Help is here!Tips for New Parents


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( When you become a new parent, your focus switches almost entirely to your newborn baby. As you delight in having a baby and watching your newborn change from day to day, you may also find the transition to being Mom or Dad incredibly stressful. Many new parents don’t feel like they have the skills or resources to care for a baby and to adjust to the many life changes it entails all at once.

Help is here!Tips for New Parents

And make no mistake — your life will change. “Your life is turned upside down,” says Hannah Chow-Johnson, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. The first month in particular can be a new experience for you on many levels.

However, you can go through this new phase of life with greater ease by properly preparing to care for a baby.

Getting Ready for Your Newborn Baby

Before the baby is born, it’s helpful to take baby care classes to educate yourself about what it’s like to have and care for a baby. Your doctor should also review with you everything you need to know — from feeding and bathing an infant to soothing a fussy little one. Books on newborn care can be helpful resources too, but be sure to double-check any advice you get from books with your doctor and ask any questions you have along the way.

Gaining Confidence as a Parent

It may seem overwhelming at first, but you can definitely handle the transition to caring for a newborn. Even if you’re brand-new to parenting, have confidence in your instincts — most of the time they’ll be right, Dr. Chow-Johnson says. “Most parents are very attuned to their infants and are able to tell if something is wrong,” she explains.

If you’re still unsure or afraid of doing the wrong thing, just call your doctor’s office or ask an experienced parent. “But remember, most of the time the ‘wrong thing’ doesn't cause harm,” Chow-Johnson says. “Babies are tougher than they look. They’re small, need a lot of care, and need help, but their bodies are strong.”

It’s also important for new parents not to take on more than they can realistically handle. “Don't try to do it all,” Chow-Johnson says. “Don't try to keep the house perfect, and don't be afraid to say no to visitors who want to see your newborn — it takes time to adjust.” Concentrate first on taking care of the baby and your family.

When you can, it’s critical to rely on the help of others as well. “If you have supportive family around, they can be very beneficial,” says Cindy Cooke, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, a certified family nurse practitioner and president-elect of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. “If you live far from family, build a support system of neighbors, friends, co-workers, or others.”

By being a loving parent, following your instincts, and asking for help when you need it, you’ll do just fine. “As time goes on, you’ll become more confident with experience,” Chow-Johnson says.

Finding Time to Focus on You

It’s also very important for new parents to focus on themselves as a couple whenever the opportunity arises. After all, you’re a team now, and it’s a lot easier to take care of a baby with two parents working in sync.

“Be open to even small moments together,” Cooke says. “A walk around the neighborhood, a swing on the back porch, or a shared cup of coffee or tea at the end of the day together can be so beneficial.” Remember to have adult conversations, which is especially important for stay-at-home parents to feel connected to the outside world. “Enjoy each other and remember to continue to court each other like you did when you first met,” Cooke adds. “This will build your relationship as a couple and as parents on this new journey.”

Taking time for yourselves also means getting your rest. “New parents put a great deal of pressure on themselves to do everything right, but a baby’s needs at first are very basic,” Cooke says. “New parents can handle things much better if they’re rested and sharing responsibilities.” Taking care of yourself and getting enough sleep are some of the most important things you can do to be a better parent. With time and practice, everything else will just fall into place too.

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