My wife-to-be and I had two kids in under two years.
Besides the fact that you'll be surrounded in poop for the next couple years, there are 20 important things that I've learned during my two-year baby-raising tour of duty that I think will help virtually every new parent out there.
While this crap (pun intended) is still in my mind, I would like to spread a little love, advice and tips about the first year of parenting.
As always, take it with a grain of salt. Hopefully, one or two will hit home with you.
Also, I hope this doesn't come off as too pretentious. Like a lot of people in the world, I've lived the life of raising a baby for the past two years. So, hopefully, my unique perspective on the matter can help you out when your back is against the wall and you see that little thing pop out of your wife's ....(well, you know what I'm trying to say).
1.) Baby’s Room = Far, Far, Away
After you have a kid, you may think that you'll be spending most of your time in the living room, dining room or even the baby’s room. Wrong. You’re going to be spending a big amount of your time in the kitchen. In fact, everyone is going to be in the kitchen. Whether you’re making bottles, washing dishes, making dinner, grabbing a beer after a stressful day or just relaxing; you’ll be hanging out in the kitchen. So that’s why it’s important to have the baby’s room as far away from the kitchen as possible. Heck, if your bedroom is the farthest point, I would suggest moving your kid’s room into that room during, at least, the first six months. Also, if you don't have dishwasher, buy one today. You're going to need it.
Unless your kid is a freak of nature, you will be up at night. It’s okay. It’s okay. Don’t panic. In 10 or 12 months, you’ll be fine. But those first six months are pretty brutal on the sleepless scale. That’s why I suggest you invest in a subscription to Netflix. I don’t know how many times I was up at night with both of my newborn kids with two hours to kill between sleep and feedings and thinking “Man, I wish I had a movie to watch.” Netflix is the way to go. Click here to read my full report on Netflix. Oh, and I suggest the three-movie deal because, with this deal, you can also download more than 50,000 titles to your computer. My DVD compilation suggestions? Weeds, Entourage, Lost, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development and The Wire.
3.) Invest in a Sound Machine or Fan.
I don’t care if you’re a hippy who doesn’t want your kid to be a victim of incessant noise pollution, you should invest in some type of white noise maker. Even a CD with continuous waves will do. Why? Well, for starters it gives your kid a better sleep, both day and night. Plus you won’t have to tiptoe around the house when you’re trying to get shit done while the baby’s asleep. NOTE: If your other half insists on playing The Cure's Greatest Hits for your child at night, please smash the CD as soon as possible.
4.) Nip the Colic.
If the baby is crying uncontrollable, don’t try to weather the storm yourself. As Kool Moe Dee said "Go see the doctor." There’s nothing more unsettling (to you and the baby) than a baby that’s crying uncontrollably for four straight days. I mean, you’re already walking on pins and needles trying to feed, change and make sure your kid is as comfortable as possible. If the baby is crying like a fiend, take her to the doctor ASAP and get something for its belly. There is medication out there that can help. Our doctor prescribed baby Pepcid for both our daughter and son. And it worked wonders.
5.) Always ask for Formula and Diapers.
If parenthood were Fight Club. The first rule of Parenthood would be to always ask for Formulas and Diapers. The second rule of Parenthood is to ALWAYS ASK FOR FORMULA AND DIAPERS. Your parents will call. Then they'll ask if they can bring anything. Whatever you do, don’t say “No, we’re cool.” You are a new parent. You are not cool. Instead, say, “Yes, bring formula and diapers.” Formula and diapers are to your baby what gas is to a car = expensive and necessary. If your birthday is coming up, ask for formula and diapers as a gift. For Christmas, don’t ask for a new set of boxer shorts. Ask for formula and diapers. Hell, I've got it so ingrained into my parent’s brains, that they don’t even have to ask. They just bring formula and diapers up instinctively. Like Pavlov's dogs.
6.) Baby's first Christmas.
Don’t buy anything. Don’t you dare buy one thing for your baby. The grandparents will buy everything your child needs and then some. Save your money for Tip #5. Plus, the baby won’t remember getting gifts from you anyway. In fact, the first two Christmas's are like a Monopoly Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free-Card for parents when it comes to purchasing gifts.
