Parenthood is always on our minds here at Family Inceptions! We wanted to package up our experience and expertise about all things parenthood and offer it to expecting and intended parents out there.
We hope our guide, Parenting and Baby Care 101, will serve as a guidebook for your journey into parenthood. It’s a wild ride, but it’s so worth it! Keep reading for tips and tricks on everything from parenting styles to feeding your newborn and beyond.
What Does It Mean To Be A Parent?
A parent plays many important roles in a child’s life. From providing the basics like food, shelter, clothing and a safe environment, to offering love, guidance and direction, parents are central to any child’s development.
The Merriam Webster dictionary definition of “parent” is one that begets or brings forth offspring, or a person who brings up and cares for another. As I’m sure you’re aware, there’s a whole lot more to it than that. A parent plays so many roles for their children: caregiver, teacher, playmate, nurse, activity director, role model, chef, guide…the list goes on and on! Let’s look at some of these roles in more detail.
The Main Role As A Parent
According to the National Academy of Sciences, parents have four major responsibilities when it comes to raising their children:
- Maintaining the child’s health and safety,
- Promoting emotional well-being,
- Helping to develop social skills,
- Preparing the child intellectually.
The Center for Parenting Education summarizes the parent’s role as providing a combination of nurture and structure.
However you define the role, parenthood is a long and winding journey with many ups and downs. In the next section, we’ll explore what it means to become a parent.
Building A Relationship With Your Child
Focus on building a positive relationship with your child. The best relationships rely on presence—be sure to carve out time in your day to spend one-on-one with your child. Make eye contact, talk or sing to them, let them make decisions about how and what you play, and give them your undivided attention whenever possible.
Children want to feel seen and heard, and they have a developmental need to receive that attention from their parents. As we dive into some parenting advice, try not to get overwhelmed. At the end of the day, building a positive relationship with your child is the most important, lasting, and rewarding part of parenting.
Skills & Training For Parents
Many people joke that babies don’t come with a training manual, but really, there are limitless resources at our fingertips! From parenting blogs to books, videos, classes, online communities, coaching programs, and more, there’s no shortage of materials on how to tackle parenthood. While it’s easy to become overwhelmed, you can learn a lot by seeking advice from various sources.
Common Parenting Styles
Experts have identified four basic parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, permissive, and uninvolved. Child development experts agree that among these, parents should strive for the balance that exists in the authoritative parenting style. As you read the descriptions of each parenting style, we think you’ll see why.
Authoritative Parenting Style
The authoritative parent is one who sets reasonable limits, provides consistent discipline, and acts as a positive role model. Authoritative parents have appropriate expectations for their children, understanding that kids need the space and ability to figure things out on their own, even if that means messing up.
They have good communication skills and strive to listen to their children. They are also able to adapt to different circumstances, showing their kids the need to be flexible and empathetic based on the situation in front of them.
Children raised by authoritative parents tend to have very positive outcomes. They have high self-esteem and are able to regulate their own emotions. Although these parents don’t let children get away with bad behavior, they don’t dole out harsh or inconsistent punishments. Children learn how to behave well while still developing a close relationship with their parents.
Authoritarian Parenting Style
Authoritarian parenting is very strict and not especially nurturing. This type of parent has very strict rules that must be followed at all times, and if a child breaks a rule, they are punished, sometimes harshly. These parents are not very responsive to a child’s needs, nor are they very affectionate.
Authoritarian parents believe children should be obedient at all times and that they are not owed an explanation or allowed to have a voice in creating the rules. Children’s emotions aren’t validated and open communication is usually absent.
This style of parenting has a negative effect on children. Children raised by authoritarian parents can become aggressive and unaware of how to regulate emotions like anger. They tend to lack self-esteem, have trouble making decisions, and develop poor social skills. As they get older, children tend to rebel against authority in various settings.
Permissive Parenting Style
The permissive parenting style is one in which the child is treated almost like an equal. There are few boundaries or clear expectations, either because the parent is afraid to set them or because they believe the child should be free to make their own choices.
Permissive parents are typically quite nurturing and affectionate, but they don’t set appropriate boundaries for their children. Children of permissive parents grow up without many responsibilities, so they often lack good manners and a sense of personal responsibility. They can be impulsive, aggressive, and selfish, although they do tend to have high self-esteem and good social skills with peers.
Uninvolved Parenting Style
The uninvolved parent is indifferent and unresponsive to their children. This often turns into neglect, with the child’s basic needs not being met. Uninvolved parents do not respond to a child’s emotional needs, rarely check in on how they are doing, and essentially expect the children to raise themselves. There are few, if any rules and little structure. There are many reasons why a person may take this approach to parenting. Often, it is due to mental illness, substance abuse, difficulty coping with stress and overwhelm, but sometimes the parents are unaware of how to care for a child.
Children raised by uninvolved parents struggle with self-esteem issues and tend to misbehave or act out at school. They have trouble fitting in and displaying appropriate social skills.
Child development experts agree that authoritative parenting provides an even mix of structure and nurture, so children’s emotional, physical, and social needs are met. For more information on how to adopt the authoritative parenting style, check out this article by the Michigan State University Extension.
There are tons of guides out there that help expectant parents get ready to add to their family, but we’ll be honest: much of the journey is trial and error! There’s no such thing as perfect parenting, but before you become pregnant, you can do your best to prepare by reading books, taking classes, or maybe even getting some hands-on experience by offering your babysitting services to a friend who has kids. Trust us, no parent will ever turn down free babysitting!
