The biggest parenting challenges in baby’s first year

It’s amazing how something so small can turn your life completely upside down.

Yes we wouldn’t have it any other way, but having a baby certainly brings with it a lot of challenges that we have to ride out as best we can.

Most people joke about lack of sleep when you tell them you’re expecting, and that is without a doubt one of the biggest challenges. And let’s be honest, when you’re in the thick of it yourself it’s no laughing matter.

But there are lots more challenges that took me completely by surprise. Things I thought wouldn’t be an issue that turned out to be huge and things that hadn’t even crossed my mind.

These are the biggest challenges in your baby’s first year and my advice on how to overcome them:

Breastfeeding

When breastfeeding my first baby didn’t work out I was devastated. But during my pregnancy I had told myself repeatedly that it wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t breastfeed her.

It’s surprising how much your attitude to breastfeeding can change once you’ve actually had your baby. This is in part down to the massive amount of pressure exerted on new mums to get your baby on the boob because “breast is best”.

A lot of guilt and worry can arise around this issue. You feel guilty if you can’t breastfeed and you worry whether your baby is getting enough milk if you do.

If you can’t breastfeed, for whatever reason, do not beat yourself up about it. Fed is best. Your baby will be fine and you are doing a fantastic job.

If you’re worrying about breastfeeding the right way, check your latch by watching some informative videos on YouTube or visit a local breastfeeding group for advice. If you’re getting lots of wet and dirty nappies every day then you’re doing it right.


Read more: The crucial early weeks of breastfeeding 


Lack of sleep

Sleep deprivation is the absolute pits. When you’re tired, doing anything at all, even making breakfast, feels like a gargantuan effort.

If your baby is keeping you up nearly all night, every night over the course of several weeks or even months you will begin to feel like you’re losing your mind.

The fact is some babies are worse at sleep than others. Some require more help getting back to sleep in the middle of the night.

If you feel confident doing it, co-sleeping can help but only if you follow the safety guidance from experts such as those at the Lullaby Trust.

If not, you need to ride it out and get a lot of help from friends and relatives wherever possible so that you can catch up on rest in the day. Sleep training shouldn’t be tried until after six months.

Controlled crying can work wonders, but it’s not for everyone. Teaching your baby to self-soothe can be made easier with a dummy as it satisfies their need to suckle to relax.

I’ve got a baby who didn’t sleep for a year. She now sleeps 12 hours a night, so there is hope!


Read more: When will me baby sleep through the night

Read more: How I got my one-year-old to sleep through the night 


When your baby will only sleep on you

In the first three months of their lives both of my babies would only nap in the day if they were on me or out in the pram.

I had to park myself in front of the TV for an hour and accept that I was trapped.

Having a bedtime routine can really help with this issue, as you’re giving your baby cues to let them know they’re about to go to sleep. This can get them used to being put down in their cot to sleep. Some babies will still fight it for a while, but be persistent and it will get better.


Read more: The fourth trimester 


Unsolicited advice

When it comes to babies, everyone has an opinion! Advice can be amazing in the first year, however when you’re being bombarded with it all the time without prompting it can get exhausting.

Modern day parenting is unique because of the access we have to a huge amount of information at the swipe of a finger on our smartphones. Other generations may not realise we actually have heard it all and got the T-shirt.

In addition, a lot of the advice has changed now. We don’t give our babies whisky in the bottle to make them sleep anymore, for example! We also don’t put babies to sleep on their front due to the SIDs risk.

When it comes to advice you haven’t asked for, have a standard, polite response. This might be “oh right, how interesting I hadn’t thought of that,” and then change the subject pronto.


Read more: Outdated parenting advice


The mess

When you’re busy dealing with dirty nappies, crying and lack of sleep, the housework tends to get completely ignored. Babies also come with a surprising amount of stuff that can leave your home feeling cluttered.

If you’re house proud like me this will have come as a massive and unwelcome shock to see your once beautiful home looking more like a chaotic daycare centre.

But you need to chill out about the cleaning, for the first few months at least. It doesn’t matter if the vacuum doesn’t come out all the time. Accept the clutter for now, you will find a place for everything as time goes on.

There are more important things to focus on than the mess right now.

The worry

When you’re a new parent you worry about everything. Random rashes, coughs, runny noses, sleep, getting enough milk, milestones, the list is endless.

We all worry and that’s normal. Try not to let the worry consume you and ruin what you have to be happy about, which is your baby right there in front of you.

Room temperature

This is still an issue for me even though I’m three years in with two kids!

In the summer we worry our kids will overheat and in the winter we worry the plunging overnight temperatures are going to leave them feeling like a little ice cube.

I recommend getting a room thermometer like a GroEgg that tells you what the temperature is and changes colour depending on whether the room is too cold, too hot or just right. The Gro Company also has guidance on what your child should be wearing in bed depending on the temperature.

Of course you may still worry as the temperature can change overnight. Try to plan for what you expect the temperature to be in the night and check on your child before you go to bed if you’re really worried.

Vaccinations

Your child will have a lot of these in the first year and they are not pleasant. It’s extremely hard to see your baby in pain and the jabs can also cause them to be out of sorts and grouchy for a few days afterwards.

Try to remember that by vaccinating your child you are protecting them from terrible things that could hurt them far worse. Vaccinations save lives, fact.

Follow the advice from the nurse who does your child’s jabs, which is likely to include giving Calpol after the Meningitis B vaccination.

Leaving the house

Before children you picked up your bag, put on your shoes and left the house. Easy.

After having your baby you now have to remember all of the stuff they might need when you’re out, get them into a coat, which can prove challenging particularly as a lot of babies choose that moment to poo or vomit, and get them into a buggy. It’s tiring before you’ve even stepped out of the door.

However it does get easier with practice and it does wonders for you getting that fresh air every day.

Separation anxiety

Your baby loves you, which is great, but when they cry every single time you take one step away from them, it can be an absolute nightmare.

You might just be trying to have a sit down, or empty the dishwasher. Whatever the reason, sometimes we just need to put our children down for 10 minutes. That’s not a crime!

Unfortunately there’s no solution for separation anxiety except to ride it out. If you’ve got something you need to do, try to get your baby involved in something like playing with blocks or a favourite toy.

This can hopefully leave them distracted enough to give you a couple of minutes.

Your baby will eventually get over this phase.

What challenges have you faced in your baby’s first year? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

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The biggest parenting challenges in baby's first year

The biggest parenting challenges you will face in the first year and how to handle them - lots of tips for new mamas

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