How to survive your first year of parenthood

A little bundle of joy can easily turn parents into a big bundle of nerves. Midwife Cath shares her top tips for getting through those all-important first 12 months.

the first six weeks
“Keep calm and feed the baby”.

That is the No.1 way to survive and thrive during the first year of parenting, says Melbourne midwife of 42 years Cath Curtin.

Cath, aka Midwife Cath, says parents, particularly mums, worry about everything in the first year.

“I see mums who are the walking dead and they are worried about their babies being over tired – yet their babies are as happy as anything,” says Cath, who recently released After the First Six Months, a follow-up to her successful debut book The First Six Weeks.

Stop being a worrywart

“(Mums) worry about breastfeeding. They worry about failure, they worry about immunisation and they worry about using formula – they have been so blackmailed in their heads being told that formula is dangerous to the baby. Yet a lot of babies are crying because they are underfed,” says Cath.

“They also worry about their babies getting sick and about being cold. This generation is obsessed with the temperature of their baby’s room. They worry about SIDS obsessively.

“And they feel guilty about everything.”

Cath says social media is one of the biggest culprits contributing to motherhood guilt.

“They’ve got it in their face the whole time with social media,” she says.

“It’s a very interesting time and we’ve got to just calm everybody down. We’ve got closed Facebook groups where women who don’t know what to do are giving women who don’t know what to do advice.”

You don’t have to go it alone

Cath says the best way to survive the first year is to get good professional advice if needed.

“When things don’t go to plan you need to get help,” she says.

“Go and get professional help and if you don’t feel comfortable with that professional help, go to the next person until you are happy with the help being provided.”

Cath says a crash course in parenting from those who’ve already been there would also not go astray.

“Trust your gut and trust your mother – I know not everyone has a fabulous supportive mother but nine times out of 10, the mums know what to do, despite their daughters thinking they don’t,” Cath says.

“Have some good support and try not to get worried about the little things – they are usually just irrational.”

Make it a team effort

Both parents should take care of each other, says Cath.

“Rather than you both getting up all night, just have one tired person in the house,” she says.

“Limit visitors because it can get absolutely out of control. And give your baby a late bath, a feed and get them to bed – trust me, it works.”

Cath says parents need to remember that “babies don’t go to plan”.

“But it is possible to relax and enjoy the ride. Live and learn. And just calm down.”

midwife cath

Midwife Cath’s top 7 tips for your first year of parenting

1. Get enough sleep.
Couples need to look after each other. You can’t both be up at the same time. It’s about one sleeping and one feeding/holding the baby. It’s so important because if we don’t have sleep we go crazy and can’t function.

2. Try not to listen to too many people.
Try to have one voice in your head rather than too many conflicting ideas and people, because it makes it too hard.

3. Feed the baby.
People think they have fed the baby and that’s it. Keep feeding – fill the baby up. You can’t overfill them. Babies will stop eating when they are full. And if they need more to drink, they will cry. They are not in pain. The brain growth and the body growth in that first 12 months are never repeated in life. They have to have a lot of milk – breast milk or formula or both.

4. Get support.
Get someone to help you, whether it is a cleaner or a friend or a family member. It will help you get through and give you more time to focus on you and your baby.

5. Wrap the baby for the first six months.
You need to contain their primitive startle reflexes, particularly when they are born. Wrapping keeps the baby’s arms in check and it is easier to feed them. Dress them, wrap them and feed them and then you have a calm baby.

6. Have a sense of humour.
If you don’t laugh, you will cry. See the funny side of things and don’t take it so seriously. Look around and see how many other people have survived with children – you’re not the first and it’s just not that hard. People have made parenting too complicated – we need to un-complicate parenting.

7. Love is all you need.
Love your baby and love each other. You also need to love yourself. Look after yourself. Meditation is really good because it will help you to be mindful and stay in the present – and then you don’t worry about what may happen tomorrow.

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Written by Laeta Crawford