New Parent Survival Guide
Parenthood. Doubtlessly you will have heard many different tales from a wide range of folks about the first few weeks as parents. The common descriptors are words such as magical, amazing, wonderful and joyous. You may have also heard the words terrifying, daunting, sleepless and overwhelming.
As a new parent, to a now 12 week old son, I can guarantee you will experience all of these emotions in the first few weeks.
The first few days after getting back home was spent trying to figure out how to manage without a routine, getting used to sleep deprivation, trying to manage day to day housework and keeping in touch with family. For such a short list, it suddenly seemed inordinately difficult.
The crux point is that each of the intense list of emotions can surface at absolutely any time, day or night, and will frequently catch you off guard. You suddenly have a wriggly pink thing that is absolutely and totally dependent on you for survival, and that’s a really big responsibility isn’t it?
It’s amazing how strongly the emotions involved can manifest themselves and it’s certainly not something to take for granted. One minute I was smiling until my face hurt, feeling like my heart could burst with love for the little one. The next I was sobbing uncontrollably and feeling utterly overwhelmed. I’m a very level-headed kinda guy, so it was quite the shock realising that I wasn’t in control.
As a guy, society dictates that you “man up” and quash any feeling for the sake of appearing strong. The real strength in parenthood, as with any empathetic gentleman, is the ability to prove yourself through not just physical endorsement but emotional devotion to your child and your partner. Be the gushy Dad that relishes all the minor achievements and remember each positive step as you travel down the rollercoaster of being a new parent.
So what can you do to get yourselves through the first few weeks? Have a look at the tips below!
1) Be prepared for strong emotion and don’t be afraid to show how you’re feeling. In that respect talk about how you’re feeling and talk to your partner, friends and family. Share anything you feel, be it positive or negative. Everything is solvable!
2) If your partner has decided to breastfeed, realise its never as easy as we’re told. There’s a National Breastfeeding Support Network and there will doubtlessly be a local drop in to advise on anything you or your partner are unsure about. We’ve utilised an absolutely brilliant drop in local to us which helped diagnose our son’s tongue tie, which was preventing him from latching effectively. It’s a learning process and takes weeks to get to grips with, be patient.
3) Don’t sweat the small stuff. If the dishes get left unwashed, a thin layer of dust appears on surfaces or washing starts to stack up take time to realise how exhausted you actually are and let yourself off the hook. Do your best for your child and be happy in the moment. A lot of friends of mine said enjoy the “baby bubble”. It’s ridiculous how quickly your little one will change, so relish each moment (particularly until they get to full volume crying at about week 2)
4) Eliminate cabin fever and plan something small and attainable to do each day but don’t rush leaving the house until you’re truly ready.
Travelling by car on your days out? We've got you covered with some top tips on how to make car travel easier!
5) Only have visitors if you feel up to it. Personally, as much as we recognise the support of friends and family, my wife and I didn’t want to see anyone for the first week. We were both tired and emotional and didn’t fancy being social. Make sure any potential visitors respect your wishes
6) Spend plenty of time having skin to skin and cuddle time with your child. This helps to reinforce the bond between you, increases levels of Oxytocin (the love hormone) and allows you and your child to become used to each other and to be more relaxed.
7) Sleep when your baby sleeps. Learn to power nap, or tag team care and sleep between you. This works well if your child actually sleeps. Our son has reflux so he’s very restless and will very rarely sleep on his back. A sling makes a great addition to the baby arsenal so he can sleep upright to alleviate the condition.
Want to learn more about surviving with out sleep? Check out our article on how to cope without it, here.
8) When you think you’ve nailed a “routine”, everything will change. Roll with whatever works at the time and be adaptable. We’ve found our little one changes drastically with each key developmental leap. Sleep, feeding and behaviour will all change. The first smiles and “coos” are all worth it though!
9) Sign up for baby groups! It’s not just mums that go. If you can wangle an extra day or two away from work, or can find a weekend group then get along and meet new people. Enjoy sharing knowledge and experiences, get suggestions and tips to expand your parenting portfolio. Feel comfortable knowing that other people struggle too sometimes but the good times more than make up for it!
So, to wrap things up. Parenthood is a joyful, bewildering experience. It will test the strongest of bonds, pick you up to unimaginable highs and drop you headfirst into some turbulent lows, sometimes both in the same day. Regardless, it’s an experience to relish and I certainly wouldn’t change it! Invest your time, effort, and love. Be patient and compassionate and everything will be just fine.