I loved being pregnant. But everything changes once you become a parent. Your sleep is cut in half, you eat in instalments, and you may not know which day of the week it is — and that’s just after you have your first child. (Try 4!)
Just when you think you have this whole parenting gig figured out, the second baby comes along and life gets a lot more interesting!
And for someone so small, a baby definitely needs a lot of stuff. As a first-time parent, you’ve probably scoured the books, asked for advice on Facebook (and from your fellow mom besties) and Googled to see what you need to for baby and what you don’t.
Luckily for you, this veteran mom have been through this tango a couple of times and made a series of mistakes the first time around that I could luckily change and improve on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th time around. Here’s my advice that can keep you from making the same mistakes.
1. DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR
Somehow people are of the opinion that if they see a pregnant women, unsolicited advice should immediately follow. And this does not stop when baby is born. EVERYONE will want to give you advice on how best to raise your child.
One friend swears by co-sleeping with the baby. Your best friend warns against it. Your sister-in-law says it’s okay to let the baby suck her thumb. But your paediatrician prefers a pacifier.
Don’t believe everything you hear. Not even this article. Every single piece of advice is based on that person’s experience of what worked for them. “The only opinion that matters is yours,” says Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of Hyper-Parenting (St. Martin’s). “If you follow everyone else’s advice, you give up the most creative role in your life.”
Friends and relatives can offer useful parent-tested information. But remember: Your and your spouse’s intuition are the best guides. As Dr. Spock once wrote, “You know more than you think you do.”
2. DON’T STRICTLY FOLLOW THE BABY REGISTER CHECKLISTS
Every family’s situation is different, and to try and fit into the one-size-fits-all will do more harm than good at the end of the day.
Like going to the grocery store when you’re hungry, shopping can be risky for new parents. We shop hormonally! So I would advise taking a veteran mom or two with you to make that baby register. Someone who knows what you really need and can cut through the hype.
3. FORGET THE FANCY CHANGING TABLE
Don’t get me started on the changing table! What a great money-making idea for hormonal moms-be that feels this is the must-have item in baby’s room!
Yes, it’s very effective to have a station where everything is set up and ready. But babies out-grow this so quickly, and you’re back to changing baby on the bed, on the floor, or any space where you can keep them entertained long enough without holding this octopus down before they wet (or dirty!) the surrounding area.
If you must, get a changing table that can eventually become a dresser or toy-cupboard for baby. But don’t go all out on this one. Trust me.
4. NAPPY BRAAI
Oooooooh. My. WORD. Nappies (and wetwipes!) for DAAAAAAAYS!
Tip one – do a nappy braai. Your husband will thank you. (For the braai AND for saving him thousands on those nappies and wetwipes!)
Tip two – don’t only buy/register for newborn sizes. All babies are different and will grow to the next sizes quite quickly.
Tip three – most baby stores and even Pnp & Checkers will exchange the unopened pack of nappies for a different size if they stock it. #LIFESAVER #BABYHACK
5. BOTTLES COME IN DIFFERENT SIZES
Our first and third child hated the bottle. But there comes a time when we need to give them a bottle – whether it’s formula, tea, water, or expressed breastmilk so you can have one hour to yourself.
Luckily with our first, we received a variety of bottles. We tried all of them, and the only one she would take was Tommee Tippee. The second time around, we though we got this, and gave him the Tommee Tippee Bottles. No thanks. He only took the Avent. Go figure.
Try to be flexible, if you can, and not decide on a brand beforehand. Obviously get a bottle or two, but your child might decide your boobs feel more like a NUK-bottle to him. Go with it.
6. OVERESTIMATING FREE TIME
Whether you’re planning to take weeks, months, or years off from your job, don’t kid yourself into thinking that being home with a baby is a holiday. No, you’re actually starting a new job, with a tiny, more vocal little boss who is more demanding and won’t even give you nights off. Or weekends.
I thought I would complete baby’s book, finish our pre-baby life scrapbook, create lovely homemade meals and maybe start a few craft projects while baby sleeps. (Insert hysterical laughter here)
Set one realistic task every day: Return a phone call, write three thank-you notes, make the bed, brush your teeth. At the end of each day, you’ll be able to cross that one thing off your list. Some days are hard, but some days you will be able write in baby’s book, finish the scrapbook, create a lovely homemade meal and start a craft project. You’ve got this.
The first level of your community is the people around you. The learning curve is steep for new moms and dads alike, so don’t shut out your spouse. Let him find his way around the nursery. You may initially diaper her faster or bathe her with more confidence. But your spouse needs to master these tasks too. Caring for a baby is simply too much work for one person to do alone. While he is doing his part, don’t hover, criticize, or constantly instruct.
Secondly, remember that you’re not alone. You’re not the first person to have a baby and be completely overwhelmed. It’s OK to need help. And although it might be SEVERELY intimidating to ask for help, people are absolutely willing to because they’ve been there. (And seriously, don’t you also get a kick out of helping someone that obviously needs it?)
I remember when Emily was only 3 weeks old, our neighbour knocked on the door at just before 1pm to see how I was doing with baby. This mom burst into tears and told her I haven’t even showered and I’m so tired and I can’t remember where I left her diaper bag for the colic drops!! (I think my answer was actually 3x longer than that in a undecipherable crying voice) She came inside, took baby, told me to go take a shower, and found the drops – on the kitchen counter, naturally.
Use your community. Not only will you benefit from a few extra hands, the support you get from your village is priceless.
8. DON’T NEGLECT YOUR SPOUSE
Baby can take everything you have. Literally. And by the end of the day when my husband came home, I was completely touched-out and felt like I had no more to give.
Making the transition from carefree twosome to parenting an infant is the biggest challenge to many marriages. But you have to decide beforehand to make your marriage a priority. One thing we decided on, was that we would always greet and kiss each other first. I could see at times it was hard not to come into the house and want to kiss and cuddle and talk to baby first, but he would do this one thing to remind me that it was always me first.
It’s an intimidating journey, but such a fulfilling one. Be easier on yourself, and your spouse. Give yourself grace on the days when it’s harder than others. You are the best choice for your baby. Of all the moms in the world, He chose you.
And remember, your journey is completely different from the person next to you. Find your way.
You’ve got this.