I know nothing about babies -- except that I'm going to have one.
December 7, 2013 5:02 PM   Subscribe

In just about five and a half months, I'm going to be having my first child. Super exciting -- except I have absolutely no idea how all this works and I don't know where to begin. Help me!

It seems like all my friends with babies and toddlers know what they're doing and I don't know how they do it. I mean, they know how to teach their babies sign language and what to feed them and when and what it means when they cry like so and all this other stuff that I feel so far from ever understanding. I figure I should probably spend the next five months learning as much as I can, but there's SO MUCH out there that I get overwhelmed. Any suggestions where to start? My future child will thank you for it.
posted by missjenny to Human Relations (31 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
I've recommended it before: Heading Home With Your Newborn is great. Clearly, plainly written; assumes you know nothing without assuming you're an idiot; focused on the basics with no fluff (sign language is fine and all, but babies have survived centuries without learning it, so I think you can take or leave it).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:18 PM on December 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Do not start with the What To Expect book as it will make you stressed and overwhelmed. It's very popular and awful, the Dan Brown of parenting books. Go to a library and browse the parenting shelves and pick something short that you like to start with. The UK parenting guides tend to be more relaxed and friendly. Mumsnet is a friendly forum and this is their baby guide which is a good overall read of lots of different ideas.

Your biggest job besides being happy and healthy, is to figure out your particular style of parenting. Everyone does it differently, and there is no One True Way. Think about the kind of parents you admire, your own parents, what you value - calm and order, creativity and flexibility - and pick and choose what you think will work for you guys. It's a little like your own home - we all have four walls and a roof, but what you fill it with and how is up to what works for you. Someone else's sleek modern interior may not be your shabby chic country, but they're still home.

There are lots of good ways to parent. Most people agree on major negatives (don't hit or starve your kid, don't be cruel, don't make them the centre of the universe and don't try to make into mini-versions of you), but the particular path you choose is up to you. There really isn't a Perfect Way to Parent.

Also, the first three months, they are just cuddly lumps that gets fed and changed, so you really have 8-9 months ahead.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:19 PM on December 7, 2013 [6 favorites]

I've gotten a lot out of Lucie's List, the Mayo Clinic site, and past questions here on AskMe.

The other parents likely felt the same way as you feel right now. They only seem to know what they're doing because they've read books, talked with other parents and relevant professionals, and become experts on their kids. That will come in time for you as well.
posted by emkelley at 5:21 PM on December 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

You will be okay!

I'm pregnant too, but have had a lot of experience babysitting and hanging out with kids. I've been reading books about parenting for years. My best friend was due in October and had never held a baby before. She frequently lamented about how I was better prepared than she was.

Last week she brought her baby to visit, and man, she knew all sorts of baby magic about swaddling and rocking him just so and what kind of noises to make and precisely how hard to burp him. She's learned this all since birth--by spending time with him and taking it one day at a time. You will know your baby. Remember that newbornhood is a process of the two of you learning one another.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:55 PM on December 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


My kiddo is eight, and I still don't know what I'm doing. Nobody does! Anybody who seems like they do is posing. Or, they figured out their own kid(s). This may or may not help them understand yours.

When babies are little, you keep them warm, safe, fed and changed. You can do that! The biggest challenge the first six months or so is not caring for your baby, but your own sleep deprivation. Line up whatever help you can to address that (babysitters, grandmas, housecleaners if you can.)

You may also find it helpful to remind yourself when you screw up something minor that no one remembers anything before age 3 (at the earliest). Your kid is not going to remember that you put her pants on backwards, or took a while to figure out that carrots gave her bad poops. Or what have you.

Your baby will probably get a run of colds/other issues at some point, so try to find a pediatrician you like. You will probably have to actually go to one, baby in arms, before you know if you like them. Just have one in mind to start with.

Don't get hung up on the sign language stuff, or the "best" way to do anything. Don't let all the "Warnings for Parents" articles freak you out. Most of the time, they are clickbait, because parents are the easiest people to freak out, especially new ones.

My kid? Did not respond to any of the helpful techniques in baby books. I was like Edison inventing lightbulbs, I just had to keep trying things until something worked, when it came to sleeping/language/behavior/potty training. And he's fine now, really.

