This blog is all about new things I’m experiencing this year. Many of them are related to having a baby, but I’ve not yet actually acknowledged that the sheer fact of being a mum is the biggest “first” I’ve ever experienced. Pretty much every new parent starts the world’s most important and responsible job with no or little experience. There are no user manuals, no instruction sessions and no supervisors to consult. So here are some vital tips I’d like to share with any future and new parents out there:
1. Get yourself a trusted helper
This may be a midwife, an experienced mum from your circle of friends, your own father, sister or mother-in-law or whoever feels right to you. Consult them whenever you need advice and – this is the important bit – rely on their opinions. Especially in the very beginning, everybody will be sharing their advice, parenting horror stories and meaningless sayings with you. They will all disagree with each other (the nurses in the hospital just after F. was born couldn’t even agree which nappy size he needed!), so it’s important that you pick that one person you will believe and trust and then confidently dismiss any opposing advice (unless, of course, you realize the person you thought you could trust actually can’t be relied on). On a similar note, ignore online mummy forums about health issues. If you’re not sure about something, consult the paediatrician.
2. Don’t fall into the guilt trap
Manufacturers of baby products and baby shops will constantly imply that you’re only a good parent if you are willing to splash out on your kids. That’s rubbish! Sure, in some cases it’s important to buy quality (organic food, skin care that’s suitable for babies, a car seat that’s safe to use…) but you’re not a bad mum or dad if you don’t spend a grand on a pram or if you don’t have a fully set-up nursery by pregnancy week 24. The baby wants (and needs) to be safe, loved, fed and changed regularly. That’s it for the beginning. Babies don’t care about brand names or wall paint. You don’t even need to buy specific baby products in many cases (as with weddings, the label “baby” just means the price will go up). Any rapeseed oil can be added to homemade babyfood, it doesn’t have to be the one from the baby section in the drugstore. Instead of a baby paddling pool, use your washtub. Design a baby album yourself instead of buying an expensive pre-styled one. Trust me, raising a child will cost you enough as it is. Don’t be afraid to save money when it’s possible and appropriate.
If you choose to cook babyfood yourself, brilliant! But do yourself a favour and make enough for ten or more days and then freeze it in individual portions. It tastes just as good (well, to the baby anyway ;-)) once it’s been defrosted and saves you so much time. You do not want to start peeling potaoes and boiling meat when the baby is already cranky with hunger.
Also: make fruit (e.g. strawberry) ice cubes from mashed or pureed fruit and use them in homemade porridge. Not only does it add some flavour and vitamins, but it’s a brilliant way of cooling the food down quicker. Alternatively, just be cleverer than me and start cooking on time, i.e. long before the little one shows any signs of hunger.
It’s true what they say: time speeds up ridiculously once you’ve got children. So make the most of every day. Sing for your baby, play with them, spend as much time together as a family as you can. They’ll be leaving for uni before you know it. But don’t forget that your life isn’t just about the baby, either. Enjoy yourself as an adult once in a while. You need and deserve it and you’ll be so much better at the parenting job after a break.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Being a parent can be tiring and exhausting. So if you feel like it’s getting too much, ask for help. Hire a babysitter, ask the grandparents or speak to a health care professional. A tiny person relies entirely on you so make sure you’re capable of caring for them. And if you ever find yourself in a situation where you can’t bear the screaming anymore: make sure the baby is in a safe place without any dangerous objects nearby and leave the room for a deep breath and some silence.
6. Get fresh air
I haven’t spent as much time outdoors as I did this past year since my own childhood. Going for walks or sitting in the park will do you and your baby good. Fresh air, a bit of exercise and a change of scenery – just what the doctor ordered!
7. Don’t worry about your weight
Pregnancy will change your body. And it will take a while to get back into shape. But relax. They say it takes as long for the baby belly to come as it takes for it to leave again. It may even take longer. Be patient and kind with yourself. Your body just created a new life!
I know there is a lot of controversy about this, but really it’s crystal clear: vaccinations save lives. Not only the ones of those who’ve got them but also the ones of those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons or because they’re still too young but who will be protected if a disease isn’t spread due to the fact that the majority of people are vaccinated.
9. Trust your instincts
You know why babies don’t come with a user manual? Because we don’t need one! Being a parent comes with a natural instinct that will tell you what’s right for you and your little one. Get instructions when it comes to the facts (like how much a baby needs to eat and drink or what temperature the bath should be) but go with your gut for the rest. You decide whether to have a strict schedule or just let the baby eat or sleep when they want. Take them to baby classes if you like, but don’t feel like you have to. Nobody knows your child better than you so you know best what’s good for them.
And now get off the Internet and enjoy some quality time with your family! 🙂