As our baby Benjimin passes six months of age (where did the time go?!), I wanted to share some advice for new parents, from new parents (that’s me + my husband Mike!)
Basically, learn from the mistakes we made or consider insights we’ve gained as new parents!
The selected unsolicited (lol) advice touches on lived experience as well as commentary on or thoughts around things we’ve seen other parents do that we made a point not to. Some of these things are more parenting and baby lifestyle preferences. Some of these are just very tangible, practical dos and don’ts.
As always with parenting topics, it’s worth a caveat that your parenting experience may be very different from ours, you may agree or disagree, and this advice may or may not be a good fit for you, but it’s things we found happened to us / relevant and / or helpful in our situation.
You may also be interested in this related blog post:
I meant to publish that one month after Benjimin was born, but with being behind on everything, ended up posting both this and that at the same time lol. There is some overlap re: product-related advice but this one is less about the ‘stuff.’
AND I wanted to also acknowledge for those who may be new to our story, our Miracle Baby Benjimin actually came as a surprise to us after nearly a decade of trying to conceive but not being able to due to Unexplained Infertility. I remember during our struggles I always thought it would be helpful to know whether parents who were posting parent / family things had struggled or if it came easy to them and so I am making a point not to erase the fact that this was a very long and hard journey for us to get our baby and that while it happening for us surprisingly doesn’t mean that that’s how it will happen for others who may struggle with infertility, it still may offer some comfort and hope.
Okay, with that preamble done, here is:
10 Pieces of Advice for New Parents from New Parents
1. Use a bib! (stay on top of neck moisture to avoid rashes lol)
We got a few bibs as gifts ahead of our baby being born but in those early days—er months—we thought what’s the harm in a bit of milk and drool dribbling down his mouth? We will just wipe it up. Well, here to tell you that babies tend to have a lot of neck folds and you may think you’ve wiped up all the milk and drool when in fact there’s still some stuck in the folds and depending on what time of year you have your baby—hot weather, summer heat and stickiness just creates the perfect conditions for a rashy neck and upper chest, which is totally what Benjimin got.
As soon as we started using bibs (after a wicked rash had developed from all the sweat, drool, milk and moisture), the rash went away, lol. So yeah, use a bib! This piece of advice is pretty straight-forward but I guess it speaks to a bigger, baby things are created for a reason so you’re probably not above using them. The bib is a very useful thing to use for a number of reasons.
2. Stay on top of your baby’s head shape.
The main advice here is to constantly turn your newborn baby like a rotisserie chicken (lol) and make sure they’re not sleeping on one side too often in those first few months of life to avoid development of a flat head. Lots of tummy time, as they say!
Our baby Benjimin was diagnosed with a severe case of Flat Head Syndrome (there are more scientific terms for it lol—I share more about it in this Instagram post) at around three months of age, and while in theory you may have until your baby is 18 months before its skull (and head shape) hardens to fix it, it’s a good thing to be proactive / prevent the issue in the first place.
That means lots of tummy time, try to carry them a lot / baby wear, turning them (they may have a preferred side they are often turning their head to, try to turn their head the other way too), so you can avoid having baby wear a head shape corrective helmet HOWEVER, know that if your baby does need to wear a helmet, that’s also a totally normal and common thing that happens (to a LOT of parents/babies) and early prevention and intervention are all great things!
Technically as soon as we got the helmet (around three months), Benjimin started sleeping on his tummy on his own, so we do wonder if he could’ve corrected the head shape naturally, but we just didn’t want to risk it. While some flat head can be cosmetic, others if severe (like Ben’s was), if left uncorrected can lead to medical / health issues later in life, jaw issues, issues in the ear, pain with hearing sports helmets or hats not fitting in the future, etc.
Since posting about flat head / corrective head shape helmets, I’ve only heard great things from parents who also used the helmet and also regrets from parents who chose not to do it. Medical issues and pain aside, I hadn’t even considered that flat head left unchecked would mean that your child probably is going to struggle wearing hats and sports helmets once they are older too, until a few people told me that happened to their kids.
Of course, everyone’s situation is different—as I write in the Instagram post, money / insurance is absolutely a factor so that’s why being more proactive to try and keep the head round before it becomes a medical issue is a good thing to do!
Apparently cases of Flat Head Syndrome have really risen over the years, especially after the official safety recommendations for sleep changed so that parents were told to always lay baby flat on back for sleep, without use of any props or other things in the crib. This method of sleep drastically reduces Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which is fantastic, but has likely contributed to more flat heads. I say that one is reversible and the other isn’t so I’ll take the flat head!
