While parenthood as a whole can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience - the newborn stage can be one of the most challenging times ever. Yet the only way to get through it is to get through it. And sometimes grinning and bearing it just won’t cut it. Honestly, as long as a baby is happy and healthy, no parent should feel bad about what they need to do in order to survive this particular phase of life. It may be short lived - but it doesn’t always feel that way.
The good news is that when it comes to parenting, the parents get final say on their decisions - critics be damned! It is up to them to figure out what works best for their family - through research, talking to other parents, and trial and error. It’s also important to remember that nothing is set in stone - parents are free to borrow from a variety of methods in order to create a personalized plan that provides the best results.
That’s not to say controversies will be avoided. When it comes to pregnancy and parenting, almost anything can incite a firestorm of criticism and judgement. But one thing is certain - the more a parent tries to appease their critics, the more ragged they will be run. Our advice to new parents is to tune out the noise, focus on themselves and their newest addition and do what they deem best. Here are 15 controversial tips to surviving life with a newborn.
15 Good Night, Nurse!
Imagine there was a service where a new baby was cared for all night long while parents enjoyed a night of uninterrupted slumber. Well there is and while it doesn’t come cheap, hiring a night nurse (even temporarily) may be the perfect way to ease into this whole parenting thing.
Typically, night nurses are midwives, doulas or even retired RNs whose sole purpose is to feed, change, cuddle and settle babies down throughout the night. Some night nurses even assist frazzled parents with sleep training their infants as well.
Oftentimes, new parents hire night nurses for a variety of reasons including:
- An extra pair of experienced hands is needed while a partner is away.
- They require some additional help with multiple babies.
- The parenthood adjustment is taking longer than planned.
- Exhausted parents are hoping for some undisturbed and quality sleepy-time.
And don’t think that breastfeeding moms are left out in the cold on this one. A night nurse can bring a hungry baby to and from a nursing mother. As soon as feeding is done, mom can go straight back to sleep while the night nurse burps, changes and puts the baby back to sleep once again.
14 Elimination Communication
Another controversial school of thought many forward-thinking parents have adopted goes by the acronym EC (Elimination Communication). The gist behind EC is not using diapers. While it doesn’t exactly sound like a simple or easy practice for new parents, many beg to differ. Supporters claim that EC practices are more hygienic, environmentally responsible, less expensive and help to simplify future toilet training.
Actress Mayim Bialik is a proponent of this diaper-free method which requires extreme dedication and commitment from parents. Basically, parents listen and watch their babies closely for cues concerning their elimination needs. When baby needs to pee or poo, the parent holds them above the intended target - whether a toilet, sink, potty, bowl or the ground. According to EC advocates, this natural way of caring for a baby also establishes a stronger parent/child bond.
Two important considerations to keep in mind before undertaking EC are these:
- The level of commitment required - Parents need to have the time and inclination to focus on EC.
- The climate they live in - If a baby or toddler is running around diaper-free, it's probably for the best that it's warm outside.
13 Help Wanted
Figuring out what help and support a new parent will require (before they actually require it) can be somewhat tricky. In an online article for The Bump, Kelly Alfieri suggests resisting immediate offers from well-meaning family and friends. NYC parenting support expert Lisa Spiegel encourages new parents to “Take a few days with the baby and experience what it’s like, and then you can decide what help will really help you.”
If feasible, many new parents will hire paid help for more mundane tasks (at least temporarily) to give themselves more time to ease into their new roles. While life will eventually find a new balance, until then a few services on which new parents consider money well-spent include:
- Diaper pick-up and delivery
- House cleaning services
- Meal and grocery delivery
- Laundry services
If money is too tight to even consider any of these options, the next time a family member or friend ask how they can help, look to the list and make a specific suggestion.
12 Team Snooze
Many new parents are firm believers in the concept of room or bed-sharing with their newborns. Before delving further into this topic, a few definitions will clear things up. Co-sleeping means a baby and parent are sleeping within close contact of each other. The two terms room-sharing and bed-sharing both fall under the umbrella of co-sleeping but differ considerably. Room-sharing refers to a baby being nearby, in a crib, bassinet or attached bedside sleeper. Bed-sharing means that an infant sleeps in bed with a parent.
Both practices may make feeding and tending to a newborn during the night a less disruptive activity. There is closer proximity, less movement required as well as easier access for feeding and changing. The belief is that the sooner these tasks are accomplished and because of the security an infant may feel being close to a parent, the quicker they will settle back to sleep.
That said, there are risks involved where bed-sharing is concerned. Babies who share a bed with a parent are at higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and in danger of suffocating or strangling. As well, sometimes a parent actually gets less-quality sleep than if baby was in another room.
