Some Parenting Tips For The First-Time Parent

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated August 2, 2022
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When you’re going to be a parent for the very first time, it is understandable that you might feel nervous or unsure about what life is going to look like from now on. You’re constantly looking online for positive parenting tips and insight into what people think is good vs. bad for parenting babies. You’re reading all the books for new parents about child’s development and effective discipline and reading every piece of advice that websites give to get a sense of what to expect when it comes to baby care. Your head may be filled with advice, suggestions, and resources that people love to give new parents of infants.

And there are so many different styles out there for a new parent to consider: helicopter parenting, attachment parenting, positive parenting, gentle parenting, and so on. How can you possibly know which of these types of parenting best fits you and your lifestyle until you’re in the situation? Luckily there are many support systems, resources, and professionals—like an online therapist— out there to help new parents, that you can reach out to for advice.

The first thing you should know as a parent is that you don’t know what you’re going to do until you’re in the situation yourself. You can say until the cows come home that helicopter parenting or positive parenting are not the right style for you, that you’ll never let your kid co-sleep or watch television, and that you’ll always feed your children only the best food.

But the truth is, every child is different, and every parent is different. While certain skills and tips for good behavior work for one person, they might not necessarily work for another person – and that’s okay! You may develop a great way of parenting that’s right for your child. As a new parent, the key is discovering what works best for you and your child depending on their age, and if that means going against the style you always thought you would embrace as a parent, so be it…and everyone does it with at least one thing or another.

Advice For New Caretakers Of Newborns

Parenting a newborn can be a terrifying experience. But babies can also bring you a lot of joy! As a new parent, you may be thinking how overwhelming it is to be 100 percent responsible for this little person who cannot do a thing for themselves but doesn’t look at it that way. That can be very normal feeling. It can also be the surest way to paralyze yourself and even affect your health, and it’s not necessary. There are many parenting tips and resources for parents of newborns that can help you take care of your baby and develop confidence as you learn to set rules and discover your parenting style.

Before you know it, you and your baby will fall into a daily routine that works best for you. At first it can be scary, but once you’re in the habit every day of feeding them, calming them when they’re crying, and caring for them in all ways, it becomes less of an obligation and more a duty or act of love and devotion.

Yes, newborns are solely dependent on you as their parent, but that’s not what becomes important. What does become important are those moments you share when you bond over watching them try new foods, and then spit them out all over you. Or when you hold them during a feeding. Or when they become a toddler, and you can enjoy family dinners around the kitchen table. As it is in many cultures, food becomes a joy the two of you can share together. Yes, we need it to survive, but how many of us even think of food that way as an adult?

Something important to remember, too, is that parents who seek out help as first-time parents tend to feel less overwhelmed. Don’t try to take on everything yourself, and don’t feel like a failure if you can’t. They don’t say “it takes a village to raise a child” for nothing! Raising a kid is hard work, and you can ask for help when you need it. Your family's advice will be much needed in this goal of raising a child. Many hospitals offer resources for parents of newborns. Reach out to your community and ask for your friend's help if you need it. You might also seek the help of a baby nurse, your family, your doctor or nurse, and friends.

Caring For Your Newborn During The First Few Weeks

New parents may wonder how to best care for their newborn baby at home. You likely have great instincts – love the baby, keep the baby safe, feed the baby, keep the baby comfortable, change the baby’s diaper, watch the baby's behavior, and more. But there are also some other things your baby’s doctor may recommend doing during the first few weeks at home. These are examples of infant care, but always check with your baby’s doctor to be sure you’re doing what’s in the best interest of your baby!

 

Breastfeeding

Here’s a great tip for breastfeeding mothers: you will thank your past self a hundred times over if you prepare in advance for a feeding. Make sure you pee first and grab your phone so that it’s within reach. Some moms have marathon feeders who then fall asleep, and then they're paralyzed with nothing to do out of fear of waking the baby. You may want to grab a book to read, but if the baby is lying on your arm (and chances are they will be) then a magazine that you can flip with one hand is probably easier.

