Surviving the First Year: A Step-by-Step Guide for New Parents

March 6, 2020 | by frank hamilton

Traditionally, the first year of a child’s life is considered the hardest. Although, to be honest, every new year brings new difficulties, new experiences, new challenges, and ... new feelings of happiness. As we become more experienced parents, we find our footing (until the next curveball; we’re always learning in this gig). Just know, a period of adjustment is inevitable.

The first year can also feel somewhat isolating, so as you’re preparing for the birth of your first child, we’ve got some important tips that will help you not only survive that first year, but will also help you find a rhythm in your new routine.

Agree on the Most Important Things Before Giving Birth

Because we all come into parenting with our own point of view, it’s valuable to have some open and honest discussions ahead of your child’s arrival. Some points of principle are best negotiated in advance. It’s helpful to be proactive rather than reactive. Here are a few points of discussion for you and your co-parent (and this list can also be expanded further):

  • Will you choose breastfeeding or formula?
  • Will you co-sleep with your baby, will they sleep in your room to start, or will they sleep in their room from birth?
  • Do you consider it appropriate to involve a nanny or housekeeper?
  • When will the parent who goes on parental leave be able to return to work?
  • How will you acclimate your pet(s) to this new addition in the household?

Share Baby Care Responsibilities

Previously, women raised children, and men killed a mammoth. Modern families know that when it comes to parenting, it is a team effort. If your mindset is more in-step to the Stone Ages, just remember, this is your common child, and supporting each other through the first year (and beyond) is vital.

Therefore, your task is to divide the responsibilities of caring for the child from the moment of his appearance. Of course, dad will not be able to breastfeed him, but he can be involved in delivering baby to mama or making sure she has water and is comfortable. He can be hands on with baby in other ways too, bathing the child, changing her clothes, reading to baby, going out with him for a walk in the evenings… Divide duties so that everyone is comfortable managing part of their shared responsibility.

Don’t Think that Baby = An End to “Normal” Life

Many new parents believe that the birth of a child means a simultaneous ban on any activity that is not directly related to that baby. They refuse to walk in the park with friends, do not visit cafes, do not fly on airplanes, and even try not to appear with their child in public places – germs, you know.

The reality: everything is different, but it doesn’t mean you have to cut yourself off from the outside world. Doing so ultimately deprives yourself and your child from new impressions and experiences. It’s true that adventures outside the house with baby require more forethought and planning than before, but life needs not stop. And, sometimes mom and dad need a break and time to recharge, separate from baby. Happy parents equal a happy child. Think about it.

Don’t Overcomplicate

Many parents, in the pursuit of perfectionism and the image of an “ideal father” or “ideal mother,” place unrealistic expectations on themselves. Life as a new parent is exhausting, give yourself permission not to chase after those seemingly unrealistic ideals. Discuss the most important points before giving birth (see above).

For example, pre-baby, maybe you thought using cloth diapers was the way to go, but if every day, you find yourself exhausted and overwhelmed by this decision, perhaps you introduce disposable diapers into the mix. Or, you said to yourself, “I will only feed my baby homemade baby food,” but again, reality was an unfortunate match for expectation; give yourself permission to use the resources available to you. Along that vein, perhaps you wanted to exclusively breastfeed, sometimes that’s just not a possibility, for a whole variety of reasons. That’s okay. You are not less than. You are doing what you can to create a healthy, safe, loving environment for baby.

In parenting, it’s all about expecting the unexpected.

The Basics of Child Psychology

In the first year, before baby has words, there might be a lot of frustrations that arise simply because mom or dad is at a loss to know what every cry means or can’t seem to calm those cries. In the calm moments, we know baby isn’t crying to wear on our last nerve, but perhaps it’s because she needs a sense of security that she can get only by having physical contact with his mother or father.

Therefore, start by reading books or articles on child psychology and understanding the roles of mother and father in the development process. This will greatly facilitate the process of distribution of responsibilities and significantly expand the opportunities for compromise.

Here’s the truth: Parenting is not easy. The first year is hard, but also incredible. It will be unlike any of the experiences that you had before. But then, one day, you’ll emerge from the trenches of those early years and realize the preciousness of that time. Indeed, you will realize these years with your child were the best ever. 

Frank Hamilton

Frank Hamilton has been working as a translator at translation service TheWordPoint. He is the father of two sons. He also loves traveling and speaks Spanish, French, German and English.  

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