Do we really need another ‘tips for new parents’ article? If you’re searching for that golden piece of advice that will create a peaceful and ordered home, and a baby who sleeps on cue and never cries, well then, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there is no ‘one size fits all’ set of rules to follow which will make being a new parent easy.
“Help!” you yell. “I’m overwhelmed and confused by all the conflicting advice out there – what must I do?” Never fear because we’ve spoken to parents who’ve been there before. We asked them for that one nugget of advice (the one that they only learned in hindsight) and summed it up here for your benefit. This is the pearls of wisdom we wish someone had shared with us when we were holding our squirming babies and wondering how on earth we were going to get through the next few months…
Forget your pride. Accept help.
You may have thought you had it all together before you had kids. A good job, an organised schedule, a beautiful home. And then a tiny human arrived and wham, everything went haywire. While it’s tempting to pretend you’re some sort of natural supermom or dad, this pretence helps nobody and actually ends up hurting you. Someone offers to look after your baby for two hours? Say, “Yes!” and take yourself off for a nap. A friend offers to drop off some meals? Wonderful. Remind yourself that your village is there to help you through this period (and yes, they actually want to), so accept whatever wonderful support that’s offered.
Find one trusted source of advice. Hone your instincts.
Try and block out the noise. Everyone who has had a baby before (and even those who haven’t) will tell you how you should be doing things. It may have worked for them, but this doesn’t mean it will work for you. After a while, you’ll be able to identify which person or information source fits with your outlook and parenting style, so take on their advice, and ignore everyone else’s. (Some medical aid programmes, like Fedhealth, offer free helplines which you can call with any paediatric questions you may have.) Finally, while it may be difficult at first, learn to sit quietly with your thoughts, and hone in on your parenting instincts. You were biologically designed to succeed at this, so listen to your gut.
Don’t compare yourself to other parents.
Social media has made this extremely challenging. Every Instagram feed is filled with pictures of adorable sleeping babies wrapped in fashionable, pristine blankets, or mothers who are already back in shape just 8 weeks after giving birth! This is not real – it’s a brief snapshot of a moment, which was probably carefully constructed. Comparing yourself to your friend whose baby is already sleeping through the night will only add to the pressure. Stop scrolling, put your phone down, and walk away!
WIT (whatever it takes).
Those first few weeks of completely new sleep patterns are brutal. “Never put the baby in bed with you!” “Put them down awake, don’t rock them!” Everyone will have a piece of advice for you, but in the beginning especially, know that you have the freedom to do whatever it takes (WIT) to get them to sleep and, taking care of yourself in the process. Whether it’s baby wearing to the shops, bouncing on a Pilates ball in the dark or driving around the neighbourhood at nap time, know that you have permission to use any means possible to make those first few weeks easier for yourself and your baby.
Accept that it’s hard.
So much of our resentment as new parents has to do with how we perceived parenting before we had kids. Many people gloss it over or idealise those early months. But if you know deep down that it’s not going to be easy, and if you adjust your expectations when it comes to everything, from how much sleep you can survive on, to the neatness of your house, then you’re less likely to be disappointed.
Most of all, as you’re sitting in the dark at 3am with a niggly baby, just know that it won’t always be like this. It too will pass. It’s also important to acknowledge that there are a million other moms or dads around the world currently going through exactly the same difficult thing that you’re going through. You are not alone.
Belinda is a copywriter and marketing professional who graduated with a Business Science degree from UCT. She is the co-founder of Black Mountain https://black-mountain.co.za/.
Following this, she spent eight years in the UK working for international publishing houses Penguin Books and Harlequin. Her publishing experience has given her an intense appreciation for the power of words, while her marketing background means she understands how to speak to consumers in a way that converts them into customers.