When it’s time for a feeding, don’t forget to grab yourself a drink to stay hydrated, so you can keep making that precious milk, and a snack if you think you might get hungry, and you suspect the feeding session will go on for a while. And if you are a parent whose partner is breastfeeding– offer support constantly! Your help can be one of the best resources for your children's parent.

If you’d like support with breastfeeding or have other concerns about feeding your baby, lactations consultants can be great resources for support and information. Many hospitals have lactation consultants on staff. They can help you with the logistics of breastfeeding, such as the best way to be sure the baby’s mouth latches on, how to support the baby’s head, and how to relieve discomfort with certain behaviors or exercises. They can also offer you emotional support through the process. If you’re concerned about your baby returning to their birth weight, you can talk about this with your lactation consultant and your baby’s doctor. (A baby’s birth weight may decrease after birth.)

Sleeping

Being a new parent can come with new challenges. Adjusting to little sleep may be one of them. Everyone knows that when you’re the parent of a newborn – and, for many parents, this extends until the child is at least a teenager – the desire for uninterrupted sleep becomes a yearning we never knew we could feel so strongly and with such aggression. However, you will do much better with losing sleep once you accept the fact that yes, as a new parent, you will lose sleep. Being angry or stressed out about pushing yourself to your limits can only make it worse for parents. Keep in mind that your baby really will eventually reach an age when they’ll sleep through the night.

 

If you just gave birth, you may find you can sleep more comfortably now. Perhaps you’ve even spent the months of pregnancy sleeping on your left side and now you can change positions. Try to enjoy these bits of sleep, even if they’re brief during the baby’s first weeks of life, and know that your baby really will get into good sleep habits (and more regular feeding patterns) with time.

 

For working parents, going back to work on three hours sleep a night is something we never thought we could do, or at least haven’t done since we pulled an all-nighter going to parties in our younger days. Everyone who is a new parent finds a way to survive it, though. If you’re not breastfeeding, grab yourself an extra-large coffee to help you slog through it. If you are breastfeeding, ask your partner or a family member to help out so that when you get home, you can take that well-deserved nap without any consequences.

And the parenting adage of “sleep when the baby sleeps” cannot be stressed enough. It’s so important that new parents put their old hang-ups aside about going to bed at 6:00 at night, only to be up again at 10:00 to calm a crying baby, or taking several naps in your home's living room throughout the day. Most babies sleep on and off during their first days or weeks at home. You will feel infinitely more well-rested if you sleep when the baby sleeps than if you decide to tough it out and just go to bed early or on time.

Your baby is more than likely not on the same schedule you are, unless you are incredibly lucky, so if you force yourself to go to bed at, say, 9:00, and your baby wants to eat at 10:00, you’re going to have a much harder time convincing yourself to get up. And it will be all the more frustrating for you if the baby happens to have a witching hour when you’ve already gotten an hour of sleep, and your body is yearning for more. Many newborns only sleep for short periods of time, but rest assured that babies do begin sleeping longer and longer, and so will their parents!

Something else important to know as a new parent of a baby: you don’t have to be quiet just because the baby is sleeping. In fact, you’ll thank yourself if you aren’t. Most babies can sleep through noise. Don’t forget it’s noisy in the womb, too – they could hear everything that’s going on outside your body before birth, so why quiet down now?Parents can go about their daily business and do what they need to get done while the baby sleeps. Vacuum the house – yes, including the baby’s room. Get the dishes done. Make that phone call you’ve meant to make. Connect with friends. Not only will you feel relieved that you were able to get your tasks done, but you are doing a world of good for your baby who will be able to sleep through the noise as they get older, rather than needing total quiet to sleep, which may not always be the most possible of expectations to have. But remember that when you’re a tired new parent, it’s good to nap when the baby naps!