11 Cute, Cuddly and Portable
No one’s suggesting that new parents pack up a toddler and tote them along to a horror movie or fancy Italian restaurant. But a newborn? Heck yeah! As long as baby’s healthcare provider deems them fine for public outings, the first few weeks are the most ideal time to cart baby along wherever the parents may be going. Besides occasionally eating and pooping, newborns pretty much spend the rest of their time sound asleep.
So while a few skeptics may raise their eyebrows when they see new parents lugging their covered bundle into a movie theatre or to an evening dinner party, chances are they won’t even notice them after a couple of minutes. Don’t squander these precious first weeks - enjoy a few hours of cinematic entertainment or partake in some social hobnobbing, all the while keeping baby within close range.
Of course, if baby does turn into a handful then it’s best to pack them up and get out of dodge before someone has to specifically ask parents and their fussy brat to leave. This portable newborn phase is short-lived - soon enough baby will be more alert and require much more attention so enjoy it while it lasts!
10 Catcher In The RIE
Most people are familiar with the term “helicopter parent” - but what many don’t realize is that there’s another school of thought that is kind of the opposite. It’s called RIE and stands for Resources for Infant Educators. The basic principle behind RIE is respect - parents observe and wait for their babies to initiate interaction and then assist them as needed. No matter how young, babies are encouraged to be an active participant in all their care activities. RIE supporters are also largely against any items they believe disrespect a baby such as: toys, soothers, highchairs, sippy cups and bouncers.
Developed by Magda Gerber in the 1940s, the RIE method of parenting is lauded as creating independent and self-aware children while also maintaining a more equal relationship between parent and child. Since it’s introduction into mainstream society, it has been embraced by many celebrities including Jamie Lee Curtis, Tobey Maguire and Penelope Cruz to name a few.
While in the right hands, RIE may prove an effective parenting tool, it also requires some discretion and limits. Children and babies don’t necessarily know what is in their best interest and parents may need to intervene for safety’s sake . . . as well as for their own sanity!
9 Mix And Match
No matter what anyone says, there is no all-or-nothing rule when it comes to breastfeeding a baby. In fact, mixing and matching mother’s milk with formula can allow a new mom to experience the best of both worlds. Not only can feeding duties be more balanced between partners (especially during the night), but it simplifies the process of leaving the baby temporarily because of work or pleasure.
That said, if a new mom does hope to breastfeed for an extended period (even if adding formula into the mix), she is well-advised to nurse exclusively until her milk supply has been established (around the four to six week mark). Otherwise, her milk supply may be negatively affected and start to taper off.
When first introducing baby to a bottle, some trial and error may be required in order to get it right. It’s recommended that another person (other than the nursing mother) bottle feeds and because there are so many different types of bottles and nipples, it may take a bit of time to find the one that works best. Experts also suggest that when bottle feeding a baby, they be held in a position different than when they nurse.
8 Suck On It!
It seems kind of silly that such a small piece of plastic and silicone can inspire heated debates within the parenting community. But it’s the truth. While the pros and cons revolving around soother use are many - the decision whether or not to give one to a newborn is up to the parent and no one else.
Even before birth, babies have an extremely strong suck reflex - some can be seen sucking on their fingers in utero. While providing no real nutritional value, sucking is an instinctual behavior that has a calming effect on a baby. Advantages for soother use include:
- They often soothe a fussy baby (hence the word "soother").
- They can be instrumental in getting a baby to sleep quickly.
- Soother-sucking is often an easier habit to break as opposed to thumb-sucking.
- Research shows a correlation between soother usage and a reduced risk of SIDS.
On the other side of the soother, many experts believe:
- Soother usage interferes with breastfeeding.
- It may increase the risk of baby suffering from ear infections.
- It may possibly even lead to future dental issues.
7 Break Time
Leaving a baby with a sitter, while an extremely personal decision, can be done no matter how new they may be. As long as mom and dad are comfortable with the idea, there’s no reason not to! Parents may notice that as soon as a new baby is on scene, many people are happy to provide babysitting services. So when offers are put forth, be sure to snap them up.
While most experts agree that it’s best not to give exclusively breastfed babies a bottle until a new mother’s milk supply is well-established (generally around the four to six week mark), there’s no reason someone can’t watch baby while parents get a few quick errands or chores done or choose to spend the time having a bath or nap.
Even better, have the sitter arrive early - then as soon as mom has fed the baby, the couple can slip somewhere close to home for a date night. If the parents are not back when baby requires the next feeding, the couple can be called back home quickly.
It may seem like a lot of planning and organization is required for any sort of child-free outing, but trust us . . . it will be worth it!
6 To Ferberize Or Not to Ferberize
Dr. Richard Ferber M.D. is a baby expert with special focus on pediatric sleep issues. While many parents correlate the name Ferber with the act of letting a baby cry themselves to sleep, this is not actually the case. While Dr. Ferber does advocate a number of possible solutions for sleep-issues, he suggests tailoring parent responses based on the specific issue as well as the family dynamic.
