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Best Advice for First-Time, New Parents

A colleague of mine has a two-month old daughter.  Back at work while his wife enjoys another month at home, he still looked a little foggy and fuzzy as we caught up last week.  Beyond what baby gear essentials they needed, he wondered: what piece of advice did I (parent to three, eldest being 12) have for him?

My answer, which I learned from watching my own mother (full-time bread-winning, bread-making mama like me): ask for help when you need it, offer help when you can.

I am very much of the mindset that it takes a village to raise our children.  I very much believe in a community wherein we all play a role in helping shape our (collectively) children.  I need help.  I ask for help.  I give help.  One late Sunday evening, after all sorts of family commitments, school things, etc, I just could not get to the store to get milk.  I was catching up with another parent, and I sighed about being milkless at home.  She quickly suggested: "I'm going to the store right now, and I will get you milk and bring it over."  A small task for her, but a huge help for me.  When I had my third child, there was an amazing outpouring of endless meals delievered to us, the ultimate gift to parents of a newborn.  And, when I had to coordinate relocating my family of five to the next state down (*sniffle*), there was no way I could pack up my house without all the help from friends on multiple occasions.

So, for you: what would one of your top suggestions be as advice for first-time, new parents?



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The best advice is to create and prioritize a mom's group. There are numerous places around town that offer formal groups, with the Providence New Mom's groups being one of the best. Find a group of friends with similar aged children, stick with them, and you are all set.

You really will eventually get to sleep in normal (or at least more normal than now) patterns again. Maybe even sooner than you thought.

You're probably a better parent than you realize

And lastly,

If it hasn't already happened, getting to go to Fred Meyer by yourself will soon feel like going to a party

Never underestimate your influence as a parent.

First - everything is a phase. it will end, so if you are going through a bad one, don't worry, it will pass.

Don't be to hard on yourself. If your heart is in the right place, the little things like whether you let them cry it out or not, buy or make your own food, potty train at 2 or 3, co-sleep or not... these decisions are really insignificant. Love your children. Be present with your children. Do what feels right for your family to make your children feel loved and taken care of, and it will all be OK.

And everyone has those parenting moments they aren't proud of - times when they yelled too loud, used the wrong words, or whatever. Use those moments as a teachable time to show your children the power of a heart-felt apology, learning from your mistakes and doing better tomorrow.

And finally... I agree - it takes a village. Let people help. Help others. Learn from other parents, and teach them (through your actions, not words). Let other adults influence your children, and do the same.

Oh, one more thing...it goes by much too quickly. Enjoy it. One day, when your child is yelling I hate you while slamming a door in your face (and that time comes before you expect it), you'll be jonesing for the warmth and sweet smell of snuggling your baby in the middle of the night, even if it means you are sleep deprived.

My advice is to talk to other people - a lot. All too often we have issues with our children or parenting in general, and we don't realize that others are feeling just the same way. It helps to talk about what ails us, and our fears, and our hopes. Sharing these, I think, helps us be better parents.

Don't worry about clutter or little messes. Ignore anyone who asks, "is he/she sleeping through the night yet?". Have sex with your partner. Set the coffee maker to have the coffee brewed before your alarm goes off.

I am going to disagree with VJL and say never overestimate your influence as a parent.
Cut yourself slack. Don't sweat the little things. Take time to care for yourself. Sleep when you can even if there are chores to be done.

Love this advice, 'birdonfly'...almost exactly what I would have suggested...! I would also add: take a shower everyday (don't let anyone tell you there isn't time for this, there is, and it will make all the difference in the world), exercise in some shape or form as often as you can (take a walk with baby in stroller, backpack, frontpack, whatever), eat good, nourishing food as often as you can, and enjoy a beer/glass of wine when you can!

Don't read parenting books. Even all of the "experts" disagree or have conflicting theories of what you should do or what is best. Trust yourself to know, and know that what you should do in the first year is anything that makes it easier. Year one is all about survival.

Relax & let your life change. It is totally different than it was before kids, and you will never live that life again. So embrace and enjoy this new way of You, and the never-ceasing wonders and adventures that your new life holds. No regrets!

Never say never (as in, I will *never* do xyz as a parent); and don't judge other parents.

Realize that no book explains your child and your child is like no one else's. It does not matter what they say they are doing at each age, it matters that your child is happy and well and learning to be their own person.

Sadly, even with prioritizing community, village, etc. it is HARD when no one else wants to be the other part of that. So many groups that have fallen apart and I cannot control that. So learning how to get by in those cases, that you are what matters to your child most, not the outside world.