At night, try dimming the lights low when you’re feeding the baby. This can be relaxing for the new parents and may even help the baby begin the regulate their sleep cycles according to day and night. Whether you’re bottle feeding or breastfeeding the baby, you can expect that you’ll be up with the baby quite a bit during the baby’s first days of life at home, so again, try to sleep when the baby sleeps.

Take care when putting your baby to sleep to protect them from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Your doctor can offer you advice, such as placing your baby on their back to sleep and not overheating the baby. Using a flat, firm crib mattress and keeping the crib as bare as possible are also precautions. Guidance is available from the American Academy of Pediatrics to safeguard your baby.

If you’re worried about your baby’s sleep, feeding, crying, or anything else at any age or stage of their development, your baby’s doctor can offer advice, resources, and tips to help you, so please reach out for support.

Bathing

Giving your baby a sponge bath: Because you don’t want the umbilical cord area to get wet, a gentle sponge bath can be a good way to bathe your new infant. But always follow the doctor’s directions. This may include keeping the umbilical cord area dry and exposing it to air. (People used to use rubbing alcohol, but this isn’t as common now.)

Many babies—even those at a young age—find sponge baths relaxing. You’ll can lay your baby on a towel on a safe surface. Using a cotton ball dipped in warm (but not hot) water, you can gently wipe one eyelid area from the nose toward the outer eye. Then repeat on the other eye with a new, clean cotton ball. Using a clean wash dipped in warm water, you can gently wipe your baby’s face and ears. You can then put a few drops of mild soap or baby shampoo on a washcloth to gently clean the baby’s head (the scalp area). After rinsing the head, you can wash the rest of the baby’s body with a soapy washcloth. Try to clean the areas of skin where there are little folds and creases – like under the arms and chin. Use another clean, damp wash cloth the rinse the soap off the baby’s head and body. Then gently dry your baby. If your baby has hair, you can use a very soft brush made for babies. Enjoy your clean fresh bundle of joy!

Preventing Diaper Rash: A new baby’s skin can be sensitive, and the diaper area is no exception. The best way to treat and prevent diaper rash is to keep the skin in the diaper area clean and dry. After you’ve cleaned and dried the skin, you can apply a gentle cream or ointment made for babies if your doctor recommends it. Some include petroleum jelly or zinc. A changing table can be helpful for changing diapers and keeping supplies handy but keeping your baby safe wherever you change them is, of course, the most important thing! If you have concerns about diaper rash—or about anything regarding your baby—talk to your baby’s doctor.

Don’t Worry About Your Weight

When you’re a new birth parent, the last thing you should be worrying about is losing the weight you gained during pregnancy right away. Your day will come. Right now, making sure you are healthy so that you can take care of your baby and making sure that your baby is happy and healthy are your two top priorities.

Once that day finally comes, and your baby has matured to an age where you can start taking back some moments for yourself (usually during mid-toddlerhood), that’s when you can focus on getting to a weight that you feel comfortable in. And remember, with the pregnancy and the parenting that you have been focusing on, during that time you have been getting older. And getting older usually makes it all the more difficult to lose weight.

Experts recommend that a new parent remembers that it took around 40 weeks to gain the baby weight, so expect for it to take just as long to lose it. Don’t get frustrated if you haven’t met your ideal weight within three months of giving birth. Sometimes, when you’re stressing out over dealing with tantrums all day, you’re going to want to splurge for those cookies or that piece of cake, and that’s okay.

As long as you are persistent and consistent during the other days of the week, you will eventually see the pounds fall off. You just have to keep at it and don’t let yourself become discouraged. It may take longer than you initially hoped, but it will happen. Don’t lose the faith.

If you are looking for help, many resources are available. Are you a first-time parent who is looking for more advice? Consider reaching out to one of our counselors at BetterHelp for more information.

Sources:

https://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/your-newborn-30-tips-for-the-first-30-days/

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/babyproof-your-sanity-6-tips-for-new-parents#1

https://www.mom365.com/baby/moms-health/12-great-newborn-mom-tips

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