By Joseph Sacks, LCSW
The following important tips for a new parent comes from my experience raising my own four boys,
my clinical experience working with parents, research I’ve done on parenting infants, and the wise counsel of my mentors. Please be advised that this represents a parenting ideal, and I don’t expect anyone to fulfill it perfectly. Rather have patience with yourself and try to incorporate new ideas gradually.
1. One Of The Most Important Tips For a New Parent: Be A Giver
Having a baby is a wonderful opportunity to be a giver, to enjoy the pleasure and the privilege of giving selflessly and lavishly. Babies are very preoccupied with the important business of exploring their world and creating their very selves, and they don’t have the time or ability to give anything in return. They need us to wait on them hand and foot, which can be very demanding and exhausting. Therefore, we need to have the attitude that being all-giving to our baby is an opportunity to develop our own character and traits of kindness and generosity. This will prevent us from becoming frustrated by the needs of our babies or our ensuing lack of sleep. When your baby grows older, he or she will be filled up with all of the energy, effort and love you have given and, in turn, will become a giver as well. Interestingly, the more we give to our babies now, the more they will be generous and selfless in the future. But, before a child can become selfless, he or she first has to receive, to recognize the thought and value of giving, for many years.
2. Pick Up A Crying Baby
Babies need to be picked up as much as possible when they cry. This can be very tiring, especially in the middle of the night, but it is what’s best for them. You may fear that you are spoiling your child and that he or she will become increasingly demanding, but the opposite is true. Picking them up when they need it teaches your child that you will be there for them, making them more secure and able to stand being alone in the future. At times, however, you may be too exhausted to pick your child up again. If you simply don’t have the energy, you may have to let your baby cry a bit, as sometimes you need to take care of your own needs first. But, that should occur only when necessary. Get help from your partner, family or babysitters and give yourself the breaks you need so you can be there for your baby.
The more you pick him or her up, the greater the bond you create and the more emotionally healthy your child will be. For example, you can get a front-loading baby backpack and carry your baby around the house while you do things. Your baby will love spending time with you, and it is common practice in many other countries.
3. Feed A Hungry Baby
Every baby marches to the beat of his or her own drum and gets hungry at different intervals. Therefore, it pays to feed your baby whenever he or she is hungry and not try to stick to rigid schedules. Some babies prefer small feedings every hour and some can wait three or four hours before getting hungry again. Don't try to "train" your baby to wait for a certain time, because it will only make you both miserable. Feeding your baby as soon as he or she is hungry teaches your child that someone will always be there when he or she needs it, ensuring secure emotional growth. In other words, it is critical to most children’s emotional development that their parents are a source of pleasure and well-being as much as possible.
4. Put The Crib Near Your Bed
It can help to put your baby’s crib right near your bed so you can get to him or her easily at night. You may even let your infant sleep and nurse in your bed. Keep the baby a short distance away and put a pillow in between so you don’t roll over onto him. Don't try and train your baby to sleep in his or her own bed by letting him or her cry for a few nights, as is often recommended. While this can work in some cases, it incurs an emotional cost for you and your baby. Instead, you may try using formula, which is a bit heavier than breast milk and may help your baby sleep longer at night. Another trick is to put a teaspoon of rice cereal into the formula, making it heavier so your baby sleeps longer. With older babies and toddlers, try to get them to sleep in their own bed at first. But, you shouldn’t hesitate to take them into your bed when they cry, as this usually solves the problem and helps them fall asleep. Don’t fear you are spoiling them, as you are actually making them more secure and creating a great emotional bond.
5. Babies Pick Up On Stress
Babies are extremely sensitive and pick up on any emotional stress going on in the house around them. If there is any marital strife or fighting between family members, your baby will pick up on it, become agitated and cry more. Marital conflict is especially damaging to a baby's emotional health. If there is any stress in the home, you may need to seek couples counseling or individual counseling for one or both members. Try to relax and stay cool around your baby as any nervousness agitates him or her.
6. Try To Take Maternity Leave
Try to get maternity leave to be at home with your baby. I know that work pressure can make this hard in some cases, but that special time at home to bond with your baby will be great for your relationship. The most important thing in a baby’s life is the attachment with his or her mother, and this is fostered through quality time and quantity time. Enjoy the special beauty of mothering. Try to nurse as much as possible – it is fantastic for your baby's health, especially his or her immune system. The more time you spend with your baby trying to nurse, the more milk you will produce. Some babies are not able to suction well, however, and you may need to pump and feed him or her from a bottle. Take advantage of that magical time when he or she is an infant, it will never be repeated!
For more interesting and useful parenting advice, including additional important tips for a new parent, feel free to peruse my blog or download one of my free reports.
If you have a child with challenging behavioral or emotional issues, and would like guidance or treatment from a child psychotherapist in lower Manhattan, don’t hesitate to give me a call for a free 15-minute consultation at 646-681-1707. I look forward to speaking with you!