/ Parenting

Prepare yourself for parenthood

Mother and baby

Welcome to Which? Conversation’s Prepare For Parenthood page. You’ve been on a journey of discovery and now the fun really begins!

Working for Which? means I generally expect to have lots of info on how to get the most from things and make informed choices. Having a baby can throw that all out the window. I made an informed choice about where to give birth and streamlined the kitting-out process by investing in a number of Which? Best Buys. But what do I do now the baby is here?

I found I learned the most by getting to know my baby and sharing things with friends, families and other new parents I met. So, in the spirit of sharing, here are some of my top tips for new parents.

Say ‘yes, please!’ when someone offers to help

I’m very fortunate that my parents live close by and came around every week to change our bed linen for the first six weeks. I had an emergency caesarean and was surprised by how immobile I was, so I relied heavily on people helping me. The fresh bed linen was a small gesture, but so luxurious. I felt like I was living in a hotel in those early weeks, with meals on wheels being brought round by both sets of grandparents.

Use technology to your advantage

I was a bit reluctant to use any ‘development’ apps. I feel babies develop in different ways at different stages. But I loved (and still use) an app called Feed Baby. I used it to document feeds, temperatures, and medicine. I’ve found that so helpful, especially when sleep-deprived and questioning just how long that temperature has lasted or when I last gave paracetamol.

Do a good deed

We’ll all have those days when it’s a miracle you managed to brush your hair/eat a sandwich/make it out the house (delete as appropriate). If you see someone at a playgroup or other parent gathering reach out and say hi. I remember speaking to a lady who had come out for second time in four months and had got two buses to get to the playgroup only to sit shyly in the corner. It’s new to us all and we’re definitely all out of our comfort zone.

Join online support groups

My son is now a year and a half and a fussy eater. I belong to a brilliant closed food group on Facebook (closed being the ideal thing for me – I’m sure my other friends on Facebook aren’t interested in how many pancakes my son ate for breakfast). It’s called Friendly First Foods and there’s a great network of parents sharing nutritious recipes and despairing when the dinner ends up on the floor.

Don’t be afraid to swap and trade

My networks of mums are really good at swapping things out. If it doesn’t work for one baby it might work for another. I’ll never forget a good friend who stepped in to donate her Ewan the Sheep when ours packed in!

I hope I’ve helped guide you through at least part of the maze that is early parenthood with our tips. All that’s left for me to do is welcome you to use this space to continue that journey and share tips and advice with other parents.

Comments
Member

So true! I pretended to be superwoman in the early days, but quickly learnt to say yes whenever someone offered to do some dishes or make me a cup of tea. I also had the same approach to apps, and found one called Glow Baby which was really helpful for keeping track of feeds with my twins as you can easily switch between each child in the app. Especially when my brain wasn’t functioning on only a few hours of sleep.

Member

Its fascinating to see the vast change in society from the close family group where the young person gets advice to this modern independent , semi-isolationist society where the Web is mother/father/grandparents . Its a bit scary as it allows big advertising to influence and control all aspects of the modern life. Its no wonder some people have to attend their doctor if the internet goes down.

Member

You’re totally right Duncan, my family play a huge role in terms of providing support and advice. This is especially true as I’m the ‘baby’ of the family myself. I guess I was emphasising the more unusual aspects such as the virtual support networks available. I think the technology should only really work in conjunction with the face-to-face support and trusted advice. For example, I have a group of close friends who I meet in person but can also message when we’re all up in the night.

Member

We also found joining a closed Facebook group that was focused on parents in our local area really valuable. This was particularly so as we had only recently moved there and didn’t have a strong network of friends to call on.
Through this group parents post tips, questions they need help with, areas and classes of interest and bits and bobs they want to sell or pass on to others.

Member
Heleste says:
7 September 2017

I agree that using apps and communities such as closed Facebook groups can have benefits especially when you don’t have family or a network to rely on in the vicinity. It is also very daunting walking into a play group or rhyme-time when everybody else seems to know each other and are instinctively aware of all these unwritten rules of engagement but persevere and you might find that it is something you start to look forward to.
As a new parent, it is natural that you want to talk about your baby, celebrate the little things and lament the struggles and therefor those ‘comparison conversations’ are inevitable. So I would like to add to all those great tips above to always remember that even though your child might not sleep through the night, are slow to teeth, doesn’t like dancing or singing etc… etc… that it is OK. Your child is unique and so are you. Just do your best and don’t be afraid to admit if you are struggling.

Member
Luke Scott says:
7 September 2017

Me and my wife took part in local NCT classes. The best benefit from those classes were the people we meet. The ladies set up a WhatsApp group so they could talk to each other. This was the best idea ever in my opinion.
It meant when the babies were up late at night (or early morning) they could message each other, it was nice just knowing other babies would refuse to sleep as well.
Also anytime they was thinking of buying a certain product, buying a different brand of milk/nappies or even just have a moan about us men it gave them a option to do so.
It worked so well us men created our own WhatsApp group – however this just became another group chat about football scores.

