Advice for prospective parents?

Today, I’m going to make an appointment with my GYN (actually a nurse-midwife out of an OB/GYN office) for a six-month pre-conception planning. It’s a neat service–they have both me and my husband in there and give us advice and a plan on things we should do to get our health in order before I get the IUD removed and give it a go sometime next spring. They test us for things like rubella immunity and whether we’re CF carriers as well.

It’s weird. I haven’t always wanted kids, but lately (the past year or so) I’ve been slowly changing my mind. Both my husband and I are only children, and while he has a relatively large extended family and has at least had a chance to be around babies, my family is small and spread out pretty far, so I have absolutely NO experience with them. Never even changed a diaper before. I’m a blank slate. I don’t want to come home with a tiny thing in a couple of years and think “WTF do I DO with it?”

So…WTF do I DO with it? Parents, what do you wish someone had told you BEFORE you had to deal with it?

My wife and I took a class offered by the hospital we were using while we were expecting our first. It was a Lamaze course, but they went over a lot more stuff than just the breathing techniques. Everything from how to put on diapers, to what to expect from the first poops, etc. A lot of it seems like common sense in retrospect, but at the time it was extremely helpful to have a little advance knowledge.

The best thing that I learned in that course was swaddling. A specific way of wrapping your baby in a blanket that makes them (supposedly) feel like they’re still in the safety of the womb. Very useful for calming them down when other things don’t work.It really worked for us!

Best of luck!

The biggest advice I can give you.

You cannot understand the commitment you are making until it arrives.

Your child will not be perfect. When you imagine your child imagine both the moments of pushing him in a stroller in the sun and finding a joint in his room. Or having him cry until 2am. Or having him sing Jingle Bells, Batman smells a hundred times in the car on the way to the store. Or bring home a D in History. Or calling at 26 saying “Mom, I’m not going to make rent, can you loan me $500, just this once?”

Its worth it anyway, but recognizing that YOUR kid might throw a tantrum in Target, bite other toddlers, egg the neighbors house, forget to tell you he is going to a friends and take off on his bike God Only Knows Where - and that you will lose your temper and yell, will never make homemade playdoh, will not get around to teaching your kid three languages, and will be the one that teaches your three year old the word “Shit” - goes a long way to making it a more enjoyable experience for both of you.

(Oh, and as much as they say they were, no one else’s kids were perfect, nor were they perfect parents either. Those people who say “My kid NEVER…” There kids did SOMETHING, they just aren’t fessing up to it. Take all parenting ‘advice’ with a rather large grain of salt.)

Raising a child is like riding a roller coaster; thrilling, frightening, more fun that you thought possible and over with way too soon.

Both my husband and I had some past experience with babies/toddlers/children, but for a few days after our son was born, we still had the “WTF do I do with it?” moments. It wears off, especially when a sort of routine is established.

I found the Dr. Sears Baby Book (which covers care and development from birth to age 2) to be a good source of support. Instinctive parenting was my goal, and there is a lot of encouragement for it in that book.

As for advice? Take a nap every chance you get. I mean it.

Oh, dear God, yes.

Vacuuming can wait. Dishes can wait.

My son is a year old, is sleeping from 7 PM until 7 AM most nights, I get 6-8 hours of sleep a night, and I am STILL a damn zombie most of the time. Even when you sleep, you’re always partly awake listening for them.

Another vote for Dr. Sears. And speaking of advice, you will get LOTS of advice from LOTS of people. If you aren’t comfortable with what they’re telling you, don’t do it!

And no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to emotionally prepare for parenthood. I’m still not prepared, a year after his birth.

Well, as the father of the world’s cutest five-month-old girl, I suppose I can pass a few things along.

On Pregnancy: don’t try to be “tough”. If you’re hurting, your body is trying to tell you something, so pay attention. Don’t tell yourself, “well, all women have pain and discomfort when they’re pregnant, I should just suck it up.” My wife did that for a while, until we figured out that she had shingles, which was causing severe nerve pain on top of being pregnant. Also, don’t brush off symptoms like swelling, because it can indicate problems that go deeper than having thick ankles. I’m not saying this to scare you; I’m just saying that you should be aware of your body and tell your doctor about any issues you’re having, because all these things are treatable or have solutions.

On babies: they’re funny. No one told me they’re funny. Enjoy the funniness. Now, for useful advice: after the birth, you’ll be surrounded by friends, family, and various well-wishers, at the hospital and at home. What with a newborn’s erratic sleep schedule, entertaining these people is a real burden. Don’t be too proud to say, “Whew, she’s asleep, I have GOT to take a nap. Do you want to watch her, or do you want to come back later?” You need sleep, and that takes priority over being accommodating to all the post-birth oglers. If you have to be rude, do it; they’ll write it off to hormone fluctuations and forget about it later.