All joking aside, there are actually several things you can do to prepare for parenthood before you’ve even conceived. You can schedule a pre-conception visit with your doctor to discuss things like family history and possible risk factors, and you can have genetic testing done to find out if you or your partner are carriers for certain hereditary conditions like
It’s also a good idea to focus on healthy habits like eating nutritious foods, exercising, and cutting back on or eliminating alcohol and tobacco.
We also recommend that you spend your pre-pregnancy days enjoying the clean interior of your car, because it will soon be filled with crumbs and other debris created by little ones!
Pregnancy is, for many parents, when life truly begins to change. Suddenly your focus turns from googling which spot has the best happy hour to which car seat is rated the highest. Don’t worry, the algorithm will pick up on your new addition—likely long before any of your friends will! Get ready for a feed full of baby gear!
Preparing For A Baby
As a new parent, you have a lot to worry about and will experience a wide array of emotions. You of course want to be the absolute best and do the best for your new bundle of joy, but it can be difficult to know if you’re doing everything “right”. Our best advice? Give yourself grace and cut yourself some slack because babies are resilient, and parenting is a whole new ballgame!
Use the next few months before the baby arrives to take care of yourself and start new, healthy habits and self-care. A few minutes a day to focus on YOU will make a big difference in how you feel. This may include taking your vitamins, writing in a journal, listening to a podcast, or
taking a walk. Continue these habits after your baby arrives because to effectively take care of others, you must first take care of yourself. New babies bring a lot of joy, but also a fair amount of new stress. This stress is often related to lack of sleep and feeling overwhelmed.
Before the baby arrives, make sure you and your partner communicate well and understand each other’s expectations. Both parents should seek support networks. These support networks are crucial to bounce concerns off each other as well as offer various types of support, advice, and encouragement.
Emotional Planning For A Baby
Emotional planning for a baby is often overlooked. Being prepared and realizing that you’ll face a lot of emotional ups and downs is the best way to navigate the possible “baby blues” and/or postpartum depression.
What is the difference between “baby blues” and postpartum depression? A good way to distinguish between the two is the duration. You may feel anxious, depressed, irritable, and even detached from your baby a couple of days after birth. Should your “baby blues” last more than 2-3 weeks and become worse, then postpartum could be to blame. If this occurs, it is imperative that you reach out to your provider and to understand that postpartum depression is more common than you think, it is just not talked about often or understood by many! The most important thing is to talk to your doctor—PPD is treatable but requires the attention of your care provider.
The First Months With Your Baby
Did you know the first three months of a baby’s life are known as the “Fourth Trimester?” This is because tiny newborns are completely dependent on their parents in a unique way. According to pediatrician and child development expert Dr. Henry Karp, newborns are most comforted by conditions that mimic life in the womb. They need time to get used to the loud, bright, over-stimulating world!
Parents-to-be should brace themself for those first few months being difficult and very tiring. Here are some situations you should prepare yourself for during the early newborn days:
- Your baby will sleep in 2-3 hours chunks of time, around the clock. Take turns with nighttime wakeups so both parents can get a little sleep!
- You’ll need to prioritize safe sleep—always on their back, in a bassinet, brib, or bedside co-sleeper with nothing but a swaddle and pacifier
- You’ll have monthly visits to the pediatrician to make sure baby is gaining weight and developing as expected
- Your first trip out in public with your baby will feel like a massive undertaking! Who knew little people could require so much stuff? Once you tackle your first outing, though, you’ll feel a huge sense of achievement and it will get easier each time you venture out.
- If you’ll be hopping on a plane for baby’s first flight early on, read up on tricks to ease pain caused by air pressure changes.
Remember, these days will go by quickly, so while the newborn days are challenging, it gets easier. In just a few months, you’ll be getting more sleep and will have more confidence. For now, focus on doing your best to care for, love, and nurture your little bundle of joy.
The Importance Of Getting Help
As a new parent, it’s extremely important for you to ask for help. Take friends and family up on their offers to drop off meals, do a load of laundry, or run errands for you. During the first few weeks, having help around the house is especially important. You’ll be exhausted from multiple nightly wakeups and still recovering from the stresses of labor and delivery. Some extra sets of hands can be a real lifesaver.
If you are parenting with a partner, be sure to ask him or her for help when you need it. Take turns handling nightly wakeups. Offering a bottle feeding at night can be a great way for the breastfeeding parent to get more rest and for the partner to have important bonding time with the baby.
If you don’t live near family or friends, check with the hospital for local resources. You might consider getting help from a nanny, babysitter, or doula for the first few weeks as you navigate life with a newborn.
The most important thing is that you ask for and accept help when you need it so you can be a safe and attentive caregiver for your child.
Learning How To Put Your Baby To Sleep
“How’s the baby sleeping?” is a question you’ll hear a lot in the first few months of a baby’s life. The question of sleep is an important one, which is why it’s the topic of much discussion and many blog posts. There are countless blogs, baby sleep coaches, books, podcasts, and more, all offering tips on how to get your baby to sleep easily (and for long enough!).
