Most parents are blindsided by the arrival of their first baby. Like the meteor that struck and wiped out the dinosaurs, the arrival of your first baby will undoubtedly cause vast changes to the household. Unlike the dinosaurs, however, you do have some warning and ample time to prepare so you won't be blindsided when the time comes.
There is lots of information out there, and your parents, friends and relatives might even pull you aside to offer you a word of advice. However, even if they don’t, here is what to expect when you first bring your baby home:
1. Baby is Now Your First Priority
Many new parents expect it, but the time and energy that you need to spend caring for your newborn child is often overwhelming. From irregular sleep cycles to feeding sessions, to your first outing, it is a stressful, tiring experience. However, these experiences condition you for the rigours of parenthood, so embrace them as a form of training.
2. Learn to Understand Your Child
The first few months of parenthood are often confusing. In the beginning, you are subject to the whims of your newborn, and there is nothing quite as demanding than a baby. Over the next few months, you will learn about the many quirks of your child and how to respond to them. Use a notebook to record important information, and do not shy away from help on the subject when it is offered. You will initially be at a loss about what to do at times, but as things move along, you will get better at it.
3. Take Care of Yourself
What many new parents don't realise is that if they let themselves become a physical and mental wreck, they are not in optimal shape to be caring for their kids. For example, Mum should eat well and often especially if she is breastfeeding, nap when the baby naps, and be sure to grab a bit of fresh air regularly. Meanwhile, Dad should be on the lookout and attempt to offload the burden from Mum whenever possible, and keep in good shape in case of emergencies.
You will find that child care is much easier when you split the work. For example, Dad may want to take charge of the household chores while Mum recuperates and cares for the child. Learning to communicate and delegate tasks to one another while caring for your child can improve relationships and reduce stress.
5. Get Help
Do not hesitate to accept help from friends and family. Gifts of food and volunteers are a godsend when you may not have the time to cook and clean. You also stand to gain access to a vast pool of parenting experience. However, in the earlier days when the mother and child are still recuperating, consider limiting visitors and set timings for visitors when mother and child are at their most alert. You should also maintain a support list of friends that you can depend on for help.
It is important to know that each baby is unique, with individual behaviours, milestones and reactions. The moment that baby is carried through the door and into the home, marks the beginning of many years of happiness (and yes, some stress, anxiety and frustration…), but it is an experience that no mom or dad would ever trade away.
Taking care of a baby takes a lot of time and effort, so be prepared!
Parents should communicate with one another and delegate tasks in order to reduce stress and make things easier for both sides.
Readily accept help, but consider limiting visitors during the recuperation period after childbirth.