4 Things Every Parent Should Know About the First Year

New parents face plenty of uncertainties during a child's first year of life. Use this list of four tips to help you make the right decisions. When in doubt, always look for information and community resources that pertain to your family's specific needs.

Know Your Community's Resources

Your community probably has several resources that you might need during the first year of your child's life. Some of these resources include:

  • pediatrician offices
  • hospitals
  • babysitting agencies
  • daycare centers
  • playgrounds
  • schools

You probably didn't pay much attention to these resources before having your child, but it's now important for you to know where they are located, what hours they keep, and what services they provide.

Wash Your Hands Before Picking Up the Baby

Okay, this might come off as extremely  well-known and obvious, but I can't stress enough how important this basic method is. I've seen quite a lot of women with newborns, handle things that could be loaded with bacteria, then just go and pickup their newborn and go about their day. A newborn's body needs time to adapt to its new environment. Living outside of the womb means that the baby will come into contact with new germs and viruses. While a small amount of contact is an important part of developing a healthy immune system, parents should still wash their hands before picking up newborn children. This limits the amount of bacteria, viruses, and germs that could make the child sick.

Follow these instructions from the Centers for Disease Control to make sure you wash your hands properly.

Make sure you really work the soap into a lather and scrub for at least 20 seconds, making sure to wash between your fingers and under your nails.  Of course rinse your hands with clean water and dry your hands on a clean towel.  I know this comes off as if I'm talking to a child, but you'd be amazed at how many do not wash their hands at all, or at least don't do it properly.

If you don't have access to a washroom, use hand sanitizer before picking up newborns.

Learn How to Swaddle

Swaddling your baby could offer many benefits, such as:

  • making sleep cycles longer
  • soothing upset babies
  • keeping babies warm
  • reducing the risk of SIDS

Unlike some things, you can't rely on your instincts when swaddling. It's best to learn from people who have done it before.

Start practicing before you have your baby. You can practice on anything from a baby doll to a small sack of flour. These instructions from the Mayo Clinic should help you learn the finer points of swaddling:

  • Fold one corner of a blanket.
  • Lay the baby face-up on the blanket with its head sticking just above the folded corner.
  • Hold the baby in place while wrapping one side of the blanket over and under it.
  • Fold the lower part of the blanket so that it meets the top.
  • Wrap the other side of the blanket around the baby so that his or her head is the only thing sticking out. 

Don't wrap the baby too tightly. This can cause respiratory problems. Just wrap it tight enough to prevent extreme movements.

Know How to Bathe Your Baby

Newborns need sponge baths for the first one to four weeks of life. After that, you can bathe them in sinks or bathtubs.

Always use a sponge bath until your baby has lost its umbilical cord and its naval has healed. If your child receives a circumcision, use a sponge until it heals.

To sponge bathe your baby:

  • Find a flat, warm, safe surface for the baby.
  • Use a damp washcloth (water only, no soap) to wipe its eyes, nose, and ears.
  • Use a damp washcloth baby shampoo to gently wash the baby's head and body.
  • Rinse by running a damp cloth along the baby's body.

Once your baby is ready for regular baths, you will need to learn a different set of skills that will keep it healthy and happy. To clean a baby in a sink or tub:

  • Draw two or three inches of warm water.
  • Put the baby in, feet first, while supporting its neck and head.
  • Use baby shampoo to wash the head and body, taking frequent breaks to rinse away the soap.

Believe it or not, this can help save water and energy in your house. There are plenty of ways to save energy around the house, and with a newborn in your life, there will plenty of reasons to always save a little here and there. It's understandable that the first year can be pretty stressful for new and veteran parents, so try to minimize your stress as much as possible and follow the tips I've listed.

These four tips should help you get through your first year as a parent. Do other parents know of other crucial tips that new parents should learn