As first-time parents, my husband and I learned quite a bit in our baby’s first year of life. I felt like I was reasonably prepared due to my nature of researching everything, however, I quickly realized that parenting a baby, like so many things in life, is something that is best learned by experiencing it first hand.
With that said, I still believe that gleaning insight from other’s people’s experiences can be extremely valuable. Below are some important lessons that my husband and I learned during our first year as parents. We are by no means experts but hopefully you find the things we learned to be helpful as you prepare for your exciting journey into parenthood!
WHAT I LEARNED:
1. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERBUY
It can be very easy to overbuy (or over register) for your first baby. It’s super exciting… So many cute baby clothes… A friend or a baby Web site has it on their must-have list… It can be difficult to find that line between being prepared and overbuying, not to mention there are a ton of baby products on the market these days. I think a good rule of thumb is to make sure you have all of the essentials and then wait on any of the “extras,” or anything you’re not quite sure about. Things can always be purchased later.
RELATED READING: 25 Baby Products Worth the Hype
2. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT TO INITIATE/INTRODUCE
With our bassinet, we had the option of purchasing the “fancier” model that featured a sound machine, vibration and a nightlight or the basic model that had none of those features. We opted to get the basic model because we didn’t want to risk making the transition to her crib later on potentially more difficult since her crib doesn’t have any of those features. Essentially, we gave a lot of thought about starting or introducing something that wasn’t a necessity and where the transition to not having it could pose potential difficulties down the road. Now, if she was having difficulty sleeping in her bassinet, we would have absolutely looked into playing music or white noise or even upgrading to the fancier model. But since it wasn’t a known problem to begin with, we didn’t feel the need to introduce something that could be potentially difficult to wean off of later.
3. ZIPPER PJs ARE THE WAY TO GO
I learned very quickly that fiddling around with pajamas with snaps and buttons during middle-of-the-night diaper changes was a no-go for me.
4. READ TO THEM
Needless to say, there are countless positive effects that come from reading to your child and it’s never too early to start. Plus, they’ll just love hearing your voice.
5. TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS
While it’s most important to be present with your baby, try to take as many photos as you can. Fortunately it’s super easy these days with smartphones.
RELATED READING: Lake’s One Year Photoshoot
6. DON’T SLEEP ON TAKING VIDEO
I think video can sometimes get overlooked for photos. While I love scrolling through photos of my daughter, I find myself watching the videos I take of her even more. You’ll definitely want to capture video of your baby’s adorable movements and sounds…and then eventually crawling and walking!
7. BACK-UP AND ORGANIZE YOUR PHOTOS/VIDEOS MONTHLY
If you’re like me, you’ll take a LOT of photos and videos of your baby. I recommend backing up all of your photos and videos to an external hard drive and/or cloud storage. I try to do this at the end of every month 1) Because I don’t want to risk losing them and 2) If I don’t, it gets to be a compounding and daunting task. I organize photos and videos into folders categorized by the year and month. Also, be discerning and only save the best photos and videos. For example, if I take 20 photos of my daughter at a playground, I’ll try to only save five or six of the best ones as opposed to all 20.
8. DON’T LET “MOM GUILT” GET TO YOU
It can be easier said than done, but don’t compare yourself to other moms. Know that you’re doing the best you can and you are exactly the mom your child needs. Also, know that you and your child/family are unique from others. So what works for someone else and their child/family may not work for you and your child/family.
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9. YOU’LL MISS THEM WHEN THEY’RE SLEEPING
There will be times when you’ll feel a sense of relief when they’ve gone to sleep, be it because they were fussy, you’re tired, or you simply have things that need to get done. But then you’ll find yourself fighting the urge to wake them up because you miss them so much. Then you’ll think better of this and settle on watching them sleep or looking at photos and videos of them in your phone.
10. YOUR BABY’S SMILE AND LAUGH WILL BECOME YOUR MOST FAVORITE THING EVER
Your baby’s smile will be the sun and their laugh will be music custom made for your soul. This may sound cheesy, but it’s so true. It’s insane how much you will adore this tiny human. As so many put it – your heart is outside your body.
11. SAVOR. EVERY. MOMENT.
Keep in mind that the first year will go by at warp speed. Your baby grows and develops SO much during their first year of life. (I mean, they literally double their size!) If I had a nickel for every time someone told me “Enjoy it, they grow up so fast!” or “They’ll be a teenager in no time!” I’d have enough money for her college tuition, even taking account inflation, ha! But seriously, after the first year, I absolutely get what they’re saying. Looking back, I’m positively shook at how fast the first year went by. I truly believe that just by being hyper-cognizant of how fleeting the baby stage is and how 12 months is such a blip on the map of their entire lifespan can help you be mindful to savor and appreciate every. single. moment. I know I said to take lots of photos and videos, but also put your phone away and just be present with your baby. Stare at them while their nursing or taking a bottle instead of being on your phone. Stare at them while they’re sleeping (It’s the best!) Know that you’re living “the good old days” with your sweet baby right here and now.
WHAT MY HUSBAND LEARNED:
12. STAY IN THE PRESENT
As a first-time parent it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. In the beginning they don’t do much. Enjoy that! You won’t be able to just hold them and stare at them as they lay still for very long. It’s a very unique stage and it doesn’t last long. Hold them and feel their head on your chest. It’s pretty magical.
13. ALWAYS BE PREPARED
Preparation is huge when taking them out. Consider everything that could go wrong – A blowout, needs a bottle (always bring more than enough), needs a toy, etc.
14. GET OUTSIDE
The older they get the more they love to be outside. Point out the birds and the flowers and the airplanes that fly overhead even if you don’t think they understand yet. It might be sinking in.
15. TAKE A TRIP
If you’re up for a trip go ahead and do it in the first six months. They’re actually easier to travel with then than they will be later when they’re more mobile. At around the nine month mark things can start to get a little more challenging.
RELATED READING: Tips for Flying With A Baby
16. BABY PRODUCTS CAN BE HIT OR MISS
Many of the baby gadgets out there you won’t use. Some things (a swing, changing pad that’s a scale) are extremely useful.
17. BUY A SWING
It’s worth it.
18. DO THE ‘DIAPER UNDER THE DIAPER’ THING WHEN CHANGING THEM
It’s no fun when their back is covered in pee.
19. RESIST THE URGE TO TAKE THEM FOR A DRIVE IF THEY WON’T GO TO SLEEP
I give full credit to my wife on this one. There was a night when I wanted to do this but she suggested otherwise. (See Tip #2 from Jolene). Turn everything off (lights, TV, etc.) and give it 5-10 minutes in the swing. Then wait until they’ve been asleep for awhile and put them in their bassinet or crib.
20. TRY NOT TO WORRY ABOUT WHEN THEY’RE DOING “FIRSTS” (FIRST CRAWL, FIRST STEPS, ETC.)
It will all come in time and it’s not a race. Read them a lot of books and give them lots of opportunities to move the way they feel like moving. Stressing about whether they’re developing “on time” just makes it harder for you to enjoy the journey.
We hope you found these tips helpful! We’re excited to write another post like this in the future about what we learned from our daughter’s toddler years. If you’re a parent, leave a comment below letting me know what you learned in your first year of parenting!