3. Don’t stress about breastfeeding.
If you need to supplement feeding baby with formula, do it. If you need to switch to only formula, do it. If you don’t need any formula at all, that’s great too, do you! Whatever milk situation works best for you and your baby and your family is the right thing to do.
As they say (you’ll hear it a lot in those early days of parenting), “fed is best” and while you may be inclined to feel guilty about how your baby is getting fed (in general, there will be parent guilt for I think the rest of your life lol), just know going into it that every mom and babies milk journey is so different and there’s not one that is “better” than the other. What works better for you, your mental health, your lifestyle, your baby, your preferences—that’s the right thing!
No guilt! Honestly, I know that’s easier said than done you’re probably going to feel guilty anyway as I said, if not about this, about any number of parenting decisions you make lol, but just know that every milk journey is different and different does not mean bad.
Personally, I switched to almost exclusive bottle feeding (breast pumping) almost right away, for a variety of reasons. I definitely felt guilty / wondered if I should have tried breastfeeding for longer but ultimately, FED IS BEST and this way worked better for us + my mental health. lol.
If you are breast pumping, I do think springing for a double electric breast pump with a hands-free bra is the way to go, especially if you have a pretty busy lifestyle. But even if you don’t—the more convenience you can integrate into new parent life, the better! I did try a manual pump and hated it—I found it really hurt (but I have friends who used manual pumps no problem).
AND I will say that when we started using formula, the powder formula just felt so scary to us (for some irrational reason lol) but here to tell you that powder formula is great + convenient + cheaper than buying ready made formula. So like, don’t be afraid of it like we were at first (for again, no reason lol, I think it just felt like a parenting learning curve—omg we have to measure powder and water quantities?!?! lol).
Bonus tip: try to give your baby cold milk from an early age. We have never actually warmed up milk for our baby! He can have it room temperature / warm or cold / right from the fridge and it just saves you so much time!!!
4. Invest in a comfy chair.
In the first four months of Benjimin’s life, I slept in his nursery with him to be close by for overnight feedings and honestly I really did not mind it at all because the comfy nursery chair we bought almost fully reclined back like a comfy bed and that made it really easy on the body!!
Our first few days we had a different chair in the nursery and it was super uncomfortable (but cute and yellow lol), but quite painful and I think that contributed to a fairly traumatic few days postpartum for me, so I just can’t recommend enough easing that pain (physically and mentally) from your life with a comfortable chair.
You’re going to likely spend a lot of time either in your bedroom or a nursery or wherever the baby is going to be sleeping overnight, so it’s a pretty good idea to make sure that your set up for comfort particularly during those wee hours of the morning.
If you’re interested—our comfy chair is a La-Z-Boy and we intentionally did not get like a “nursery” specific chair from baby stores because we wanted to be able to reuse the chair in our living room / basement space once it moves out of nursery. We definitely recommend La-Z-Boy!
5. Don’t be afraid to set your boundaries.
We made sure that anyone who was visiting Benjimin in his first two months of life before his two month set of vaccines wore masks and hand sanitized before they could be around him. Those were our boundaries! You are the ones (the parents) that will deal with a sick baby—not its visitors who got the baby sick. Plus, you don’t want your brand new baby to be sick!!
Especially in those early days after birth, we asked that family and friends did not hold our baby up to their faces, don’t kiss or sniff him, even as he passed his six month milestone at the time of writing this blog post, we still ask that people who want to hold him hand sanitize (and we provide the hand sanitizer to make it easier too).
We also are mindful of how many kids and other babies he’s interacting with, especially kids who are of daycare age (and are very commonly getting sick / passing around germs lol), though admittedly after six months we feel like we need to get him socializing with kids more often for that socialization aspect (still ugh about germs though lol).
Yes, we understand of course that babies are going to get sick and he did eventually get his first cold around six months and it was really sad but pretty mild (thankfully). Of course you know sickness antibodies are a good thing for immunity building, etc., but that really doesn’t need to happen personally we feel until later in the baby’s life (one year+ preferably!)
That is of course our personal preference and comfort level and everyone is going to be different but just wanted to share these as some examples of how you don’t need to compromise on your beliefs or break your boundaries based on what you think is typical etiquette, societal things or what pressures you may feel from family members when it comes to holding the baby, masking up, etc. to keep baby safe.
Everyone should be on board with keeping a baby healthy and the people in your lives should respect your choices as a parent (if they don’t, they don’t need to be in your lives lol).
