Most of parenting is learn-as-you-go, but there are some random bits of knowledge that make your life a whole lot easier.
1. How to swaddle a baby.
You know how your little guy is all snuggled up in your belly with no room to wiggle or move? He actually really likes that. So once he’s entered the planet, all free to move and squirm and stretch as he pleases, he actually misses the confined space of the womb. Which is why he might want to spend his first few weeks on earth swaddled—and you might want to know how to do it properly before you take him home from the hospital. Buy a few good swaddling blankets and have the nurse show you the proper swaddle technique, or just buy a swaddle wrap that does all the work for you. (You have enough to learn with a new baby—nursing, diapers, umbilical cords—shouldn’t something be easy?)
2. The number for poison control.
Your baby is innocent and immobile now, but believe me, that will change faster than you can imagine. You won’t even realize the threat is imminent before it strikes—which is why you need to be prepared now. Your baby will eat something she shouldn’t. You will panic. This is not the time to be digging through the phone book or frantically screaming at the 411 computer to find the number for poison control. Look it up right now and keep it on the side of your refrigerator until your baby leaves for college.
3. The truth about pacifiers.
There’s a good chance that someone will try to tell you that pacifiers are evil and should be avoided at all costs—that person is wrong! As long as they’re given up at a reasonable age, pacifiers are not bad for your baby’s teeth and they’ve actually been linked to a reduction in the occurrence of SIDS. Plus, a lot of babies just need that extra sucking action. Give it to them!
4. How to burp a baby.
Babies with tummy aches = lots of crying. A good burp is essential for a happy baby, and a prop on the shoulder with a one-two pat doesn’t always do the trick.
It takes a firm hand. You certainly don’t need to knock your little guy around, but gently tapping his back is going to get you nil results. A strong, steady pat combined with some firm rubs is typically the best producer of a sound belch.
Positioning is everything. The over-the-shoulder burp works well, but it isn’t the only way to burp a baby. You can also sit your baby across your legs, one hand cupping his head to keep it from wobbling and the other tapping his back, or lay him across your legs and give a few firm rubs.
Persistence pays off. Some babies just take a little longer to work their belches out. If you’ve given it an honest effort for 10 minutes or more and it hasn’t paid off, you can probably safely give it up. But believe me, you want that burp out of there because a 2 a.m. howl fest isn’t fun for anyone.
5. The name, number and location of a good babysitter (even if it is just your mom).
Even the best mom in the world needs a break, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking one. Whether it’s a hot date with your guy or just an easy trip to the grocery store, there will come a day when you’re willing to pay someone else to watch your child in the name of preserving your sanity. Knowing this and making it happen actually makes you an even better mom.
6. The exact location of the nearest 24-hour drugstore.
If you or your partner have to make a 2 a.m. baby acetaminophen run, you do not want to be driving all over town looking for a drugstore with the lights on. There are more reasons than you’d believe that you might be dashing to the drugstore in the middle of the night and you probably won’t be operating at full capacity when it happens, so knowing where you’re going will make it just a little bit easier.
Some days everything comes together and others everything falls apart. But if you trust your instincts and do what you believe is best for your baby, you’re doing a good job.