Slideshow: Top Surprises of Life After Baby Arrives
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All Your Time Is Baby Time
Congrats -- your baby is home! Your life is changing in wonderful -- and unexpected -- ways. Your baby's schedule is now your schedule. Newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day -- but that's broken up into small chunks. And between naps, there's feeding, changing, and a whole lot of holding and cooing going on.
Tip: After the first hectic weeks, babies take longer naps at predictable times. And you'll become a pro at managing your time.
You've Joined a Worldwide Club
Suddenly you've got a lot of friends. Strangers smile at you. Mothers at church or temple ask you if you want to join them on a play date. Your boss asks you how your baby's doctor visit went. The club is called parenthood, and you have a lot of company. Enjoy it!
Tip: You'll develop a unique parenting style that is right for your family -- and may be quite different from your neighbors.
Your Relationship Changes
The dynamics have changed. There's one more person to interact with, and that means less time for just you and your partner. If one parent is providing most of the baby care, the other can feel slighted. And it can be easy to get so busy they forget to talk.
Tip: Set aside time for just the two of you. Make a date and share what's happening in each other's lives.
A New Nighttime Schedule
Ah, a good night's rest. It's true, your new baby is going to change that for a while. The good news is, it shouldn't last long. Until she sleeps through the night, you can take turns with your partner in getting up with the baby.
Tip: During the day, don't try to catch up on chores while the baby sleeps. Lie down and rest.
You'll Have Tons of Visitors
You know that family and friends will want to see the new baby. When they do, they'll bring lots of stories about raising their kids and endless advice about raising yours. When you feel up for it, it's fun to show off your little one. Be sure visitors aren't sick, and have everyone wash their hands before holding the baby.
Tip: If you're feeling overwhelmed or tired, it's OK to say, "Let's make it another time." Good friends will understand.
You Make More Faces Than a Baby
Babies learn by watching and interacting with their environment. It won't be long before you find yourself doing a lot of "silly" things to encourage your baby's learning. Smiling, sticking out your tongue, or making a funny face or sound will attract your baby's attention.
Tip: After the first few weeks, you'll see your baby studying, learning, and eventually imitating your silly faces.
You Need Help
Babies are a joy, but they also take a tremendous amount of attention. Don't try to go it alone. Ask for help from your partner. Each of you should have time each day while the other is taking care of the baby to do something that's just for you. Watch a favorite TV show, read a book, go for a walk, take a bath.
Tip: If you're a single parent, don't be afraid to ask for help from a friend or relative. Time away will let you recharge.
Babies Need Conversation
When you talk with your baby, two things happen. The baby learns and you bond. And the more you talk, the more those things happen.
Tip: Imitate your baby's sounds -- "ba-ba" or "goo-goo" -- then wait for your baby to make another sound, and repeat that back. This helps your baby learn the give and take of conversation.
Guilt Is Normal
When you first held your little one -- and even before -- you promised to be a top-notch parent. But sometimes you may long for your old life back. Then you feel guilty that you aren't enjoying every second of parenthood. You're not alone! It's natural to want a break from the baby.
Tip: Ask for help. When your baby's safe in the crib, call a friend. And give yourself credit for all the things that are going right.
Children's Books Are Literature
If you didn't know children's books before, you'll fall in love with them now. Many are written with both parent and child in mind to entertain while they educate. Babies love to be read to, and it's never too early to start reading to yours.
Tip: Reading aloud will help your baby be a better reader when she's older.
You'll Make Mistakes
All those how-to books you read about parenting, and all those things you swore you would never do ... Maybe in a perfect world there are perfect parents. In the real world, the rule of thumb is: Do what works. If your child's too old for a pacifier but it helps him sleep, you'll probably make the "mistake" of letting him keep it. Let yourself off the hook -- it won't hurt him. When in doubt, ask your pediatrician.
You Become a Judge
As your child grows, so does your role as mediator. There'll be disputes between siblings to settle, boundaries to establish, time-outs to monitor. Discipline isn't the easiest thing to administer. But it's part of the job -- and it's healthy for your child.
Tip: Set aside time to spend with each child individually, so each one feels they get your attention.
You Gain a Bathroom Buddy
It'll be a couple of years before you start potty training your new baby. But when you do, either you or your spouse will likely have an audience when you go to the bathroom. It's called parent modeling. And it's one way to teach what going to the bathroom is all about. A kid, especially a smart kid like yours, can learn a lot by watching.
Baby Love Is Real
For some parents, it's instantaneous. For others, it may take a while. But someday you'll look at your child and feel a depth of emotion you haven't known before. Just how boundless that feeling of love is can come as a pleasant surprise. You knew you were going to love this baby and now you do unconditionally. Enjoy it and make it last a lifetime.
Make Smart Financial Choices
It's never too soon to start saving for college! And the truth is, there are a lot of expenses before that. The average middle class family spends $225,000 in the first 17 years of a child's life. That's just to provide food, shelter, and other necessities. It doesn't include things like increases in health insurance -- or college. Start your financial planning now so you're well prepared.
Parenting Is Letting Go
It's the bittersweet in parenting. Every milestone is an accomplishment, and you can be proud you helped your child get there. At the same time, every milestone means your child is more independent and needs you a little less. When she's tiny, won't sleep through the night, and can't do for herself, you feel like it will never end. Then it seems like it's just the next day and she's all grown up.
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