The first thing to realize is that when a baby is first born, their natural sleep/wake cycle is actually flipped. During pregnancy, babies are more active at night when the mother is resting, so they are born as little night owls. This is because the mom’s regular movement throughout the day lulls the baby to sleep.
Newborns sleep a lot, 16-18 hours a day the first few weeks, but not necessarily when you want them to. You can expect them to sleep in short bursts, usually no more than four hours at a time. The quickest way to get your baby’s circadian rhythm to match the normal day/night rhythm we have is to let day be day and night be night for you little one. What do we mean by that?
- First, newborns don’t need darkened rooms during the day. Letting them sleep in a sunny room actually helps train their circadian rhythm to recognize that daytime is time for being awake.
- Likewise, you don’t have to tiptoe around the baby or maintain silence when he falls asleep during the day. Carrying on with normal household noises and lower voices is another way to train their circadian rhythm.
- Track the baby’s sleep and awake times and the length of naps. You’ll start to notice a pattern developing. After about 4 months of age, talk to your pediatrician about whether it’s okay to begin sleep training.
- Swaddle your newborn with arms in until they show signs of being able to roll over. This calms the startle reflex that can wake them from a slumber.
- Sound machines that mimic the whooshing sound of the mother’s heartbeat in the womb are a great investment – this helps lull baby to sleep.
- Aim for laying the baby down drowsy but awake. This helps them learn how to self-soothe, which is an important skill. When they can self-soothe, that means they will eventually put themselves back to sleep when they wake at night, so you get more sleep!
How To Feed Your Baby
The early days of your baby’s life will be a blur of diaper changes, too-short naps, and feedings. Eat, sleep, poop—that’s a pretty accurate summary of a newborn’s routine!
Whether you are breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a combination of the two, the most important thing is that your baby is receiving the nutrition they need in order to grow and develop.
Many first-time moms are surprised and frustrated to learn that breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally. In fact, it often takes a lot of work to get the hang of it. While you are still in the hospital, you’ll work with the nurses and a lactation consultant to help the baby latch onto your nipple. While babies have a natural instinct to suck, it can take practice to make sure their lips are sealed tightly enough around the nipple. An improper latch can mean pain for mom and not enough milk for baby.
Your newborn should breastfeed once every two hours at first, or when she shows signs of hunger. Signs of hunger include:
- Opening and closing her mouth
- Sucking on fingers
- Putting her fist at her mouth
- Turning her head toward your breast
- Licking lips
Once you get the hang of a proper latch, most babies spend about 15-30 minutes on each breast. Always offer the other breast once the baby has finished with the first. To maintain an even supply and reduce the risk of engorgement, be sure to alternate which breast you start with during feedings.
There are a few different holds you can try when breastfeeding. Try these different ways to hold a baby to see what is most comfortable for you and the infant:
- Cradle Hold: lay the baby across your abdomen, supporting her head with one hand and bottom with the other.
- Football Hold: lay the baby to your side and lengthwise along your arm, then bring her mouth to the breast
- Lying Down: lay the baby next to you in bed facing one another. Bring her mouth to your breast and wrap your arm around her for support.
How do you know if your breastfed baby is being fed enough?
The answer lies in wet diapers and regular weight checks.
Keep track of how many wet diapers your baby produces throughout the day. 6-8 wet diapers is normal for an infant, though fewer are expected during the first few days of a baby’s life. This information, along with regular weight checks at the pediatrician’s office, will tell you if your baby is getting enough milk while breastfeeding.
For more information on breastfeeding, visit Kellymom.com.
Formula-fed babies should get between 16-28 ounces per day in the first month of life. Start by offering 2-4 ounces the first couple of weeks. If the baby shows signs of hunger after finishing a bottle, offer more. Gradually increase the number of ounces you offer. One general rule of thumb is that babies typically need about 2.5 times their body weight. A 10-pound baby could be expected to drink about 25 ounces a day, give or take a few.
Offer a bottle every 3-4 hours for the first two months. Feedings will spread out to about every 4-6 hours by the time your baby reaches six months.
How to Burp a Baby
Be sure to hold the baby upright after a feeding. Pat her gently on the back to help her burp. This alleviates uncomfortable gas buildup and can reduce spit-up. Try these different positions when burping a baby:
- Against your shoulder
- Face down on your lap
- Sitting up, leaning forward on your lap
Try to help baby burp about halfway through a bottle feed, when switching from one breast to another, or whenever they seem fussy or uncomfortable during feeding.
How To Calm Your Fussy Baby
Babies cry—a lot. As a new parent, you might feel like you’re at a loss when trying to calm a fussy baby. Here are a few tried-and-true techniques for calming your baby when he’s crying:
- Use calming sounds like a fan, sound machine, recording of a heartbeat, or make loud shushing noises.
- Place your baby in a swaddle to help a newborn feel secure. Swaddles aren’t safe after about two months, however.
- Walk around with your baby in a carrier.
- Gently pat the baby and rock side to side in your arms.
- Offer a pacifier.
- Change the scenery. Sometimes stepping outside will do the trick.
- Give the baby a gentle massage.
- Check their level of comfort: are they too hot or cold? Are their clothes too tight or scratchy?
- Take steps to reduce gas like frequent burping, laying them on their tummy while supervised, or bicycling their legs for them.
The Best Ways To Hold Your Baby
Newborn babies need you to support their heads for them until their neck muscles can get strong enough. Tip: Be sure to add tummy time to your daily routine to help them work those muscles!
