New Parent Hacks
So, you’re going to be a new parent. Congrats! Now, put down the iron and step away from the wrinkled baby clothes. In fact, go ahead and leave the tags on—you’ll return most of them anyway.
While I don’t envy you, I have been there. Some of your friends have probably done this. Your parents did it, and theirs. People have been birthing and adopting and rearing children since the beginning of time. So, take a deep breath and relax. You got this.
In preparation for this column, I polled friends on new parent hacks and tips. The responses were as varied as the people themselves, illustrating one very important point: Parents must do what works for their family. If you take away one thing from this column, I hope it’s that. (Well, and never wake a sleeping baby.) Put down the baby book, stop making comparisons, and let the stream of advice you’re getting roll right off your back. Parenting comes with one very important thing: instinct. Listen to it, and do what works for you and your baby.
How’s that for unsolicited advice on unsolicited advice? I’m sorry. I’ll pass along some of the parenting hacks to compensate.
Nearly everyone I asked gave the same bit of advice: Babies don’t need a lot of fancy products. A sling or wrap, swaddle blankets, a simple pack and play and a plug-in swing are the only necessities. A very clever mom said, “Babies deserve the most expensive thing, which is love and attention.” I couldn’t agree more.
Another big consensus: Wipe warmers are really just wipe dryers and should be avoided. Many people polled use white noise sound machines to get babies down and back to sleep at home and traveling. Diaper creams? Top votes were Little Rock-based company Diaper Goop, A&D and Resinol. The Rock ’N Play sleeper got several nods, as did a crib wedge to help with reflux. Un-Petroleum jelly is great for cuts, dry skin and as a lip balm. Parents also recommended the Zipadee-Zip wearable blanket, which was created by a Ouachita Baptist University alumnus and his wife.
One of my personal favorites is the Nosefrida nasal aspirator. Wait. Before you Google it and gag, know that mucus never comes anywhere near your mouth. The Nosefrida simply uses a parent’s suction power to clear tiny airways. When baby is sick and miserable and can’t breathe, it’s a lifesaver, I promise.
Maybe you’ve heard this one, but breastfeeding is hard. What seems like the most natural and easy thing is actually quite complex. It helps to have knowledge, tools and support before going live. Local resources like birthbydesigndoulas.com offer childbirth education, lactation and postpartum support. Baptist Health’s Expressly for You is a great program, and Arkansas has a local La Leche League and the AR WIC Breastfeeding hotline.
OK, time for a few more hacks. Layer crib pads and sheets for quick nighttime or one-handed cleanups. Take paternal leave after your support leaves. Use massage oil or Un-Petroleum to keep meconium from sticking to tender baby bottoms those first few diaper changes. If going back to work, start childcare a couple of days before, doing half-days so both parents and baby can ease into it.
Here’s a bit of good advice: Just because you’re new parents doesn’t mean you should become recluses. Live up those first few weeks and months. Go to movies and to dinner. Babies will sleep through the noise, but not for long. It’s when the grabby, curious and loud stage starts at 5 or 6 months you’ll be homebound for a while.
Something else is very important and close to my heart. Accepting help doesn’t make you a bad parent. If your partner or family or friends offer to watch the baby for an hour or two, take them up on it! Take a walk, have a cup of coffee while it’s still hot, go cruise Target—anything. It’s good for overworked and sleepdeprived parents to remember who they are, to be a person not in charge of another person even if it’s just for an hour. Healthy parents make for healthy children.
Oh, and moms, while you’re idly cruising Target aisles, grab a bottle of dry shampoo (Clean Freak is cheap and effective) and a cute baseball hat. These will be your best friends in the years to come since some days the only way to make it all work is to skip the entire hair prep process.
Nearly every parent I asked advised new parents not to worry so much, to relax and try to enjoy this fleeting time. They may be tiny and precious, but babies aren’t as breakable as they seem. As trite as it sounds, it’s true: The days are long, but the years are short. Take a deep breath and enjoy this time as a new parent before it’s gone.