I relied on the Dr. Sears baby books; they were good for things like figuring out what medicines were and weren't safe, what a mysterious behavior might mean, etc. And there is always the internet when that doesn't work. And your pediatrician if you are really worried.

You will make it through. You will probably be terrified at some point at the huge responsibility. This is a normal feeling! It will pass. It really will.

But if sadness/fear doesn't improve after a few weeks, get your depression checked. PPD is seriously common in new moms, and it can suck the joy out of you, even if you are coping and functioning. And no one deserves that.
posted by emjaybee at 6:03 PM on December 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Oh, how this brings back memories. I was in the same position as you when I had Darling Boy.

The best recommendation I can provide is for Baby 411. It's clear, concisely written (which at 4am when you are sleep deprived and wondering why in the hell the child is screaming is a good thing) and broken up into easily digestible chapters. I read it again before Baby Tafetta was born, and was impressed, once again at how helpful it was.

For Baby Tafetta, I also downloaded the Babycenter app on my phone. It has a helpful tip each day and mentions when it is time to start transitioning to the next level in eating, sleeping, etc. I also recommend joining the birth board on Babycenter for your birth month. There will be veterans and newbies on there as well and they will be a great source of information (and unfortunately, sometimes drama).

Otherwise, we just figured it out with the help of friends who had babies and the wonderful staff at our daycare.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 6:14 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Go to the library, get several books. I hope you'll choose to nurse your baby, and they'll help you get started at the hospital/ birthing center. That takes care of food for the 1st several months. It gets more complicated if you go back to a job, but it's doable. They'll show you how to change a diaper, or look on youtube. You'll figure out how to wrassle the lid in and out of tiny clothes. Especially read up on 1st Aid - health care. Make sure you have a baby/ digital thermometer. Mostly because it will help you feel more confident. Some people like to try lots of specific things, like sign language. My friend made sure her baby heard lots of R&B and soul music. I talked to and read to my baby a lot. Pay attention to your baby - that's what they need/love, and share what you love.

All those friends who seem to have it all figured out? Ask them for advice. Feel free to ignore any advice that doesn't sit well with you, but people love to give it, so let them. Come back to Ask.Me when you need help. And, you'll be fine. You'll love your baby, you'll have your own challenges, and you'll find ways to deal with whatever comes up.
posted by theora55 at 6:41 PM on December 7, 2013

Nobody knows what they're doing at the beginning. The most helpful things to me were:

-- Getting a good book. Not everyone's thing, but I was a worrier and it helped to reassure me. You'll be seeing the pediatrician a lot, too, and they spend time teaching you and reassuring you, and serving as a check so that nothing gets too horribly off track!

-- Getting the baby on a schedule: I don' mean forcing something on the that doesn't work for them, more like tracking what their natural patterns are and then documenting them and regularizing them (let's say, they tend to feed every two hours and 15 minutes: you could just come up with an every 2 hour feeding schedule). Also, keep a log of what you did when (when last feeding was, last diaper change, last nap). The idea is to feed them before they get ravenously hungry and put them down before they are exhausted. Also, you will be really tired, so sometimes at the very beginning it helps to write it all down, as 30 minutes after you've fed them, you might not remember you did. So if they start crying and it's only been an hour, that will help you narrow down what could be wrong. This also allows you to hand them off easily to someone else who's helping out.

-- Napping when the baby naps.

-- Sign language is really helpful later when the baby is fully conscious but still pre-verbal. They can tell you they want more food, or their diaper is wet, etc., many months before they can say it. It also helps develop their language skills, and trust me, they can understand you way earlier than they can respond verbally. I can't stand all the yuppie competitiveness about raising kids, but sign language is the real deal. It's really easy to learn (you can get Signing Time DVDs from pretty much any local library for free if you're in the U.S.), and you only need to learn maybe 5-10 signs: food, more, milk, all done, potty, cracker, water, etc.. They can't really start doing it until about 7 months or so, anyway, so we started at 6 months, and by 7 or 8 months old my son could sign back.

-- Bouncy seats are helpful for parking them when you need to run to the bathroom, etc.

