Parenting Advice (to Preserve Your Sanity)

Parenting Advice (to Preserve Your Sanity)

If you’re new to this parenting game — here are just a few pieces of parenting advice from (25+) fellow perfectly imperfect parents

Parenting is hard. This is something we all know, but it’s not something I truly understood until I became a parent. I thought I was so prepared to be a mum. I was in my early thirties,  was married — I was a boss at the Sims, so my people management game was on point. I had this.

The reality was something quite different. First of all, the sleep deprivation — there’s a reason why it’s used as a method of torture, something my mum pointed out many times after my son was born. I didn’t feel like myself at all. As I walked around in a complete haze, I wondered how anyone managed. One of my closest friends had people over to Sunday dinner a few days after giving birth to her little girl, yet here I was, barely able to move (thanks to a particularly interesting episiotomy) and unsure what day it was.

As we all do, I made a lot of mistakes. I expected far too much from myself and from family life. Now that I’ve settled into parenthood, things feel much more manageable, but if you’re a new mum and you’re struggling — I know what you’re going through. And so do a lot of other mums. A lot of us have struggled and continue to struggle, but things do get easier.

I was talking to my coworkers, friends and family recently about their top parenting advice. Some of them had some gems that need to be heard — my fellow bloggers have also chipped in with some great advice for new parents. 

While I’ve got you! Check out these baby hacks to make your life easier

Take All Parenting Advice With a Pinch of Salt

Seems a strange way to start off a ‘parenting advice’ blog post, I know. But seriously, if you try to take on board all the advice you’re ever given, you’ll go mad. Most advice contradicts other advice you’ve heard, and some advice would just plain not work for you and your family. One of the first lessons I learned as a first-time mum was to take parenting advice with a pinch of salt.

When Charlie was a newborn, I constantly got told to sleep when the baby was sleeping. In reality, this never happened, and I was so confused about how other people could possibly do this. Unlike a newborn, I wasn’t physically able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat. This is always the case, no matter how tired I am. So by the time I got to sleep, Charlie would be awake again, demanding milk, and I’d somehow be more exhausted than I was before.

Not to mention, when baby is sleeping, that’s prime time to actually get things done and to feel like a human again. This is when I brushed my hair, had a mug of coffee or had a shower. Sleeping when the baby slept never seemed reasonable, or even possible, to me.

In fact, there is a lot of advice out there you’d be better off ignoring. I was open to everything, but ultimately discounted a lot, because the advice just wasn’t right for me. 

Tanya from Mummy Barrow agrees with me:

“Don’t listen to any advice unless you specifically asked for it. Too often people give advice and it’s really none of their business.”

Ainhoa from Ay Corona adds:

“Trust yourself. You will get tons of unsolicited advice. There are many ways to parent and you need to find what works for you.”

Before Baby is Born — Freeze Some Meals

You’re not human after you’ve just popped. I’m telling you when people talk about the newborn baby haze, they’re not telling fibs. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and it makes even everyday tasks difficult. Anything you can do before your baby is born will help. If you have time, you should start by preparing and freezing some meals and getting snacks at the ready.

Brianna from Little Red Reviews says:

“Freeze meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner if there is no one around to help cook and clean. Preparing snacks is helpful as well for breastfeeding mommies especially!”

And speaking of being prepared, Shelley from Ivy’s Library has an amazing tip I wish I’d known in the early days…

“Buy a thermos! I never managed more than a few mouthfuls of a cup of tea in those first weeks and it had always already gone cold. A friend bought me a thermos mug and it changed my life! Such a small thing but it made a huge difference to my mental health!”

Read More About Separation Anxiety in Toddlers

Read Up About the Fourth Trimester

The fourth trimester describes the period after your baby is born, where babies (and parents) are adjusting to life. Reality outside your womb can be overwhelming. Think of all the new sights, smells and sensations your baby will experience. It’s no surprise your baby is crying so often and seems unable or unwilling to be apart from you. I’d highly recommend reading up about the fourth trimester to help you understand your tiny little creature — and to help them feel secure. As Codie from Codiekinz says:

“Read about the fourth trimester. It’ll help you understand your baby more and allow you to cut yourself some slack.”

Don’t Waste Too Much Money on Clothes

Your baby will be pooping and vomiting all over their clothes for the first few months of their lives. They’ll also grow faster than you can keep track of, so it makes no sense to spend bucket loads of money on nice clothes — no matter how tempting it is. Half the time they’ll want to be naked, anyway.