It is so amazing (and necessary) to talk to other parents but have faith that you know your child and family best. Their solutions won't work exactly the same way in your house as it did in theirs. Make the choices that sit right in your heart and gut even if it isn't the way others have handled something similar.

I second what Nicola said. While those books are helpful for their index at times, don't take them too seriously. Your best guide is your own kiddo..a living breathing textbook for what will work for him or her.

Oh and don't freak yourself out comparing your baby to others since every baby is different.

I agree about comparing, cutting yourself some slack and not following books. I've always been most critical of two books in particular:

"Becoming Babywise" on the conservative side of the spectrum that a neighbor gave me and I couldn't help wondering, "if you can't deal with losing some sleep and being inconvenienced why did you have a kid in the first place?"

And on the progressive end, "The What to Expect Books". While there IS some good advice, she's a health food nazi and her advice can get really, really weird. In the "Expecting" one under questions she's actually harsher towards the idea of drinking coffee (in actuality, the risks are inconclusive) versus a being cocaine addict. Yes, you read that right.

Oh...and absolutely, positively, the whole "I'll never" or "my kid will never".

I absolutely loath and despise fast food. It's not even just a health thing, it's a gross thing. I find it revolting (yes, big food snob here). Somehow or other my daughter was exposed to Mickey D's when she was younger and thought it was glorious. Yes for awhile I did permit it. For the past few years, she's found it every bit as putrid as I have, so it's no longer an issue.

Also, (again, big food snob), I found family friendly type restaurants and vacation resorts just sooooooooo stupid and bourgeois. After trying to "urban vacation" with a toddler, I understood exactly why such things existed. Fortunately, I always enjoyed theme parks and certain locations (like Disney) have really, really, REALLY nice hotels and restuarants, so everyone gets what they want.

Well, I'll support VJL's statement about your influence as a parent. You are shaping a person's personality. His/her likes and dislikes, reaction to conflict, relationship style, confidence, etc. will all be influenced to some degree by you and your partner.

My advice: never say never, remember that all kids are different, and definitely teach your baby sign language.

I do not believe for a minute that we shape a child's personality.

@Z - I agree, in fact it's why there's never a one size fits all solution. Parents frequently remark how they need to take different approaches to discipline with different kids and how different their children frequently are.

Obviously, it plays a part, but children ARE individuals---the idea that you can "program" them is absurd. NOt to mention about 12 billion other things contribute to influencing them, as well!

I think anyone who thinks they shape a kids personality only has one kid! I have three kids all born within two years of each other (in other words - shaped by the same environment). They have three different personalities. I can see how their environment can shape their likes and dislikes and opinions (ask a kid who they want to win the election, and they will likely say whomever their parents are voting for), but whether someone is high strung or laid back, logical or emotional, a visual learner or a tactile learner, etc... are very much genetic.

This is where parenting comes in. Figure out your child's personality traits and parent accordingly to help them make the most of their strengths and effectively manage their weaknesses.

Breathe, be gentle with yourself and your support network, and love your baby. It is okay to "slack" a little bit on the other parts of your life (self-care, work, extended friends networks, etc), your ability to focus and multi-task will come back, but with a different perspective.

I second the recommendation to teach your baby sign language. Once our daughter gained the ability to tell us exactly what she wanted (milk, food, water, help, sleep, etc.), it cut down on a lot of frustration for everyone.

Anotheranon, your response brought tears to my eyes. So thoughtful and sweet. Thank you.

Trust me, after you have your baby people will be handing out advice whether you want it or not!! So the biggest piece of advice I would give is to just trust your own instincts above all... and when in doubt, ask someone you trust. I also recommend trying cloth diapers. They are so much better for your baby's skin AND the environment too!

You are not alone! Come find us other mama's! We are here ready to welcome you into the fold. I remember pushing the stroller around crying in the middle of the day wondering where to find other mommas. I found them at www.parentinginportland.com and also if as time goes on and you need help with sleep, come find me:

I am a fellow mom who helped my baby learn to sleep after many sleepless months and then started helping countless other families. There is hope!

I started a sliding-scale sleep training consultation business after helping many families get the sleep they needed.

sweet dreams pdx offers in home consultations, followed with email and phone support. You are not alone!

sweet dreams pdx is here to support your family in reaching your sleep training goals.

Don't give up! Contact Mitzy at http://sweetdreamspdx.com/

I work with all types of families. I offer help with co-sleeping, night weaning, transitioning to crib, sleep training, re-training after sickness or traveling

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