7.) Baby's first birthday.
See rule #6. The only thing you need to invest in is a great party. So, spend your cash on cake, balloons, beer and food for the guests. Let me repeast this for the more dense new parents out there; DON'T BUY ANY PRESENTS FOR YOUR KID. Period. The grandparents and other family members will buy enough.
During the first six months, both of our kids wore onesies 95% of the time. Why? Because they're practical that's why. Sure, you may see a cute cowboy or sailor outfit and think your kid will look like a doll in it. Hell, we thought the same exact thing when we purchased these cool Ohio State and Purdue outfits for our kids. We didn't dress them in the outfits once. So take my advice: when you're filling out your baby registry, just ask for onesies. They’re cheap. They’re comfortable for the kid (who will be dying to move his legs any chance he can get). Plus they’re easy access when you’re changing a diaper in pitch black at 3 a.m.
9.) Don’t buy shoes.
During the first nine months, both of our kids hardly wore shoes. Don't buy shoes. They're worthless. Only socks and bare feet are the way to go. During her first nine months on this Earth, I think our daughter wore shoes once (for her baptism). Our son has only had shoes on once in his nine months as well. Sure, those little Nikes are cute, but they’re not practical. Save your dough and go see Tip #5.
10.) Get out of the house.
Truth be told, you’re going to want to get away from the kid. You may not think you want to. You may think you’ll want to hold it and love it 24 hours a day. But you won’t. You’ll want to get away. At least for a little while. When that time comes, swallow your pride and have everyone you know come over to help. Grandparents. Sisters. Brothers. Uncles. Nieces. Friends. Nephews. They all want to see this kid grow up to be awesome. So they’re not going to do anything to harm a little hair on his or her body. Take advantage of the seasoned veterans in your family. Then get the hell out of dodge for a couple hours. Go shopping. Go to BW3 and have a beer. Go drive your car around the neighborhood and listen to music. But please for the love of god, get out of the house.
11.) Baby Boot Camp
Eventually, you’ll want your baby to start putting itself to sleep at night. Especially if you both work. When that time comes, I suggest the Ferber method. Basically, it’s letting your baby cry for a specific amount of time, going into the room and comforting said baby, then letting the baby cry again until, exhausted he/she falls asleep. Sure, at times, it can be heart-breaking. But think of it as an investment on your sleep time. When we first tried our own version of the Ferber method (every parenting technique is different), we had to endure both of our kids crying at night. Sometimes for an hour or so. Yep, it was sad. Even if you're the hardest Hells Angels member around, you'll still, want to run in, scoop him up and let him go to sleep on your shoulder. But hold strong. In the long run (two to three weeks or even a couple days), you’ll be happy you did. It took our daughter a while before she caught on. But our son took to it pretty fast. He hardly cries at all when you put him down, which is awesome.
12.) Get as much sleep as possible.
During the first six months of both newborns, as soon as my mom and dad walked in the door, my wife-to-be and I would hand the kids over and head to the bedroom to take a nap. If your parents come over for a visit, go take a nap. If your sister, brother or friends come over, excuse yourself and take a nap. Even if it's for 15 minutes. It’s not rude and it’s not selfish. You'll need as much sleep as you can for the night shifts. Plus, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to kick some baby ass after you wake up.
13.) Invest in a babysitter.
Whether it’s your next-door neighbor, a friend of the family, parents or aunt; get a babysitter once in a while. Don’t feel guilty by getting out of the house for a couple hours, or even a night, and having a bit of fun. You've earrrrrned it.
14.) Take your baby to a restaurant.
We took our daughter to a sushi restaurant when she was six weeks old. We took our son to Winking Lizard when he was even younger. Now they’re both fairly civilized at any family restaurant that we drag them too. Of course, there’s a time window of getting in, having a beer or glass of win and eating. But I would say, 9 times out of 10 they’re great. And I firmly believe it’s because we initiated them into the restaurant scene sooner than later.
15.) Embrace the matriarch.
During the first couple days home after the birth, have your mom stay overnight with you. Preferably the daughter’s mother. If that can’t happen, suck it up and have the father’s mother stay all night. They will provide great support in what will probably be the most stressful and, arguably, the most emotionally tumultuous time of your life.