6. Your life, lifestyle and your interests do not need to change entirely.
Once you have a baby, you can still go out you can still travel. You can still do things that you love, you can still have your own time for hobbies. You can still show up to things on time (lol).
You might just have to adjust a bit and find ways to integrate baby into that lifestyle, into those travels into those outings, it’s different but it’s not that different, it’s totally possible, do not let anyone say otherwise!
Your baby, your relationship with your baby and the impact that your baby has on your life is up to you and what you make of it, and just because travel, restaurants, etc. might not fit for other parents lives, doesn’t mean it won’t fit for yours—if that’s what you want.
We are very lucky that Benjimin has such a chill demeanour, and at least at the time of writing this post. He is totally good travelling and going out with us, good at mostly keeping himself busy while I’m working (in some instances, not all instances), good at being woken up to go or getting ready to be somewhere on time. Good if we push naps a little bit (for now! of course this could change).
So while I believe absolutely how your baby is (fussy, colicky, etc.) will affect how often or how willing you would be to take it out and about or in crowded spaces, etc., yeah if Ben was screaming all the time we probably would not be comfortable bringing him to a restaurant!
But we do truly believe that it’s also about what you’re willing to do to integrate baby into that lifestyle that you want.
Our house is also full of animals and they’re often barking and running around playing with toys loudly so Benjimin got really used to loud noises and big movements really from day one. We’re not worried about him being bothered or in a louder environment.
We also really wanted to make sure having a baby didn’t make us late to meet people. This was something we experienced from other parents a lot over the years and so we knew that being on time—prepping and planning the baby and when to leave the house to be on time—was a priority for us. This might not bother you as much but punctuality is absolutely a trait we value.
We started when he was two weeks of age bringing baby out with us to restaurants. We drove him around to events and activities a lot in his first few months. By two months we had taken him on a week-long Alberta-B.C. road trip. By six months, he had taken his first flight!
Again, of course it absolutely helps that his demeanour really made doing these things easy / easier to do, and every baby is different, but I really do believe that the intentional exposure to different experiences and situations helps. You never know how they’ll do if you don’t try. And maybe you don’t dive into something crazy—or an hours long outing or a flight right away—but you can try a little, tweak, adjust, again to fit their demeanour and your lifestyle as best you can.
Mainly this point just speaks to the weird parents who “warn” you that you won’t be able to do the things you love anymore once you have a baby, or that “we’ll see” once we have a baby how we’ll suddenly be late all the time, or do this, or can’t do that, and we just absolutely hated that.
Now we do things we love and we love it even more because we get to experience it with our baby. The fun things we used to do feel like an even better experience when we see Benjimin experience the fun too. But I won’t lie, of course it’s different! But as I said above, different isn’t bad.
For instance, there’s a lot less late night dinners in restaurants on vacation when we’ve got baby in tow or after a long flight, but bigger picture, we’re still on vacation, we’re still doing adventures during the day, we’re still ordering take-out to the hotel to try a new restaurant (if these are important things you value in life, you can make it work).
We adjust to make it work / adjust to still do things we love WITH baby, and you can too.
7. If your partner can take a longer parental leave, take it!
The stats in Canada (and generally around the world) show that dads rarely take time off work after a baby is born, and time they do take is significantly less than moms.
There’s lots of factors for why, finances for one. Unpaid leave makes it tough to have both parents off, even here in Canada, parental leave payments are basically employment insurance which is not a big chunk of change and babies are expensive already without your income being reduced.
There’s also workplace expectations or pressures (impact on career) or stereotypes (judgments, men being mocked for wanting to take time to be with baby). The patriarchy sucks.
But perceptions are changing, and more partners—if finances aren’t a big barrier—are increasingly taking parental leave and taking longer leaves than even a decade ago. We’re seeing more stay-at-home dads too!
There’s so many benefits of both parents being actively involved in newborn / baby’s life (lots of studies I’ll get into another time lol). I honestly can’t imagine having done those first few weeks after birth without Mike, taking shifts feeding and changing diapers, taking turns with chores, giving love and attention to our pets, guilt-free napping, true partnership and parenting from both parents. Mike was so lucky to be off on parental leave for Benjimin’s first three months and he almost didn’t take that long—even though he could. He was worried about impact on career and also perceptions from coworkers but he doesn’t regret the time he ended up taking off at all. In fact he misses all the time he got to spend with Benjimin in his early days a lot.
If it’s an option for you, take the longer leave. It’s so worth it!!