You can do it. If you are at all worried about your ability to be a good parent, that means you will be a good parent. You'll love your baby, you'll know them best, you'll be clueless and scared at first like everyone is, and you'll figure it out like everyone does, and by about 6 or 8 or 10 months, you'll feel like you've got it under control, and some other mom-to-be will be watching you and worrying that they'll never have it all figured out like you do.
posted by ravioli at 6:51 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Two things. 1) Buy Baby 411. 2) Nobody really knows what they are doing.
posted by Silvertree at 6:53 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

My 21-year old and 18-year old sons are just heading out now to do some Christmas shopping, so it's been a long time since I was a brand-new mum, but like you, I was completely inexperienced. PhoBWan and emjaybee have it right, at least in my experience.

My kids were little before there was a lot of stuff on the internet; where I live paediatricians are for Very Serious Things only (we've only ever visited one once) and the 24 hour nurse hotline, our family doctor, and the community health nurses we saw every few months for immunizations were my primary sources for health advice.

You will be fine. Just about everything you do with babies to keep them warm, dry, fed, and safe, you'll do a hundred gazillion times, and while there will be the first few awkward times, you will be an expert in no time flat because you'll be doing it 18 times a day.

And you'll make things up as you go. A maternity nurse told me that even though she bathed thousands of babies in the hospital, she couldn't figure out how to bathe her own newborn at home because she didn't have the hospital stuff. So she ran a baby-warm bath in the big tub, called her husband to assist, got herself and the baby undressed, and took baby in the tub with her. Eventually she got confident enough to bathe her baby in a more usual fashion, but for that time, that was what worked. You'll probably create your own workarounds, and if someone thinks they're weird, screw 'em. Baby safe, warm, and fed? All is well then, irrespective of how you managed it.

One of the best pieces of advice I got was from one of the community health nurses. I was anxious that I wasn't doing something right and the baby seemed fussy, and I was worrying on the phone to the nurse and she said, "Relax. In a year he'll be running around the back yard chasing leaves and neither of you will remember anything about this." She was right.

You will be a great mother.
posted by angiep at 7:14 PM on December 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend a post-partum doula. Ours was so great. We had her come and visit the day after our first night at home. She helped us figure out the cloth diapering, helped with breastfeeding, showed my husband how to use one of the hand-me-down slings which both he and the baby loved. It was nice having this impartial third party whose job it was to just look around and be helpful. And she has experience with hundreds of families and babies. She made us feel so much more confident and relaxed in our home with our newborn.

The rest? We winged it. A newborn parenting class prior to birth would be helpful. And some books. We ended up dividing our book reading as birthing books for me and baby care books for him. I'd point out things I wanted him to know and vice versa. It worked pretty well and it was cool after baby came for him to be all: hey, I read this thing....

Keep in mind, too, you're having these hormonal surges that can make one pretty anxious. Ultimately it helps you get focused on preparing for baby. But you'll be a pro at your baby before you know it. And you'll know that every parent feels completely bewildered more often than not.
posted by amanda at 8:01 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I never bathed my young daughter any other way than taking her into the tub with me. Mentioning because of angiep's anecdote. Your take-away: do it the way it works for your baby!

Strongly recommend Dr Jack Newman's book; very relaxed and reassuring, and Rima Apple's books. She doesn't write baby care manuals. She has a couple of great books on the history/sociology of 'professional' advice given to mothers. Finding out how appallingly bad 'professional' advice has been at some points in relatively recent history is mind-blowing, and should enable you to discard dubious advice (common, strangely common from even pediatricians sometimes) with confidence.

And, do have confidence! Babies are robust and durable. They want love and milk and clean bottoms. Very hard to mess it up. Your gut instincts + some judiciously applied science = awesome parenting.
posted by kmennie at 8:08 PM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Heading Home with Your Newborn is a great book, probably the most helpful I read. By the time your baby "outgrows" it you'll be very confident in your parenting! They will also teach you literally everything you need to know to take the newborn home (feeding, clothing, bathing, diapering, swaddling, carseat, when to call for help) before they let you leave the hospital.

Start asking your friends. They can SHOW you the five or six signs their kids use and tell you how they taught it! You can practice with their kids. They can tell you the best things they did to save their sanity, and local resources for learning things. They can demonstrate a swaddle on their own kids! You can practice changing diapers! My mother came and stayed with us for about 10 days after my first one was born, to help when we didn't know what to do and to feed me and do laundry and whatnot -- it was great (but I have a good relationship with my mom and she's not pushy about how I should parent). Other people hire post-partum doulas, or go it on their own, or hire nannies or night nurses, which are all totally reasonable choices.

