You could read countless baby books, take an NCT course and speak to all the parents you know but there will be some things you still might have missed or not considered.
Below are a few of those things we discovered along the way with Edie that might not be mentioned in the books and just came to us with a little trial and error. They might work for you, they might not. Every child is brought up differently but with any luck you may find my suggestions useful. Then again, you might read them and think ‘what the heck?!’ Anyway, here goes...
Cheap vests – trust me, some of those early explosive movements will not be supressed by a nappy so vests end up bearing the brown brunt. Some are so bad they have to be cut off and go straight in the bin. Buy them from supermarkets rather than Mamas and Papas, John Lewis etc.
Baby wipes – our NCT instructor told us to use cotton wool and warm water to wash Edie’s bottom in the first few weeks. What a palaver! After about two nights of this nonsense, having been up on multiple occasions dabbing delicately away, we rebelled and just used sensitive baby wipes. And what do you know, Edie’s bottom survived!
Baby bottles – when we moved Edie onto baby bottles it was a slow process. She just didn’t take to it. After exhausting nearly every design out there we used Dr Brown’s bottles and she never looked back. So don’t despair, just try another brand or teat shape.
Cold remedies – in the first year a baby can expect around 10 colds – yes TEN! It’s pretty hard going – baby is snotty and miserable and you feel helpless. A couple of tips that came from our doctor eased the struggle a little. Create some subtle vapour in their bedroom by drying your washing in there and tilt their cot by placing a pile of books under one end. Once old enough use Snuffle Babe Vapour Rub and a Calpol Vapour Plug. Together they worked well and Edie started sleeping through the night again despite her incessant snot.
White noise - We discovered early on Edie would fall asleep whilst I hoovered the house – so I hoovered with one arm whilst cradling Edie in the other. For fear of melting the National Grid, instead of relentless hoovering we found apps that played white noise (such as hoovers, washing machines etc) on a loop, so can see you through when you’re desperate.
Ewan The Dream Sheep - my god, this little lamb was a godsend. Once the white noise phase had passed, Edie was soothed by the calming tune that would gently ooze from Ewan. And unlike the annoying white noise of a simulated hairdryer, Ewan's sounds were subtle and sweet - so sweet in fact, I'd even be tempted to get one of these for myself. Dreamy!
Breastfeeding – one for the mums, but here’s how the dads can help… make sure everything is in arm’s reach in case mum is there for the long-haul. Phone, snacks, drink, remote control, a cushion, nipple cream, a blanket and a muslin etc.
Moses basket – make sure your Moses Basket has a rocking stand rather than a static one. We made this mistake and life changed once we swapped them over and could soothe Edie to sleep.
Poppers – in those first few weeks, your baby is going to be a wriggly, pooing bundle of joy – quite difficult to dress and undress if you have to deal with countless buttons. Just get clothes with poppers, it will save you and your large grown-up fingers so much stress!
Stair gate – install one the moment your baby can crawl (if not before)… we found out the hard way.
Baby bath – get a baby bath that is moulded to their small bodies. I think we got ours from John Lewis for about £13. We heard of parents trying to bathe their baby in a bucket on the dining table with water splashing everywhere – absolutely no need for such messy methods!
Help – if you need help, make sure friends and/or family are around in the first few weeks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. With Edie only 4 days old, we had barely slept… George’s mum took Edie for 3 hours so we could sleep, which doesn’t sound like much but it was those precious 3 hours that rejuvenated us and set us up to start again after we’d been struggling.
Early introduction – we made the mistake of letting Edie dictate (with torturous-like screaming) finger nail cutting, hair washing etc and have paid for it later. My tip would be to introduce your toddler to the notion of day to day actions such as grooming early on and stick to your guns. Don’t let their crying put you off. Edie is almost 3 and only in the last few months has come round to the idea of having her nails cut (before we had to do it in her sleep)! This would also apply to putting on shoes, using a knife and fork, getting a haircut etc – day to day life will be a lot easier later down the line.
Routine – I’m all for routine and I’m pretty sure babies are too. Once Edie was in a routine we started to get some time back – our evenings most importantly. There are so many books out there but we read (and then adapted to suit our lives) The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan (aka The Magic Sleep Fairy).
TV – I’ll probably be lampooned for such a proposal as there’s so many parents out there denouncing TV for children from their soapbox but when Edie started watching Peppa Pig her speech rocketed. We were obviously doing what we should to encourage her speech through conversation, teaching, books etc but the simple stories and basic every day phrases in Peppa were being stored away in her sponge-like brain. We listened with amazement as she’d suddenly chatter away merrily. For her young age she was streets ahead of any other children we knew and still draws remarks from other parents, teachers and strangers about her impeccable speech. A bit of TV in moderation is ok by me… Oink to that!
Coffee table – a simple piece of furniture (if you have space) to promote cruising from sofa to sofa was such a benefit to Edie’s walking. She walked a few days after her first birthday – that's obviously no record breaker but it was definitely aided by her eagerness to move around our sitting room.
Young Child tips:
Potty training – Edie was about 27 months when she nailed potty training. We started in a school holiday on a Monday and had cracked it by the Thursday. Fortunately I was off work with her so I had the time to dedicate myself to this colossal task but my tips would be: plenty of sit down wees next to them, celebrate every success with some ‘whoop-whoops’ and high-fives, don’t get annoyed or shout if they have any accidents, and just go for it. Once you start don’t stop. If you have to pop to town with them don’t put them back in a nappy – just take some clean underwear, spare trousers etc and deal with any problems calmly – they’ll get it eventually. Oh, and have two potties – one upstairs and one downstairs, or one at either end of a flat. In those early days they’ll give you literally 5 seconds notice to dash to the loo…
Your bad habits – I’m actually going to blog about this separately as I feel so strongly about it, but if you don’t like something, whether it be a certain type of food, or maybe you don’t like dogs for example, don’t let your aversions hinder their choices. Encourage them to try everything and accept all that’s around them.
Moving them into a bed and making them stay there - going from a cot to a bed is a big deal. Suddenly those little scamps are free to get out of bed whenever they like! We moved Edie into a proper bed when she was about two and a half. We made a big thing of it and tried to ensure she understood she'd be rewarded if she stayed put. A reward system of stickers and a small present sort of helped but what really nailed it was a Gro-Clock. This clock gave her a clear idea of when she had to stay in bed and when she was allowed to get out. I would definitely recommend one of these, but make sure the child is old enough to understand what is expected of them.
Swimming – take them swimming as often as you can. Edie goes once a fortnight and it does wonders for her confidence. Dashing around the water with her is also a little bit of exercise for me – every little helps to work off my dad-bod!
Spare favourite toy – by this sort of age, it’s quite likely your child will have a favourite toy that goes everywhere with them – Edie’s was a white Jellycat bunny called Barry. Barry came everywhere with us and despite his grubby appearance, he was her comfort and we all grew quite fond of him. However, on a sad summer’s day in Legoland, Barry was left behind… Thankfully though we had a spare to soften the blow… (until we lost that one too - that took a while to get over!)
That's it for now. As I say, these ideas might be completely different to the way you're going about things, but even if you can take one tiny piece of advice away, I'll be happy. I will repeatedly return to this blog and update with any new discoveries or as any old rituals pop into my head… keep checking back and please let me know of any tips or tricks you have.