Rusty is a writer, proofreader, editor, and designer living along Lake Michigan's coast with her supportive, nerdy husband.
Congratulations on Your New Bundle of Joy!
Babies are adorable, fun, and exciting, but when it's your first child you can feel more than a little overwhelmed. Good news, that's 100% okay! Contrary to what some parents want you to believe, no one has it together as a parent.
Children don't come with instruction manuals and what works for one child won't necessarily work for another. I know it can be stressful and sometimes you'll feel like you want to lock yourself in your bedroom to hide from it all (totally normal to feel that way), but you've got a little one depending on you, so you want to be the best mommy or daddy you can be.
I'm here to help with my top five tips for parents, or what I like to call the "Baby Basics."
Tip #1: Always Pack More than You Think You'll Need
Babies need a lot of “stuff” just to get through a single day. This includes, but is not limited to, food, toys, and clothes. So why not include these things when you travel? Whether you’re going on a family vacation or just heading to Grandma’s house for the day. Always pack more than you think you are going to need. It’s not up to the person you’re visiting to provide your child with food. Always pack your own meals and snacks for your child. It’s true that the person you’re visiting will probably have something to give your child and they won’t mind sharing, but again it’s not their responsibility to make sure that your child is fed. This is especially true if your child is on a particular diet (whether it’s allergies or just because you prefer that your child eat organic). You have no right to get upset at the contents of another person’s refrigerator if you didn’t plan ahead for your child.
Did you know that babies like to play and be entertained? It’s true. They like shiny things that make noise or textured things that feel neat in their little hands, and the best kind of things are the ones they can put into their mouths. Why not pack some toys for baby? Just a couple toys so that Grandma doesn’t have to pull out the spoons and measuring cups. Granted, if I know Grandmas they will probably pull out the spoons and cups anyway, and if I know babies they will probably throw aside the toys from home to play with the new items, but that doesn’t change the fact that as a parent it is your responsibility to entertain your child. What if you were going to the home of a childless friend and they don’t want your kid getting into their cupboards for fun? Don’t just expect there will be something in your friend’s house that your child can play with. It doesn’t matter if your friend collects stamps, dolls, sports memorabilia, stuffed animals, or video games; it’s their stuff and if they don’t want a child touching it, then it is your responsibility as a parent to make sure they don’t and to make sure they have something they can play with while they are there.
Also, while you’re packing for your day trip, why not pack more than one outfit? Heck, pack a few outfits. Babies can be messy. My sister-in-law once changed her baby into a second outfit just to have the baby almost immediately puke on it. Did she pack another outfit? No. I guess she didn’t get the memo that babies puke. This brings me to my next point. Babies poop.
Tip #2: Always pack extra diapers!
This could be included as part of the first tip, but I felt that it was so important that it deserved its own section. Make sure that you have more than enough diapers to handle any fecal situation that may arise.
It’s great if you can predict down to the minute when you’re going to have a bowel movement, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to Junior. Sure, while you’re at home your child may poop at 7 AM regularly and not have another until 3-4 hours later, but the process of traveling can throw a child off his or her schedule and suddenly you have a messy, and stinky, situation to deal with. Packing one diaper for a trip away from home just isn’t going to cut it. You might get lucky and not need more than one diaper, but the likelihood of that is slim. Isn’t it better to pack more, just in case? While you’re packing the diapers, don’t forget the baby wipes and diaper rash ointment.
Tip #3: Have two sets of medicine.
One set is for your home cabinets and the other set is for your diaper bag.
Sicknesses, gas, teething pain, and other baby ailments can strike at any time. Illness and pain follow no rules and will show up whenever they feel like it whether you like it or not. So be prepared. Having a sick child is a scary, and often stressful, situation why add a lack of medicine to the equation? The last thing you want to do while your baby is crying is have to run to the store to buy medicine, or bundle him or her up to head all the way home…unless you’re hoping that the ride will lull them to sleep. That’s a 50/50 game. You either get the peaceful ride with a sleeping baby or you get the ride from Hell with a screaming child in the backseat for the entire trip.
Tip #4: Jammies make great evening wear.
If you’re planning to be out until the evening and you know/hope that little Suzy is going to fall asleep in the car on the way home make sure you pack her pajamas. That way just before you leave (wherever you are) you can put her in pajamas and she can go right into bed when you get home. This tip has amendments though. If you forget pajamas and your child falls asleep in the car in their clothes, just make their clothes their pajamas that night. Your baby will be fine if he goes to bed in his cute little baby jeans and T-Shirt. There is no rule that you have to sleep in pajamas.
Tip #5: Remember You’re Not a Failure.
This is one of the most important tips I can offer. It’s okay if your breast milk isn’t ample enough for your baby and you had to switch to formula. I've heard mothers cry because they couldn't breast feed and were worried that their friends would judge them for going to formula. Formula is enriched with the vitamins and minerals that babies need and it is meant to be an alternative to breast milk for a reason. You're not a failure.
It’s okay if your baby is soothed by a pacifier (or blanket, or stuffed animal). Many people have security items in their adult lives and are perfectly normal, functioning members of society. I still have a pillow case that helps me sleep and I don't feel like a failure.
It's okay if your baby is a little chubbier than other babies. According to my mother-in-law chubby babies are healthier babies. I don't know if there is any scientific proof to back that up, but it sounds nice and reassuring. Plus chubby babies are down right adorable. It should be noted that my mother-in-law is not a doctor. Always make sure that your little one is getting the check ups they need to grow healthy and strong.
And it is completely okay if you don’t have little Jack or Jane on a strict eating/bath/bedtime schedule. Just because your friend Mary Sue and her husband Johnny-Be-Good have their "perfect child" on a 'perfect schedule" doesn't mean you're doing something wrong. In fact, I'd bet that the truth is Mary and Johnny are probably fibbing at least a little bit. Nobody is perfect. Especially when it comes to parenting.
You can never be completely prepared for parenthood. There will be battles won and battles lost. Moments when you look at your little one and feel like your heart with explode with love and days when you'll go to work with Cheerios in your hair. There will be dinners where your child actually eats their mashed peas and meals that consist of a roll and half a cheese stick. And that's okay!
Life is unpredictable and you can’t plan for every detail, but you can try and stay ahead of the game by taking my tips into consideration. You'll even develop your own tips over time. Don't hesitate to share your knowledge with new parents every where. Trust me, they will thank you for it, even if it's just in their heads at 3 AM when they finally get their little one to sleep thanks to one of your tips!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
C Levrow (author) from Michigan on January 22, 2011:
Thanks for the comment M.T. you bring up a good point about appropriate video games ... perhaps that should be a hub you write? :)
M. T. Dremer from United States on January 06, 2011:
Parents, both new and old, often disregard the comments of aunts, uncles and/or friends who don't have children. While I understand that having children changes you, it doesn't mean that your siblings and friends aren't observant. I frequently argue with my brother over what video games are appropriate for my nephew. He's the father, yes, but I know more about the video games he is trying to play. So I think it's a delicate balance; parents obviously know the most about their own children, but they are not infallible. When siblings and friends offer advice, it should be taken into consideration because they care too.
Good advice and hub!