One thing our pediatrician told us that rings very true is, “She’s the boss.” Don’t feel like you must feed the baby according to a strict schedule. If you wake the baby up every three hours for a feeding, all you’re doing is teaching her to get hungry every three hours. Feed when she’s hungry, change when she’s dirty, and enjoy her when she’s awake.

You can’t have enough bibs, sleepers, burp cloths, and onesies. Stock up. You don’t have to spend a fortune, they come in multi-packs.

Start lining up daycare and a pediatrician. Ask your friends who already have children, they know who’s good.

Get a video camera. There will be moments and sounds that you want to have forever, and at the hospital, under the influence of drugs, you might not remember them.

Don’t feel like you have to spend tons of money to get the best of everything. My daughter has grown out of outfits that she never even wore. That’s just a waste.

If you’re planning to breastfeed, look into renting a medical-grade breast pump. The cost isn’t too bad (you’d probably spend the same amount on formula), it can express both sides at once, and it’s nowhere near as tedious as doing it manually. On the downside, it’ll be heavier and less portable, so there are trade-offs. Still, it worked great for us.

The very best piece of advice of all came from Dr. Benjamin Spock: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”

Best of luck to you, and welcome (soon) to the club.

Babies are really hard to screw up. Keep them dry, fed, and cuddled and they’re pretty much good to go. Do what works for you and your baby. What will that be? You will find out by trial and error.

Minute by minute, parenting is simple. It’s the 24/7ness of it that really gets to you. You are constantly on the job, and it gets tiresome. A little break now and then courtesy of a babysitting grandmother or an extra long nap (either yours or the baby’s, or both at the same time) is a beautiful thing.

Also, hooray for nurse-midwives! Great choice!

Great thread. Very timely (for me at least). My wife and I have just started to tell friends and family she’s 12 weeks pregnant. I’ll be checking back here for more, please keep it coming. Are there any work from home moms who can offer advise? My wife does communication consulting from home.

A mid-wife is great. I had one when I was pregnant with my daughter. She could not deliver her as she was breech and a caesarian was preformed but she was there with me the entire time.

The best advice I can give is to trust your own instincts. You might not feel you have them now and you might think you won’t develop them but you will. Listen to doctors, family and friends but let your own instincts rule your decisions. There is nothing wrong with second guessing yourself at times but I have learned that my gut feelings are there for a reason.

Be patient and flexible. Do not go into it with a specific set of plans or ideas. No matter what you have planned for little Suzy or Johnny they may be interested in the complete opposite and that means any given minute, hour, month or year. Remember that even though they are a part of you they are not you. That is not to say that things you read won’t apply and are not fabulous ideas but just because it worked woth Aunt Lizzy’s kid or because Doctor Spock wrote it does not make it true for every child. Find out what works best with your child and go from there.

Have as much fun as you can with children. They do not stay little forever. I never could understand when I was raising my two when people would say it goes by all to fast. It sure did not seem that way at the time because of the in and outs of everyday parenting that can take its toll out on you. I sometimes don’t know how we all made it this far. Now with my kids at almost 19 and 17 it is hard to believe they were babies.

Babies are easy, even with the sleep deprivation. Childbirth may or may not seem over in a wink, but basically it is when you come right down to it. Worrying about how to feed your baby can seem all consuming at the time, but also becomes a mere faint memory pretty fast.

Dangerosa made some awesome points. It’s the rest of your child’s life that get’s tricky. So…my advise is not to worry about having a baby. Worry about having a person.

Having been through the baby route twice, may I offer a few suggestions.

  1. They are not nearly as breakable as they appear. Childhood when done right entails scrapes, bruises, cuts, and sometimes a sprain or broken bone.

  2. It is not necessary to buy an $800 stroller (yes they make such an animal, my son sells them at Babies backwardR Us) You kid will do just fine in a $10 dollar umbrella stroller from a yard sale.

  3. Along the same line, Don’t think you have to buy your kid every toy that they want. No child in the history of the world has ever died from the lack of the latest video game.

  4. One exception to rule #3. Books. If your child wants a book, buy it. I don’t care if it means you eat Top Ramen for lunch this week, buy the book. (been there, done that) Which brings us to rule #5

  5. Read to your child, every day. With my kids, this was their special time with dad every night. My wife read to them also. I can still recite several Dr. Zuses books. As a result, my kids learned to read at a young age.

