Nobody is born knowing exactly how to be a parent. We might have some instincts we can follow and things we can learn along the way, but every new parent has a pretty steep learning curve ahead of them. Even if you have previous experience with babies and children, whether at work or in your personal life, actually being a full-time parent is different. But don’t worry if you’re concerned about getting it right when your baby arrives. There’s time to brush up on some basic skills and knowledge so you feel more prepared. And remember that every parent gets it a little wrong sometimes too.
When your baby arrives, they won’t do much but eat, sleep, pee, and poop. They might be adorable, but they have some pretty basic needs in the beginning. One of the most important things is obviously feeding your baby, something that you’re going to be doing every few hours. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, learning how to do it safely and efficiently will obviously help you a lot. And although you can’t practice for real until your baby arrives, there are resources and even classes that can help you out. Get some tips from other parents and from experts to help you prepare.
It’s definitely not the most pleasant bit of being a parent, but babies need to be changed regularly. You need to know how often to change a diaper, how to clean your baby up properly, how to prevent diaper rash, and how to secure a new diaper. It’s also important to make sure you change diapers safely, especially if you’re planning to use a changing table. And if you’re planning to use cloth diapers, that adds a couple more things you need to learn too. You can try practicing these things on a doll, unless you have a baby you can borrow from a friend or family member. But even if you don’t get a chance to give it a go, just knowing the theory can be helpful.
Dressing Your Baby
Getting a baby dressed might seem like it would be simple. But babies are wriggly and trying to get their head, arms, and legs inside their clothes can be harder than you think. You also need to know what to dress them in to ensure they’re safe and comfortable. Your baby needs to be warm but not too warm. The rule is generally that they should have one more layer than you. You can watch videos on how to dress your baby gently and safely. Make sure you’re guiding their arms and legs, not pulling on them, and ensure they’re safe when using a changing table.
Dressing your baby for the weather can be tricky. In hot weather, it’s crucial to prevent your baby from overheating. If you’re going outside, you should also make sure your baby stays in the shade as much as possible. A sun hat will keep the sun off their face, and it’s also important to remember sunscreen. When it’s cold, your baby needs enough layers to keep them warm both inside and outside. How much you need to dress them up will depend on just how cold it is.
Putting Your Baby to Bed
Safe sleeping practices are essential to learn about before your baby arrives. They help to reduce the risk of SIDS, but they’re also there to help you and your baby get a good night’s sleep. Learning how to practice safe sleep early will help you to remember the rules even when you’re at your most tired.
Some of the things to remember include:
- Place your baby to sleep on their back – babies should only sleep on their front when they are able to roll over both ways
- Your baby should sleep on a firm mattress, with their feet at the end
- Don’t share a bed with your baby or sleep with them on a chair or couch
- Keep your baby’s head uncovered – blankets should be tucked in and no higher than their shoulders
- Keep any toys or other objects out of the crib
- Your baby should sleep in the same room as you for the first six months
How to Give Baby a Bath
Bath time can be a lovely experience with your baby. It’s a good time for bonding, and it’s a nice way to wind down before bedtime. But knowing how to give your baby a bath safely is important if you want it to be a good experience. Your baby doesn’t need to have a bath every day. In fact, sometimes it might not be recommended to do so, especially for babies with dry skin conditions or very sensitive skin. Instead, you can wipe their face, neck, hands, and bottom.
But when you do give your baby a bath, make sure you start with warm water that’s not too hot or too cold. You can just use plain water in the first month, but you might choose to use baby soap and shampoo later. Support your baby in the water, keeping their head clear, and gently move the water over their body. You might want to wash their face and hair before this, holding your baby on your knee to make it a little easier. You can bathe with your baby too, but it’s helpful to have someone else to hold them while you get in and out.
How to Work Various Baby Equipment
You can get by without too much stuff when you have a newborn, but you can also find that you quickly accumulate a lot of stuff. Some of the baby items you use can take some practice to use, so it’s definitely worth spending some time figuring out how they work. This can include things like your car seat, stroller, or baby carrier, or gadgets like bottle sterilizers and warmers. Giving these things a couple of test runs is really helpful if you want to be able to use them for real later on. Knowing how to fold and unfold your stroller or work your baby monitor will really help you out. And if anything doesn’t work, it’s best to know now rather than when you really need it.
Calming a Crying Baby
Of course, newborns have one main way of communicating with you, and that’s crying. When you’re dealing with the shock of being a new parent and lacking sleep, your baby crying can sometimes feel like the worst thing in the world. And knowing how to get them to stop isn’t always easy. Babies may cry for lots of reasons, but they’re ultimately telling you they’re not happy. There are a few things you will want to check off when your baby cries to work out what might be wrong.
- Is your baby hungry or thirsty?
- Does your baby’s diaper need changing?
- Is your baby too hot or too cold?
- Is your baby windy?
- Does your baby want some attention?
- Is your baby feeling unwell?
If you’ve checked all of these things and your baby is still crying, you could try a couple of things to help. A baby massage, a cuddle, singing a song, or maybe going for a walk could all help both you and your baby calm down. If you’ve checked that your baby is safe and healthy, there’s no harm in putting them down and stepping away for a few minutes if you’re finding it overwhelming. It’s better to take some time to collect yourself with some deep breaths than to risk losing your temper or getting too upset.
How to Bond with Your Baby
Your baby might not do much when they’ve just been born, but that doesn’t mean you can’t spend time bonding. In fact, it might be the best time because your baby is right there with you at all times. There are lots of ways you can bond with your baby and form that connection between you. Skin-to-skin contact is a great way to bond, helping your baby to get used to your touch and smell. Talking and singing to your baby is a good way to connect too. You can simply narrate what you’re doing if you’re not sure what to say, or it’s never too early to read to your baby.
How to Safely Leave Your Baby Alone
Even, or maybe especially, new parents need time to themselves. At some point, you have to go to the bathroom, take a shower, or just take a moment on your own. When you leave your baby alone, you just have to make sure you do it safely. Check that they can’t fall off anything when you leave them. Make sure that siblings or pets can’t accidentally hurt them either. Once your baby has started to move around, you’ll also need to check that you’ve baby-proofed your home to prevent any accidents from occurring.
You can’t become a super parent before your baby arrives, and there’ll be a lot to learn along the way. But you can learn some basic skills so you feel a little more prepared.