Claire from Money Saving Central says:

“Don’t waste money on outfits for at least 6 months. I wasted so much money on pointless outfits when my kids were little that usually only got worn once as they grew so quickly. By the time I had my twins (children 4 & 5) they wore only babygrows for the first year! It saved me so much money.”

It’s Okay to Watch Lots (and Lots) of TV in the Early Days

One week after giving birth to Charlie, I was still a zombie. I’d be a zombie for quite a few weeks (or months) longer. I wasn’t able to do anything or go anywhere. My conversation consisted mostly of mumbles and groans. If you need to shut yourself away in a quiet room and read, or watch TV for hours on end, that’s okay. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty and don’t worry about your baby. All they’re interested in is being close to you, being fed and getting plenty of sleep.

Learn The Baby Items Worth Buying

There are some baby items that are definitely worth buying. They’ll make your life easier and make your baby more comfortable. Save the money you would have spent on clothes and research these items instead.

Emily from Emily Brookes recommends a white noise machine: “There are great ones on amazon for around £12, I use mine on those nights when my baby just won’t settle, it’s a lifesaver!”

And The Unnecessary Baby Items

Try to resist the adorable but, ultimately, unnecessary baby items out there. There are a lot, and they are tempting. But you’ll ultimately regret wasting your money. 

Take a First Aid Course

If you’re feeling worried about the health and safety of your future child (especially if you’re accident-prone yourself, unable to cook dinner without nearly severing a limb), a first aid course could offer peace of mind. Anne from The Platinum Line recommends just this:

“Take a child first aid course so you can deal with bumps, cuts, stings and scalds then let them get dirty, climb trees and have fun.”

Have an Emergency Pack For When You Leave the House

Parents seem completely unable to leave a house in a reasonable amount of time. We’ve all seen the Michael Mcintyre sketch, and it’s entirely accurate. 

You can make life easier for yourself by being prepared with a nappy bag and emergency pack, so you don’t have to worry about leaving anything important at home. Stacey from 4 Freckled Faces says:

“Carry a little first aid kit (including Calpol/Nurofen sachets), snacks, drink and change of clothes everywhere you go.”

Prioritise Yourself Sometimes

It’s normal to want to prioritise your baby at all times, but remember that you are still important. You had a baby — you didn’t stop being you. And you didn’t stop needing certain things — like a long, hot bath to unwind and recuperate, or a workout at the gym to clear your head. 

Before your baby is born, make an agreement with your partner. Parenting is hard, so if you can work out a schedule where you get time for yourselves, and time with one another, it will help so much. There’s nothing wrong with looking after yourself — in fact, doing so will probably make you a better, happier and more well-adjusted parent in the long run.

Sarah from Sarah Lou Writes agrees:

“Take time out, you are only human and the stress of being a new parent can be so overwhelming at times. Even three babies in.”

So does Lauren from That Little Outfit:

“Make some time for you. I know it can be daunting leaving baby for the first time but go and get a coffee by yourself occasionally, get your hair done or even walk the dog – you’ll feel so much better for some alone time.”

… And Give Yourself a Break. You’re Only Human

When asking people for their advice for new parents, this was something that was raised again and again. We seem to expect perfection from ourselves when we become parents. We can never achieve that so we are constantly falling short of those expectations, which can take a toll on our mental health. Be kind to yourself.Kathy from Life is Kalayful says:

“It’s okay to make mistakes. It doesn’t make you any less of a parent. It’s okay if you feel tired and don’t want to hold your child. You are not selfish or worthless. You are human.”

Fran from Whinge Whinge Wine adds:

“My mum said to me that in the early days, just do whatever you can to get through. If that means using bottles or napping at 4pm or calling takeaways 3 nights a week then sod it. It’s only short term.”

Ella from Typical Mummy says:

“Remember that you aren’t superwoman, take each day as it comes and don’t care what others think – if you spend the whole day in your pyjamas or don’t wash your hair for a week, who cares!”

Actually Take People Up on Offers to Help

My mental health suffered quite badly after I had Charlie and I think part of my downward spiral was due to the fact that I hated accepting help. It made me feel like I was a failure. I couldn’t do it all, and I was beating myself up for it. My parents were around and would constantly offer to help, and although I’d accept from time to time, I felt horrible about it. I’d ask them to take care of him while I had a shower, and then I’d rush through the shower, guilt-ridden, so I could get back and relieve them. It didn’t occur to me that my parents might actually enjoy looking after their grandson — I thought of it as them doing me a huge favour, and I didn’t want to burden them. 

