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Friday, April 12, 2019

Advice We Wished We Knew as New Parents

On a faithful afternoon in November 2018, my dear wife and I welcomed our daughter after a long-awaited 40 weeks. Less than a year as husband and wife, we had our (yet another) promotion to parenthood. As compared to the former, this one is literally life-changing and will turn your lives topsy-turvy and in very unexpected ways. Trust me, life - as you know it - will never ever be the same. New responsibilities, change in schedule, and needless to say, a new cause for stress and anxiety. That's right, say good-bye to lots of personal time and sleep. As of the time of writing, we are more than four months into this new role, we are still surviving, taking each day as it is while learning a never-ending list of things.
This post is about advice that we wished we know when we just had our baby, and we thought that it may be of help to new parents. You might have already received tonnes of (unsolicited) advice. I know, I know, we have been there. Your parents telling you one thing, and friends telling you another, there are hundred-and-one methods to sleep train your child, internet resources contradict each other and what not. Read on if you would want to hear our two-cents:

1. Go easy on your shopping list.
As new parents, we tend to get things just because "this is cute, my baby needs this. Right now." Matter of fact, babies don't need a lot of things in their first months. You just have to make sure that they are fed and clean. Recently we cleared our baby's drawer and realised that most of her clothes were under-used (heck, she didn't even wear some of them). Babies outgrow their clothes very fast in their first few months, so go easy on them.

2. Not all bottles are created equal.
We regretted getting the Tommee Tippee complete feeding set, which includes a steriliser, bottle warmer, and 6 milk bottles. To be fair, the steriliser was pretty useful. But, what we found out was that baby Olivia started to reject the bottles when she was around 3 months old. We theorised that it was because she realised that bottle teat was much tougher than the nipple. So we googled "best milk bottle" and found Dr Brown's (ranked 3rd), which is a good bottle to prevent colic, but she rejected that as well. Ranked 2nd was Philip Avent, but it was too mainstream, so we went with 1st - Comotomo (sponsor my baby please). Our friends recommended it, but we haven't heard of it so we were pretty sceptical at first. But Olivia loves it (she started drinking more when we switched) and that's enough for us.

Comotomo's teat is much softer and has two air vents at opposite sides to prevent the much-feared colic. Material and design-wise, the bottle is made of hospital-grade silicon to mimic the texture of boobs. Here's a fun fact - fake boobs are made of silicon. It's also wide neck, which is easy to wash, with or without a bottle brush.

The downside? The markings at the side are really difficult to see without good lighting and its hefty price tag at $33 for a 250ml bottle. My advise? Just get 2 or 3 bottles of a brand to try first, which leads to advice no 3:

3. Every baby is unique.
Parenting is pretty much a process of trial and error. Sure, your parents and friends may suggest their way (although it may not be right), smile, nod, take it with a grain of salt. What works for one baby doesn't mean that it will work for yours. Take time to know your baby. After all, babies are not made from the same factory. And even if they are, siblings are still different! Sure, money and time will be invested. Take my friend for example, who tried every milk powder there is in the market. Some made her baby gassy, others resulted in green poop, and after hundreds of dollars wasted, she finally found one that suits. Point is, there is no one-size-fits-all, so experiment, trial and error.

4. Consistency is key.
I wouldn't delve into scheduling so much here, but consistency is key, just as setting a routine (which we are still learning). Parenting is tiring, requires lots of time and effort, and at times, frustrating. For most new parents (like us), we are just trying to get through the day. Yet without consistency and too many variations, the baby will be confused. For a newborn, this could mean setting a predictable time table (meal, bathing, bedtime routine, sleep time, etc.), the place she sleeps at what time, and how she is coaxed to sleep.
5. No one is ever ready to be a parent.
As a matter of fact, as I penned down these points, I am speaking to myself too. Parenting is real stressful for me, at times I wonder what have we gotten ourselves into, perhaps we are not ready? But again, who is? Not to mention a perfect one (which doesn't exist). No amount of antenatal class, Google readings, and homework can prepare you for the real stuff. I am sorry to break this to you, but if you have not realised, the pregnancy and delivery process is the easy part (my wife agrees). What comes after this initial stage is another endless list of knowledge to know and skills to acquire - coaxing, swaddling, breastfeeding, vaccinations, when to introduce a milk bottle, to use a pacifier or not, to sleep train or not, etc. It's all on-the-job training and possibly the longest and most difficult role you may undertake in your life. But again, who says parenting is easy?

6. You Never Walk Alone.
If there's any consolation, it's that (1) you will get more or less accustomed to your new lifestyle, and (2) you are not walking this rite of passage alone - just imagine the billions of mummies and daddies who have already journeyed through this. Postnatal depression, the tremendous amount of stress and anxiety while adjusting to a newborn, late-night feeding, sleepless nights. If others can go through it, if they can survive, you know what? My dear reader, so can you.
and... 7. This too shall pass.
The fact is, things might or might not (touch wood) become easier. No matter what your circumstances are, if it's easy, thank God, if it ain't, just know that this phase will come to pass. The sun will still shine the next day, no matter how dark the night is. There will always be light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long and arduous the journey is. If your baby is crying inconsolably, fighting sleep, screaming for no apparent reasons, just know that this too shall pass. Sure, the journey isn't easy, but months and years down the road, when they hit their toddler, pre-school, and teenage years, you may come to reminisce the sweet moments with your little one.