  6. Kids are curious. If you read to them, there will come a time when they want to read for themselves. Encourage this, and you will have a reader w/o the use of hooked on whateverthefuck will take your money.

  7. Limit their video game and TV time. Make them go out and experience the world in unorganized play. See rule #1.

  8. Take lots of pictures, videos also if that is your thing. Put them in albums and label them. 25 years from now, you will be glad you did.

  9. While I agree that when they are babies, you should feed on demand, not a schedule, once they are sleeping though the night, and talking, they are not the boss, you are. It’s your house, you should be setting the rules. If you let them make the rules, you will wind up with a spoiled brat.

  10. When there is a problem with another child, do not automatically leap to defend your little precious. Most likely there is a 50/50 chance that your little precious was acting like the spawn of Satan, and it is their fault. Take some time and find out just what the fuck happened, and act accordingly. If your child is at fault, punish them, don’t yell at the other kid.

  11. Ask for a diaper service at your shower. For the first three months, it is a godsend.

  12. Even if you intend to use paper diapers, buy some cloth diapers. A better spit up rag has not been invented. Plus when the kids grow up, they are the most kick ass cleaning rag ever. I still polish the furniture with some of my kids old diapers. (yes I have washed them you smart ass)

  13. Discipline your children when the mis-behave. Children need discipline, and asking a screaming toddler if they want a time out, ain’t it. Find out what works for your child and use it. Use it in a consistent manner, and fairly, but use it. Your child will test your boundaries. It is important that they know that there is a line they must not cross, and if they do there will be consequences. Every time. Don’t cave in a let them off easy, unless you over reacted the first time. If you do cave, you will be setting yourself up for more boundary testing. If you did over react, sit down and talk to them about it. Explain to them why you think you over reacted. Don’t just give them the video game back. One very effective form of punishment is to ask them what you should do about their misdeeds.

  14. When dealing with discipline or other issues, try and think back what you thought and felt at your child’s age. Obviously not terribly effective when working with an 18 month old, unless your memory is a lot better than mine. When they get older, if you can recall what you were going though at that age, chances are it will give you an excellent insight as to why your child is having a problem.

  15. Accidents happen. Don’t punish for a real accident. Use it as a learning tool. Example, my oldest was dropping his sister off at school in our new car. He was in a hurry and pulled out without looking. he hit another car, and tore the bumper off our car. With body work, paint and all that about $2500 damage. That night I took him to Starbucks we got a couple of lattes and the conversation when like this
    Me: So what happened?
    Him: I fucked up, I didn’t look.
    Me: ::: Nodding:::, yep, I would agree with that. Are you going to look next time?
    Him: Yes.
    Me: OK, I think this subject is closed.
    Him: ::: Surprised::: You aren’t going to punish me?
    Me: What would be the point and how? I don’t think there is anything I could do or say to you that would make you feel any worse than you already do. You fucked up, you admitted it, and you promised not do it again. You took responsibility for your own actions. It takes a man to do that.
    Of course if you do it again, I might not be so understanding. :smiley:

  16. Have FUN. Just keep telling yourself it will be all over in 18 years or so, and in about 25 years or so you can kick back and laugh at your child making all the same mistakes with their child that you made with them.

You’re going to do fine. Do your best, and since you’re a Doper, you’re already going to be do better than the overwhelming majority of parents today. Right?

My two cents’ worth:

My wife and I found it useful to have our young nieces over for entire weekends several times to get some “surrogate parenting” experience. Until you’ve actually had full responsibility for a child or children for a day or three, it’s hard to imagine what that entails.

Put off telling people that you’re pregnant as long as you can. I know that’ll be hard! My sister happily told many, many people when she’d just been pregnant a few weeks… and then miscarried. Not a good situation.

Don’t tell people your exact due date, or you’ll get a lot of “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” in your last trimester.

Be prepared for sleep deprivation and extraordinarily poopy diapers, to say nothing of your little bundle of joy barfing when you least expect it.

Do your best to nurse, if you’re capable of it. Don’t give up too soon - really give it the ol’ college try. Then try again. It’s best for the baby, and for you.

Beware of postpartum depression. One of my best friends suffered from it, and it really knocked her for a loop. Be strong, but don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Find a corps of babysitters you can trust through family and friends. Then make it a point to get out of the house at least (at least!) once a month on a “date night” with your husband. Rediscover that there’s more to your relationship than your identities as parents. And yes, of course you’ll talk about the baby while you’re sipping your chablis.

Read to your children as much as you can stand. They’ll love it, and you’ll instill a lifelong love of reading. It’s all good.