In a recent article posted on parenting.com, Dr. Ferber states: “ . . . Almost all children have the potential to sleep well. Once you understand the causes of your child’s sleep problems, you can make the changes necessary . . .” That said, he insists that there is no one cure-all solution although he does stress the importance of a baby learning and being encouraged to learn independent self-soothing strategies.
While most ferberizing methods are not recommended for brand new infants, it is never too early for new parents to begin practicing good habits that will lead to easier transitions in the future.
5 Back To Sleep?
For more than 20 years, parents have been urged to settle newborn babies to sleep on their backs rather than on their stomach or side. Research has shown that back-sleeping decreases the risk of SIDS. The frustrating thing, as many parents can attest to, is that most babies tend to settle to sleep quickly and stay asleep for longer stretches when on their tummies. It’s just a more comfortable and natural sleeping position and they are less likely to startle themselves awake.
Despite the fact that back-sleeping is the safer and medically sanctioned bedtime position for infants, many parents choose to go against the expert opinion. As of 2014, research suggested that almost 30% of newborns within the U.S. were routinely put to bed on their stomachs. The reasons for doing so varied although most parents claimed to be worried about baby choking or admitted they were just hoping for an easier bedtime routine so they could catch a few more winks themselves.
While the decision is ultimately up to the parent, it’s important to note that the medical community is still vehemently opposed to tummy-time when putting newborns to bed.
4 Wrap It Up!
Another highly contentious topic in the world of parenting is the act of swaddling. For those of us not in the know, swaddling refers to wrapping a baby snugly in a specially designed sheet or blanket. It is usually done in order to keep a baby feeling warm and secure. The pros are as follows:
- Swaddling reduces disturbance caused by a baby's startle reflex.
- It also helps newborns keep warm until their bodies naturally acclimatize to the external world.
- It can work wonders on a baby that has become overly stimulated.
- Swaddling often has a calming effect as it is reminiscent of an infant's time spent in the womb.
The cons include:
- Swaddling incorrectly or after a certain age has been linked to joint problems including hip dysplasia.
- Swaddled babies are at higher risk of SIDS and suffocation.
- Mobility development can sometimes be hindered by swaddling.
- Swaddling is one more thing that a baby will have to be weaned from sooner rather than later.
3 Formulate A Master Plan
They’ll say it’s not natural. They’ll tell you it’s not in the baby’s best interest. They’ll make a mother feel judged and criticized. But know this - any woman who can’t or won’t breastfeed, formula-feeding a baby is a perfectly healthy alternative and there’s no reason anyone should have to justify it or defend it.
Whether fed from bottle or breast, a newborn will require regular feedings on demand (basically every three to four hours). Where formula is concerned, feeding a hungry newborn can easily become a team effort as a spouse, family member or even good friend can help out as needed. This may be a godsend for any exhausted and emotionally depleted new mother.
Formula feeding an infant does come with a few additional responsibilities not required when breastfeeding. For example, there’s an added expense and more preparation involved in terms of washing and sterilizing. Yet for some new moms . . . it’s all worth it!
2 Becoming Baby Wise
For parents looking to fit a baby into their life rather than the other way around, there is the Babywise parenting method. This rigid approach focuses on creating a schedule-oriented sleeping and eating cycle once a baby is in the picture.
This particular parenting style is based on the 1990 book On Becoming Baby Wise written by pediatrician Dr. Robert Bucknam M.D. and co-author Garry Ezzo who are both experts on infant management concepts. Not meant for easy-peasy or loosey-goosey types, Babywise parents strive to establish a schedule from the get-go.
That said, it’s important to remember that while effective parenting and consistency go hand-in-hand, it also often requires a certain amount of flexibility. If for some reason the basic tenets of Babywise just don’t seem to be working with a particular baby, it shouldn’t be forced. In this case, a parent can continue to work toward developing a personalized plan by borrowing from a variety of methods or through trial-and-error.
1 Ignore The Experts
It’s true - there are many people out there in desperate need of some sound parenting advice, support and help. For example, parents who are extremely young and inexperienced, parents that may be poor and/or under-educated, parents who have come from abusive backgrounds. Yet the individuals who often buy the parenting self-help books are usually the ones who don’t really need any additional support.
In fact, most of what can be found in any parenting book is simply common sense wrapped up in creative anecdotes. In the end, what these books and experts often provide to readers is stress, worry, anxiety and even paranoia.
According to British columnist Alex Proud in a 2014 article: “The whole point of parenting is you learn it yourself. In doing it the hard way you form deeper bonds with your children. Making mistakes and recognizing that you need to change, adapt and be self-critical is as important as getting it right.”
When it comes to parenting, often the easiest solution can be found when a parent relies on their instincts. Of course, talking to people in their lives whom they trust such as their own parents, peers and healthcare professionals is beneficial as well.