Whether you're an expectant parent or your little one has already made their arrival, we all want to be the best parent for our children. But with so much information and advice on offer, from your midwife to the baby books, it can be overwhelming to navigate parenting a newborn.
As a new parent, you're bound to have questions on everything from getting started with breastfeeding to bathing your baby and changing their nappy. We've spoken to four parenting influencers who've been where you are now and have shared their top tips on how to be the best parent during those first wonderful few weeks.
Top tips on being the best parent to your newborn from some of our favourite parenting influencers
Being a parent, particularly for the first time, is a life-changing experience. The fact that the baby is getting used to different circadian rhythms and working to a totally different time zone to mum and dad means that it's a genuine rollercoaster ride for many parents. In our recent book, we interviewed over 50 new dads and dads-to-be, and most agreed that one often overlooked, but a vital tip is to make sure you're communicating with your partner - the ups, the downs - don't forget that whoever you have on this crazy journey with you - you're one team.
For more info about DaddiLife, head to the DaddiLife website here.
Julia Fensom, Baby Consultant
Newborns need 16-20 hours of sleep a day. That equates to feeding every 3-4 hours and being awake for 45-60 mins at a time before they get overtired. Overtiredness is awful and is commonly mistaken for colic. If your little one is becoming inconsolable at night, they're not sleeping enough. They grizzle when they get tired, their eyebrows go red, and their eyes glaze over. If it's around 45-60mins since they woke up (including feed time), they're ready for a nap! Try and make sure they can self-settle by 3-4 months old before the "4-month regression" hits. Plus, swaddling has been proven to lengthen sleep by up to 50%, so swaddle your newborn!
For more information about Julia and her work as a Baby Consultant, head to Julia's website here.
There's so much advice out there, but my top three tips for how to be the best parent for your newborn are:
- There's no such thing as a 'textbook baby' - We're advised how to raise our newborns from the day we announce our pregnancies. It's society, it's our relatives, it's the books. I've realised that there's no such thing as a 'textbook baby'. Sure, it's great to have an 'ideal' to relate to. Still, understanding that all newborns are different (just like us as parents) and realising that what we read in the books doesn't always ring true to our specific situations is imperative.
- Trust your gut - Nobody knows you or your baby better than yourself. If you've got an inkling that something might be wrong or if you have any concerns, trust your gut, and voice your opinions. Health visitors are always on hand, relatives, friends, and there will always be someone available to listen.
- Don't feel guilty for setting boundaries - Setting boundaries with other people regarding who can visit your newborn and when is a must. And more importantly, we shouldn't feel guilty about putting those boundaries in place. Giving birth, dealing with the rollercoaster of hormones, and navigating the uncertainty of having a newborn is a pretty big deal! We need to protect ourselves and our mental health by setting such boundaries.
For more information about Clair and to read her parenting blog, head to Clair's blog here.
Laura, Three Little Z's
You'll be given so much advice when you're expecting, but my top tips are:
- Take it in turns to catch up on sleep, if possible. Sleep deprivation is horrendous!
- Prepare things in advance to make things easier for yourself, such as batch cooking before the baby arrives.
- Don't be afraid to say no to visitors. You've just had a baby, and it's okay to rest and stay in your little baby bubble for a while.
- Try to relax; it's new for you and new for your baby, you'll learn along the way.
For more information about Laura and to read her parenting blog, head to Three Little Zee's here.
We love all of those top tips from Han-Son, Julia, Clair and Laura! And we're so grateful that they could spare a minute from their busy parenting lives to share such great pieces of advice with us!
What are the four types of parenting styles?
According to child psychologists, there are four main styles of parenting. Your parenting style can impact everything from your child's self-esteem to how much they weigh and if they take risks. The four parenting types are: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved. Each style has a different approach to raising children and can be identified by characteristics.
Whilst there's no correct answer to parenting or the right way to do it, studies have revealed that authoritative parenting is generally the best approach to parenting. Authoritative parents invest time and energy into their children, using positive discipline to reinforce good behaviour and have boundaries. Research has shown that children with authoritative parents are most likely to become responsible adults who feel confident and able to express their opinions. In addition, children raised in the authoritative style tend to be happier and more successful, plus they're skilled at making safe and sensible decisions.
How can I be the best parent?
Raising children can be one of the most challenging but most fulfilling jobs in the whole world. Understandably, you might feel overwhelmed and maybe a bit unprepared. The great news is that sometimes, we focus a lot on the big stuff and actually, a lot of the time, it's the little things that make a difference and add up to be important to our children. Think back to your childhood; how often do you remember a Sunday afternoon playing a board game or a fun trip to the park with your parents, rather than something they probably spent a lot of time planning and preparing for.
As well as the parenting expert's tips above, here are our top tips for being the best parent you can be. All of the tips below will help you parent from the authoritative style.
Boost your little one's self-esteem
Children start developing their confidence and sense of self as babies, seeing themselves through your eyes. How you act, your tone of voice, your body language, and the words you use are soaked up by your children, affecting their development and self-esteem.