We didn't bother with sign language; mine could both clearly communicate their wants by different cries/babbles and reaching for things at the same time their peers were starting to sign. It's a nice thing to do with the baby if you want to; if you don't want to, don't worry about it.

The #1 most useful parenting tool in the universe is Facebook, especially if (as you say they are!) your friends are having kids at the same time as you are. You post on facebook, "Guys, my 2-month-old is on a breastfeeding strike, what do I do?" and people will tell you! You say, "Which socks will not fall off the baby's feet constantly and where should I buy them?" and people will give you links or drop by 30 pairs of used baby socks that don't sag. You post, "I HAVEN'T SLEPT IN A WEEK AND I AM CRYING ALL THE TIME" and people will message you with offers of casseroles and 4 hours of sitting so you can nap. You occasionally have to let some of your officious friends' advice roll off your back (or learn to block those people from your parenting question updates), but 99% of people are sympathetic and helpful, and you already have this huge network of friends and relatives who like you and want to help you ... and everyone loves to give parenting advice. You do not have to pick up a phone or leave your house or put on pants to get 80 opinions from moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, sisters, early childhood educators, pediatricians ... everyone you know with any experience with kids, and you get good advice on contemporary parenting, things to try from 40 years ago, where to buy local baby stuff, anything. I have seriously posted all kinds of things including "This horrible thing is happening and I think it is my fault and I don't know what to do I am a horrible mother and my child will grow up to be a serial killer!!!!" and people post back "That happened to me, it was so awful at the time but it doesn't last very long and everyone's fine!" and "You're a great mother, keep doing what you're doing!" and "Here's the local pediatric specialist I saw for the horrible thing, if you need more help."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:03 PM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Have you seen the documentary Babies? Charming relaxing movie... parents and cultures doing things *wildly* differently, but perfect for where they are. All those kids are gonna be fine!

Your house is your own little subculture...your own mini-kingdom.
As a former nanny... each nanny/babysitting job was like a little cultural lesson for *that* family. It was fascinating how many different ways there are to do things 'right'. (If it works for you, it's 'right'.)
posted by jrobin276 at 9:17 PM on December 7, 2013

The #1 most useful parenting tool in the universe is Facebook

Social media, yes. For me it's Twitter. Up at 3AM and baby is doing a weird thing? TO THE TWITTERS.

I'd worked with a zillion kids before having my son and it did help to know the general diapering techniques and whatnot... but figuring out that he only wanted to breast feed on his left side or that he would never, ever sleep in his cosleeper (thanks, pal) and the thousand other details of his life - all that was learned just by spending time with him.

I'm currently 15wks with #2 and when she joins us next spring, I doubt that she will have the same preferences and I'll probably be reinventing the wheel all over again. That's how it is with babies. They're fully their own people from minute one and what works for one won't always work for another.

Practice diapering, swaddling,etc on friends' babies and practice just being patient with yourself. Trial, error, and patience are what the first few months are about. Congrats! You're already a great mom just by loving your baby and wanting to do your best.
posted by sonika at 9:22 PM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I remember this feeling all too well! I wasn’t too nervous when I was pregnant, because I had been around lots of babies, but once I had my baby, with her own needs and preferences, I did feel like I was at square one. We all are, once we get our specific baby!

Definitely go to the library or a bookstore and browse and find a general book about caring for a baby- there are tons, so just leaf through a bunch until you find one that you are drawn to and makes you feel like “OK, I can do this! This is going to be a lot of work but also so awesome.” Avoid ones that make you feel tense and nervous and incompetent (What to Expect When You Are Expecting and anything else in that series is so ugh…avoid those specifically).

Hang out with friends who have babies, if possible, and just observe their rhythm. Ask specific questions – some of mine were things like – how often do you give a newborn a bath? What if they don’t burp when you are trying to burp them? How old are they before they can go for a walk in a stroller? The hilarious thing is that every parent will give you a different answer. So you begin to see that everything will depend on what your own baby wants and needs.