16.) Plan a vacation.
You always need something to look forward to. Especially when you have a screaming two-month old in your arm at 4 o'clock in the morning. That’s why, it may sound weird, but I encourage you to plan a vacation with or without your baby. Even if it’s an overnight trip, you’ll have something on the horizon to look forward to in the future while you’re taking care of your newborn in the present. Before our daughter arrived, we planned a trip to the Jersey shore and took her with us when she was only three-months old. If I didn’t have that vacation in my sights, I’m not sure what I would have done during those first three months. In hindsight, the vacation was a little crazy, but it was still a great, memorable time nonetheless. (NOTE: I think it was because my parents came for half of the trip). More importantly, it broke up the monotony of getting up, feeding baby, changing diaper, going to work, eating lunch, coming home, feeding baby, changine diaper, going to bed. If you don't plan a trip, it's like freaking Groundhog Day.
17.) Diaper Dékor Plus
If you don’t pay attention to anything I say on this post, I advise you to listen to this tip. Go to Baby’s R Us. Ask your parents. Do anything and everything you can. But purchase a Diaper Dékor Plus Waste Basket. Rather than go into detail about this particular product, all I can say is it’s a wonder of engineering. It’s worth the money. Oh, and by the way, If you happen to purchase one (like I advised), add Diaper Dékor Plus refillable trashbags to your list when referencing Tip #5 to family and friends.
From personal experience, I think it’s important to get your kid outdoors. That's why it's very wise to invest a little more money in a lightweight, jogging stroller that can handle the day-to-day activities of a rugged urban environment such as potholes, cement, staircases, grass and rocks. My suggestion: Bugaboo. I’ll admit my mouth dropped when I saw the price. Yours will too. But, hear me out on this. It’s the best investment we’ve ever made pertaining to our children. Minus, of course, the vaccines. Nowadays, you can probably buy a cheap one on Craig's List or E-bay. It truly is the Rolls Royce of strollers. It’s freaking awesome because it handles any condition that the Earth throws at you including sand, puddles, rocks, mud, grass, limestone, even lava (or so I'm told). If you’ve got a little extra dough, invest in one of these bad boys. It practically pays for itself. I mean, our daughter is still using it at two years old. Hell, I may never get rid of it because it's so awesome. I'm going to say awesome one more time. Awesome.
19.) I-pod, Sirius or XM speaker system.
When you have a baby, it’s time to face the fact that you’re going to be spending a lot of time at home. A lot. Especially if it's winter. More importantly, you'll be spending time in the kitchen (see Tip #1). That’s why I suggest you invest in an I-pod, XM or Sirius speaker system for unlimited musical convenience at your finger tips. If you’re feeding the kid (in the kitchen), just pop in a Jack Johnson song or your favorite mellow Bob Marley tune. If the kid's asleep and you feel like rocking out on the patio in your wine-soaked stupor, go ahead and crank it up a notch to the soulful sounds of Rage Against the Machine and/or Nine Inch Nails - all without switching those stupid CDs. Plus, your kid gets a taste of all types of music at an early age. It’s a win-win situation all around.
20.) Create a play room.
Whether you like it or not, your kid is going to be rolling around on the ground. That’s why it’s important to have as much room as possible for them to freely stretch their legs without grabbing something and/or putting it into their mouth or banging their dome on a sharp instrument lying around your utility room (perhaps a bong?). When my wife-to-be and I moved into our house, we deemed the carpeted living room area next to the kitchen, the official kids playroom area. It contains all of their toys, a TV (for Little Einsteins and Sesame Street) and a couch for us to crash out on. It’s one of the smartest things we did when we moved. The kids have a place that they can call their own, reducing the amount of clutter in the bedrooms and around the house. Plus, it’s a cool place to just lounge around and have fun with your spawn.
Well, there you have it, 20 tips for first-time parents; a guy's perspective.
I know, I’m probably missing some other important stuff such as bath time, investing in a dishwasher and tips for visiting other people’s houses (perhaps there will be another list?) But I think this list will get you on the right path to becoming a sane parent during the first year of your newborn’s life.