Similar to what Rick said so well above: Be loving but firm in your discipline of your child. Setting rules and sticking to them, and backing up your husband (and vice-versa) when either of you lay down the law, is crucial. When it comes to discipline, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Reasonable people of goodwill can disagree on spanking, and there have been several Dope threads on the pros and cons, but I strongly believe that an occasional swat on a child’s rump when words alone haven’t gotten through, will save you a whole lot of grief down the road when your child might otherwise mistakenly think he or she is in charge. “Benign dictatorship” should be your watchwords.

That said, let your child make decisions when you’d be happy with any of his/her choices: meal options, clothing for the day, which way to turn at a stoplight, whether the green or the blue bath toy would be more fun. It empowers the child and helps teach decision-making.

Have fun. You’re beginning an adventure that will, in one way or another, last a lifetime. We have three boys, now 10, 7 and 4, and many wonderful memories as well as anticipation of what is yet to come.

Good luck!

My advice for having a baby would be:

  1. It can’t be reiterated enough that you need to do what feels right to you. If someone gives you advice that goes against your grain, toss it out.

  2. What works for one kid won’t necessarily work for yours. So just because something works for someone else, but not for you, that doesn’t mean you’re wrong - just that you need to try something else. This applies to almost everything from breastfeeding vs. formula to sleeping (cry it out or quick response) and pacifier use to working or staying at home.

  3. For the first 6-10 months, babies are relatively simple. If a baby is crying, just go down the list: hungry? Wet? Lonely? Tired? Needs to be held? Hurting/ill? The first five take care of about 90% of your problems. The last may be about 10% and a baby’s cry when they’re hurt or ill is like no other you’ll hear, so you’ll know. And 95% of the time, it’s a cold or something relatively minor, so don’t freak out.

  4. Sleep whenever possible.

  5. You’ll be completely insane for about two to three weeks after your baby is born whether you have postpartum depression or not (or at least I was). The hormone surges you get may have you crying for no reason. Get help if you feel you need it, but be prepared to cry when you’re happy, sad, watch TV, think your husband loves your baby more than you, etc.

Good luck!

:Puts diaper service on her list of baby shower gifts:

:Along with a promise from her mother to do tons of housework:
I’m going to check this thread regularly. I’m expecting in January, and like Drain Bead, I have minimal experience with kids. Thanks, everybody.

These two things (plus the whole “don’t tell people you are working on conceiving” combine to create the shortest pregnancies.

We missed our first trimester - something about our son arriving from Korea about that time. And once we figured it out and he arrived, it didn’t seem fair to tell people (“here is our new baby from Korea, and we are pregnant” seemed like overkill on the “what’s new” front) - so we were probably four months along before we started telling. And when people would say when my answer was “on or before October 13th” - the date my doctor said he’d induce if she hadn’t arrived yet. She was born two weeks early in the middle of September - this meant I had - as far as anyone other than myself and Brainiac4 knew - the shortest full term pregnancy on record.

Ya know, what I found is that the stuff I wish people had told us is exactly the stuff people did tell us and we didn’t listen to – the stuff I’ve told people since and seen the blank look in their eyes as I did. It’s kind of like the things people told you about what would be different after you’re married that went in one ear and out the other, but that you found out afterward they were right about.

Learn how and when to ignore your baby. Your baby will have cries that are important-hunger, dirty diaper, physical pain or discomfort. They will also cry for no reason and may be impossible to calm down. As baby grows up, it becomes more useful to tune them out. EG When they are in the backseat singing the same song over and over again as mentioned above. Or when they are trying to get your attention for a minor thing while you are talking to another adult. Instantly respond to the signals for pain etc, but you’ll find parenting a great deal easier if you can tune out your child sometimes.

When disciplining a child you need three tones of voice

Tone 1 is mild and not angry or frightening. It only hints at other tones

Tone 2 Is firmer tells the child that you are serious and hints at tone 3. Tone 2 is a little scary

Tone 3 is a little angry and very frightening. Tone 3 makes it very clear that the child has done something wrong and punishment will follow if the behavior is repeated.

I have only had to go past tone 2 once with my niece.

Children Need Structure

Past a few months children begin to thrive on structure, repetition and predictability. Clearly defined rules and boundaries make for a happy child. I’m not suggesting a Nazi regime here. I mean simple acceptable things like “no throwing ball in the house” and “We can look at the antiques but not touch”

I’m not a parent, so I don’t have any first-hand advice for you, but I think Rick’s post totally rocks, and if you have A LOT of spare time, I’m sure there are some gems to be found in here:
Good luck!