It’s OK to be freaked out. My SIL and I still laugh about a call I made to her about 3 weeks after my oldest was born. My mom and dad and the in-laws had left, my husband was back to work, and it was just me and my girl. Truly just the two of us, for the first time ever. I had nursed her and changed her, and she seemed content but was not sleeping. I just didn’t what to do next. I called my SIL and whispered (as though the baby could hear and understand me) “What do I do with her now? She’s just LOOKING at me!” My SIL cracked up and finally said “Well, just look back.” She did not mean it in any philosophical way (she’s the most practical women on the planet)- but to me it was the most profound parenting advice I ever got and I try and call those words to mind every day.
posted by aviatrix at 10:55 PM on December 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I felt the same way. What has helped me the most is hanging out in a very friendly mom online forum where I can follow along with other moms who have babies around the same age as mine. I can ask any questions that come up to the moms there, and they also often give me ideas for what to do with my baby. It especially helps that some of them are moms of multiple kids or have babies slightly older than mine who just went through something similar. This has helped me know all the newest and hottest baby products, a bunch of interesting little parenting tricks, given me support to get through the rough times, etc.

Facebook works too, I have a friends list for moms only that I ask parenting questions to if I want a specific local perspective or want a response ASAP.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:07 AM on December 8, 2013

I am the brand-new mother of a five-week-old baby girl and I knew/know less than nothing about caring for babies when she was born. I read a couple books and took breastfeeding and newborn care classes, but without an actual infant to practice on, I found I'd retained very little of all that information once she was actually here. So it's been pretty much all trial by fire. I'm obviously no expert, but still, I'm shocked at the sheer volume of knowledge I've already accumulated about my baby. Namely that mother's intuition is real—if you had told me that by only a month out, I'd be able to identify the differences in her cries and respond to her needs accordingly, I'd have called you a damn liar. I was always SO impressed when I saw mom friends do that with such ease with their babies—HOW DID THEY KNOW? It's like some kind of wizardry! And yet here we are. I read somewhere that you will become the foremost expert on your baby very quickly, and so far I have found that to be true.

Our most-relied-upon resources so far:
- Lucie's List is AWESOME. So, so helpful. Peruse her archives, sign up for the emails. These are always incredibly germane to where we're at and I look forward to them every week.
- The hospital showed us how to diaper and swaddle her.
- Dr. Google and Nurse YouTube taught us how to bathe her.
- Happiest Baby on the Block DVD demonstrated how to soothe her.
- An amazing lactation consultant got us through the terrible first couple weeks of rapid infant weight loss/engorgement/latching problems. Worth her weight in gold.
- My new moms group. I post regularly to Facebook and to my "fourth tri" cohort on an online forum, which most definitely have their place, but being able to physically see and talk with other moms and babies who are in the exact same stage and dealing with many of the exact same issues I am has been priceless.

posted by anderjen at 2:26 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are two kinds of advice you will get about your baby.

1. Universally true, scientifically proven advice. Things like, "Don't leave your baby unattended in the bathtub," or "Give your baby the vaccinations that your doctor advises."

2. Stuff that worked for somebody else's baby but may or may not work for you. Things like, "Sleep train them at 6 months by letting them cry it out" or "NEVER let them cry it out whatever you do" or "Let them co-sleep until they go to college" or "Always make them fall asleep in their own crib" or "My baby had terrible tummy problems until I started giving him beet smoothies exactly 45 minutes before bed."

The hard part is, there's an awful lot of Type 2 advice pretending to be Type 1. Just about every parenting book will act like it is The One True Scientific Method Of Parenting Correctly, when in fact, it's a bunch of tips that worked for the author and might or might not work for you. This is even true of books written by actual scientists or doctors, who really should know better.

And as helpful as Facebook can be, you will have at least one friend who CANNOT BELIEVE that you aren't doing the pre-bedtime beet smoothy thing because it WORKED WITHOUT FAIL for them and if it doesn't work for you, you are obviously doing it wrong and DON'T YOU WANT YOUR BABY TO BE HAPPY????!!??