My biggest piece of advice is this — if people offer you help, take it and don’t feel guilty. It really does take a village, and people generally won’t offer help unless they mean it.

Helen from Twins, Tantrums and Cold Coffee agrees completely:

“If you have twins like me, and a toddler on top, ask for ALL THE HELP!

Ignore People When They Say You’ll Spoil Your Baby With Cuddles

This is an old-fashioned, ridiculous notion. You can’t spoil your baby with too many cuddles. You are their primary source of comfort and protection. Give your baby as many hugs and love as they need. It’ll lead to a more confident, secure child because they know they can wander off and explore, knowing that they always have you waiting there for them when they come back.

Cath from Th3 Secret Life of Me has my back:

“You can’t spoil a newborn. You hold that baby as much as you want. You know your child best. It’s ok not to enjoy every single moment of it.”

Be Wary of Parenting Forums

Parenting forums can be great — sometimes. But generally, I find it’s better if you avoid them. There’s a lot of scaremongering going on in these forums. You might be looking for advice on how to soothe a baby cold and end up panicked that your child has some sort of life-threatening flu. Where possible, scroll past the parenting forums and find an article on a trusted source, written by an expert on the topic.

Ren from Queer Little Family points out, if you’re scouring these forums wondering if your baby is okay, chances are they are, they’ll be fine, and so will you.

You might like: The best parenting books to read

Your Boobs, Your Choice

No one has the right to police your boobs. You decide whether to breastfeed, bottle-feed or combination feed. Nobody else’s opinion matters. As long as your baby is getting enough milk, everything else is secondary. Certainly don’t let some randomer on the internet make you feel guilty for your choices.

It’s Okay to Hate Breastfeeding

I’m still breastfeeding now, but honestly — I never really loved it. People kept talking about how it was a lovely, bonding experience, but not for me. It may have been because Charlie had a shallow latch (breastfeeding hurt for a long time). It may have been the postnatal depression (which dads can suffer from, too, by the way! Learn more about paternal postnatal depression).

I breastfed for many reasons, but ultimately I never really enjoyed it. Charlie is not (and never was) a peaceful baby to nurse. He flips, spins and turns like he’s putting on a show. Don’t feel guilty about hating breastfeeding — you still love your baby, and that’s what matters.

Read to Them From an Early Age

As a bookworm, this is something I’m passionate about. There are so many benefits of reading to your baby. It teaches them about communication, helps them to develop vocabulary and introduces them to shapes, numbers and colours. It’s also a great way to bond and interact. From everything I’ve read on this topic, the earlier you start reading to your baby, the better — it’ll shape their reading habits as they grow up and it’ll give them fond memories of reading with mum and dad.

Have One-on-One Time With Your Kids

This is a tip from one of my work friends with two kids, and I absolutely love it. She recommends having one-on-one time with each kid, if you have multiple children. This is particularly important when they are pre-teens. Having some alone time with you will allow them to open up more (without prying ears), which will build up trust and help to maintain that special bond.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Parents

This is something I did constantly. I felt like every other parent was a much better parent than I was. They were far more calm and collected. They were more organised. They were more motivated to get outside and exercise. They had their kids in a routine, they went to baby classes. Ultimately, comparing yourself to other parents is just toxic and you’ll never win. Accept that you’re a different human being. You’ll do things differently, at your own pace, and that’s okay.

Jenni from Cruise Mummy agrees:

“Don’t worry what anyone else is doing. Everyone has their own way of doing things. If it works for you and it’s safe then go for it. For example, just because every other baby has a dummy doesn’t mean that yours automatically needs one. Trust in yourself to make the right decisions!”

Jo from Tea and Cake For the Soul says:

“Don’t compare yourself to anyone else or feel that others do parenting better. As long as you are doing the best you can for your child, you are a good parent. Take on board how others do things but don’t feel that you should do the same. Every child is different and has different needs.”

Stop Comparing Your Kids to Other Kids

Every kid develops at their own pace. Just because Timmy started talking at 9 months, that doesn’t mean your child will fail their A-Levels and live a life of poverty because they aren’t talking at the same age. And just because your colicky baby is fussy and grumpy right now, that doesn’t mean they won’t be a delightful little toddler.

