Welcome to Parenthood! 10 Things To Prepare Yourself For
Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Aug 15, 2022.
Say Goodbye to 8 Hours of Sleep For a While
Newborn babies grow at an exponential rate, but in order to grow, they need to feed every two to four hours, around the clock!
Do the maths and you'll see that feeding your baby makes a big impact on how much time you actually have to sleep. Expect to feed your little bundle of joy at least twice between the hours of 10pm and 7am. If you are a single parent, or finding it hard to cope with a lack of sleep, ask a friend or family member to come over during the day to mind your baby while you catch-up on some missed zzzz's.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. By the time your baby is three months old they may be able to snooze for six to eight hours at a stretch. But realistically, most babies won't sleep this long until they are 12 months.
To reduce the risk of sudden infant death (SIDS), always put infants to sleep on their backs; if swaddling, do it safely; and never put loose items in the crib such as bumper pads, pillows or toys. Sleep-training techniques should not be used until your baby is at least six months old.
You Will Be Seriously Busy!
There's a lot to do when you have a newborn. Feeding, burping, diaper changing, settling; feeding, burping, diaper changing, settling; feeding, burping....you get the picture! And that's just the baby. There's also laundry, cooking, housework, appointments, vaccinations, and coping with the influx of family and friends dying to meet your little cherub.
Be prepared for how busy you will be and don't be afraid to make space for you and your partner to enjoy your own baby. Establish preferred times for visiting, accept offers of meals and help from friends, and limit the number of excursions you do.
Breastfeeding is Trickier Than It Sounds
Most people assume that breastfeeding is as simple as just pointing a baby in the right direction of a breast and nature takes over. But there's a bit more to it than that. While some women are able to get the hang of it fairly quickly, many women struggle.
Babies need to latch on correctly for milk to flow properly and for the baby to get a decent feed. You will also end up with cracked and painful nipples if your technique is all wrong. Breastfeeding USA and La Leche League provide valuable web-based information on breast feeding and have local breastfeeding counselors available. Seek help early before you are tempted to give up.
You May Actually Miss Work or Friends
If you are a stay-at-home mom, or have chosen not to return to work right away, it may come as a shock a couple of months into parenthood to find yourself missing your previous life and friends. This is natural. It can be a massive change for some women to go from pressured, challenging jobs, to only having a tot for company, no matter how cute they are!
Play dates with other new moms offer the chance for adult conversation. Babies love other babies, and this social interaction at a young age is good for their development. Accept offers of babysitting so you can still still get out for exercise, date nights, or have some "me time" occasionally.
A Celebration: The Passing of Wind
Burping and passing gas take on a whole new meaning when you have a newborn. Both signal the successful removal of trapped air from inside your little human. Babies naturally swallow air when they suckle and this can build up and cause havoc in their delicate tummies, affecting feeding and sleeping, and leading to colic.
Burp your baby during feeding if they seem uncomfortable, are squirmy, or pull away and start crying. There are several different ways to burp a baby - holding them against your chest or higher up on your shoulder, on your lap or across your knees. Some depend on your baby having good head and neck control, so you may need to experiment to find out which technique works best for you.
See your pediatrician if the baby seems inconsolable or if there is excessive spitting up; reflux may be an issue, too.
Spontaneity Goes Out the Window
The first time you are caught short with a messy diaper will be the last time you forget to take your diaper bag with you, even if you only plan to be out for less than an hour.
Generally speaking, the longer the excursion, the more stuff you will need to take. Clean diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, a changing mat, and spare clothes in case of diaper-leakage should accompany you for even the most basic of outings. If you are breastfeeding, then you won't need to take formula and bottles as well. Light-weight fold-up strollers are easier to use in malls than massive all-terrain buggies. Chose family-friendly places that offer cribs and high chairs when going on vacation to save lugging around your own.
Your Body May Take a While to Become Your Temple Again
Pregnancy and giving birth is hard on your body. For nine months, your hormones have been going crazy and your heart has had to beat up to thirty percent harder than normal. Your uterus and abdominal muscles have also been stretched to unimaginable proportions.
Don't expect to miraculously bounce back to the weight you were before you got pregnant. The most important thing in the first few weeks is to get plenty of rest and to eat healthy, nutritious food. Eat the recommended calories (usually 500 more) if you are breastfeeding. In fact, even with added calories, many women lose weight just by breastfeeding. Set realistic goals and chose an activity you find fun to do.
You Will Need Lots of Stuff
Newborns attract almost ten times their weight in junk. There's the bassinet, the change table, the changing mat, the stroller, the carry pack, the infant car seat, the diaper bag, rattles, clothes, and diapers just for starters. Further down the track you're going to need a high chair, a crib, more toys, a different car seat, bigger clothes, bigger diapers and a bigger wallet!
Once they start to walk, eat chunky food, and sleep in a normal bed, you'll need less baby-specific stuff. Unfortunately, that's usually when the toys start taking over!
You May Get the Baby Blues
The drop off in hormones following birth coupled with lack of sleep can play havoc with your mood. Many new moms feel tearful or have mood swings after childbirth, commonly called the "baby blues". These fade quickly and don't affect your ability to care for your newborn.
However, some new moms experience postpartum depression (PPD), a more severe form of depression. They may feel exhausted, overwhelmed or guilty, have difficulty sleeping or feel resentment or anger towards their baby. PPD isn't a character flaw or a weakness but does require treatment. Talk to your doctor if you think you may have PPD, or if your "baby blues" do not quickly fade away.
Experiencing Love You Didn't Know Was Inside of You
The love you have for your child is unlike no other. While child-rearing can be exhausting at times, there is also nothing more rewarding. Time goes fast and before you know it your little ankle biter will be all grown up with a family of their own.
Your pregnancy is over! Enjoy your child. Relish in seeing the world through their eyes. Take note at how they find pleasure in the simplest of things, from butterflies and creepy crawlies to men with large tummies. Learn as much from them as they learn from you.
Finished: Welcome to Parenthood! 10 Things To Prepare Yourself For
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