DL Reader's Baby Advice
ICYMI last week we had a special DL announcement: Sarah and I are expecting a baby boy next month! I solicited baby advice from DL readers, and here is the collective wisdom in case you're curious:
Have a second kid!
- No real advice besides making sure you have more than one kid. Reasoning:
- the second one is a lot easier because you have the confidence that you did not kill the first one (they are a lot stronger than they look)
- they are completely different with the same education - which eases the stress of parental responsibility.
- Jokes apart - this is a wonderful journey and I am every day very grateful to have my family around (yes - even with a 1st grader and 4th grader doing remote schooling while working next to them)
- Now that you have one kid, I'd HIGHLY recommend having a second one. We were super hesitant about having a second, but looking back, not having a second would've been really dumb. The first couple of years are tough for sure, but it gets so much easier and fun once they start playing together. And if you plan to have a second, don’t wait for too long - a 2-3 yr gap is ideal IMHO
Get these products and services
- Get a Hatch light and white noise machine. it's saved us many many many early morning wakeups over the years :)
- Nara Baby app - it's been a lifesaver for us with our first kid
- Invite friends and family to a shared iCloud photo album
- Get a nighttime doula and food delivery
- I have three grown children. I read “What to Expect the First Year” three times. I give it to every new parent. HIGHLY recommend the stage-by-stage info regarding your little bundle’s growth and the suggested guidance found there.
- I have a 19 month old daughter. Plenty of advice already out there; at the end of the day — have a great DSLR camera for longer trips and special moments, and be patient. Every day with the kid is better than the day before.
- Be sure you all establish a relationship with a pediatrician. Vaccinations are important.
- Go out and buy "oh crap!" and read the first few chapters now and put it back on the shelf. There are lots of methods and the book doesn't judge if you don't use theirs, but the imprinting of how a kid learns was for some reason more powerfully relatable there
Don't buy too much stuff
- Remember that babies only need a few things when infants -- food, sleep, diaper change. new parents tend to overthink things
- Buy less stuff that you think you need. Babies aren't as demanding as the baby-shower-shopping-list websites make it look like they are
- Babies just need some clothes and a lot of love the first few days (and you can order everything else on Amazon once you figure out what you need)
Don't worry too much
- Your kid will turn out fine pretty much regardless of how you approach parenting so long as you love them and care for them. There's a good anthropology book confirming this. Always keep this in mind.
- This is a general thought that was helpful for me. Perhaps the perspective will help you. You seem like a smart guy. And dumb people have perfectly healthy babies all the time. So, you'll be fine! Exactly how things will turn out is unknown. But as long as you're present and engaged with your family, that's what's important, and you'll have a good outcome.
- Definitely optimize for Sarah's comfort now and go with the flow, every baby is different
- Everyone's going to give you advice, and you'll realize quickly there's no right way to do this!
- Humanity has survived, and everyone's advice is too contextual. You will figure it out, so more or less ignore most advice
- Relax and have fun. A lot of people make a lot of money off parent paranoia. Then suddenly, it turns out not be worthwhile after all. Example: Baby Einstein. But I do think it is worth looking at Brain Rules for Babies by Dr John Medina.
Set goals so you don't feel terrible
- I spent way too much time worried about things like "if I do this for my kid now, she'll have <bad behavior X> when she's five." 99%, or more, of that thinking is wrong, and it just means you put more stress on yourself in the moment optimizing for a future which never occurs. Similarly, you'll find times when you think "this behavior is terrible and seems never-ending" but in fact very few behaviors last longer than 3, at most 6 months, in very young children. This covers sleeping issues, feeding, crying, toy preferences, whether they're behind or ahead of any of the development or growth curves. The problem is that when you don't know when it will end, it feels endless, and then you give up all hope and feel terrible. When that happens, set a goal - 20 days, 45 days, 75 days - and see if you can get through that. Humans are excellent at withstanding pain they know will end
Align on strategy, not tactics
- There are a few major newborn/infant issues, and it's more important that you and your spouse agree on them than what the answer is. They are - sleep training or not, disposable diapers or reusable, nursing vs bottle-feeding, and how you divide up responsibilities and care time (e.g. who washes the bottles, who takes care of the kid when they wake up at night).
Ask for help deliberately
- The most useful thing that visitors or extended family can do is take care of normal chores for you, like cleaning, cooking, laundry, running errands. The least useful thing they can do is hold your baby. Unfortunately, most people don't seem to understand this, and it's much easier to tell them those are your preferences up front than to try to deal with it after the kid is born, they're already at your house, you're tired and angry, they desperately want to hold the baby.
- You should take turns for feeding, diapers, etc. No point in both of you overlapping for those. Otherwise, you guys will be dead tired.
- For our firstborn, we hadn’t hired a nanny - had plenty of parental help. But for our second born, we ended up hiring an awesome nanny from day one. Looking back, we agree that our nanny definitely added several years back to our lives!
Join a community
- MOPS groups, mothers of pre schoolers, is good companionship
- Lived experience matters, but lived experience in parallel to your own is invaluable. Join PEPS since you're in seattle. Even if it's "peps light" during quarantine and you're meeting by zoom - you will experience things in the first 3 months that are easily forgotten by those who would give out advice... but to have 7 other parents living the same experience you will gain a wealth of knowledge and share the same
Time flies! Enjoy the experience!
- Ours are now 24, 24, and 21. Amazing how time has flown, how the challenges shift, how wonderful the experience was and is. And how wonderful every stage is – having adult children is fantastic too!
- Every phase is a gift and precious in its own way - at least that's what I am telling myself with two teenagers . No other advice other than to appreciate every moment. So happy for you!
- Take lots of photos AND videos. For both of our kids, we did take TONs of photos, but not enough videos in the first couple of years -was a missed opportunity. You might not realize it now, but watching those videos after a couple of years can be really fun! So much change happens over such short times!
- Be sure to go on date nights. Your lives will revolve around baby anyway - it does for everyone - but, also important to get out of the house and take some time for yourselves once in awhile
- Document the pedantic. You will undoubtedly end up with terabytes of footage of Christmas and birthdays, but we find that the things we go back to as a family are things like a 5 minute video of us sitting around the dinner table chatting. Key celebrations are somewhat scripted, or expected. But your kids will say weird unexpected things, act goofy, and talk at length during walks, dinners, sitting around and playing. Make sure to record those as well because you WILL forget so much about how they spoke, acted, and interacted. I wish I had recorded more of these moments; they are real
- Set aside time to operate on their schedule. I found that I would, stupidly, be stressed out if we weren't making enough progress through the day. For example taking too long to make our way along a beach while walking, or taking too long to see something in a science museum. "We are never going to get to the end of the beach at this rate. Sigh". You do need to shepherd them along or you will never get anything done in a day, but make sure to set aside distinct times to operate at their pace. If you are on a beach and the munchkin wants to look at a piece of seaweed for 45 minutes, then let it happen. Just shift your expectations during that time and recognize "ok, they are in charge of pace for the next 45 minutes". Time box it and choose where and when you let this temporal shift happen, but you will find the angst will disappear and you will come to better understand what they are seeing through their eyes.
Thank you all for your thoughts and advice!!!