Having a baby is one of the most overwhelming experiences we go through. The minute parents hear that a baby is on the way, particularly if it's the first time, they all kinds of questions start popping into their heads. Turning to family and friends who already have children for advice is common and often incredibly useful and reassuring. Raising a child is a long road, and getting every means of support possible is necessary to overcome the fears associated with being responsible for such a small, vulnerable creature.
It's understandable that some advice will not be relatable or useful at all. The reason for this is that most people know that every baby is unique. In that sense, first-time parents will still be curious and will continue to ask questions hoping to make some sense of the scary years ahead.
Parents freak out not only because of the responsibilities, but also because of the numerous details. Everything from feeding and changing the baby to going out and running errands is a mystery to them. Most parents want to be as prepared as they can for the big change.
One of the biggest concerns parents experience is whether they'll be able to afford their babies’ needs, so they turn to parents who have been there for advice and tips on how they can manage their budget to try and stay on top of things. In other words, a baby needs a lot of planning, so it's never a bad idea to try and get ahead of the game while you can!
Babies depend on breastmilk or formula from birth, usually for the first 4-6 months. Newborns generally want to eat about every 2 hours or so, but by the time they are 2 months that usually stretches to every 4 hours. It is debatable whether babies should start eating solid foods at 4 or 6 months, but 6 months is the age recommended by doctors. Similarly, some pediatricians advise parents to begin with wheat or rice cereal, while others recommend starting with mashed vegetables or fruits to give babies a taste of healthy foods early on.
Towards the end of the first year, the variety of foods becomes abundant. Parents gradually discover what their babies’ tastes are and what foods they like and dislike. Typically, parents are advised to steer clear of honey, cow milk, and egg whites until the first birthday. Honey is known to contain bacterial spores that are toxic to infants, while milk and egg whites could cause allergies. If there's a specific food allergy in the family, it is advised that parents consult a doctor before they introduce this food to their baby.
This is one of the hot debates about baby hygiene. Cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly because they can be reused and do not accumulate in the landfill. However, many parents consider it a hassle to wash and reuse the diapers and so prefer disposable ones. This way they don't have to worry about the extra laundry. Both options have their pros and cons - so long as reusable diapers are cleaned properly, bother are perfectly hygienic for the baby.
Financially, disposable diapers are pricey. However, cloth diapers will cause more laundry, which is also an added cost. Another point is that the cost of disposable diapers is ongoing, while cloth diapers require a bulk of money to establish a good supply at the beginning.
The number of layers a baby should wear naturally depends on the weather outside. A good rule is to add one extra layer more than the adult is wearing. Parents should also be mindful of accessories such as hats and gloves, especially if they're in a cold environment. Some parents skip a layer or two and add a very heavy jacket instead.
Baby clothes are mostly 100% cotton to avoid allergies. Parents should check labels if they suspect otherwise, especially for sleepwear. They should also be aware that temperatures can vary significantly between indoors and outdoors. An added blanket during sleep counts as a layer and clothing should be adjusted accordingly. A baby who feels too cold or too hot won't sleep well.
Babies are prone to lots of troublesome problems such as colic and gastric reflux. While extremely uncomfortable for the baby and the parents, both are natural and get better over time. Other major health problems can be cause for alarm. If parents are aware that their baby already suffers a certain disease, they should talk to the doctor about warning signs specific to the baby’s case.
A high fever that is unresponsive to medication is a dangerous warning sign, especially in babies under 2 months of age. Also, injuries that the parents cannot attend to at home or those that change the baby’s behavior definitely require attention. If a baby is lethargic, it may be due to head trauma or dehydration, both of which are serious emergencies. Needless to say, if a baby swallows an object or a chemical, parents must rush to the hospital immediately.
The market is full of different types of baby gear that can get just plain confusing. Parents are not supposed to buy each and every item, and they need to prioritize. First, they should set a budget for all baby gear, allowing them to look at different products within their price range. Then, they need to examine their lifestyle. Parents who leave the house on a daily basis need to consider a good stroller. Stay-at-home parents may instead opt for baby carriers so they can do work around the house hands-free.
A safe car seat is a must for the baby’s safety in car rides. Other items, such as walkers, swings, and exersaucers could be on hold for a while, depending on your budget. The decision to buy these items will depend on the baby’s development and needs. Also, with expensive baby gear, clothes, and furniture, it's wise to avoid spending more money at an already strenuous time. To begin with, a place for the baby to sleep and a car seat are most important.
Of course this varies for each baby, but most babies understand speech by their first birthday. Much earlier though, babies begin to understand a few sounds, voice inflection and words, and respond accordingly, albeit with gestures or facial expressions. If the same word is used consistently for a certain object, they begin to link this word or sound to this object and recognize it in a sentence. It's not until toddlerhood that babies begin to form short sentences or respond to speech with a word or two.
With this in mind, parents are encouraged to talk to their babies as soon as they are out of the womb. They've been listening and absorbing everything around them for nine months already anyway. Research suggests that talking to babies actually helps them develop their own speech and form a better understanding of the world. Babies will respond by pointing or smiling to indicate they understand something. This helps parents keep track of their babies’ developments and notice the improvements over time.
Reading to a baby seems ineffectual at first; it seems like a waste of time and energy to read to a little human who doesn't understand anyway. But based on recent research, reading to babies can start as early as 4 months and has incredible benefits. Babies who are read to regularly develop vocabulary faster, have a better understanding of the world and usually begin to talk sooner.
Another benefit is that they start constructing their own vocabulary based on information like numbers, shapes, and colors. It's also important to use different facial expressions and voice tones. Babies may not understand exactly why a certain sentence is accompanied by a certain face, but they develop this understanding a lot sooner if they're exposed to books and storytelling on a daily basis.
