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The DOs and DON'Ts of the Newborn Phase....

Disclosure: All the opinions in this article are my own and I am not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned or linked below. However, some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Thanks for supporting!

Everyone has advice about your first weeks as a parent. Some of the advice is encouraging and helpful... and some of it is not.

So if you're following me and trying to be a "Whole Parent" I figured I should try and chime in. Do I have all the answers? No. No one does. The Newborn Phase is a beautiful, magical crucible which affects us all differently and, regardless of what you might think in the moment, it is gone before you know it. So here it is, the Dos and Don'ts of Parenting Newborns

"DO" horde your child for the first few days

Everyone wants to hold the baby. The moment you send those first "They're Here!" texts and post on Insta, the people are likely to pour in. Everyone will want to hold the baby "so you can shower" or "so you can get some work done around the house". Nah. Bump that noise. You and the house can be dirty for a while. If they really want to help, tell them to cook and clean because YOU need to horde all the baby cuddles for at least the first few days. You and your partner should be the only ones sharing that time. When you're in the hospital especially I encourage you to be rude or lie. Make everyone who wants to come show up during a strict one hour period. Don't announce right away. Tell people the hospital won't allow visitors right now. Whatever you have to do, you should be getting all the time with your new baby.

There are a few reasons why this is so essential in my opinion. First, your baby is learning who their primary care givers are (and the whole newborn world is about 8 inches in front of their nose). The birthing parent will be obvious to them but the non-birthing parent needs to be the getting all the time in to be cemented as the safe alternative. Second, for both the birthing and non-birthing parents YOU need to imprint on the newborn! This time is when YOUR body releases the hormones and your brain forms the neural pathways to let you know that this is YOUR BABY. It might seem crazy but you have to train your brain and body (especially as the non-birthing parent) to attach. So don't share! For more on this read "The Attachment Parenting Book" which can be purchased HERE

"DON'T" listen to antiquated unsubstantiated parenting advice

"Don't hold the baby so much, you're going to spoil them!" or "Don't pick them up when they cry, they're just manipulating you!"

Have you heard nonsense like this? Chances are, yes you have. Hopefully in 20 years this article will be outdated and no one will be saying these ignorant things anymore but as it stands today, I still hear them from time to time. These are just two of the most common examples of terrible parenting advice passed down from a generation who knew next to nothing about attachment or, more generally, pediatric neurology. Both of these claims (and many others that are just like them) come from an era when many doctors still believed that newborns were born deaf and blind and could not feel pain... (yes... that was a thing and some of those assumptions led to horrifying nightmarish consequences.)

Simply put, you cannot hold your babies (or children for that matter) too much. There are cultures around the world who hold their babies without putting them down for the first six months of life with no known negative neurological or psychological side effects. In fact, children who ARE NOT HELD ENOUGH have more issues with independence as adults than those who are held constantly. Furthermore, children younger than SIX YEARS OLD do not have the neurological structures or development to "manipulate" an adult (no matter what Grandma says about Uncle Jimmy.)

So just to summarize, you can't hold your baby (or even your toddlers) "too much," you're not "coddling them," and they're not secret geniuses manipulating you.

"DO" wear your baby

On the flip side of the last one, you SHOULD be encouraged to wear your baby! Baby wearing is an amazing for so many reasons. Heres a quick list:

  • It helps babies regulate heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature (all things newborns can struggle with)

  • It keeps those hormones pumping for moms and dads to help them continue to attach

  • It helps babies with core strength and neck strength over time

  • It can help mom and dad get things done around the house without putting baby "down" for naps

  • It can free you to be out and about more because babies safe space is YOU

Seriously, these last two are HUGE for working parents. In fact, I'm wearing a sleeping 8 month old while I write this article!

Baby wearing can take some getting used to and it often takes a couple of different apparatuses to find one that fits both you and your baby. My wife and I fell in love with the Moby Wrap (click here to check it out). It is notoriously confusing to tie the first two or three times but now I put it on in my sleep (sometimes this is almost literally true 😂). It is not an exaggeration to say my wife and I have spent collectively 10,000 hours wearing a baby in a Moby the last 6 years.

"DON'T" cry it out... or really sleep train at all at first

I'm going to get controversial with this one but I don't believe parents should EVER use "sink or swim" methods of sleep training like "Cry it out." The truth is, no matter what anyone tells you, we don't have good data on the effects of "Cry it out" (CIO) methods on brain development or social development. The data we have is all based on subjective maternal reporting and, in my view, highly tainted by the fact that the parents surveyed WANT to believe there are no side effects. The few studies that have sought to make objective observations with things like stress hormone spit tests are split. Some studies conclude that CIO is bad and causes undo stress (even when the babies stop crying) others say it is effectively neutral but these are all tiny studies and not nearly conclusive enough to really "know."

