So you’re expecting your first baby – congratulations. It’s a hugely exciting time of your life as you prepare for the arrival of your little one.
However, that feeling of excitement may be tempered slightly by the realisation that there’s a lot that you don’t know about raising a newborn baby.
Sure, there will be no shortage of advice from friends, family members and even strangers about the dos and don’ts of parenting (as you’ll soon find out!), and the Internet is awash with information on raising children.
But how do you sort the fact from fiction? The truth is that no two pregnancies, births or babies are alike, meaning your experience is likely to be unique.
While there are many good resources out there for first-time parents, there’s also a lot of misinformation and myths…here’s six of the biggest.
1. Your life won’t change that much
Aside from disrupted sleep and being knee deep in dirty nappies for a few months, my life won’t change that much – right? The answer is that for both men and women, bringing your first child into the world means a complete and permanent change to every aspect of your life.
According to Natalie, early childhood trainer and new mother from Hessel Group, while everyone’s experience will be different, many new parents fail to fully comprehend the life-changing and permanent impact of having a baby.
“From the day your new baby arrives, it will require around the clock care and undivided attention. Your life will revolve around nurturing a new human being that is reliant on you for survival,” Natalie said.
“But the impact runs deeper and will run across every part of your life, from your relationship with your partner, family and friends and your emotional state through to the way you feel physically and your work and social life.
“There’s no textbook to prepare you for how significant the life-change will be.
“While the level of care will moderate over time, the constant responsibility and demands on your time will last for many years.”
2. Parenting will come naturally and you’ll know what to do
For some, parenting will be the easiest thing in the world and will feel completely natural. For many others, it won’t and they’ll need to work hard at it. Remember, there’s no formal training to prepare you for parenting, so don’t feel like a failure if you’re overwhelmed when your newborn baby arrives.
Natalie said that it’s important for new parents to ‘go easy’ on themselves as they transition into the role.
“Parents do not always bond instantly with their babies, breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally and you won’t always know why your baby is crying, but understand that it’s not unusual,” Natalie said.
“Parenting is a learned skill and primarily based on our experiences. At the same time, you can prepare yourself for parenting by reading and listening to the experiences of others – both experts and other parents.”
Hessel Group runs a series of workshops for first-time parents covering the things they need to know about the first 12-months of their child’s life.
3. Caring for any baby is essentially the same
While you’d expect the fundamentals of raising any new baby to be the same (and they are to some degree), as any second or third time parent will tell you, no two children are alike and that means their care requirements will also differ.
As a new parent, it’s important to be flexible and adaptable to the needs of your new baby. While it’s great to be prepared and have some broad guidelines or structures in place, recognise that you may have to alter and adjust these depending on your little one’s personality, sleep patterns and feeding habits.
In the first 12-months, you’ll also need to pay close attention to your child’s development across a range of factors, including physical, cognitive, social, emotional and communication development.
“While babies grow and develop rapidly, their progress can vary. Some babies reach milestones as expected, some develop less quickly and others miss milestones completely,” Natalie said.
4. My baby can’t communicate so I won’t understand what it wants
Although they cannot speak, babies can communicate using their bodies and facial expressions. For example, they may use eye contact to attract your attention, push you away to show their frustration, or reach out to you to imply they want to be picked up.
The most obvious method of communication for babies is crying, which can indicate anything from hunger and tiredness to illness, wind or boredom.
“When it comes to crying, some of the considerations you’ll need to assess will be the level and pitch of the cry, its length, associated movements and the time of day, such as feed or sleep time,” Natalie said.
“It’s important for new parents to recognise their child’s communication cues as it will make them more responsive to their needs, which is important for the child to develop the confidence so that they can communicate and trust you to meet their needs.”
5. A newborn baby won’t cry much once settled at home
Your baby will cry, and probably much more than you anticipate, even if they are settled at home. Remember, crying is a normal physiological behaviour in young infants. Normal babies cry for an average of 2-3 hours a day, which peaks at about six weeks old.
As outlined above, crying is a way for babies to communicate and can indicate a range of needs, so it’s important to look for associated signs to establish the best way to respond.
6. Babies should sleep through the night when they’re a few months old
Newborn baby sleep patterns differ dramatically from baby to baby, so your experience is likely to be vastly different from anyone else. Normally, newborn babies sleep for about 16 hours in every 24.
In the first few months, your baby is likely to wake a few times each night for a feed. While this may settle as they get older, night-time feeds may be required to help them settle well beyond six months of age.
As any parent will tell you, sleep patterns are likely to vary throughout your child’s early years depending on a range of different factors, from teething and illness to separation anxiety.
Preparing to become a parent for the first-time can be daunting, so it pays to be prepared.
Hessel Group’s parenting workshops, delivered by Enhance Training, can help you prepare for the first 12-months of your child’s life by offering guidance on a range of topics including attachment and bonding, sleep and settling and the development phases.