So, definitely read lots of parenting books and definitely ask your friends for advice. But develop the habit of stepping back and asking yourself, "Is this a well-researched scientific truth? Or just something that worked for one particular baby and might not work for mine?" Now is a good time to develop that habit, because once the baby arrives, you will be more tired and emotional and more susceptible to people who want to foist their own pet parenting theories on you.

If you can develop that ability, I would recommend Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. Honestly, I found her tone maddening-- she is very insistent that her methods are the only sensible ones, and anybody who does something different is screwing up. But she did have a lot of tips that did end up working for our family. So I would recommend it, but only after you have read a bunch of other parenting books and have developed the ability to extract the stuff that makes sense to you, and filter out the stuff that doesn't feel right.

Finally, one book I would NOT recommend: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Weissbluth. A lot of people recommended this to us, so I suspect people will recommend it to you-- but it was horribly written, and the absolute worst offender I have ever read in terms of presenting crazy personal theories as if they were widely recognized scientific truths. If you want a good book about child sleep, I would recommend Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, by Ferber.
posted by yankeefog at 3:08 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

nthing the "we were clueless too." Almost everyone feels clueless about this. In fact the ones who don't feel totally unsure are the ones I'd worry about.

Mrs. wjm and I took a baby care class at the local hospital, just before Darling Daughter 1 arrived. Two evenings that covered simple things like: how to get the kid in and out of a onesy without tying her in a pretzel. How to burrito-wrap her. (We all had to bring a baby doll to practice on.) A few things about feeding and bathing. And a lot of safety stuff like SIDS prevention measures and safe sleeping arrangements.

It was a start, and it was helpful. But nearly everything else was learned as we went, because it is SO individualized. Amazing discoveries like:

- DD1 did not LIKE soft, soothing lullabies. She vastly preferred Proud Mary and Love Potion Number 9.

- DD1's skin definitely did not like cloth diapers. Horrifying degree of diaper rash made us feel like total losers as parents. Caring for it and watching it get rapidly better let us forgive ourselves.

- Not every baby has to breastfeed. Even with all the helpful nurses and lactation consultants. Mrs. wjm was emotionally devastated by this at first, but as DD1 grew and thrived on store-brand formula, she realized you can still be an awesome parent with a baby bottle in hand.

- We never did figure out why DD1 went through a phase of screaming every time we undressed her. Know what? She outgrew it even with totally non-comprehending parents.

When DD2 arrived we learned a whole new set of lessons, because they all turn out different. It's part of the challenge and part of the fun.

Take a paramedic's advice: read and take classes (if available) on the safety stuff. SIDS prevention measures. Infant CPR. How to take a temp and what temp is high enough to call the pediatrician. Signs of dehydration. How long without a bowel movement is OK, and how long is too long. Things like that.

The hospital will give you a lot of talks aimed at preventing shaken-baby incidents. Don't feel singled out. They're supposed to. (And it makes sense too.)

Nearly everything else your baby will teach you.

Good luck and congratulations!
posted by wjm at 4:49 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

We read the books, took the classes, but pretty much forgot everything once the baby was born. I took a list of questions a page long to his first pediatrician appointment. After calmly answering all the questions, the doctor told us: "relax, people a lot stupider than you raise babies all the time." I learned to just go with the flow, and have a healthy, happy baby curled up in bed with me this morning.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 5:31 AM on December 8, 2013

These answers are all amazing. Thank you so much, ask mefi. I feel a thousand times better and am happily looking up all the resources you've mentioned. Lucie's List is AWESOME! It actually got me started on my list of stuff to buy without seizing up in terror, which is what had been happening every time I attempted it before.

But most importantly, I appreciate hearing that so many of you felt the same way and that we're all just figuring it out as we go. It's so easy to convince myself that everyone else knows some secret I don't. Thanks for reminding me that's not true.
posted by missjenny at 6:11 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can't give you first-hand advice about babies, but I can tell you this: almost everyone I know who's had a baby has said something like this to me during the pregnancy. Things happen; people do fine. (My dear friends adopted a baby who came seven weeks early, and they had one outfit for him when he arrived and had to scramble to have everything in place before he got home from the NICU.)

Nobody feels like they know what they're doing, and nobody I know has ever wound up saying, "It turned out I didn't know enough to have a baby successfully." Kids are really pretty hard to break -- you'll do great! If you're the type to even wonder whether you know enough, you'll do great.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:14 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

> It seems like all my friends with babies and toddlers know what they're doing and I don't know how they do it

God, no, they're totally faking it.

