Congratulations! You are going to have a baby. As you get close to the time of having your child, after going through nine months of pregnancy you face a new life and a new world of information. The amount of baby information is astounding. Just trying to buy the appropriate car seat may require hundreds of pages of reading. The American Academy of Pediatrics car seat pamphlet alone is six pages long! Then there are thousands of newborn books, magazines, websites, videos and tapes on all the other aspects of care. By the end of your baby’s first month, you can find yourself afloat on a virtual ocean of baby information.
As a Pediatrician who for twenty-two years has enjoyed counseling new parents, I have a set of guidelines to help keep you from being overwhelmed by all the baby information that surrounds us. Here is a guide for new parents to use to go from novice to good parent.
1. There is not one expert that you must listen to. Even when I advise parents in my practice, I tell them that what I offer is only advice. Advice can be used or discarded depending on how it suits you. With your baby you are the parent and only you will become the expert on your baby.
2. There is nothing more valuable than a few good friends. Your friends who have seen through child rearing may have valuable things to offer to you. Support from a trusted source such as your mother or an intimate friend, is as time tested as pregnancy itself. Unfortunately with our mobile society, this part of child rearing has become harder to maintain. Nevertheless, finding the right people to support you can be critical to your success especially in the early days of your parenting career.
3. Trust yourself. Though you will need support as a new parent, you also need to have faith in yourself. Most of baby care is using common sense. And I must say that through all my experience I have mostly witnessed good use of sense from parents. We all have to grow into our parenting roles. This takes time. None of us have parented before and none of us go through a training program. This gives us plenty of room for self doubt. But have faith. Many people have gone before us and learned on the job as we will. You will do well. Take your time. This is an overwhelming experience with an overwhelming amount to learn. Stay committed to learning and you will be a great parent.
4. Take in a little at a time. We already established that there is a huge amount of baby care and child rearing information. But nobody uses all that information all the time. Having resources at your disposal when you need it may be a more functional approach to the information. Have your friends or your pediatrician suggest some books to have at your disposal. A few key books, a good local library, and perhaps a parenting magazine subscription (a good baby shower gift) may be all you need. Magazines are good to keep since you’ll never know when that back issue will be just the answer for the current problem you’re having with your child. Getting the information when you need it is practical and less stressful than trying to know everything there is to know about babies all at one time.
5. Choose what works for you. When you are facing a problem with your child you will face a time when your pediatrician says one thing, your mother another and your favorite magazine a third. No two people raise their babies the same way. Likewise, nobody always has the exact advice you need for your baby. You are allowed to make a decision for yourself on what to do with your baby. There is no right or wrong way to raise a child. Do what your heart says is right. You have to be the one comfortable with your own parenting.
6. Finally, the most important thing is to love your child. Sometimes we can be so worried about whether we are doing things right that we forget the most important things. No decision we make will break our baby’s childhood. Relax. Smile, play with your baby. With enough support and resources available we should feel empowered to feel good about being a parent. We should relieve ourselves of the pressure we feel. And recognize that the most important parenting rule is that our children should feel loved and cared for. So love your child and everything will be ok. You’ll feel like you are surfing above that information ocean.