I often like to joke that now I’ve made it through the first year with a child that I’m a role-model parent.. which is furthest from the truth. Because truth is, you’ll make it. We’ll all make it. No matter whether your baby sleeps through the night from week 6 or month 6, whether you breastfeed or formula feed, whether you co-sleep or sleep train. You’ll make it.
That being said, it is helpful to get as many tips and tricks as possible to enjoy your first year with your baby. Heck, I’m still reading up constantly on tips to use, although now they’re more along the lines of “how to tame tantrums” and “how to curb throwing of food”.
Below are some tips that I wish I’d read and taken to heart before I had Emily. I hope they will be helpful in your parenting journey!
1) Lower your expectations of yourself
Whether you’re going back to work or will be staying home with baby, you’re going to feel stretched. The motto that I embraced that helped me through a lot is “do what you can, when you can”. So I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at home with my daughter, and I thought this would mean having more than enough time to get everything done. My daughter thrives on attention and loves to follow me everywhere (and unpack everything I’ve just packed), so my workload is never complete.
I made the choice a while ago to just go with her flow, so when she wants me to play with her, I do. And when she’s having a couple of moments playing by herself or sleeping, I do what I need to do. I’ve accepted that things won’t be as organized and as neat, and I won’t be as on time as what I used to, but it’s okay. Having this mentality has helped lift a huge weight off my shoulders.
2) Choose who you want to take advice from
I did not know that so many people liked to give advice until I had a baby. While majority of people are just trying to help, there is a lot of strange advice that comes along with it.
It’s also difficult to not get caught up in the “just Google it” trap when it’s 02h00 in the morning and you’re desperately wanting the answer to why your baby won’t go back to sleep.
For me, what worked the best was deciding to take advice from a few select people. So basically these consisted of our parents, Emily’s paediatrician and then a few friends. Having just a few opinions of others to work through, as opposed to literally hundreds is obviously going to leave you feeling a little less overwhelmed and able to make decisions.
All this aside, your parental instinct is number one. This baby is from you, and nobody could know it better. Learn to listen to and trust your instinct, because it more than likely will not fail you.
3) Have a support system, and make use of them
If someone offers to look after your baby for an hour or two so that you can have a shower and a quick nap, let them! I initially felt such guilt at wanting to have just 10 minutes to myself and have someone look after Emily. But you need to have that time, it’s important! You need to be able to recharge your batteries and look after yourself so that you can be the parent you want to be.
I cannot say enough about babywearing! I will do a more detailed post about babywearing at a later stage, as I have so much to say about it. There are so many benefits of babywearing, for both baby and you. It enabled me to free up my hands for a portion of the day, which meant I could continue with chores or go for a walk.
I’ve made use of the Ubuntu Baba carriers, and cannot recommend them enough. My only wish is that I started using them earlier on!
5) Understand and accept that not all your friendships will remain …
…and not all of those that do remain will remain the same. This was a tough pill for me to swallow. I wish I had read more real-life experiences on this before I went through it myself. I was convinced before I had a baby that I would be exactly the same socially. Emily would come along to suppers and braais and everything would be okay. I didn’t take into account how tired I would be, how much stuff would need to be packed for her when going out, how anxious I would be when going out etc. As a result of this, friendships do suffer.
A way of looking at how my friendships had changed that helped me, was to understand that people who don’t have children cannot understand what it’s like to have children. And that’s okay. And it’s okay that you aren’t able to carry on the friendship the way you used to.
If you get a friend that comes to visit you and baby, or even just messages regularly to find out how you’re doing, embrace that friendship because it’s special.
6) Sleep wherever, and whenever, you can
Oh my goodness. There is nothing that could have prepared me for the exhaustion I experienced after having Emily. So she started sleeping through the night consistently at 9 months, which is later than some babies. Before this, there were some nights that she would wake up, up to 5 times at night. Which obviously meant extremely broken sleep. I was also that parent who constantly wanted to check on her to make sure she was still okay and breathing, so some nights I would get a total of 2 hours of sleep.
So my advice, if you need to choose between doing the dishes or having a nap to help with the exhaustion, have a nap. I promise you your baby will sleep through the night eventually, and you won’t permanently be tired. Take the moments that you can to be rest, you will thank yourself!
7) Find other mama friends
Whether it be real-life mama’s or a Facebook group that you join, being connected with other women going through the same experiences as you is a game-changer.
It’s very easy to get into a mindset of being alone and being the only person experiencing certain things. As soon as you have someone to connect over experiences with, it can help you feel both motivated and reassured. Motivated in the sense that you can do this because someone is doing this with you, and reassured that you are doing this right.
Being able to talk to someone about a shared experience is something so natural.. I’ve never made friends with people quicker than I have mama friends.
8) Don’t spend time comparing
“Comparison is the thief of joy” could not be more apt. Babies reach different milestones at different times, and that’s okay! Your baby’s paediatrician will take note of specific milestones, and they will be able to inform you if there is ever anything to worry about.
Enjoy your baby and be amazed at what your baby can do. We are all individuals and have our own specific talents and gifts, and the same goes for them.
9) Accept and embrace this new journey
There were many times when I felt flustered leaving a shopping centre, trying to find my keys and parking ticket and having to hold a baby at the same time. Or wanted to just sit and enjoy a meal at a restaurant, instead of running after a baby that wasn’t interested in sitting in a high chair. But that is not to be.
You are on a new and different journey, and you will never be the same again, and will never experience things the same way again. This is in no way a negative. You’ve got new things to enjoy and new experiences to experience. As long as you accept and embrace that this is your present, you will able to see all the positives!
10) Take a deep breath, and enjoy it!
This is sometimes easier said than done, but those first few weeks and then months fly by so quickly. Before you know it you’ll have a toddler running around and you won’t know where the time has gone. So take a step back, take a deep breath and just enjoy it. Enjoy the poop leaking out the diaper, enjoy the cluster feeding sessions, enjoy the wonder in your baby’s eyes as he/she discovers new things or looks at you with a heart full of love. It’s so important to know that you’ll never get to have that very same moment over again with your child, no matter how tired/emotional you are.
As always, I hope you’ve been able to take something out of this blog that you can use. I believe it’s important for us to share our experiences and advice in order to make life and parenting just that much easier. If there is anyone reading this that would like simply like someone to chat to, I’m a willing ear and would be more than happy to do so.