Advice for First Time Parents
When you have your first baby, you get given a whole lot of pink or blue baby clothes (regardless of how vocal you were about keeping things gender neutral), rattles your kid won't play with for several months and concrete but contradictory advice.
Well, I'm not here to tell you how to get your kid to sleep through the night, when to wean them or whether to give them a dummy. I am not an expert on any of those things. In fact, I'm not convinced that anybody is, regardless of what it says in their Twitter profile.
But there are some things I've figured out along the way which I think are worth sharing.
Here's what I had figured out after four months of parenting, and here's what I would add to it now:
Nobody Cares About Your Toenails
I'm still - still - baffled by all the "If this baby doesn't hurry up and arrive, I'm going to need another pedicure" tweets that I see. Pregnant ladies!, think about what midwives see on a daily basis (keywords: birth; poo; vomit; blood) - if they're looking at your feet it's because they're gauging whether or not you need compression socks, not because they're tutting at your toenails. Likewise: it's not your bikini line that they're examining down there.
Your Baby Can't See Beige
If the nursery is painted magnolia with beige giraffes on the curtains, it's all for your own benefit. Babies can't see far and they only see high contrast - if you must go minimalist, stick to black and white. But, honestly, you may as well embrace the primary colours now, while you still have a say in where and how they're used.
It's Okay Not To Love Every Minute
Even if you spent years trying and trying and trying to create this baby, it is okay to have middle of the night crying fits because you just want to get some sleep. The best, most contented parents you know have all had moments of sobbing "I can't do this!"
You CAN Do This, Though
Every week it will get a little bit easier. Especially when your baby starts to smile. And, if it doesn't: speak to your health visitor; they have heard it all before and they exist to help you through this.
Video Your Kid
Even if you never watch the videos (you will, though), nothing cheers up a wailing child like watching themselves fall over a teddy bear seventy-nine times in a row.
Parent Friends Are Essential
Go to toddler groups and baby classes; ask friends to put you in touch with other new parents they know; try those play dating apps. Shove yourself right out of your comfort zone and exchange phone numbers because it's a long day if you don't have another grown up to text about teething.
Get some. I don't care if you're in your pyjamas with hair you haven't washed in a week - sit on your doorstep and look at the clouds for ten minutes. You do NOT have to spend every moment your baby naps doing the ironing; you DO need to grab a bit of time for yourself.
On That Note
Don't buy baby clothes which need ironed. They'll get crumpled as soon as you put your kid down for a nap/clip them into their buggy or carrier/let them roll around on the floor. Jersey cotton all the way.
Your Partner Is A Parent, Too
They might use slightly different words and a slightly different rocking motion than you and it might not be working quite as fast as you might like, but let them figure it out for themselves. Nobody welcomes constructive criticism when they're feeling incapable and sleep deprived.
Pat Their Bum Dry
Why does nobody ever tell new parents this?! If you've just used a wet wipe on your baby's bum, pat it dry. Don't just assume you need nappy cream, either - we've only ever had to apply it twice.
Not All Advice Is Aimed At You
All those leaflets about breastfeeding and chatting to your baby and not feeding them Maltesers? They are for people for whom this stuff is not already obvious. If breastfeeding doesn't work for you, you are not a failure; if you can't think of enough small talk to fill your baby's every waking moment, they will not flunk out of primary school; if you think filling a teether with strawberry jam is a bad idea, your kid's teeth will be off to a good start. Don't work yourself up assuming that all advice leaflets are attacks on YOUR personal abilities - they're not; you've totally got this.
And If Some Other Advice Doesn't Seem To Be Working For You...?
Ignore it. All kids are different. And some of them really don't want a bath at bedtime.