Having your first baby is like venturing into the abyss; unchartered territory that even the most well-read new parents among us can never be fully prepared for.
Regardless of whether you’re an experienced uncle or aunt, have loads of friends with kids or own every baby book under the sun, each and every newborn is unique and (unfortunately) doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
But after recently attending Baby Bootcamp, a special event hosted by Graco, one of the world’s leading baby and parenting brands, and Sarah Redshaw, founder of parenting advice website BabyCentre, it reminded me that, even though every baby is different, there are still a shed load of tips, hacks and pieces of advice that all new parents should be aware of, that help make that first year with a baby just a little bit easier.
And so to help out anyone about to embark on this crazy adventure called parenthood (or who recently has), we’ve pulled together a list of all the most valuable bits of advice I personally wish I’d known since day one.
So, here goes…I hope you find it useful!
26 insider tips and tricks all new parents need to know
1. Be ready (like seriously ready) for your baby’s arrival at least a month before your due date…that bundle could literally arrive at any time.
2. While pregnant, read more about actually being a parent to a newborn and what to expect in the first few weeks and months. Don’t just focus on the birth…while this is, of course, the most daunting part (for new mums especially), in the grand scheme of things, it’s also the shortest. Take it from me; frantically reading your baby books and pouring over Google, invariably at 3am, to try and figure out why your baby won’t feed/sleep/stop crying, is best avoided.
3. Before the baby arrives, make sure you’ve practised getting your car seat in / out of car, collapsing the pushchair / travel system, fitting your car seat to the pushchair and removing it. And make sure you can do them all in a rush and one handed as this is a key skill for all new parents!
4. Set up an online account with the supermarket of your choice, saving down all your most comforting foods and essential items in the favourites menu, so you can easily do your weekly shop for delivery in the click of a button without needing to leave the house.
5. Get yourself a mini screwdriver and keep it somewhere really obvious around the house – musical mobiles and white noise toys all require a mini screwdriver to get into the battery pack, so this piece of kit will be invaluable! And on that note, stock up on batteries!!
6. Don’t buy everything new. So much of the expensive baby kit you’ll need can be found second-hand online (most of the time, in tip top condition and at a fraction of the price), as well as at specialist charity shops like FARA Kids, where you can find some amazing bargains.
7. Your newborn baby will sleep for 16-17 hours a day in the first week, and will feed between 8 and 15 times a day. After the first week or two, this will decrease to 6-8 times a day. Breastfed babies usually feed more often.
8. Your natural smell is really comforting to your newborn baby, so avoid strong deodorant and perfume/aftershave and try out some skin to skin as often as possible. It’s also worth using your (slightly used) pillow case as a mattress cover for your Moses basket as the smell will also help soothe your baba to sleep.
9. Keep swaddling your baby, even if they always end up wrestling their arms free. Newborns aren’t actually aware yet that their limbs are parts of their bodies, so flailing arms and loose legs are just a distraction. Swaddling reminds babies of being warm and snuggly in mummy’s tummy, so helps settle them (and ultimately helps them sleep better and for longer).
10. Ensuring your baby is warm and toasty is seriously important. They need an extra layer of clothing than you at all times, day and night. Warmth = sleep!
11. Do try to actually sleep when the baby sleeps. Despite everyone giving new parents this advice, it rarely happens in practice. Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves…the washing/ironing/cleaning/gym/Instagram scrolling can wait.
12. If any family or friends want to drop by to see the baby (especially in the first few months of its life) make sure they bring a meal with them and leave within an hour. This sounds pushy but you’ll thank me later…
13. Make sure you have a small lamp or dimmer switch wherever you plan to do your night feeds…it’ll mean you can get the job done without fully waking yourself up.
14. Formula milk is thought to be more filling than breastmilk – when Teddy was around 8 weeks old, we used to give him a bottle of formula for his night time feed at 7pm, which helped him sleep for longer at night while giving his mum a break from breastfeeding (as I did the bottle).
15. Definitely buy a baby bouncer – it not only provides hours of entertainment for your newborn but also lets you get on with things hands free (cook, go to the loo, have a shower, put a wash on) without having to wait until they’re asleep to do it.
16. You can set up regular nappy deliveries from Amazon Prime, to save you from ever running out…just don’t order too many of one size, as they can grow out of them so quickly when going through a growth spurt! This is not an ad, by the way…Amazon Prime is just seriously useful for new parents when you urgently need some piece of baby kit in a hurry…
17. Don’t worry if every other baby in your friendship circle / NCT group gets into a routine quicker, starts sleeping through the night earlier, starts smiling, crawling, talking, growing teeth etc before your little one does. Every baby develops at different speeds and hits the key milestones at different times so try not to compare yourself with anyone else (if you want to stay sane)…
18. And if your baby was born prematurely, remember to adjust age/milestone guidelines accordingly (as Health Visitors and GPs often forget to!).
19. Beware of baby clothes with loads of poppers or that look complicated to put on/take off – baby grows with zips or magnetic buttons will be your absolute saviour, especially during the night. It’s also worth considering going old school and getting some traditional nighties (otherwise known as bundlers… you can get them in M&S) which are brilliant for both boys and girls and save you a lot of unnecessary stress while nappy changing.
20. In case you’ve never been told, almost all baby grows and vests are designed to be put on and removed from either the baby’s head OR its bottom. Invaluable after a projectile vomiting or pooing episode to avoid trying to manoeuvre a soiled vest over a baby’s head.
21. Bit of a controversial one, but don’t always trust everything your GP says about your baby…nine times out of 10 they are not specialists in paediatrics or breastfeeding so you may need a second opinion from a community midwife or another specialist…
22. Always keep a couple of clothes pegs in your pram – they are incredibly handy for so many reasons, such as clipping a muslin over the top of your pram for shade or darkness to encourage your baby to sleep while you’re out and about.
23. It’s also worth stashing a few zip lock bags in your pram, changing bag and car…so useful as impromptu bins in case of emergency.
24. And on that note, as well as having a change of clothes for the baby in its changing bag, also pack an extra top for yourself, just in case you get shat/vomited on while out! While you’re at it, we highly recommend keeping an extra little bag in the boot of your car with some nappies, wipes and extra clothes in case you’re ever caught short.
25. Leaving the house and going for a walk with your newborn may feel like a huge obstacle but it does the world of good for both you and your baby (and helps your newborn differentiate between day and night, which also should help with their sleeping patterns).
26. Finally, if you ever feel like everything is getting on top of you and you can’t cope, don’t bottle it up. Call a friend, go to a drop in session with your local health visitor or ask a question on social media…you are not alone and are doing an awesome job!
I hope you’ve found today’s list useful! If you know any new parents who would benefit from it, please do share it on your favourite socials to help spread the word. And if you have any other tips, hacks or pieces of advice for other new parents out there, please do add your recommendations in the comments section below!
For more parenting advice, articles, videos and free personalised newsletters about life with a new baby, you can sign up with BabyCentre here.
This post is my latest article as part of the #GenerationGraco Global Parent Blogging Panel!