In ANY case, no one reasonable advocates for ANY sleep training (beyond good sleep hygiene like having a dark quiet room etc.) before 4-6 months old. Simply put, you don't want babies sleeping through the night that young... it's not good for them nutritionally. Newborns have tiny bellies that have to eat every two to three hours beginning on day two or three of life (it's usually okay if they sleep like a log on day one.. and you should too). So put down the sleep training manual. It's not time for that. Just get used to being up... they all sleep through the night eventually no matter what we do. If you are looking for a sleep training book for later in infancy consider The No Cry Sleep Solution which can be purchased HERE.

"DO" take off as much time as you can

Do you love your job? I hope so. I have two jobs and I love them both. My wife is a successful entrepreneur who LOVES her job. Guess what, we still take off as much time as we can when a New Baby arrives.

Pick your cliche: "You don't get this time back;" "You will regret not spending more time with your kids when they're grown/you're on your deathbed;" "It goes by so fast." As a parenting educator, parent of three, and also as a person who counsels dying people in my other job, they're all true. Now that you're a parent (or about to be) you're going to learn that everything has an opportunity cost. Your baby is not going to demand your attention with a series of increasingly desperate emails. You have to advocate for them and you on day one. If you're in the United States, I'm sorry that we suck at making laws to help parents stay home with newborns; but YOU can advocate with your employer for that time... and if they don't give it to you or make you feel like crap, do what my wife did. Quit. Start your own business and make 3x as much in half the hours structured around your kids nap schedule. (But honestly, photography is a game changer and a gold mine and she teaches people how to do it HERE.)

But seriously, take the time off. Do whatever it takes. This is a relatively short time that establishes rhythms and priorities for the rest of your life. Work will always be there.

"DON'T" plan to "get a lot done while you're home"

OK so you've committed to taking the time off from work (and other external obligations) and now you're at home with your partner and your new baby. Great! Guess what? Your ONLY job is to be present and love your baby and partner. That's it! It's not time to remodel the bathroom (yes we did that) or start a business (we almost did that) or generally get sh*t done. Just be present.

I get how hard this can be especially for those Enneagram 1s, 3s, and 5s among us but trust me when I tell you that it is not the time to measure yourself based on how much you can get done or how efficiently you can use this time off work. If anything this is even worse than not taking the time off that you need!

If, at the end of each day you've cuddled your baby, kept them fed and reasonably clean, helped them sleep (and slept yourself), ordered takeout and watched an entire season of Grey's Anatomy or Cobra Kai on Netflix, you did it. Congrats dad/mom, you win the "parenting newborn" award for the day. This is a life transition and your body, mind, and soul needs time to adjust to a "new normal." So don't beat yourself up for not "doing anything". You're doing more than you can possibly imagine.

"DO" take care of yourself

I get it, your whole life was just consumed by a tiny little human that somehow you have to now keep alive and raise to be a resilient, healthy, and whole adult. But you can't be the best parent you can be without caring for yourself. Self-care undoubtably looks different for a couple or individual with a new baby. Before baby arrives self-care might include:

  • A full nights sleep

  • Romantic alone time with your partner

  • Going to the gym or on a run

  • Date night or Girls/Guys night out

  • Six hours at a spa

  • A weekend away or a full on vacation

These things will be back, I promise! Newborn phase is not forever but those first couple months are probably not going to include much of this ^^ stuff. This can be hard to accept for new parents but setting expectation can help. That said, self-care is still SUPER important. So here are some Parents of Newborns self-care options:

  • A long hot shower

  • Ordering your FAVORITE food... three days in a row.

  • Naps

  • Journaling/prayer/meditation

  • Cuddling and watching a movie

  • Hiring someone to clean your house

  • Did I say naps?

"DON'T" beat yourself up about the small stuff

Scientifically, do you know who the BEST parent for your child is? Not that one girl from TikTok or IG who has perfect kids; not that guy with the parenting podcast; not your pastor; not me (or any other parenting educator), hell not even my idol Dan Seigel; It's YOU. You are the best parent your kid could ever have, flaws and all.

And beating yourself up for every mistake you make or for feeling totally overwhelmed and googling literally every single thing your baby does to see if it's "normal" (btw I'll save you the time, 99.9% of the time it is... but you're not going to believe me because you love your kid too much to take my word for it... which is why you're THE BEST PARENT), isn't going to make you a better parent. You know what will make you a better parent? Extending yourself the same grace to yourself you will one day extend to the tiny human in your arms. You know why? Because how you treat yourself will model to your kid(s) someday how they should treat themselves. So practice unconditionally loving yourself, practice impeccable self-care, practice extending yourself grace when they are tiny and unaware so that when they do start to pay attention (which is a lot earlier than you might think) you've become a self-love pro.

The absolute best defense against this crazy world that you can give your kid (and this is now extending beyond the Newborn Phase into their entire adolescent life) is self-esteem. It's the secret sauce. And they don't just learn to love and respect themselves unconditionally because you love them unconditionally; they MOST learn by watching you love and respect YOURSELF unconditionally. For more on this point read Unconditional Parenting which can be found HERE

That's it! Those are the Dos and Don'ts of the Newborn Phase. If you follow these I JUST KNOW that it will be an amazing, life affirming experience for you. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. Will it make you crazy now and then? Totally. Is it worth every minute? I think so.

You got this. I'm here for you.

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