Choose your words carefully. No matter how small, praising any accomplishments will make your little one feel proud; letting them be independent will make them feel strong. By being compassionate and letting your children know that everyone makes mistakes, but you still love them, will boost them up.
This also means letting them make mistakes; for example, if your little one is using their sippy cup for the first time, they might spill it all over them a few times before getting the hang of it. Children learn best from making their own mistakes, and on the edge of failure, as long as you encourage them through the losses, this is where there's plenty of room for growth!
Compliment your children
When we're frazzled, tired, and overwhelmed, we might find ourselves snapping at those around us accidentally and criticising more than complimenting. Especially when we're sleep deprived with a newborn! Instead, remember to speak to those around you with compassion and as your little ones grow up, compliment the things they're doing right.
Be generous with praise and rewards; your love, hugs, and compliments will surround your little one and help them grow up with confidence.
With a newborn, you might be a way off needing to discipline your little one or needing to set any limits. But before your child starts to run around, speak to those around you and make sure that you have consistent limits in place now so that as your children grow, you're on the same page.
You might want to have a system in place where they get a warning before they lose access to something like a favourite toy. Or you may want to follow a method where you talk about the consequences of actions. However, you choose to set limits; it's important to be consistent and follow through with any set consequences.
Make time for your children
With a newborn, it might feel like your little one is all you have time for right now, but quality time as a family is so essential as they grow up. You'll often find that children who aren't getting the attention they crave from their parents will act out to get it instead.
Create special times when you're fully accessible to your children, whether that's for a story before bed, a special night each week where they decide what to do or leaving them little notes in their lunchbox once they start school.
Whilst they're still little, you get to decide the kind of parent you're going to be. And then, as they grow up, you can nurture this bond between you. Don't feel guilty if one or both of you are a working parent; just make time when you can and protect that time, and you'll find they remember it as they grow up.
Be a good role model
Remember your children learn about the world from you, and when they're little, the more you influence their view of the world. Practise the traits you want to see in your children, be kind, friendly, honest, respectful, and tolerant. Show your children what it means to be unselfish, do things for others without expecting something back, be grateful, and above all, show your little ones that you treat others the way that you'd like to be treated.
Even though it might be a while before your little one replies to you, you can still communicate with them. And they deserve explanations as much as adults do; if you get into the habit of explaining things when they're younger, you'll help your children to grow up understanding the world a bit better. As your little one grows up, encourage them to get involved in decisions that include them.
Trust your gut
No one knows your little one the way you do, your intentions are good. So, if you've read all the information, but something just isn't landing with your baby, then trust your gut; it isn't suitable for you and your child. Trying to be the perfect parent can be exhausting, and this is when parent guilt can creep in. However, there's a lot of advice out there, and not all of it will be a perfect fit for your family, trust your own instincts.
Be flexible with your expectations
From our birth plans to our intention to breastfeed or bottle-feed, you might have lots of expectations in your head about the kind of parent you're going to be and how the journey will look. But things can happen that change the plan, and if you're not flexible and able to go with it, you might find yourself becoming frustrated often.
The same is true for your little one's milestones, you might expect them to be sleeping a set amount of time, or you might want their progress to be at a specific rate. Your best friend's 7-month-old daughter might be chatting away, whilst your son at eight months is silent, and it might have you wondering if something is wrong with your little one. But everything is just guidelines, and it'll happen at the rate it's supposed to happen for your little one. Take into account your whole child, not just their age. For example, your child might be naturally quite shy, so less chatty but more advanced somewhere else. Or if they're shy, listen to how they play alone; you may find they're chatting away when they're in their own bubble!
If you already have children, comparisons amongst siblings can also lead to labelling, creating expectations, disappointment, or unnecessary stress. Your little one will tackle milestones at their own pace.
Share unconditional love
Having a child is such a miracle, and this little bundle of joy has been created with love, make sure you share and show how loved your little one is. Nurturing and encouraging your little one will help them grow up confident and build a good relationship with you.
Look for help when you need it
If you find yourself struggling as a new parent, from your health visitor, midwife, and local Children's Centres to apps like Peanut, there are so many resources and support out there. Plus, here at Bluebell, we have put together collections of resources for key topics for new parents, like sleeping, breastfeeding and postnatal support. Take a look at our blog for lots of helpful guides and information!
Understand your own needs and limits
None of us are superhero parents; we all have strengths and weaknesses. You don't have to have all the answers all the time. Instead, try to have realistic expectations of you, your partner and your little one. And if you feel like you've messed up or you're out of your depth, ask for help. There's plenty of support out there, and remember that you're on a team with your partner – so if you're feeling like you're struggling, no one knows your situation better than your partner.
Remember, focusing on your needs doesn't make you selfish. How can you be the best parent for your little one if you're burnt out? So, take time out from parenting to do things that make you happy, individually and as a couple. Some time out from being a parent and just being you again for a few hours, even if it's just so you can have a nap, a shower or catch up with some household chores, you'll feel much more like yourself and ready to go again.
So, there you have it, our top tips for being the best parent to a newborn, as well as some excellent advice from four parenting influencers! If you're expecting, but it's not your first time, we'd love to know if you had any more top tips or advice to pass on and share with first-time parents!