> there's SO MUCH out there that I get overwhelmed

One thing to remember: you only have to be a chapter or two ahead of your baby. So for now just think about newborn stuff and set more advanced stuff (sign language, solid foods, etc.) aside until later.

Newborns are pretty easy, other than the sleep deprivation. They like to nurse, they poop a lot, they have annoying sleep patterns, and they're cute. That's about it for the first few weeks. So, there! Figure out how you're going to feed your baby, where it'll sleep, grab some diapers, and you're set until mid-May.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:44 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

It actually got me started on my list of stuff to buy

Just a thought -- if you know a lot of people with babies and toddlers, do let people know you'd like hand-me-downs. Some people will be thrilled to give you the baby bathtub they only used for the first few months anyways, or the sling that their baby hated. Others will be happy to lend you their baby bouncer, as long as you give it back when they have their next kid. Everyone will want to give you piles of clothes.
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:32 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Talk to your mother and grandmother. Disregard things that do not seem safe. Do what feels right. Pick up the baby when it cries, feed when hungry, change the diaper as needed. Burp. Use a car seat and know that you are doing it properly.

Don't believe all the milestones. The doctors told me my babies would sleep through the night at four months. It actually was closer to two years. They potty train, roll over, and smile at different times than the books say they should, but it will be just right for YOUR baby. Be careful mine rolled over as early as one week.

Sleep when you can, take lots of photos and enjoy that baby.
posted by 101cats at 2:47 PM on December 8, 2013

A good swing is helpful first to rock them to sleep then ours had a tray so it doubled as a snack tray and quickie high chair. Even if you breastfeed get the kiddo used to a pacifier and bottle nipple that are the same so if you pump the kiddo will be used to it. Very handy if you want someone else to take care of your kiddo for a bit. Date nights are awesome, lol. If you use formula, buy powder and have separate room temp water in a bottle. No refrigeration. Plop the necessary amount of powder in the water, shake and voila happy kiddo. Also makes for easy traveling. Me, my mom, and my daughter have all found out that little bits can drink from a straw pretty early, before they can really use cups. I'm thinking 8 months. Once again, makes things easy for eating out and traveling. Sign language is awesome and makes them feel less frustrated when they want something. Child proof your house now. In the kitchen, put the things you wouldn't mind them getting into closest to the floor. Thats where my tupperware and pots and pans still live. These are just a few things that helped me with my daughter and grandkids. Babies are fun, really. Get lots of snuggles and for good measure, nap when they nap.
posted by PJMoore at 5:19 PM on December 8, 2013

The hard part is, there's an awful lot of Type 2 advice pretending to be Type 1.

Here's some more of that: babies really can learn sign language but in truth there are only two signs that matter, and your baby will probably learn them incredibly quickly:

(1) more; and
(2) milk.

(often used in combination)

Make up a couple of signs on your own for these, and you can save yourself from wasting $$ on kits full of redundant signs the baby doesn't care about.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:58 PM on December 8, 2013

Start reading Janet Lansbury's blog on respectful parenting.
Join some mommy groups on FB.
Get on the email list for your local La Leche League group.
Join a meetup for pregnant women who are due around the same time you are.
After the baby is born, join a mommy & me class.
These are all places where moms discuss and learn about the subjects you are talking about
posted by vignettist at 8:26 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our hospital offered a newborn care class along with the birthing classes. It covered basic baby care stuff (bathing, diapering, etc), soothing techniques, dealing with illness, etc. It was a little silly (involved practicing with dolls) but it gave us confidence, and taught me a few handy skills I hadn't known before. My husband especially liked it because he had zero experience with infants.
posted by gerstle at 10:04 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also looked up a lot of things on youtube - diaper changing, bathing, and a lot of the Happiest Baby on the Block stuff. Youtube turned out to be an awesome resource.

When you get around to thinking about whether or not you should do sleep training, get your books on audio or dvd. If you are sleep deprived, you most likely will not have the time or energy to sit down and read a book. But you can get all the same info on a 45-minute dvd, even with the baby on your lap.
posted by vignettist at 8:00 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

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