Learning how to be a parent proved more difficult than I expected. In such a short and vulnerable period you are bombarded with so much new information and the demands of your newborn are so unclear at first that it is easy to get overwhelmed.
Besides all the books you could read about raising a calm and happy child, there are numerous online articles, blogs and Facebook groups where experts and pseudo-experts are “throwing” their advice and opinions at you.
It took me a while to realize what it really means to trust my maternal instinct – I felt so insecure at the beginning that I was open to advice from everywhere. However, I often felt even more insecure once I read about how I should strive to impose a routine on my newborn or even spoke to a friend in order to find out more about her way of raising her child.
The moment I began to truly enjoy the time with my little daughter was the moment I decided to do it my way. And by this I actually mean OUR WAY as she is the driving force behind our actions.
With this article I am not trying to convince you that my way is the best way. I will simply share with you four very practical tips about items that might be useful to you too when you become a parent for the first time. I hope that this information will save you some time and worries during the first months with your baby.
Please note that I haven’t done extensive research on each item that I recommend, nor have I been paid for promotion by the producer. I simply found the following items useful during the first three months with my little daughter.
The links where you can find more information about each item are available also at the end of the article in case you want to get back to this information at another time. Most items you can order via www.bol.com .
I presume this information will be useful mostly to first time parents, but who knows, maybe parents in other countries or parents expecting a second child might find some new ideas, too.
Tip #1 Understand your baby’s language
I had heard that parents can recognize the different types of crying of their own baby and understand his/her needs. What I didn’t know was that there was a very clear baby language that appears to be universal.
There were numerous articles I have read on this topic but I couldn’t remember and differentiate all the different types of crying until my husband found Oprah Winfrey’s video “One Woman Unlocks the Secret Language of Babies”. In this video you can hear very clear examples of the five universal sounds that babies make.
For me personally watching the video was still not enough and what really made the difference was making a list of the five types of crying. Each time my daughter was crying I would check the list and listen carefully trying to recognize what she was trying to tell me.
For your convenience I have summarized the five universal sounds below so you can print it out and not bother to write them down yourself:
- “Neh” – hunger
- “Ohw” – sleepy
- “Heh” – discomfort
- “Eh” – burp
- “Eair” – lower gas
It is remarkable how easy our life became since we started to understand what our daughter was trying to tell us. Just give it a try, I am sure you will be surprised!
Tip #2 Understand your baby’s mental development
Franciscus Xaverius (Frans) Plooij and his wife Hetty van de Rijt wrote together the book “The wonder weeks” (translated from the original Dutch book “Oei, ik groei!”) in which they describe ten regression periods (called leaps) that babies make during the first 20 months of their lives.
Their research has shown that during “these ten major, predictable, age-linked changes (leaps) babies will learn more than in any other time. A leap includes a phase in which a baby goes through a drastic change in his/her mental development, which affects not only his/her mood, but also his/her health, intelligence, sleeping patterns and the “three C’s” (crying, clinging and crankiness). This phase is directly followed by a ‘leap’ forward in mental development.”
Why is this important to you?
Once you get to know your baby you will certainly notice changes in his/her behaviour once in a while. Understanding what your baby is going through will make it easier to support him/her in the best possible way. It will also save you a lot of worries that there is something wrong with him/her. I found the book in combination with the mobile app very useful and I keep coming back to them whenever the following leap approaches.
Please find below the links to all 10 mental leaps where you can find more information about each leap:
- Mental Leap 1 – The World of Changing Sensations (wonder week 5)
- Mental Leap 2 – The World of Patterns (wonder week 8)
- Mental Leap 3 – The World of Smooth Transitions (wonder week 12)
- Mental Leap 4 – The World of Events (wonder week 19)
- Mental Leap 5 – The World of Relationships (wonder week 26)
- Mental Leap 6 – The World of Categories (wonder week 37)
- Mental Leap 7 – The World of Sequences (wonder week 46)
- Mental Leap 8 – Wonder The World of Programs (wonder week 55)
- Mental Leap 9 – The World of Principles (wonder week 64)
- Mental Leap 10 – The World of Systems (wonder week 75)
Tip #3 Itzbeen – an easy way to keep track of important daily activities
Our daughter does not follow a strict daily routine. We do strive to perform activities like changing the diaper, feeding, playing and sleeping in the same order but it is totally unpredictable how much she will eat or when exactly and for how long she will sleep.
The first days after leaving the hospital, I tried to use a white board in order to keep track of which activity has been performed when. Although it was not the most practical solution I wouldn’t know what else to do.
Luckily we received an unexpected gift from my dear colleague, Alwin Baaij and his lovely family: Luvion Itzbeen baby care timer. This item has been the most practical baby gift we have received so far – we use it 24/7 and we couldn’t be more grateful to Alwin and his family.
What it does is keeping track of how long it has been since:
- the last diaper change
- the last feed
- the baby has fallen asleep or has been awake
- The star (*) you can use for one extra activity you want to time – I personally use it to time how long it has been since the last milk expression session (I strive to do it every 3 hours).
In case of breastfeeding the timer also provides an easy way to remember which breast you gave last. You can also use it as a clock and a torch – both of which you definitely need in those dark sleepy night shifts.
Tip #4 Medela expression bustier – a hands free way of expressing
If your newborn has a preference for the bottle but you still want to continue giving him/her breast milk, you will most probably need to express the milk with an electric or hand pump.
I personally have no experience with hand pumps and even though I went for the electric pump I still needed my both hands to hold the bottles. You cannot imagine my relief when I found out about the Medela’s expression bustier.
It took me two months of wondering how to kill time while expressing as this activity was taking me about 6 hours a day. Now I have my hands free for reading, writing, cooking, eating, cleaning, changing diapers and pretty much any activity that doesn’t involve bending or laying down. Believe me your time is very precious and the more efficiently you can use it, the better!
What’s in it for you?
I hope the above information has been useful to you, first time parents.
Are you an experienced parent? Please feel free to share your tips and tricks because I am sure there are many more we first time parents could use 😉