Until then, follow these tips for how to safely hold your baby:
- Wash your hands
- Be sure you’re in a comfortable, steady position
- Support their neck and head
- Pick them up by placing one hand under their head and one under the bottom
- Choose a comfortable infant hold:
- Cradle – the baby is horizontal at your chest
- Shoulder – the baby’s head is rested on their chest and shoulder, facing behind you
- Belly – baby is stomach down across your arm with their head by your elbow
- Lap – baby lays with their head by your knees, face up, while you are seated with both feet on the ground.
It can feel kind of scary the first time you hold a tiny newborn, but trust us, it will become second nature in no time!
Learning Bathing Basics
Baby’s first bath is a fun milestone to capture on camera. The first bath usually takes place in the hospital with the help of a nurse. Once you get home, it’s a different ballgame! Here are a few tips for bathing your baby:
- Get all of your supplies together ahead of time. You’ll need baby soap/shampoo, a soft washcloth, a towel, and a safe tub for the baby. You can use an infant tub, an insert for your bathtub, or a sink.
- Fill the tub or sink with a couple of inches of warm water—just enough to cover the bottom of their body.
- Always test the water temperature with the inside of your wrist or your elbow to make sure it’s not too hot.
- Place the baby gently in the tub feet first. Use one arm to hold his head and the other to hold his bottom.
- Use a mild soap sparingly.
- Wash the face first, wiping down and outward from the eyes down.
- Wash the neck, torso, legs, and back next, being mindful of the umbilical stump if it’s still there.
- Use the washcloth to clean between fingers and toes and under arms.
- Wash the baby’s hair with a tear-free shampoo, or simply wipe their scalp with water.
- Rinse off with warm water while holding the baby like a football.
- Use a soft towel to pat him dry, making sure to get all the creases and folds dried off to avoid rashes.
- It’s okay to skip bath days, especially if your baby has very dry skin or really seems to hate bath time.
- Use lotions sparingly and avoid powders that can get into a baby’s nasal passage, causing irritation.
After your baby is bathed and dry, it’s time to put him in a fresh diaper and clean clothes.
There’s no way around it: you’re going to go through a (literal) ton of diapers with your baby. It’s estimated that babies go through 3,000 disposable diapers in their first year of life. Of course, you could always choose to use cloth diapers, which may save you in landfill contributions but will certainly up your water bill and has a debatable environmental impact. Either way, you need to know the basics of diapering so you can have a clean, dry, happy baby.
To change a baby’s diaper, you’ll want to first gather your supplies: a clean, safe place to lay them down, a diaper, wipes, and possibly diaper cream.
Keeping one hand on your baby at all times, gently unfasten the diaper and fold it so that the clean side is under their bottom. slide If the diaper is only wet, use a wipe to clean the area. With a poopy diaper, be sure to lift their legs and bum to thoroughly clean the baby’s bottom.
Next, remove the dirty diaper and slide a clean one underneath the baby. Make sure to pat the baby dry before applying any diaper cream or putting the new diaper on. Fasten the diaper tightly enough to avoid leaks but not tight enough to cause red marks. Wrap the dirty diaper into a ball and throw it away in a diaper bin, trash can, or wrapped inside a plastic bag. Cloth diapers should have solids removed and placed in the toilet and then stored in a bucket or lined laundry bag until they can be laundered.
A few tips for diapering basics:
- Always wash your hands before and after.
- For girls, be sure to wipe from front to back to keep poop away from the vagina.
- For boys, place something over their penis to avoid getting sprayed with pee, and be sure to gently clean around the penis and scrotum. Pointing the penis down before fastening a diaper can help minimize leaks.
Infant massage is a great way to bond with your baby and also to help them relax and get to sleep. Here’s how to do it:
- Place your baby on his back or stomach in front of you in a comfortable and calm setting. Remove clothes and let him know it’s time for a massage.
- Use a gentle touch but be mindful to avoid tickling.
- Spend time rubbing different parts of the baby’s body: hands, feet, head, neck, shoulders, arms, and legs.
- Slowly and gently extend the baby’s arms and legs.
- Pay attention to how your baby is reacting to the massage and respond to his cues.
- It’s okay to use fragrance-free baby oil or lotion, but do so sparingly.
Adding a soothing massage into your baby’s nighttime routine can be a great way to help them get to sleep more soundly, but you can do it any time of day as long as your baby seems happy. One quick pro tip: don’t do a massage right after a feeding as this can cause the baby to throw up. Experts suggest waiting about 45 minutes.
Trimming Nails Basics
Cutting your infant’s nails can seem like a scary task, especially the first few times you do it. Their nails are so tiny and their skin is sensitive, but it’s a necessary task to keep your baby from scratching herself. It might take a few tries to get the hang of it, but here are some tips.
You can use either a nail file or infant nail clippers. If you use a file, gently file each nail down to a shorter length and round the edges. If that doesn’t quite cut it (pun intended), then grab some infant nail clippers with a safety guard. Pick a time when your baby is calm, like when they are sleepy. Some parents manage to trim nails while their baby is sleeping, but do so at your own risk. An interrupted nap is no fun for anyone! Another good time to trim nails is during or right after bathing since the baby’s nails will be softened by the water.
If you do cause a small cut, apply gentle pressure and give lots of cuddles. It happens to the best of us.
