the terrible ways in which a) you are screwing up your child's future, b) your child is screwing up his/her own future, or c) both, and then wondering why you aren't busy sleeping while your kid is peacefully slumbering in bed. Seriously, go back to sleep! They're finally leaving you alone. In fact, they're afraid to imagine what happens in your bedroom at night.

18 years and beyond: I don't even want to know what's in store for me after my daughter is an adult. Will I finally sleep well every night, as I did when I was growing up while my parents suffered? If you're not going to answer, "Yes, absolutely, no doubt about it" in the comments, then keep quiet please. We all need  a little hope in life.