We’re coming up on Charlie’s first birthday, and I have to admit that this has been a whirlwind of a year! I’m completely exhausted, but in a good way. We were pretty unprepared when our little lady debuted (what new parents aren’t?) but it seems that we’ve finally gotten in the swing of things. In no particular order, here’s my Top 5 Tips for Surviving Your Baby’s First Year!
1) Bathe With Baby
It’s hard to find time to shower or bathe when you bring your baby home. You’re completely wiped out of energy physically and mentally. You hardly have time to squeeze in a morning routine to brush your teeth some days! We found out early on that it’s super easy to hop in the tub with an infant, they actually love floating around and having a bit more mobility. And as Charlie grew and started sitting up on her own (about 4 months) we would sit on the floor of the tub and let the shower rain down on us. Not only did it guarantee we both got clean, it was solid entertainment for at least 30 minutes. It was the perfect way to fill up some of the time between naps!
2) Swings (and jumpers and gyms) aren’t the Devil.
A lot of moms feel guilty about using contraptions to keep their babies busy. But honestly? It was a total lifesaver! Charlie adored her swing, and it would give me at least 15 minutes to do some dishes or start a load of laundry. Occasionally I’d pop it in the bathroom while I showered when I needed just a quick rinse over a big to-do of a joint bathing. She enjoyed her play jumper for only a few weeks until the lack of mobility made her cranky. It’s also nice to teach them a little independence and let them play on their own. Obviously don’t trap them in there all day, just use it once or twice for a handful of minutes to get some of your stuff done so you’re not completely stressed with a filthy house!
3) Be Spontaneous
As awesome as schedules can be, sometimes it’s even better to just toss them out the window. My favorite days are the ones that we just randomly packed up to the beach, or the museum, or the zoo. Yeah, naptimes get a little crazy, but it’s not really as big an issue as you build it up in your head to be. You don’t have to meticulously pack and plan. Just toss in some diapers and bottles and you’re good to go!
When people offer to help, TAKE IT! Don’t feel squicky about letting people do things. At first, I felt so strange when my in-laws would come over and let me sleep while they did dishes or washed laundry. After a while, I realized that it was stuff like this that saved my sanity. Whenever the hubs goes out of town to work or hunt, I call my mom and she comes to visit Charlie and help me out. It’s not that I can’t do it alone, it’s that I just don’t have to, so why make it harder on myself? It takes a village, right? Family and friends love to help. And as long as you offer as much as you take, do not feel guilty about it. I “pay” my mom back by building her stuff. I make presents or offer design work for friends or buy them dinner. Don’t walk all over them of course, but don’t be afraid to accept what they offer either! I promise, it’s well worth the break.
5) Trust Your Instincts – You know your baby best!
You know your baby better than anyone else. Better than your pediatrician, better than your mom, better than the author of the leading parenting book. Once you pop that baby outta your belly, you’re going to be bombarded with advice. “Don’t let that baby near your dogs!” Um, ok. I got admonished for not putting socks on her (she always kicks them off), for being a bad mom when I took her out in the rain (so we should stay quarantined inside?), that she’s too fat, too bald, too cranky, do this, do that, SHUT UP! You will drive yourself crazy if you try to follow everyone’s advice. Bottom line? Do what works for you. Our pedi really pushed starting solids at a young age (4 months) and it was just much too early for Charlie. She had allergic reactions, vicious constipation, and hated solids. So we gave it up after a week and reintroduced it at 6 months successfully, even though my pedi expressed her disappointment. But was she there, feeding my baby every day? NO! I was. And I made the right judgement call.
Charlie has always been a rough night sleeper, and I tried nearly every method out there. People told me to rearrange her nap schedule, to keep her up later, to put her to bed earlier, to let her cry it out, to try cosleeping. Trust me, we ran the gamut. Eventually I just gave up and did what I thought was best. We stuck to the same nap schedule (two 2 hour naps a day) and put her to bed around 8/9. Some nights are great, some are still rough. We follow our own rules for feeding. I don’t stress out if my mom wants to feed her Spaghetti O’s. But if you want to keep your kid away from processed foods, DO IT! If you want to cloth diaper, DO IT! If your doctor tells you to CIO and you’re not ready, by all means, ignore them. You are the parents who spend the bulk of your time with your baby. It may take some time to iron things out and build up your confidence, but you know what is right for your child. I politely listen when people offer advice (especially if I ask them!), then glean through it and decide what I want to do with what they told me. Do not feel like you are a bad parent from doing something differently from what your doctor tells you or you read in a parenting book. Every parent/child relationship is different, even within the same family.
So the bottom line is, do what you feel is right. Everyone will tell you something different, and a lot of people will judge you. But as long as your baby is happy and healthy and thriving, just flip them the bird and go on your merry way 😉
Any veteran parents have some tips to add? What did you learn during your first initiation year as a parent?