My wife and I became parents to a wonderful baby girl nearly 18 months ago. Before our daughter’s arrival, we did an abundance of research into what to expect and how to prepare for the arrival of a new-born, from reading numerous online articles/blogs, watching videos or speaking to friends and family who have recently had children themselves.
Our research did pay dividends in most aspects of life as new parents but there were some things that we could have done before the birth of our little one which we didn’t take too seriously at the time but had we actioned them, I believe would have made our collective lives easier.
Therefore, based on our experience, my recommendations of the top 5 things to do to make the lives of little ones and parents smoother are as follows:
Our bedroom in our loft extension has glass patio like doors leading to a balcony with integrated Venetian blinds which let quite a bit of light in, even when fully closed.
This was not particularly a problem for us and did not really affect our sleep even in the British summer where the sun is up until 9 pm during some months but then we would go to bed later than 9 pm most of the time anyway.
So we didn’t think it would affect our daughter but I can most certainly say it did, as we weren’t aware as to how much light can affect a baby’s ability to go to sleep.
When we moved her to the nursery when she was older, we made extra effort to stop any light coming into the room with the installation of blackout blinds and also plugging any light gaps from the windows/door.
It helped her fall asleep much quicker at the start of her night-time sleep and also helped resettle by herself once she got up after her sleep cycles.
So this would be my top recommendation of a must-do for the room/rooms that your baby is to sleep in.
Formulate a plan of your/baby’s sleeping and feeding arrangements before your baby arrives at home and ensure you have communicated this with your husband/wife/partner/anyone else involved.
This certainly helps when you’re sleep deprived (especially in the first few days when it’s a shock to your system) and you do not have the brain capacity to logically think through what to do and who does what. Bear in mind that new-borns, on average, feed every 2 to 3 hours, or 8 to 12 times every 24 hours and shall therefore be up multiple times during the night.
Say, for example, if you/your wife/partner has had a C-section, the wound can take up to 6 weeks to heal and the advice is to not move much and also not to carry/lift anything that may cause harm to the wound if it can be avoided.
In this scenario, which applied to us, we placed the co-sleeper on my side of the bed and agreed that when the baby wakes up, I would lift the baby from the co-sleeper, comfort her and hand her over to my wife for a feed once she was in a comfortable position.
Having a plan helped us and I would say take some time to think about the set up of your home and what would work best for you.
Car seat/Travel system
A car seat of course is a necessary legal purchase if you’re planning on driving with your baby but it would be beneficial to think about how long you think your baby would be in the car seat for at a stretch and if you would like to use it as part of a travel system with a pram/buggy.
If you are intending on doing journeys longer than 2 hours then it would be useful to look into lie-flat car seats as for standard upright car seats it is recommended to take regular breaks every two hours or sooner and remove your baby from the car seat for at least a few minutes so your baby has some time to move about and be repositioned when you put them back.
The 2-hour window not only applies to single car journeys longer than 2 hours but also applies if your baby is moved whilst still in the car seat from a car to a pram as part of the travel system and/or brought into the house and your baby remains in the car seat the entire time.
The main guidance is that upright car seats should not be used as a frequent place for your baby to go to sleep for extended periods. If your baby falls asleep in the car seat then they should be removed from the car seat when you reach home and laid on something flat even if they wake up whilst doing so.
There are now car seats available in the market that can be used from birth and be laid flat both in a car and in the buggy. This may be more cost-effective than buying a separate car seat and a pram with a bassinet which all adds up to a fair amount so I would recommend investigating this option if it is the right choice for you.
Having food that can be quickly prepared and cooked is going to be extremely important especially in the first few weeks from the birth of your baby as time is of the essence during this period due to the demanding nature of caring for your newborn. If your baby is going to be breastfed then mum should have nutritious meals for both her health and the baby.
In today’s Covid-19 world, it can be difficult to obtain support from friends and family during this period for example due to lockdown rules etc. The month before our baby was due, we stocked up on fresh meat and vegetables, chopped the vegetables, packed them into small Ikea bags and froze them. Pre-chopped onions and garlic were a life-saver!
We also separated the meat into single meal portions, marinated and froze the packs.
This meant that we could quickly fry and heat the combinations of pre-prepared vegetables and meat for each meal so the decision making and the cooking process was a lot smoother especially considering how tired we were.
It also helped that both my wife and I share cooking responsibilities at home so I was able to do the majority of the cooking post the first few weeks from birth whilst I was on paternity leave. If you or your partner does not cook then I would say that learning how to cook before your baby’s arrival would be very useful, cost-effective and healthier in general.
Classes for new parents-to-be are a great way to interactively learn about the expectations and challenges of parenthood and discuss topics within a group who are all to embark on this journey around the same time as you.
Valuable knowledge and tips can be obtained on how to meet and overcome the eventual challenges and if you happen to meet other like-minded parents within the group then you could find a community of support which is very important for new parents especially if circumstances dictate that family support isn’t readily available.
I attended a dad-to-be class which I found extremely useful as it provided me with an insight into early fatherhood, discuss any concerns I had, obtain advice and also practice essential skills like changing a nappy which I had not done before. The other dads and I also created a WhatsApp group and nearly 2 years later we are still in touch and share our experiences of raising our little ones.
My wife also attended a postnatal baby class which she and our daughter attended and enjoyed and she is also still in contact with the other mums in the group.
Mind you, this was just before the Covid-19 outbreak so most of the physical classes are not available due to Covid-19 rules but providers are now organising virtual classes which would be worth exploring.
Raising a little human can certainly be challenging and overwhelming at times but it is also the most fulfilling and rewarding experience witnessing your new-born baby grow up before your very eyes and makes all the effort absolutely worthwhile. I would like to wish you all the very best in this amazing adventure you are about to commence. You’ll do great. Cheers!