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Unsolicited Advice for New Parents

Unsolicited Advice for New Parents

Recently, I ran into a pair of old friends that had just entered that supremely disorienting state of parenthood, with their newborn in tow. Now, I feel for new parents, not because the first few weeks/months of parenthood are extraordinarily difficult; no, more because of the riotous litany of advice foisted upon new parents is enough to make you want to bury your head in the sand. For me, the worst part of getting lots of unsolicited advice was not that it was confusing, but that it was so clichéd and had been long drained of any emotional truth. Directives and counsel that informed you to “just get some sleep”, or to try out some seemingly insane and counter-intuitive parenting maneuver because, as some like to insist, “no one ever died.”

So, in light of the advisory noise and my great regard and sympathy for new parents everywhere, I give you a few bits of sensible and honest advice (unsolicited, I admit), the kind of truth and advice that no one ever cares to tell you. Feel free to add to my humble list in the comments section with some of your sagely advice, truisms, and observations, just make them sincere and genuine. Here goes:

The hours between 2 AM and 4 AM are potentially the darkest moments of your waking lives. These are the times in which you are routinely awoken out of a fitful slumber to soothe a crying child. Due to compounded sleep deprivation, you will likely be filled with thoughts of dread, remorse, and anxiety as you try to lull your unwitting child back to a comfortable state of repose. Just know, these are the “dark hours” and they too shall pass.

Unsolicited advice from friends, family and complete strangers is the norm. Get used to it, or find a suitable way of deflecting it.

Depending on your child and your respective situation, taking care of an infant is never quite as difficult as everyone likes to lead on. Day in and day out it is a formidable challenge, but reasonably doable. However, the cumulative effect is what becomes the most exhaustive and depleting factor.

After you spend hours upon hours gazing into the eyes of your child, and then alternately watching them sleep peacefully, the head and physique of your average adult will appear grotesquely large and colossal. Be warned.

Changing diapers is no big thing, until the baby starts consuming solids.

Lots of babies love the Ramones just as much as they love Raffi

All babies love (fill in the blank). Not true! Babies are truly unique beings; therefore they don’t all uniformly love or hate anything.

Feeding babies copious amounts of rice cereal doesn’t make them sleep through the night.

As said best by multi-media artist Jenny Holzer, who became best known for her series of truisms, “Raise boys and girls the same.”

After about a week or two, your baby’s skin will peel and molt like a reptile. It is totally natural but alarming nonetheless.

Trust yourself above all else, because parental confidence is key. Your baby knows and you will soon find out.

Choose carefully who you have to come for those premiere newborn visits. Ideally, you don’t want someone who could hold the baby for you (that is your job and privilege), you want someone who knows how to stock a fridge and mop a floor.

Don’t panic if you don’t feel a significant bond within the first few days. Bonding is a gradual process that cannot be rushed and you will have plenty of time to make it happen.

Babies are indifferent to material possessions; therefore it is unnecessary to stock your house with massive amounts of toys and miscellany. Babies don’t need much more than warmth, security and love.

Are there any other nuggets of wisdom directed toward new parents that you wished someone had shared with you before you spent $700 on a stroller? Are there cautionary tales you feel the need to share with your parenting community? Please hold the cliches, and share the wisdom?

Read more: Babies, Blogs, Caregiving, Children, Family, Parenting at the Crossroads, Pregnancy, , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

18 comments

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7:30PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

I agree that they don't need ALL those toys.

12:21PM PST on Dec 20, 2011

Middle of the nights do wear you down but you also learn to love the time with you and the baby and everyone else asleep. When they learn to fall right back asleep after they get their 4 am bottle and you can just look at them it is amazing. I learned I could sleep sitting up in a chair. I heard all the time I should sleep when she did, didn't work for me. It's okay if you get up 50 times a day and go check to make sure they are okay while they are sleeping and if you need help it is okay to accept it.

7:27PM PST on Dec 18, 2011

Don't sterilize everything. Don't dress the baby in anything that needs ironing. While cleanliness is important, don't fret over a little dirt. Never leave home without wipes, a bottle and a couple of diapers. Your infant doesn't need shoes until he/she begins walking. Dress the baby in clothes that are comfortable (for them), weather-appropriate and easy to remove for diaper changing. And easy to wash. Babies need hats, for warmth and sun protection. Don't let people smoke around your baby. Breastfeeding is really good for your baby, but there are many reasons why people can't or don't. Bottle-fed babies grow up healthy and happy too. It's the closeness at feeding that matters, and Dad can do it as well. When you make "mistakes," and you will, remember that you aren't alone. All parents do, and their kids grow up just fine.

3:28PM PST on Dec 18, 2011

My Pediatrican gave me excellent advise that worked with my children. During the day, keep the lights on, make noise, play the radio, etc. Do NOT tip-toe around and say "Shhh, the baby is sleeping!" Then at night, all is quiet and dark and baby soon learns that is the time for sleeping!
Hope this helps you to get a few zzzzz's.

1:12PM PST on Dec 17, 2011

Be willing to learn from the experience - you'll will be affected by the pregnancy, babyhood, childhood, and life with this person.

7:44AM PST on Dec 17, 2011

People probably mean well.Every one's an expert and keen to show they know much more about it than you do. Try not to let them upset you.

My late mother in law , who was very wise, used to say "It's a lovely age,","They're looking very well", and " They're a real credit to you."

6:30PM PST on Dec 16, 2011

love the picture

9:36PM PST on Dec 15, 2011

I wish I had followed two pieces of advice:

Posting a note in my front entrance thanking my guests for stopping by and requesting that they limit their visits to 15 minute lengths. It would have stopped the awkwardness of having to flat-out tell people that the three-hour long visit was DONE.

Following-up with all those people who offered to do "anything to help" before the baby arrived.

9:32PM PST on Dec 15, 2011

Great article. I'd love to see one that gives great (polite) responses to those sage advice-givers who are giving inaccurate and potentially dangerous information... I know they mean well, but if an unaware parent follows their advice, there can be horrendous consequences.

7:59PM PST on Dec 15, 2011

I raised my children, and to quote "The Chairman of the Board," "I did it my way," and that how I think most other parents should do it. I believe most of do the best we can, and I want to give young parents the same chance my husband and I had.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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