My baby is about to turn 18 months old and I can safely assure you that the expression “when you have a child the days go by very slowly and the years (or months) go by very quickly” is totally true.
For me, he is still that baby that fit on my forearm, although now he weighs a quintal and occupies half the bed when he sleeps with us . But there is the calendar telling me that no, that it is not so baby anymore, and that I have already comfortably overcome (I am not going to say with a note) that dreaded first year of fatherhood .
The truth is that, now that I look back, it has been a year full of emotions and ups and downs, which I remember with longing when I see the photos, but for which I have tremendous respect, especially when I think that we are looking for the second.
So, taking advantage of this reflective moment, I thought that new parents might find these seven tips for your first year of parenting helpful , from a parent who just “passed” that course.
1. Become the guardian of your nest
The title has been a bit grandiose, but what I mean is that, during the days, even weeks after birth, many people will want to welcome the baby. But these are also crucial days for the little one and his mother: they both need time to rest and to establish breastfeeding with peace of mind.
So your mission is to dose the visits and invite people to go home after a reasonable time. Most will perfectly understand that the baby has to sleep, to suck or to take the bottle calmly. And if they don’t understand, then nothing happens either.
2. You can’t breastfeed, but you can do a lot of other things.
Especially during the first weeks, breastfeeding is quite a challenge for the mother , who is also recovering from childbirth. So, although you can’t take care of that – which means sleeping much better at night – there is a lot you can do to enjoy your baby and help the mother get as much rest as she can.
Put him to sleep, sing to him, change his diaper, bathe him, prepare food, clean the house, put on the washing machine… In fact, I would say that, as far as possible, take care of everything that is not breastfeeding. He thinks that the agenda of the mother and the baby is basically to suck and sleep .
3. Fatherhood is in the small details…
Parents (and here I mean fathers and mothers) are very concerned about how we want to educate our children at a “macro” level, as the economists would say. Things about the type of education we want to give him, about food, about “screens”, about how he should sleep…
But although all of this is important, in the end, fatherhood is in the small details, in things done with love, from a lovingly changed diaper to a relaxing bath or how you calm him down when he gets scared or hit. That, and not the other, is what will mark the happiness of your baby the first year .
4. … and in logistics
The first year of parenthood is very much about management, and much of your survival will depend on how you manage these logistics: from what is intrinsically necessary for the baby -diapers, wipes, clean clothes of the right size and season, creams, shampoos, towels, sheets , blankets…-even what is necessary for you -water, food and clean clothes, mainly-.
This is where any outside help you can get will be critical . In my case, the family helped me a lot, but what is not, can be contracted or scheduled. If you can afford someone to clean the house, great, or automate the tasks that can be done. Amazon, for example, has an automatic delivery system for diapers and wipes that will save you the scare of changing the baby, opening the drawer, and not having a single diaper.
5. Don’t obsess over what the pediatrician tells you…
Our pediatrician is a charm, but also quite square. That if he would have to fall asleep alone in the crib, that if he is underweight or overweight, that if you don’t always have him in your arms… My recommendation here is that you pay attention to him when they are clear health issues, but others that are more upbringing -such as whether you do co-sleeping or not, or even when to extend breastfeeding- should be a decision more yours.
6. …or what you see on Instagram
Each baby is different and they grow at completely different rates , so it is better not to try to compare them with those we see on Instagram . There are babies who speak very early and crawl very late, and others who develop their motor skills very quickly but take a little longer to say their first words. There are also greedy babies and others that seem to feed on the air.
Likewise, don’t obsess over how cool other parents look on Instagram , who seem to be doing something special with their kids every day, or buying them something new, or doing this or that. Social networks only show a part of reality, so remember, the important thing is to love your baby, that he eats, that he sleeps and that he is clean.
7. Nothing is forever
“Nothing lasts forever” has been my mantra during the first year of parenthood . My daughter spent the first three months in three states: nursing, sleeping or crying like there was no tomorrow. It took hours to get her to sleep by rocking her in her arms and then waking up if the upstairs neighbor coughed.
Suddenly, one day he stopped crying and began to sleep right through. We were happy as in a movie and it seemed that the storm had passed, but again, pam! at six months it was as if she had forgotten how to sleep and she was waking up every hour at night. We could not believe it!
Babies evolve very quickly and, although generally with each passing month, everything is easier -and you already have more practice-, they do not always take all the steps in the direction that you would like.
That’s why “nothing is forever” is a good guide. Because it comforts you when it seems that your baby has entered a spiral that leads to hell – because he can’t cry forever, right? – and at the same time reminds you that everything can change overnight when your baby eats and sleeps wonderfully.
Bonus: Enjoy every moment!
And of course, whenever you can, enjoy being with your baby . Play with him, cuddle him or just watch him. Because the first year flies by, and soon you’ll be looking at photos on your mobile and saying in a wimpy voice: how has he grown so much?