Is Your Baby Ill?
Many new parents wonder how they can tell if their baby isn’t feeling well. While babies can’t tell us how they feel with words yet, there are several signs you can watch for to clue you in that they may be ill. In general, if your baby seems “off” or not quite like herself, that could be a sign of illness. Here are some specific signs of illness to watch for:
- Crying more often or differently than usual
- Extra fussy or irritable
- Lethargic and/or sleeping more than usual
- Not eating well or sucking too weakly
- Fever *call the doctor immediately if your newborn’s temperature is above 100.4 F
- Low body temperature * call the doctor if the temperature is below 96.8 F
- Changes in skin color
- Decreased urination
- Decreased muscle tone
- A hard or swollen abdomen, especially if they have gone more than a day or two without a bowel movement
- Raspy breathing or wheezing
Signs of respiratory distress include breathing too fast (more than 60 breaths in a minute), chest retractions (stomach muscles between the ribs get sucked in, making the ribs stick out), flaring nostrils, blue skin or lip coloration, grunting. These are serious symptoms that require an immediate call to the doctor and/or a trip to the emergency room.
When in doubt, always call your pediatrician to get advice. Most offices have an after-hours line. Even if it turns out that nothing is the matter, a call to a professional can give you peace of mind.
Bonding With Your Baby
Raising a child is about much more than just keeping them alive and healthy (although that’s a very important goal to have!). Creating a strong bond with your baby is important for their development in so many ways. Any time you interact with your baby by responding to their needs with love and warmth, you are creating a bond.
The bonding process starts in the hospital when you first hold your newborn. If possible, have the baby placed on your chest immediately after birth (or as soon as you’re able) for skin-to-skin contact. If you plan to breastfeed, initial skin-to-skin contact can help. Make sure dad or the non-birthing parent gets some skin-to-skin time in those first few hours as well.
Here are some ways you can bond with your baby:
- Smile and make eye contact
- Regular, gentle touch and cuddles
- Rocking gently or carrying the baby in a sling or baby carrier
- Talk to your baby
- Sing songs or play soothing music
- Make silly faces and funny noises
- Make sure your baby is safe and comfortable
- Read books to your baby
- Respond quickly to their cries
- Mirror the baby’s movement and sounds
If you feel like you are having trouble bonding and making a connection with your baby, that is perfectly normal. Not everyone feels an attachment right away. It may take a little time, especially considering the hectic time leading up to and immediately following the baby’s arrival.
If you continue to feel like you aren’t bonding with your baby, that could be a sign of postpartum depression. Talk to your doctor about how you feel, sooner rather than later. They can help you identify if you’re experiencing normal new parent exhaustion, a mild case of the baby blues, or a more serious issue like PPD.
Bonding looks different for every family, and there isn’t a “right way” to do it. Focus on caring for your baby’s needs and responding to them with love, and you’ll have a happy, healthy start to building a lasting connection.
Despite what the advertisements and parenting blogs tell you, babies don’t really need a lot of things. When you boil it down to the basics, a newborn baby needs:
- A bassinet and/or crib
- Crib mattress, a waterproof pad, and a few fitted sheets
- A car seat
- Feeding supplies (bottles, breast pump, formula, etc.)
- Diapers & wipes
- A few onesies, socks, and other weather-appropriate clothing items
- Bathing supplies
- Health & grooming items like nail clippers, a thermometer, and a bulb syringe or nasal aspirator
- A baby monitor
Of course, there are a lot of other things you could add on. Keep your space, lifestyle and budget in mind, and realize that children rack up a lot of expenses. Check out this article for a breakdown of how much it costs to raise a child: Average Cost of Raising A Child – A Guide For Soon-To-Be Parents.
During your third middle-of-the-night wake up, it can feel like the baby stage will go on forever. In reality, babies grow and develop very quickly.
It’s tempting to track all of the developmental milestones, but don’t worry if your baby isn’t quite hitting some of them. Every baby develops at a different rate. Your pediatrician will be your best resource in identifying if there is an issue that requires attention or intervention.
Of course, be sure to document those milestones! Some special ones include:
- Rolling over
- The first smile
- Sitting up
- First steps
- First words
And so many more!
We’re of the opinion that you can never have too many photos or videos. Trust us, you’ll be happy you have them when your baby is heading off to college or getting married. It may seem far off, but that day will be here before you know it!
Introducing Your Baby To Siblings
It’s a good idea to have a plan for how you will introduce your older children to the new baby. Here are some suggestions for making a smooth transition to your newly expanded family:
- Give the older child a gift from the baby, like a big brother/sister shirt or a personalized book
- If it’s allowed, ask a family member or friend to bring the older sibling(s) to the hospital to meet the baby
- Give your older child lots of mom and dad snuggles so they don’t feel left out
- Explain that babies require a lot of care and point out all the advantages your other children have because they’re older
- For siblings that are younger, it can be helpful to give them a doll so they can practice taking care of it alongside mom and dad
- Plan individual activities with your older child(ren) so they feel special as well
- Cut down on jealousy by keeping a stash of small gifts to give your older child(ren) whenever people drop by with gifts for the baby
- Make sure your older child(ren) feel heard and seen
Introducing Your Baby To Pets
Don’t forget your furry family members! You’ll need a plan for how to introduce the new baby to your household pets. Here are some tips:
- Have the nursery set up ahead of time so the animals can explore and smell all the new items
- Ask a friend or family member to bring home an item from the hospital, like a baby blanket, so your animals will recognize the smell when the baby comes home
- When you bring the baby home for the first time, allow the dog or cat to get a good look (and sniff) while you closely supervise
- Allow time and space for the animals to get used to the new addition. Most get comfortable with the new baby quickly.