Don’t Take Things Personally

When your baby, toddler or child gets angry or fussy, it’s easy to take things personally — but don’t. There’s probably something going on in their head that they can’t really articulate. It’s not really about you, so don’t torture yourself. 

Get Used to Doing Jobs ‘In Instalments’

What once took you fifteen minutes might take you two hours once you’re a new parent. It’s okay — make peace with it! Helen from Dartmoor Photographer says

“The best advice I was given, and still holds true with a teenager, was get used to doing things in instalments. If you have a job to do make sure you can set it aside frequently to deal with your child.”

There’s Something Magical About Outdoors Time

This is something I found hugely helpful in the early days. There is something so magical about being outdoors. So if you can get out there, do it. Outdoor time is restorative. It can clear your mind and help to calm your worries or stress. It is also so helpful for babies, and toddlers in particular, who want to be free to explore and experiment.

Victoria from The Growing Mum agrees:

“Try to go outside once a day. Even if it’s just a walk round the block. Fresh air (and leaving the chaos) does wonders to the body.”

Listen to Your Instincts

There’s a lot to be said about parental instinct. You might think you don’t know what to do for the best, but it’s likely you have a gut instinct about things , and this shouldn’t be discounted.

Eddie from Yorkie: Not Just for Dads says:

“Listen to your instincts. They are like a super hero’s powers. If you have a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right, get it checked. Always trust your own parental instincts.”

Catherine from Lazy Mum is another supporter:

“Don’t worry about doing everything by the book! I gave myself so much stress with my eldest, thinking there was a right and wrong way to do everything (apart from SIDS advice of course). I used to have nightmares about the health visitor telling me off! Second time round I do much more on instinct and it’s far more enjoyable for all of us.”

And on the topic of breastfeeding and instincts, a good friend adds:

“Trust your instincts, especially regarding breastfeeding. First time I had a health care assistant try to get me to hold my baby differently so she’d “get a better latch”. I then fed in front of my mum (ex midwife and bf 4 babies) and she had no idea why I would hold in such an uncomfortable position! This time around a different HCA tried to tell me the same thing … I was not having it!”

Your Mental Health is Important — Know When to Ask For Help

If I’m honest with myself, I had some mental health issues and struggles with depression for years before I had Charlie. But things got worse with the influx of hormones and the sudden life change, and I finally went to get help. Before Charlie, I would ride out my moments of depression without telling anyone, but when I had a baby, I knew that wasn’t feasible. I had to get myself together because he relied on me. 

Don’t get me wrong, asking for help can be the hardest thing to do when you’re suffering mentally. But just know that there are people out there who can help you — please do ask for help if you feel like you can’t cope, or if you feel like you’re spiralling. The most important thing is to get a good support system around you and to lean on them when you need to. Katherine from Raising Harry agrees, too:

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

If you’re pregnant and struggling with panic attacks — I’ve been there. Check out this blog on panic attacks during pregnancy.

This Too Shall Pass

When asking my fellow bloggers for their parenting advice, this was the most commonly-cited advice I was given. As Avenue Q says, everything in life is only for now. Knowing that can really help to put things in perspective.

Claire from Stapo’s Thrifty Life Hacks says:

“My one piece of advice would be this: Try to remember that everything does eventually pass. They will sleep again, the tantrums will stop and they will stop rejecting every item of food that you offer them at some stage. Things can feel relentless as a new parent and your patience will be tested to a new level, so reminding yourself that ‘this too shall pass’ will help you to get through tricky phases with your sanity intact.”

Josie from Me, Them and The Others agrees:

“Remember that “this too shall pass” is the best parenting advice I was ever given. When you’re in the middle of teething or colic or sleep deprivation it feels like that is your life now and it will never change but reminding yourself that, with babies and children, most things are just a phase really helped me keep things in perspective and not get too bogged down in the current problem.”

And so does Shelley from Wander and Luxe:

“My best piece of advice is to remember that when you have young children that ‘this too shall pass’. Everything is a phase. Newborns, babies, toddlers and children grow, develop and learn rapidly. So when you are in the midst of something that feels like it will absolutely NEVER get better, rest assure that it will. Parenthood is hard and you are doing a fantastic job, even if it doesn’t feel like it!”

Check out this blog on popular sleep training methods

The Most Important Parenting Advice — If You Have a Boy…

And now we get to the most important piece of parenting advice, courtesy of James from My Hero Joshua

“If it’s a boy, make sure his bits are pointing down when changing their nappy. You don’t want a golden shower”

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