Summary: When it comes to babies, there are plenty of things to think about. You’ve got to do a lot of planning and a lot of improvising. Sure, we all want what’s best for those babies, but cross the finish line (it’s a marathon not a spring) can present unique and unexpected challenges. Hopefully these small tips can help point some of you in the right direction.
A Few Things to Think About When Having a Baby
There are simply so many things to think about when having a baby. Whether you’re the one tasked with pushing the kid out or it’s your partner or other non-traditional entity, hectic thoughts will likely fill your mind. And that’s okay. Feelings of panic and of being overwhelmed are all completely normal. In fact, those feelings will be pretty normal for the next eighteen years.
So, if you’re having a baby, what are the thoughts you should prioritize? What should you spend the most time thinking about, what should you think about first and, ultimately, what should you do?
It’s hard to give advice that is, well, universal. Everyone’s experience with having a baby is going to be different and unique, even with common threads weaving through many lives. We understand that all of our tips won’t apply to all of our readers, but you might find one or two that you’ve been thinking about too.
Think About Getting Less Sleep
If you’ve recently welcomed a new baby into your life, you’re quite familiar with this “thought” to get us started. You’re likely going to sleep a lot less than you used to. Most babies do not come into the world on a diurnal or nocturnal sleep cycle. They sleep when they want and wake up when they want. For parents, this means sleeping in two-hour shifts.
For the first couple of months, you’re not going to get much sleep if you’re a parent. This is something you really need to prepare yourself for because it’s hard to estimate important that full eight hours of sleep is to you now. Once your sleep cycle is interrupted, it will negatively impact your mood, energy levels, happiness, and so on.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to encourage your baby to sleep through the night:
- Make days as active as possible (your child will require naps, but it’s important that those naps not linger)
- Routine can help as well; having a consistent bed time (even if that bed time is not always successful) can help
- Giving your child the chance to fall asleep on his/her own the first time can help build good habits
- Once you’ve out your child to bed, wait five minutes before comforting your child the first time he or she cries; wait ten minutes the second time; fifteen the third, and so on
You can help build your child’s good sleep habits. And the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll get to sleep through the night as well. However, it’s important to discuss your strategies with your pediatrician. Your doctor will be able to consider certain biological functions. For example, there’s simply no way a newborn baby is going to sleep through the night consistently. Most babies need to be at least four months old before you can start their “sleep training.”
Thinking About Paper Work
It might seem strange, thinking about paperwork when you should be thinking about your baby. But so-called “paperwork” is actually a pretty big responsibility. Luckily, it’s one that you can get a jump on before the baby is born or catch up on reasonably well after the baby comes into the world. If your baby is born in the United States, that baby will be given a birth certificate and a social security number.
Your baby’s social security number is going to be incredibly important. That number is your baby’s personal identification for the rest of his or her life. It’s important, so make sure to keep it in a safe place (but not so secret and not so safe that you forget about it). Aside from your baby’s social security card, there are going to be several important documents to think about:
- Health forms, including a record of immunizations
- Your will and living will—end of life documents for you could be very important for your baby (you might want to see a lawyer specializing in wills and trusts)
- Paperwork concerning custody or child support; some non traditional families will have to think about filing paperwork in order to enforce a child support order (or to get a child support order)
- State paperwork: Every state might have unique paperwork you need to fill out; make sure to investigate this when you have time (most states have a Health/Human Services page that should have the information you need)
Making sure your paperwork is set is a great way to help make sure your baby is set in the bureaucracy department! That might sound trivial, but it can actually be quite important.
Thinking About Your Mental Health
There are so many things on your checklist, right? You’ve got to make sure you have diapers. You need to make sure you have somewhere for your child to sleep (many hospitals will actually give new mothers boxes for this exact purpose). You need to make sure your child grows up and finds daycare and gets into preschool.
But you also need to take care of yourself. Because here’s the thing: you’re important. And that means you’ve got think about taking care of your mental health. We tend to romanticize raising children—it’s this wonderful thing, right? The longer you’re a parent, the more that romance disappears.
Sometimes parenting is filled with more bad days than good days. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s hard to find the good. Taking a break is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Here are a few tips designed to help preserve your mental health as you parent:
- Take breaks. Give yourself ten minutes to focus on something you enjoy
- It’s okay to let a relative or babysitter take over for a night or two
- It’s also okay if your child is momentarily unhappy; if you drop her off at school late or pick him up from band practice late; life is complicated and these things happen, so forgive yourself when they do
- It’s also okay to let your child cry; I’m not saying it’s easy, necessarily, but it’s okay
- Make a phone list of people you can call when you’re feeling stressed out; having a support system ready to back you up can help mitigate a lot of stress
- If you’re in a partnership, share parenting responsibilities as equally as possible
We Can’t Answer Every Question; But Someone Can
As we said, we aren’t able to answer every question or relate to everyone’s own unique situation. But if you need help (and who among us doesn’t need help), it’s good to know that there are many resources available to you. It might take a little Google-Fu to find out the information you need, but the overwhelming message I’d like to get across is pretty simple: there are so many things to think about when having a baby; just don’t feel like you’ve got think of them all on your own.