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I have one piece of advice for expectant parents about to embark on the journey of brand new parenthood. Just one thing, and I will share it unsolicited because I think it is that important, and I am confident that if you can follow this advice, your first year of parenthood will be a lot less stressful for you, your partner and your baby. It is something I realized early on and it continues to guide my parenting today. Are you ready? Here it is:
The things you do to keep your baby calm today are not habits that will last a lifetime!
Now dont get me wrong, there are things you should and should not do with your baby that will impact them in the long term. Im not saying that we dont begin having an impact on the person our baby will become in those early months. We do! Love on your baby. Affection is good for him. Read books to your baby. The positive results of reading to children are well documented, but dont fret and freak out about the things you do to just survive the day (and night) like rocking, walking back and forth with your baby, bouncing, pacifiers, or always finding that one stuffed animal she has to have. Your baby will outgrow all that baby stuff in good time.
I heard this frustrating message when my son was new, screaming and miserable. We were walking back and forth in our room to get him to sleep and I was told, Dont start that habit! Youll be stuck doing that forever.” I had not left the house in weeks and my husband took me to Chick-fil-A for a fancy meal out. I was so overjoyed to be out of the house eating a damn chicken sandwich. My son did not want to sit still at the table. He never liked sitting still in those days. So my husband walked him around the restaurant, sweetly talking to him, keeping him happy so I could eat my dinner in peace. A stranger had the nerve to stop him and say, You better not do that or you will never get to sit down at dinner.” WHAT?? Never? Really?
He was just 6 weeks old. I want to find that grumpy, know-it-all lady and tell her that my son now gobbles down six nuggets, a fruit cup and his Sprite before running off to play in the play area. No one carries him around anymore, and I still get to enjoy my sandwich.
Those little tricks that you discover to calm your baby are not bad habits that will last forever. That is a lie. Here are some of the lies I was told during the first year of my sons life under the guise of helpful advice:
- If you keep carrying that baby around all the time, you will never get to put him down. LIE! I most definitely do not carry my four year old around all the time. He walks and runs independently everyday.
- Don’t nurse your son to sleep. You better not let him sleep in the bed with you. He will NEVER sleep in his own bed. LIE! My son has been sleeping in his own bed for quite some time now. He sleeps all night long in fact and it is lovely.
- “He isnt eating enough food now. You will never be able to wean him. He won’t grow properly.” LIE! He ate when he was ready and he weaned too.
I want parents to feel free of those NEVER or FOREVER statements. I want parents to realize that nothing about this is FOREVER. Your baby will change every single day and your habits and little tricks will quit working and you will wish that some of them still worked! I know my husband misses slow dancing our son to sleep every night. That bad habit ended abruptly around 1 year old and he still talks about it in a sentimental way.
Babies dont keep. And the time goes by so quickly, you will feel like you are living life in dog years. Quit worrying about tomorrow. It will be here soon enough. We all learn to sleep, eat, and function in the adult world in good time. Let yourself off the hook, especially in the first year and just keep everyone happy and healthy.
So find that stuffed animal for the millionth time. She will leave it behind on her way out the door to college. Wash that stinky blanket again. It will be threadbare and forgotten before you know it. Spend another night pacing the halls with him in your tired arms because one day you will put him down and never pick him up again. It is a beautiful process, growing up. As parents we have the honor of bearing witness to each and every change with excitement for the new while reminiscing the phases long gone. Just breathe it in and let it be. Dont believe the lies.
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Photo Credit: Kristen D.