8. Mentally prepare for a difficult first week after birth (and 3-day crash!)
The first week after baby arrives is the hardest, particularly the first few days. No one had told me that your hormones, really crash by day three after birth, and that usually coincides with your first stint of some sleepless nights. No one really told me that breastfeeding would be painful (it’s not supposed to be painful—but you don’t know the techniques yet! So then it’s painful to start and then you start to dread doing it and it adds to the stress!)
Those hormones the first few days postpartum can be super, super challenging and I wonder if it would’ve been easier for me had I looked that up or known before it happened so I could kind of brace myself. I really wasn’t sure what to expect and I kind of intentionally didn’t read about it beforehand. But also no one told me!! Maybe reading about beforehand will help you.
You know you hear that babies don’t really sleep or whatever or that you’re not going to get much sleep and you just think yeah I mean I’ve been tired before I’ll figure it out, but I think it was a combination of so many things and then especially the hormonal change that really feels like it messes you up in those first few days. 3-days after baby is born goes by a lot of names, The 3-Day Crash, The 3-Day Cry, Baby Blues… I mean first of all I didn’t know that was a thing but once I did, I don’t think I realized how much hormones could affect you.
I wasn’t like, crying during the day, at least with our baby he was like honestly an angel during the day, but in those first few days postpartum I started to dread nighttime and bedtime. It really feels like a blur and I don’t really remember it *now* (at the time of writing this post and baby just turned seven months old), but I do remember the first week (mostly at night) was very hard.
There are also intrusive thoughts (which I am told is normal), but like, Benjimin’s nursery is next to the stair railing to go downstairs. Anytime I walked him in or out of the room my brain would imagine him falling over the railing. That was not a great feeling. Also when in those first few days he wasn’t latching onto my nipple correctly, the pain, the nipple blistering (honestly, get nipple cream!), the dread of feeding times—plus again, all those hormone levels coming down—really made me wonder a lot throughout those early days, wait was becoming a parent a mistake? Again, I am told this is all normal lol. I don’t feel this way anymore but those first two week dark thoughts is pretty typical and I think while I had heard generally of ‘baby blues’ or postpartum depression, I am not sure I knew specifically how it might manifest so I hope some of these specific examples helps you.
The early days of parenting was also super repetitive in many ways. And I think that contributes to why it’s hard. Those first few weeks, and well I think probably whole first few months, few years ?? will feel a bit repetitive (in different ways). It’s just getting into a new routine with baby, but like every few weeks and or months switching the routine and then getting into that routine.
There’s only so much stimulation for yourself when your days become a cycle between wake windows and nap time, play stations and feedings and I think for me especially, as someone who had a pretty specific way of doing day-to-day life before baby, and as someone who was still working immediately after the baby was born, juggling work with being a new mom, that change in schedule and change in pace was pretty hard on me mentally, especially at first.
9. Don’t forget to keep dating your partner—and finding time for yourself!
Too often I think parents get consumed by baby talk. Because the baby is sort of all-consuming lol. It’s really easy for the baby to suddenly to be the main/only thing you talk about with your partner, or the first thing you ask about, the first thing you pay attention to, etc.
We’ve seen this play out for other parents and similar to the not being late because you suddenly have a baby thing, it was very important for us to ensure that we were still having moments for just us, moments about our day that was separate from how the baby was doing, and especially during the first three months when Mike was off on parental leave, we both made a point to take more of a lead with baby on certain days or times to let the other parent do their own thing and continue with their own hobbies and interests so that those things don’t get eliminated just because we suddenly have a baby now.
You time. You + Your Partner time. You + Your Partner + Baby time. (or whatever your family makeup looks like). Time to yourself is as important as time together.
10. Here are a few random things we recommend as baby gifts now:
- Two-way zipper onesies! So you only have to unzip the bottom to check / change diapers. Plus zippers are just so much easier than buttons (especially as baby gets older and more writhy lol). Also there are magnetic onesies that are convenient too! Those are just pricier. ALSO onesies with footies (so you don’t need to also put socks on baby lol).
- Soothers and soother clips. We liked Tommy Tippee and or Philips Avent Ultra Air brands. We like the clips so that the soother doesn’t drop to the ground and get dirty. And we like soothers because it helped baby calm down / sleep especially in the early days.
- Easy Swaddles. I think to this day I am still not really good at swaddling a baby (wrapping them like a tight burrito in a blanket). So I really loved the sort of pre-made swaddle designs. Halo Swaddles were great for that and we also loved the Love the Dream Swaddle Up brand!