- If you notice any worrisome behavior, consult your veterinarian.
Common Baby Care Mistakes
You’ve likely pored over dozens of articles titled “What to Do” when it comes to parenting and baby care advice. This section is going to outline what not to do when caring for your baby. Here are some of the top mistakes we see parents making:
- Panicking over every little thing: Life with a baby never goes quite as planned, and new parents can be especially worried over small issues that arise. Focus on the truly important things like ensuring your baby’s safety, showing love and affection, and meeting your child’s basic needs. No need to panic over every little sneeze.
- Waking your baby for nightly feedings: Unless your pediatrician tells you it is necessary, there is no reason to wake your child up to feed him. Babies are very good at letting us know they are hungry. So if he’s sleeping soundly through his regular 2 am wake up, enjoy the extra shut eye!
- Installing the car seat incorrectly: Car seat safety is non-negotiable, yet more than half of all car seats are installed incorrectly. Follow these steps outlined by the NHTSA to safely install your car seat, and use their search tool to locate and schedule a car seat installation inspection.
- Responding too quickly to every cry: Yes, you want to be a responsive parent, but crying is a natural and normal way for babies to communicate. If you need to use the bathroom, it’s okay to let your baby cry in the crib for a little while. As long as you aren’t ignoring them for a long period of time, there is nothing wrong with allowing your baby to cry.
- Ignoring a fever: A fever in a baby three months or younger can be a sign of an infection or illness. Newborns are especially vulnerable because their immune systems haven’t had much time to develop. Any fever of 100.4 F or above needs to be reported to your doctor.
- Mistaking spit up for vomit, and vice versa: A lot of people falsely believe that the difference between spit up and vomit comes down to forcefulness. In reality, it’s more about the frequency. Some babies can spit up with so much force that it flies across the room (yes, really!), but it’s just that: spit up. Spit up usually happens after a feeding. Vomit, when caused by a stomach bug, will occur at regular intervals, with no connection to prior feedings. A fever, change in behavior, or distress are other signs that something more is going on that just standard spitting up.
- Putting off oral care: A lot of parents put off oral care far too long. After all, the baby won’t have teeth for several months, so what’s the big deal? The truth is, it’s important to start an oral care routine early. Before teeth appear, use a soft cloth to wipe down your baby’s gums. Continue doing so, adding in an infant-sized toothbrush (with no toothpaste) after teeth erupt. Start using toothpaste at age 1.
- Trusting “Dr. Google” and other unreliable sources: Before acting on any advice you read online, check the source. Is it from a reliable organization, like the CDC or AAP? Or is it authored by a random blogger? Incorrect, incomplete, or misleading advice could cause big problems or even harm your child, so proceed with caution.
- Neglecting your personal relationships: Try to carve out time to tend to your relationship with your partner or spouse and with people you are close to. It can be easy to get lost in all the overwhelm of new parenthood, but you need time for yourself and your loved ones to be the best parent you can be to your child.
How To Build A Positive Relationship With Your Child
Child development experts have identified some key behaviors and attitudes that parents can adopt in order to build a positive relationship with their children. We’ll explore these more in depth throughout the article, but here are some of the most important ways to build a positive relationship:
- Set clear and firm boundaries so children know what to expect and feel safe in knowing how you’ll respond.
- Validate their feelings and show empathy for the way they are experiencing a situation.
- Remember that you are the adult and it’s your job to keep your own feelings in check.
- Focus on communication, talking through big feelings and acknowledging when you make a mistake. This teaches children to handle their emotions in a healthy way.
- Engage in age-appropriate play together, giving them your undivided attention as you do so.
Let’s examine a few of these points more in depth.
How To Reward Your Child In Order To Promote Growth
Rewarding your child can be very beneficial to their growth and is a great way to foster a close, positive relationship. Positive reinforcement is the best way to praise your child’s good behavior and help them learn acceptable behaviors. Focus on what they should do, and what they are doing well, without just pointing out negative behaviors all the time. Be specific when you see your child doing something well. For example, rather than saying “good job,” you could say “I love how you shared your toy with your sister. That was very kind.”
The key to rewarding your children in a positive way is to always keep your word. If you are giving them a physical reward of some sort, like a new toy, be sure to follow through. Use realistic and reasonable rewards when you feel it is appropriate to praise positive behavior.
It is also important to be loving, yet firm. Along with rewards come boundaries. Say you rewarded your child with a small treat, like a cookie, shortly before dinner. If you give in to your child’s demands and allow them to have extra cookies before dinner, they will quickly learn that bad behavior (whining for more cookies) works and will keep doing it.
As you are reinforcing positive behaviors and redirecting bad ones, use some humor. Make it fun! Be silly, laugh with your little one(s) and enjoy your time together. After all, it does go by quickly.
And lastly, allow your child to feel a range of emotions. If they are feeling frustrated, acknowledge their frustration and help them work through it rather than telling them “it’s okay” or “you don’t need to cry”. Children, especially toddlers and youngsters, can have some pretty BIG feelings—and that’s okay! Acknowledging their feelings and helping them work through those difficult emotions will be hugely beneficial to their emotional development.