Member

Funny to hear how many NCT groups have their own WhatsApp groups! I definitely should have mentioned NCT as my NCT friends made my experience of maternity leave so special and enjoyable. Just like your wife and her friends, we shared tips on all sorts of random things and generally used it to put the world to rights!

Member
Damien says:
11 September 2017

I totally agree about NCT – the biggest benefit we’ve had form it has been the social aspect, a support group of parents in the same position as you.

Member
Kristina S. says:
7 September 2017

The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a parent is that you have to be open-minded and flexible. You may have certain ideas and expectations about how/what/when/where your child will eat/sleep/play, etc. but it’s all too common for your child to have different ideas.

Member
Laura says:
7 September 2017

I was amazed by just how different my babies were – what worked with the first one had no impact on the second at all! My main lesson was to be flexible, to try out recommendations from others and to gratefully accept help wherever it was offered – and then to offer it to new parents in return.

Member

This is very interesting Laura , what made you think all babies born of the same woman must have the same personality ? was it scientific theory on DNA ? Even twin born minutes apart have individual idiosyncrasies .

Member

As a soon-to-be dad, one my fears was that I’d simply be a benign spectator with nothing useful to offer at the actual birth. But then my wife and I were talked into ‘Hypnobirthing’ classes by our midwife.

We were both hugely skeptical at first (largely because of the name), thinking it would all be quite wishy-washy. But after looking into it we were intrigued – and it turned out to be excellent.

These classes operate around the idea that the person giving birth needs to be as relaxed as possible. And to achieve that, they teach lots of techniques to encourage a state of relaxation, from creating comfortable environments to lots of massage and calming techniques, which we’ve been practicing.

Admittedly they aim for a drug-free yet somehow nearly pain-free birth… but in reality, the classes help you not to panic, and show how to deal with changing, stressful situations. Using these techniques, it has taught how to both calm myself and how I can help calm my wife without actually worsening the situation. And it’s already come in handy, thanks to an albeit brief, but little scare we had a couple of weeks back.

Will it work at the actual birth? I’ll find out soon. But importantly, both my partner and I feel more mentally prepared, and I feel like I’ll actually be able to helpful and supportive during the labour, and that’s really helped me.

I’ve also since met with the guys from the class and we have a whatsapp group on the go, which I’m sure will be invaluable in the not so distant future!

Member

Congratulations Adrian, that’s lovely news. I think Hypnobirthing is a great concept and just as important to help in the 9 months leading up to the birth . Even though I had a “medical/invasive” birth (when I had planned to be in a birthing centre) it helped teach me lots of relaxation techniques and helped my husband too. I should have also mentioned a meditation app I used called ‘HeadSpace’ during the initial few months. It was a life saver with my commute as there were some mornings/evenings I felt so unwell I didn’t know how I’d get on the train but it helped relax and distract me. And I sometimes used it to get me to sleep in the later months too.

Member
Rob Parsons says:
8 September 2017

The bed linen mentioned in the article is a great touch, like you say it’s the small things that make a difference. We were lucky enough to have friends who brought cooked meals to us from time to time. It really helped having just one less thing to think about or put effort into!

The NCT classes were excellent, because you immediately find yourself in a network of friends, all going through the same thing. A tremendous amount can be gained just by talking with people in the same situation as you. It doesn’t always have to be advice and support, mundane chit chat is good too!

Member
Rebecca Morris says:
8 September 2017

When I found out I was pregnant I didn’t set any expectations on myself or what it was going to be like being a first time Mum. I just thought i’m not a Mum and never have been & I will take each day & situation as it comes.
I still take each day as it comes & each day is a lesson learnt or a lesson gained 🙂

Member

You have the right approach Rebecca , the word “Mum ” has been elevated by the media to some infallible being who is above all others in every consideration , can do no wrong, and if wronged its its hanging offense .Unfortunately the Public has taken this seriously . All others are “lesser beings ” on this planet. It does have many practical advantages, at the expense of others, in most of lives situations. There again its part of the survival of the human race and I have to admire females for the pain+suffering they have to go through in childbirth and, in normal cases , the dedication to protect, cherish and love their baby. This instinct seems universal in most of the female animal species of this world.

Member
Rachel Blain says:
11 September 2017

I agree. Hypnobirthing was amazing for us too. It helps to make birth a partnership rather than the dad/partner being a spectator as Adrian says. It is important to find a good teacher as from stories I have heard, delivery can be inconsistent – so great that you have found a good one. The relaxation and philosophy part of hypnobirthing is a vital part of birth prep. It is so important to be excited about birth rather than to fear it. If it was not for hypnobirthing I would never have had a home birth and I am so glad I did! The one thing though is to not feel you have failed if things don’t got to plan. Sometimes I think that hypnobirthing can create certain expectations, but if you have found a good teacher then hopefully you will be prepared to manage whatever comes along.