It feels like everyone is having babies at the moment. There are so many delightful bumps in my social circle. As a result there has been an increase in conversations about parenting advice. As a Mama of three who has learnt as she has gone along, these are the tips I would love to give new parents, or go back in time and tell myself.
Less is more.
You don't need all the fancy baby goods at the baby store. All you really need is a car seat, somewhere for baby to sleep (bassinette, cot, your bed, up to you), a rocker or similar for them to safely rest, bedding, clothes, wraps, nappies (cloth or disposable), wipes, gentle bath wash (many babies have sensitive skin - I found GIA and Dermaveen were best), washers, towels, a few toys and books, a sling, a high chair, and a stroller that reclines. Baby will grow out of most of those gadgety things in their first year. As the old saying goes - a baby is only as expensive as you make them.
Listen to your baby.
There comes a point where you need to throw away the books and trust your instincts. If baby is hungry, feed them. Feeding on demand makes more sense to me than trying to schedule feeds. I'm not always hungry at the same time each for the exact same amount of food, so why should a growing baby be? It's ok to let them feed to sleep. One health nurse in particular had me paranoid about letting my first born feed to sleep. I feared being 'used' and him 'developing bad habits.' Thank goodness another health nurse asked me, 'What could be more natural.' Indeed! And as controversial as this topic is, I have to say, don't leave them to cry. Babies cry to communicate - hunger, discomfort, tiredness. Hold them, kiss them, rock them to sleep. You can not spoil them. If your friend was crying, you wouldn't just leave them to cry it out, you would comfort them.
It's your choice.
Everyone has an opinion on breast or bottle feeding, and sleeping arrangements. I like Dr Sears comment that no one should tell a parent how to feed their baby or where it should sleep. Research your options and do what works for you. You are allowed to change your mind. And what works now might change later.
You are not alone.
Mothers groups and Playgroups provide a support network of parents and carers with similarly aged children. It's often reassuring to know other babies and toddlers are doing exactly the same things yours are, and feels good to be able to share, laugh and commiserate over the joys and frustrations of parenthood.
It never hurts to ask.
For up to date information in Australia you can turn to your local health nurse, the Australian Breastfeeding Association, 13HEALTH or your GP. If you're not sure about a cough/ rash/ cut etc it's better to go to the Doctors and risk nothing being wrong, that not go and risk something being wrong.
I am biased, but I love baby wearing. A sling or carrier can be your best friend and leave your hands free. It's a beautiful way to bond with and respond to baby. It's particularly convenient when you have other children. I wear Oscar in a sling daily and he loves it and is lulled to sleep while I'm walking, or experiences the world from the safety of his Mama.
Baby lead weaning.
I only tried this with my second child and I would never go back to 'traditional' solids. Be gone mushy food. Be gone baby cereal. A simpler, more natural and faster way to introduce solids to babies. Lots of great info here.
This too shall pass.
Before becoming a parent, you felt sorry for the child having a tantrum at the shops, after having children you feel sorry for the parent. So often our children are going through normal developmental stages, which doesn't make them any less challenging. Stay informed and keep your expectations realistic for their age. Talk to other parents about how they are managing the same behaviors. And remember, this too shall pass!
It pays to have a sense of humor as a parent. From exploding nappies, to projectile vomit, there's a whole new range of experiences before you. That little baby will eventually draw on the walls, or poo in the bath, break your favorite cup, open the door while you are in the public toilet, and no matter how high or how well you hide the nappy cream, sooner or later they will find it and smear it on themselves/ room/ toys. Not to mention nearly all the promises you made yourself pre-children will be broken - I'll never raise my voice/ go out without make up/ let my child eat that... And especially pre-children thoughts like 'My child will never act like that/ get away with that/ throw a tantrum in public' will be proven wrong. It's easier to cope in these situations if you can keep your sense of humor.
Just love them.
This is my mantra. Sometimes patience runs out. Sometimes frustration, sleep deprivation and stress are your constant companions. Sometimes you need to hand the baby to your partner and have a long bath and a glass of wine without any interruptions. And when that's not an option, and you feel like you aren't being the kind of parent you want to be, reminding yourself to 'just love them' can help diffuse the situation and change the gears in your mind so you can begin problem solving.
Please leave any other tips or advice you have in the comments!