How To Enforce Discipline To Your Child
Enforcing discipline can be overwhelming at times, especially to new parents. It’s important to remember that discipline does not always mean punishment. Discipline a lot of times can be a natural consequence to actions and behaviors as well. For example, if they refuse to wear sunscreen in the summer, they may get a sunburn. If they refuse to wear a coat when it’s cold out, they will be cold. In both examples, the hope is that they’ll remember the negative experience and will be more willing to comply with the sunscreen or winter coat.
Allowing for natural consequences helps kids to learn in an organic and developmentally appropriate way. Take these opportunities to help your child(ren) learn from their mistakes. Explain the natural processes in a way they will understand. It is also a good idea to provide warnings such as “it is a sunny day out, if you do not wear sunscreen, you may get a sunburn.” Helping children to think through these processes can lead them to improved-decision making in the future.
Helping Your Child With Social Issues
Despite our best efforts, there’s no way to insulate our children from troubling situations and outside circumstances. The most important thing we can do is help equip them with the emotional capacity and communication skills to work through difficult social issues. They will experience stress, disappointment, sadness, and other unpleasant feelings. Your job as a parent is to help them navigate some tough realities that come along with growing up.
One very difficult but sadly, common issue is bullying. Talk to your children about how to handle bullying before they have a chance to encounter it at school or the playground. Let them know that they should always tell you if they see someone else being bullied or if they are the victim of it themselves. Validate their feelings and experience and then work together to find a solution.
Another common issue children face as they get older is handling academic pressure. Anxiety about school can cause a lot of stress for children. If you notice this happening with your child, talk to them about coping skills and ways to reduce anxiety. Let them know that a bad grade is not the end of the world, and work together to alleviate stress. Look for issues like over-scheduling and consider cutting back on commitments. Above all, keep an open line of communication with your child and their teachers.
Remember that our children look to us as models, so be mindful of your words and actions when facing difficult situations.
Technology For Your Children
Technology is everywhere these days, from the living room to the classroom, children are never far from a screen. The AAP recommends that parents limit screen time to one hour for children above age 2. Under that age, they recommend limiting screens altogether, except for some high-quality digital media that is used together with an adult.
Children model our behaviors, so be a good digital role model for them. Limit your own screen time, create media-free zones, and set aside time for specific media-free times. Set boundaries such as no televisions or devices in bedrooms or at the dinner table.
When it comes to choosing toys for children, the AAP has said that more traditional, less digital toys are best. Their policy position on the topic states that there is no obvious benefit to toys that incorporate tech, and in fact they could cause harm. They also suggest that we rethink the definition of toys in general and focus on play that helps build life skills and relationships with others. We all know kids can turn an empty cardboard box into hours of play if given the chance. So, give you budget a break and keep your toy purchases to a minimum.
What about your child’s first cell phone? There are a lot of differing opinions about the best age for a child to have a phone. Most experts agree that it’s less about the age and more about your child’s level of maturity. They need to be able to safely and appropriately use a phone. When you decide they are old enough, be sure to have a lot of conversations about digital safety and set boundaries for use. Look into parental monitoring apps or settings provided by the cell phone carrier so you can monitor and help your child learn to be a responsible digital citizen.
Adopting Positive Parenting
As your babies grow, they will need different things from you. It’s important to decide while they’re young what philosophy you would like to guide your parenting decisions throughout your young ones’ lives. Positive parenting is a parenting philosophy founded on the idea that all children are inherently good. It is a warm, but firm, parenting style designed to build the child’s self-esteem.
Positive parents set boundaries for their children using what is called “positive discipline.” While that phrase may seem contradictory, the meaning of discipline is “to teach or train.” Positive parenting never uses the punitive discipline methods you may think of when you hear the word “discipline,” but instead focuses on teaching children how to be respectful in all situations. How can you adopt positive parenting?
- Communicate clear boundaries (and any consequences for not respecting the boundaries) before a situation occurs. For example, before a grocery trip, explain in specific age-appropriate language how you expect the trip to go.
- Ensure you are teaching and giving respect. Positive parenting teaches children to respect those around them by modeling respect.
- Utilize positive discipline. If your child is not meeting the boundaries that were clearly communicated, follow through with the consequence that you set. This may be a time-out followed by an explanation of what boundary the child crossed.
- Offer choices. Instead of engaging in a power struggle with your child, offer two choices that are acceptable to you. This way, the child feels that they have some control over their situation. For example, instead of saying, “Would you like to go to bed now,” say, “It’s time for bed. Would you like to brush your teeth or put on your PJs first?”
- Make a big deal out of children respecting boundaries. Positive discipline relies on praise, affection, and spoken appreciation when expectations are met.
- Use a timer to help transitions. Instead of abruptly switching gears, warn your child that the change is coming with distinct time limits. This gives them time to process what the boundaries will be for the new activity.
Fun Parenting Activities
Parenting doesn’t have to be all work! There are plenty of activities you can do with your kids that still teach them to be responsible and respectful while allowing everyone to have a little fun! It’s important to include these types of activities for both your children’s sake and yours, as it increases the bond you have with your littles.
