Top tips for first-time parents from experts

Posted on February 1st, 2019

From trusting your instincts to connecting with your baby, you’ll find value in these practical tips. By Thobeka Phanyeko

Top tips for first-time parents from experts

Trust your instincts

First-time moms, how I envy you! You and your baby have been living together intimately for nine months. You have a way of understanding your baby’s needs that nobody else does, so trust your instincts. Read your baby more than you read Google or Facebook – she uses movement and a variety of cries to talk to you, so use all of your senses to get to know her.
You can’t spoil a new baby. Hold your baby and help her to gradually adjust to life outside your warm, dark, cosy womb with an on-tap food supply. Massage the palm of your baby’s hand with the pad of your thumb while feeding as it stimulates your milk production and the quality of her sucking.
Relax. Your baby doesn’t need a perfect mom, she just needs her mom. Enjoy the privilege of being a mother.

-Melodie de Jager, mother, researcher, author, educator, keynote speaker, developmental specialist and founder of Baby Gym

ALSO SEE: 5 things first-time moms shouldn’t worry about

The journey isn’t meant to be perfect

What an exciting journey lies ahead of you – you will wonder if you have ever loved this deeply and how incredible the world looks, through her eyes. Then there will be the moments when you feel utterly overwhelmed – overcome by fatigue and reduced to tears of anxiety. Motherhood is a journey of highs and lows like no other, which we are inadequately prepared for.

There are three things I wish people had told me before I had my first baby:

  • It won’t be perfect. Parenting is simply not a perfect science. Flexibility is the only way to make the journey fun and manageable. You set yourself up for failure when you expect perfection in any parenting task. Your baby is perfectly imperfect, and so are you.
  • Calibrations don’t count. You will grasp for any measure of success, and the scale and calibrations on bottles may feel like safe spaces. But trust me, they can make you more anxious. The real measure of whether your baby is thriving is her mood, whether she connects emotionally with you and if she appears healthy and content.
  • Slow down. With a baby, the days are long, but the years fly by. Don’t rush each stage.

-Meg Faure, occupational therapist and co-author of the Baby Sense series.

Strive to be present and connect with your baby

Trust yourself – you know what’s best for your child, and you are your baby’s favourite playmate. Make time to simply be together, and enjoy each other’s company.

  • Stimulation during the first few months is all about connecting with your baby, interacting through loving touch, communicating with your gentle and assuring voice, rocking, cuddling and gazing at one another. This is what builds strong neural connections and better brains. So, make sure to put your phone or tablet away and to really connect!
  • Be kind and nurturing towards yourself so you have the energy to have fun and enjoy this precious time with your baby.
  • Your baby doesn’t need things – she needs your time and your presence. If you work during the day, make sure that when you get home, you make time to engage and bond with her again. Massaging your baby every evening is a wonderful way to do this.
  • Boundaries and routine help your child feel secure and safe.
  • As your baby gets older, build her self-esteem by building her sense of competence. This can be done by encouraging independence and by joining in with family chores.
  • And last but not least, make sure to have fun together!

-Liz Senior, occupational therapist and CEO of Clamber Club

ALSO SEE: Bonding with your baby is critcal to the development of her personality

Prioritise self-care and cut yourself some slack

Take care of yourself first, so you can be a healthy, present mother for your little one. By taking care of yourself, I mean eating a healthy diet and exercising – even if it’s just a walk around the block with your baby. Being outdoors when you’ve been bound up with your baby inside can feel like you’re on a little holiday.
Remember that it takes a village to raise a child, so cut yourself some slack and ask for help. Whether it’s a trusted family member or friend, they can give you the breathing space you need. Join a mommy group in your area, where you can meet other mothers facing the same kinds of issues you are. It can be affirming and encouraging to be a part of a group where you are acknowledged and heard.
Lastly, you can’t spoil your baby. The saying goes that the days are long, but the years are short, and it’s true. Before you know it, they have outgrown nappies, cuddles at bedtime and piggy-backing in the park. So be present and enjoy the marvel of seeing your little creation grow, change and become his own person.
Parenting is a minefield, but you are the best parent to your child. Stop comparing yourself to others.

-Charlene Yared West, doula and founder of Relax Into Birth

ALSO SEE: Defining yourself beyond motherhood

Enjoy the experience and be realistic

  • Slow down and notice the ordinary, magical moments. It’s the little, ordinary moments that we cherish if we stop rushing long enough to take them in.
  • Parenting is a relationship. Your baby is not a machine, so trust your gut instincts about what feels right or wrong before listening to the noise on Google, in your moms’ group or the routine you’re trying to follow.
  • Be kind to yourself. We lose ourselves in our babies and their needs, and there’s a magic in that, but we need to eventually find a balance and become aware of our own needs. We can only parent well if we are well cared for ourselves.
  • Collect the best support you can. Surround yourself with people who inspire and uplift you, and fill you with confidence. Keep anyone who makes you feel less-than, guilty, or unconfident at arm’s length. Recognise that as a new mom, you are vulnerable and in need of support, affirmation and confidence building.
  • Let go of unrealistic expectations. We all get tripped up sooner or later as new parents, and need to have the wisdom not to give up our goals without persevering. But when the cost of perseverance becomes too high for yourself and your family, you need to have the wisdom to let go. Readjusting your expectations is one of parenting’s great lessons.

-Heather Joy Wood, nurse, midwife, and internationally certified lactation consultant

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About Thobeka Phanyeko

Thobeka Phanyeko is mom to Oratile, 4. She is a journalist with a BA in Media studies from the University of Cape Town and has extensive experience as a journalist and content producer which she gained from Reuters, eNCA and Caxton Magazines. She is also a life coach and NLP Practitioner and is passionate about motherhood and women empowerment.