Navigating Parenthood: A Guide for New Parents on Practical Matters

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Congratulations on the arrival of your little bundle of joy! As new parents, the excitement and joy of bringing your baby home can be overwhelming. I know that for me, the realisation that for a significant time to come, it would take a huge amount of planning and preparation to leave the house, was a big shock! While the initial days might seem like a whirlwind of nappy changes, feeding and sleepless nights, there are some practical matters you need to attend to. I’ll explore some of the important ones below;

Registering the birth

Registering your baby’s birth is a legal requirement in most places. Typically you have a limited window of time to do this (in the UK it is 6 weeks), and there can be a wait to get an appointment, so don’t delay.

Steps to register the birth:

  1. Check local requirements: Find out specific requirements for birth registration in your area. This information is usually available on your local government’s website.
  2. Hospital assistance: In many cases, hospitals provide assistance with the initial steps of registering the birth. They often supply you with the necessary forms in the big bundle of leaflets you’re given on discharge.
  3. Required documents: Ensure you have all the required documents such as proof of identity, marriage certificate (if applicable), and any other documentation specified by your local authorities.
  4. Visit the registry office: Book your appointment at the registry office to complete the registration process.

Creating a baby-friendly home

1 Baby-proofing: While it’s not essential to baby-proof your home by putting up safety gates and covering plug sockets with a brand-new baby, there are things you need to consider. If you have a cat that loves nothing more than to snuggle with you, the chances are that they may take a liking to snuggle with your baby in their bed. Unfortunately, this can put the baby at risk of asphyxiation if the cat likes to sit on or near faces. You can either keep the cat confined to a different room, or invest in a cat net for the Moses basket or cot to protect your little one.

2. Nursery: Hands up if you went to all the trouble to make a beautiful nursery for your baby, only for them to sleep in your room for the first 6 months?! It’s lovely to have a nursery for all your baby’s things, but in reality, as long as you have a place to change them and some clothes on hand wherever they sleep, that’s good enough. You’re looking for functionality here, make your life a bit easier!

3. Feeding and changing stations: Stock up on nappies, wipes, and muslins for feeding and have them spread out around the house wherever you are likely to need them.

Health and wellbeing

Taking care of your baby’s health is paramount, but new mums need to prioritise their health too, so that they recover fully after the birth.

  1. Register your baby with your GP: Most GP surgeries will send out letters informing new parents that they need to register their baby at the surgery and inform them about the 6 week check and the baby vaccination schedule. If you haven’t received this letter, contact the GP practice yourself. You will also have a couple of final sessions with the community midwife, before your baby is handed over to the health visitor.
  2. Vaccinations: In the UK, babies receive their vaccinations at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Occasionally, babies in the at-risk groups might be offered the BCG for TB as well.
  3. Self-care: Parents! Don’t forget your own health and well-being! Adequate rest, good nutrition and emotional support are essential for both parents at this time. Mums: do not neglect your pelvic floor exercises!
  4. Baby blues: It’s normal to feel very emotional after having a baby, as fluctuating hormone levels and lack of sleep make new mums very tearful at times. If these feelings continue for several weeks, if you find it hard to bond with your baby, or if you get intrusive thoughts, it’s very important to seek medical help.

Financial Planning

  1. Update your will: A will allows you to designate a legal guardian for your child in the event that both parents pass away. Without a specified guardian, the court will decide who will take care of your child, which may not align with your preferences. A clear and updated will can prevent potential disputes among family members about the distribution of your assets and the care of your child(ren).
  2. Budgeting: Create a budget that accounts for baby-related expenses, such as nappies, formula (if not breastfeeding), and clothing.
  3. Emergency fund: Build or reassess an emergency fund as a safety net for unexpected expenses that may come your way.

Embracing Support

Being a parent is tough! I remember my husband and I sitting in the park with our eldest son who was 2 weeks old at the time, and we just looked at each other and said, “what have we done?!” There’s a saying “It takes a village to raise a baby”, and while the majority of us don’t have a lot of people to come and help us in those early weeks, don’t hesitate to accept any help if it’s offered. A lot of people want to help, they just don’t know what they can effectively do. So if it’s making you a meal, holding your baby so you can shower, or just pass the tissues while you cry, accept that help. What’s NOT helpful are those few people who want to come and cuddle your baby while you make them drinks and clean your house. It’s hard handing your newborn baby over to someone else (which is why I consider it a huge privilege when parents allow me to photograph their newborn baby), and it’s totally fine to say you want them back to cuddle yourself!

In conclusion, parenthood is incredible and at times, magical. But there’s also a lot to think about so I hope this short guide helps you to organise your thoughts. By addressing all the practical matters, you have more time to just sit and watch your beautiful baby as they sleep and marvel about the miracle that they are.

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