One of my sweet co-workers is weeks away from having her first baby. “I have a question for you,” she said to me the other day. “What are some good books I can read about parenting?”
I admired the earnestness behind her question. I could tell she understood the magnitude of having a newborn and raising a child. And, I could see that she grasped how daunting the task could be. It also hit me that even though she worked at iMOM, a great resource for all things parenting, she was still unsure about how to be a good mom.
Before I answered her question, I reassured her that she and her husband would do a great job. They’re both kind, mature, and are clear on the values they want to pass on to their baby. Since then, I’ve really been thinking about her question, how to be a good parent to a newborn?
I’d love to hear your advice on how to be a good parent. In fact, I’m sure my co-worker would love it too. Take a look at these ideas for how to be a good parent to a newborn, and please share your ideas too!
Love, milk, and sleep.
The beauty of parenting a newborn is that your job is pretty basic. Your baby primarily needs love, milk, and sleep. So during the newborn phase, the first three months of your baby’s life, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to figure out how to be the perfect parent in the months and years ahead. Spend the newborn period getting used to being a mom and meeting your baby’s needs.
Honestly, keep it simple. Love on your baby. Feed him (and if you’re having trouble breastfeeding, don’t berate yourself for that either). And let him sleep. Here’s one mom’s take on how to get your baby to sleep.
You can’t spoil a baby.
When a newborn cries, there’s a reason, and it’s usually hunger. Crying can also mean that your baby is uncomfortable — maybe her diaper is wet or one of her fingernails is pushing into her skin. Or she might be crying because she wants to be close to you. A newborn’s cries are never a way to manipulate you or work you to get what she wants. Babies can’t talk or ask for what they want politely. Their cry is baby language for “I need something, please.” Or, if it’s a pressing matter, “I need something, PLEASE!”
A newborn’s cries are never a way to manipulate you or work you to get what she wants.
No matter how often you respond to your newborn’s cries, you will not spoil him. If you plan on eventually letting your baby cry it out to put himself to sleep, begin after the newborn phase.
Baby doesn’t care.
I’ll never forget sitting with another new mom at church when our babies were about a month old. Her hair was perfect. She didn’t look tired, and her toenails were painted. I felt like such a loser mom. Sure, my baby was pretty happy, but I felt like I had somehow messed up already as a parent because I was a little frayed around the edges.
Okay, yes, it’s nice if you can feel good about how you look, or how clean your house is, or how cute your baby is dressed, but hear me out on this one, your baby doesn’t care. And, your baby won’t remember any of it. Take advantage of your newborn’s inability to assess your parenting. Remember, your baby wants your love, his food, and a comfortable place to rest his little head. If it bugs you that the other pieces of your life haven’t fallen back into place, please ask for help, but know that your little one doesn’t care if you have lipstick on or not. And as much as you can, don’t worry about what other people think about your parenting.
It’s okay to ask for help.
I called my baby’s pediatrician a lot during the first three months, and I mean a lot. So you will not be the first mother to call the pediatrician with a question every week, or even every day, about your newborn. If you’re wondering if something is wrong with your baby, don’t obsess about it or hunker down for a Google session on newborn diseases. Call your doctor, call your mother, or call a friend with mom experience.
Same goes for the help you might need in other areas. The people who care about you won’t be able to help if you don’t ask. So if you’ve hit a rough patch, don’t hide behind a happy facade. Share how you feel. Ask for help and accept it when offered.
Share the baby.
Your natural instinct might be to meet all of your baby’s needs yourself. You also might be inclined to think that your husband is not doing the newborn baby thing quite right when he does get involved. Well, you might as well begin now to share your baby with your husband. Sure, your baby needs you, but she will benefit tons by having a dad who can take care of her too.
As much as possible, refrain from correcting your husband on baby matters. If the baby starts crying when he’s holding him, don’t swoop in; let him figure it out and ask for help if he wants it.
Those are the newborn basics. After the newborn phase, then you can start thinking about other issues. But for now, relax, and know that your newborn is much more forgiving, and forgetful, than you think. Here are some needs your future toddler will need from you after the newborn phases much too quickly.
What are you most excited about in becoming a mother?