Much like baby gear, there are a lot of options when it comes to baby toys. Some essentials would be a rattle or a soft toy with a built-in rattle for an engaging sound, a crib mobile, and maybe an activity playmat. Until the baby is able to roll over, they aren’t able to play with toys, as such, so they don’t need any. A baby will instinctively grasp a rattle and shake it and realize it's interesting. As the baby grows older, teething toys are recommended, along with soft balls and blocks. At 6-9 months, babies begin sitting up and crawling, so they'll be able to play and explore more. They might be interested in a replica of mom's phone, so plastic phones with colorful buttons can be quite handy.
Babies often surprise their parents by making a toy out of everyday objects, so they must make sure that there are no dangerous items within the baby's’ reach. To avoid overspending on baby toys, it's sensible to stick with the minimum during the newborn stage and build from there depending on the baby's interests. The first few months, babies develop fast and get bored with their toys easily, so it's not worth spending a fortune on multiple items that have the same concept.
It's normal for parents not to instantly fall in love the minute they lay eyes on the baby. Pregnancy and childbirth is a mind-numbing experience. Some mothers take time to adjust to the new situation, as do fathers. Unlike in movies and diaper commercials, mothers need to rest after long tedious hours of labor or the pain following a c-section. Given their circumstances, there's nothing wrong with not feeling the immediate fascination with the new little person.
In fact, some parents - especially mothers who go through postpartum depression - may take months to start feeling the bond. It could be due to lack of help, lack of sleep or the parent’s inability to take care of themselves. Some days, doing everything for the baby, while possibly accomplishing other tasks, takes a huge toll. By then, they don't have the emotional availability necessary to feel the joy.
Babies always recognize their mothers. This can be because the baby knows the mother’s scent since pregnancy. Breastfeeding also further attaches the baby to the mother. Naturally, mothers spend the most time with their babies, even working mothers on maternity leave. The bond between a mother and a baby is instant on the baby’s side, explaining why babies often find it more comforting to be carried, cuddled or rocked by their mothers than by any other caregivers, even in the first few days.
As the baby gets older, the father starts being added to the list of special people. With everyday attachment and quality time, the father takes a special place in a baby’s heart, and they begin to bond more over time. Towards the end of the first year, a baby recognizes that the father is a special person and starts making sense of the concept of a family.
In theory, babies do not need their own room, but parents will eventually feel that they do, as they will want their privacy back. Parents who choose to construct a nursery and put the baby in a separate room are making their own choice, but the option of co-sleeping in the same bed or having a crib in the same room is just as plausible. Some parents believe that babies need attachment and bonding in the early months, so they choose to co-sleep, especially if the baby is breastfeeding. It's much more convenient for the parents, and some research even suggests, that it's better for the baby’s sleep.
Similarly, even parents who co-sleep at first eventually transition the baby to a separate room at some point. So, unless the baby will be sharing a room with the parents for an extended number of years (e.g. two or three), furnishing a nursery or a toddler room is something to consider.
Over the years, people have associated certain traits to baby boys or baby girls, but experience has proven that gender is irrelevant to a baby’s temperament. The same is true for milestones. Therefore, it's extremely important for parents to follow up with a baby’s development with a doctor and ask for their trusted medical opinion if they suspect that something is wrong.
Some common claims are that baby girls sleep better and baby boys walk earlier, however, many parents will vouch that their babies broke these unspoken rules. At this early age, it's advisable not to expect babies to develop or behave in a specific way based on their gender. Babies should be allowed to play with whatever they wish and act however makes them feel comfortable and confident; after all, it's a nurturing environment that will bring out the best in them.
Many parents report feelings of helplessness and lack of freedom after having children. It's true that the responsibility can feel paralyzing, but that doesn't mean that the parents’ lives are over. One of the hardest things about parenthood is that parents make decisions based on what's in the best interest of the children first. Some people stop chasing a certain dream or lose habits that used to bring joy in their lives.
The new lifestyle can be devastating, and many parents feel like they are in an endless loop, that things are never going to get better, but this can't be farther from the truth. As the baby reaches more milestones, such as better sleep, beginning of preschool and the first day away from the parents, parents start to feel like they're more in control and their duties are much more manageable - then you can look forward to planning weekend getaways, trips with friends and any other enjoyable activity that makes you feel more like your old self.
Daycare is an amazing option for some families. If two parents work full-time and can't afford to skip one of their paychecks, then they should definitely consider a good daycare option. When the decision is made, they should consider a daycare center where everything is satisfactory; surveillance, hygiene, activities, etc. Parents should also discuss options with their employers given that some companies contribute to the daycare costs of their employees.
Many parents also consider daycare for non-working parents - part-time daycare is also a great option in this case. It's helpful for the baby's social skills, and it also gives the stay-at-home parent some time to catch up on other chores and obligations. It's important for both parents to feel that they made a decision that they're comfortable with and is in the best interest of the baby.
The age of the baby isn't a determinant in this topic. What matters is that babies are left in the care of someone trusted, typically the grandparents. Most parents are comfortable leaving their baby with family as opposed to nannies because they feel family is more trustworthy, especially if it is their first time. Parents must also ensure that they leave the baby with someone who shares their parenting philosophy to avoid clashes and disagreements.
It's normal for parents to worry when leaving their baby, even with family. To overcome this, the babysitter needs to keep the parents updated often relaying that the baby is OK so they can rest assured. If parents are leaving on a trip and will not be available near the baby, they could leave the babysitter's contact information with a friend or two in case of emergencies. This will give them peace of mind that their baby is being taken care of by more than one person and will be safe no matter what happens.