- Reading books. Literacy is so important for language development and overall success! Studies have shown that children who are read to every night will encounter millions more words than their peers. It’s never too early to read to or with your kids. Pick books you enjoy too. Make it more fun by acting out the scenes or pointing out interesting things in the pictures.
- Create a “First-Time” Board. Create a board, either physical or digital, for your childrens’ milestones. While this may be a more parent-based activity at first (first steps, first word), as time goes on, kids will love to add to their board! Use pictures and fun stickers. Get creative!
- Money matters. Teach your kids to handle money responsibly by giving them opportunities to earn money, helping them learn the importance of saving money, and helping them to make smart teaching decisions.
- Plan your summer. Summers can slip by in the blink of an eye! Avoid missing out on this quality time by being intentional about planning activities for your family. What places can you explore in your hometown? Recipes to try? Competitions? As your kids get older, they can become more involved in the planning!
- Make your own traditions! It’s so easy to get caught up in upholding our families’ traditions, but you have your own family now! Find ways to make traditions of your own that your kids will remember years from now.
Cultural Values In Your Parenting
The culture you and your partner were raised in and identify with will factor into many of the parenting decisions that you make. If you and your partner come from cultural backgrounds that are quite different, you may experience some conflict over the choices you’ll make. Be willing to have open and honest conversations about the cultural norms that have been wired into each of you.
Will you raise your children in a particular faith community? What are the core values you wish to instill in your children? What are acceptable boundaries for children? In some cultures, it’s acceptable for young children to take public transportation on their own. In others, the idea of a 7-year-old on a city bus is unthinkable.
Take some time to reflect on what was normal during your upbringing in terms of the expectations, boundaries, and values that were a part of your daily life.
Balancing Work-Life And Family
Working while raising children can be challenging for a lot of parents. Here are some of our tips for finding that coveted work-life balance:
- Adjust your expectations. There will be days when you can’t do it all (a lot of them!), and that’s okay. There is no need to beat yourself up or feel guilty because the laundry didn’t get folded or you were running a few minutes late to work.
- Avoid the morning scramble by prepping as much as possible the night before. Pack lunches, lay out clothing, review the day’s schedule, and pack all the diaper bags, purses, and backpacks. Getting organized the night before cuts down on a lot of stress.
- Use a family calendar that everyone can view. Add in important appointments, play dates, activities, work events, and more, and be sure to review the coming week with the whole crew before the week begins.
- Talk to your employer. Find out if there are any flexible options for an alternative schedule or working from home. Be sure you understand any policies regarding maternity leave well in advance of your due date.
- Cut out unnecessary distractions. This one takes a lot of self-discipline but it can make a huge difference. Limit your own screen time, setting boundaries for when you’re checking email or scrolling social media. Focus on work tasks at work and home tasks while at home, including spending quality time with your kids!
- Avoid multitasking. It doesn’t work to split your attention between various tasks. If you’re trying to respond to work emails while cooking dinner, something is bound to go wrong.
- Hire help. Quality, consistent childcare is a must, but also consider hiring a housekeeper or lawn service if you are able. For many working parents, the cost of these services is well worth the time saved.
Traits Of Good Parents
As your child grows, your way of parenting will evolve, but there are still many common foundations to good parenting. Each child may need a different style of parenting, and it will probably take a little bit of trial and error to find what works best for each child. Keep in mind that children are like sponges and will absorb everything they see you doing. Make sure to model the behaviors you want to see from them. Show your child lots of love. There is no such thing as too much love for a child!
Having to discipline your child is part of being a parent. The type of discipline will vary as the child ages, but never spank or shout at your child as those are not effective means of positive reinforcement. Once a consequence is set make sure to enforce it. Consistency and boundaries help children thrive. Set rules and expectations for children. Allow your child to make mistakes, within reason, as that is how we all learn. Emphasize the positive behaviors for your child as well so they are not only being recognized for disciplinary actions.
Make sure to take some time to care for yourself. That way you can be the best parent you can be. Know your own limits, control your emotions, manage your stress levels, and trust your instincts.
It’s also important to reflect on your own childhood. Who were some of your favorite role models and what behaviors of theirs can you implement into your own parenting?
As your child ages and starts to be involved in more activities, make sure to listen to their wants and needs. Being involved in a variety of activities teaches children wonderful skills like socializing, perseverance, resilience, confidence, and independence. Try not to over schedule your child with too many activities. Children need to be allowed periods of rest too. Start teaching responsibility with small tasks around the house and slowly build upon them with additional age-appropriate tasks as they grow.
There is no single “right” way to be a good parent. Trust your instincts and give yourself grace when you feel like you’ve messed up. Parenting is a wild ride, but it’s so worth it!
Being Present For Your Children
In spite of all the “how to’s” and parenting tips, the most important thing is to simply be there for your children. We often underestimate the power of presence—being available to your children and allowing them to snuggle, cry, laugh, vent frustrations, and interact is so important.
Parenthood is an experience unlike anything else in the world. We hope this guide to Parenting and Baby Care 101 has empowered you to forge ahead with confidence and a few more helpful tools in hand.
We also recognize that becoming a parent the “traditional” way isn’t easy for everyone. If you are seeking alternate pathways to parenthood through egg donation or surrogacy, please reach out to our team today. We believe that everyone deserves to become a parent, regardless of the obstacles they may face. Head to familyinceptions.com to learn more about our mission.