- Books!! Read to them from the very beginning. Theres tons of stats out there about the benefits of daily reading to baby from a very young age—even if they don’t understand. We are book lovers in this house so Baby Library was a big deal for us (at our baby shower, we asked people to give a baby book instead of a card). Board books make a lot of sense from a durability perspective. There is also a brand of paper thin books called Indestructibles that were literally designed for baby grab, chew, lick, bite, rips. We love books that are interactive (flaps, pop-ups, texture/touch and feel). One of Benjimin’s favourite books is Peekaboo Baby by Camilla Reid. It has interactive pop-up elements but also a mirror at the end which he always reacts to. Also soft cloth / crinkle books are great too (and good for travel). I want to do a blog post with all of our Baby Library Books for reference but I just haven’t gotten around to it. If I get to it, I will update / link it here!
- Baby Nail Clippers or Mitts. Some babies like ours come out with very long and scratchy nails as newborns and therefore they will scratch themselves! So baby mitts can help reduce scratching or baby nail clippers literally we needed these from Day 1 in the hospital.
- Baby Wraps / Carriers. Hands-free baby wearing is totally useful for so many scenarios from the every day to the travel/adventure. We are partial to Beluga Baby brand (out of B.C.) and Baby Bjorn!
- You can find even more recommended products and ‘stuff’ in my other blog post here!
And honestly, there will be more things that come to mind that I’ll pop in and edit this post from time to time to include but this is what has come to mind for now. Hope it helps you!
Save on some baby stuff with my discount codes!
- It’s worth mentioning that I do have some discount codes with Edmonton-based baby / kid stores as well as baby photography that might be of interest for you! The details are below:
Princess and the Pea is an Edmonton-based baby and kids store selling everything from clothes to accessories, toys, arts and crafts, mealtime and skin time essentials and more. They ship across North America!
Use code LINDA15 for 15% off at Princess and the Pea (excludes Jellycat and Canada Goose). Valid on first-time orders only.
Folk & Whimsy is a local woman-owned, family boutique offering products that cover pregnancy to early childhood, has created a promo code for newsletter subscribers! The store is a place where all families are welcome. Find items to help with body care, breastfeeding, books, toys, school lunch items and more!
Use LINDORK15 for 15% off regular priced items (excluding Padraig Cottage slippers).
While I super support local businesses, I do also shop on Amazon a fair bit (and honestly in our first few weeks of parenting we kept realizing we needed things and it was just so freaking convenient to order it online for next day delivery), so I created an Amazon list with some baby-related items we actually used, that might be useful for you as well if you are so inclined (also, the economy / the truth is not everyone can afford to buy local all the time).
I do get a little commission if you buy through Amazon after clicking to browse the list below so that is the perk for me, but also we actually have used these products and recommend them, BUT that said, with the shop local + support local businesses in mind, if you can get products you want from the local places / and you don’t need the products right away, I do still recommend seeing if the above local shops have what you want!
So that’s it for now!
I can’t believe how fast time goes by. This is a totally overused piece of bonus advice that as a parent you will definitely be told by countless people, but truly, you blink and it’s been months, and I guess we’ll blink and baby will be an adult. lol. Time flies. They grow up so fast. You like can’t wait for milestones to be hit but then you are like whoa, slow down.
At seven months Benjimin is still considered a small (but strong) boy, but I can’t believe how big he is to me, compared to when he was a newborn. I think about how he used to sleep curled up on my chest as a newborn and now he’s just so big if he tries to do that on my body lol.
I don’t think Mike and I realized just how little newborn babies are—and why so many people are so obsessed with babies, because they really don’t stay that teeny for that long.
There’s probably more I write on the whole mom guilt, juggling parenting and working, and that broader ‘are we actually doing a good job?’ type of stuff but I’ll save that for another blog.
I will however assure you here, if you are reading this because you want more information to help you feel like you are being a good parent, then you are a good parent. You’re already trying. You’re learning. You’re doing / will do what you can. You will do the best you can. You are enough for that baby! I debated saying that last sentence because it sounds super life coach-y which obviously I am not, lol but, I think it is applicable here. You’re a good parent.
You got this!!!
- Follow @lindork on Twitter
- Follow @lindork on Instagram
- Like Lindork – Linda Hoang on Facebook
- Follow @lindork on TikTok
- Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
If you live or work in the Edmonton, Alberta area, or care about Edmonton content, sign up for my hyperlocal newsletter to get weekly recommendations on things to do, eat, and know this week (in the Edmonton area), plus more exclusive content. You can sign up for a free or paid subscription.
(You’ll get the option to select free or paid after you enter your email).