Several of my friends have just had babies or announced they’re pregnant, so I’ve been thinking a lot about newborns.
It occurs to me that while relatively few of my readers will end up becoming professional screenwriters, nearly all of them will end becoming up parents. So in that spirit, I want to offer a few suggestions to file away.
The fourth trimester is the toughest.
Because of our large heads and small pelvises, humans are born partially-cooked. We should really be in there a little longer. Keep that in mind when your newborn does nothing but sleep, eat and cry that first month or two. Like bullying, It Gets Better.
Babies want to be alive.
The first few weeks with a newborn are mostly about not killing it. A little paranoia is healthy. It’s better to call your pediatrician about that weird cough than cavalierly assume everything will be okay.
But remember that human beings were originally savannah-dwelling hunter-gatherers constantly chased by predators. If newborns were the delicate glass ornaments we think them to be, humanity would never have survived. So yes, make sure infants’ car seats are installed properly and keep them away from sick children. But you don’t need to lock them away. In fact, getting out of the house with them will help restore your sanity.
Newborns are highly portable.
It’s easier to travel with a newborn than a two-year old. You can take them to restaurants, or to friends’ houses for dinner. They can sleep in pack-and-plays. So take advantage of these easy, early months. You’re not supposed to get them around little kids’ germs for the first bit, but breakfast out is a great idea.
Everyone will have an opinion.
Particularly about things related to sleep: swings, swaddling, binkies, etc. I say, if these things help your kid sleep, they help you be a less-stressed parent, and everyone wins. I found the five s’s from The Happiest Baby to be damn-near miraculous, but every kid is different.
Eventually, every kid will sleep in his own bed.
I don’t have a strong opinion about co-sleeping, but from my observation of other families, the transition from sleeping in the parents’ bed to the kid’s own bed is torturous. Like any habit, if you never start, you never have to stop.
Teach your kid the difference between day and night.
It’s the only way you’ll ever get a good night’s sleep. Part of it is light. Don’t darken the room too much during daytime naps, and keep the lights dim during overnight feedings.
But your activity level is just as important. Daytime Parent is happy and smiling, chatting and playing. Nighttime Parent is a robot who feeds and changes. Once the kid understands that waking up at night isn’t fun, they’ll stop.
Breastfeeding is great.
If you have milk-filled boobs, use them. But don’t feel guilty if it’s impossible or impractical. Lost in all the praise for breastfeeding is the fact that baby formula is also pretty damn good. Just because it’s a second choice doesn’t mean it’s a bad one.
Diapers are always on sale somewhere.
You should almost never need to pay full price. Find coupons. It’s worth it.
Seriously. Don’t let junk science kill your kid.
Don’t buy too much.
With the exception of car seats, almost everything you get for your baby can be second-hand. If you have friends with kids, happily take all their old baby stuff. Get things off Craigslist or Freecycle. And pass it along when you’re done. Babies outgrow things so quickly that it’s better to think of just “renting” the stuff they’re using.
I’m sure readers have other suggestions for those first few months.