I started having kids before most of my friends did, and so I’ve been around the block a few more times than they have when it comes to new babies and how to get through it. Now when a friend is becoming a mom or a dad for the first time, I include this list of advice in their gift card. I tell them I’ve written down some of my best “aha moments” for them and that I don’t want to be pushy with telling them how to parent, but have found that these few thoughts helped me a lot once I understood them better:

  • Feed that baby all you can, as often as you can. Full babies sleep better, wake up better, are generally calmer. There’s a lot of talk about getting a baby on a schedule, but until they’re older this doesn’t seem to work without a lot of stress for everyone involved. Just try to feed them every time they’re fussy, no matter where you are.
  • Babies aren’t done “cooking” until about 3 months after they’re born. It’s like a 4th trimester where they’re adjusting to being outside of you. It’s a lot to get used to, this sudden change from utero to outside. They’re considered a neonate for the first 28 days after they’re born, and this is a good time period to use as a rule of thumb for just protecting them, wrapping them up and snuggling them as much as you can while they adjust to this new place outside their mom. Remembering that for the first month or two, everything is new to them helps you comfort them a little better because you’re seeing it from their perspective a little bit better.
  • Go with the “5 S’s”: swaddle, side, swing, shush, suck. Swaddle your baby when they’re sleeping to help them calm down and relax. They were pretty snug inside mom up until the very end, and being swaddled is reminiscent of that and helps them relax. It also keeps their arms and legs from flailing out while they sleep in a startle reflex, which can wake them up and interrupt their sleep. Roll a few extra blankets up into long logs and use those to wedge your swaddled baby so they’re sleeping on their side or at an angle with their face upwards. This also helps them settle down into the mattress a little which seems to make for better sleep. Napping or sleeping at night in a swing will also help them relax and get longer bouts of sleep, as it also feels a lot like life did when they were inside mom. Make shushing sounds when you’re trying to get your baby to calm down. Let your baby suck on a pacifier or your finger or a bottle, since sucking has a calming effect many times.
  • Repack your diaper bag RIGHT AFTER you get home so it’s ready to grab and go the next time you’re out the door. That’s the time you’re most likely to remember what you used while you were away from home, and should you be running late when you need to leave the next time, you don’t have to be worry about being caught away from home without a stash of diapers or wipes.
  • Don’t be afraid to try several brands of diapers or bottles or wipes or whatever else you’re not quite satisfied with until you find the ones you do like. It might be more expensive while you’re going to the trial phase but it’s worth it when you find what works great for you and your baby.
  • Sign up for every bit of free baby stuff you can. Lots of major baby brands have freebies offered online and there are great websites out there who are just trying to help you find free baby stuff to try. Beware the sites that are just trying to get your personal info to sell to marketers and salespeople, but take advantage of the sites that exist to assist you.
  • If they’re sleeping in the carseat when you get home, just carry the whole baby car seat in from the car, put it in the crib and let them continue to nap that way. Don’t wake them up just to get them out of the seat where they’re already comfy, snuggled in and dreaming.
  • You aren’t going to know what you’re doing, and you’re going to have moments where you just have no idea what to do next: IT’S OK. You’re not supposed to. You’re doing it for the first time. You’ll figure it out.
  • Millions of moms have done this before you, so you will be just fine like they were.
  • This too shall pass.
  • Listen to everyone’s advice, and then throw most of it out. Take what makes sense to you and politely move on from the rest of it.

More than anything, you will find that if you just take a deep breath and do your best, you’ll quickly settle into a routine and into practices that make being a new parent lots of fun! Sure it’s hard and exhausting and trying at times, but it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have.