Lessons 2023 Taught Me as a New Parent  

January 8, 2024, Sam Rounsavell

Baby in a party hat sitting next to words Lessons 2023 Taught Me as a New ParentI am not an overly sentimental person; however, I am not ready to say goodbye to 2023. This is the year I became a mother and met my sweet, silly, and strong baby, Camille.  I knew very little about babies and how to care for them before having my little one, and I received a lot of helpful advice from friends and family. There have been days (and weeks) that felt unsurmountable, and leaning into the wisdom of other mothers has helped me get through difficult periods. In this post, I will share some of the information that I found most helpful and a few things I wish I had known earlier.

Prevent diaper rash 

Baby on a blue towel having their diaper changed is looking at the cameraWe noticed that our baby was developing diaper rash when she was only a few days old, and it continued to get worse despite constant diaper changes, baths, diaper creams, and diaper-free time. My husband and I tried many different approaches with little success. As with most things that you google, it is easy to find sources that seem credible and give complete opposite advice. The diaper rash persisted for over two months. We tried several of the popular diaper creams with no luck. After checking with our pediatrician, I tried a baking soda bath, and the redness immediately went down. We also switched to a more “natural” diaper balm with simple ingredients and no added fragrance and used cloth wipes and water instead of disposable wipes. The rash slowly healed. Babies develop so quickly that it is hard to know what had the biggest impact, but these changes did seem to help. If we have another baby, I will use a diaper balm from the beginning, especially knowing that the meconium (baby’s first poop) will be difficult to wipe off, and this can irritate their skin. I’ll also give them a baking soda bath at the first sign of diaper rash.

Use a hairdryer at the changing table.

Dad carrying hairdryer in one hand and toddler in the otherOne of the best pieces of practical advice that a friend gave me was to use a hairdryer at the changing table. There are blow dryers specifically made for this- in my opinion, you don’t need one of these. All you need is a hairdryer that has a “low” setting. When we first had Camille, we did not use the blow dryer, and the diaper changes were awful. She would start crying as soon as we bent over to set her down on the changing table. When she was a few weeks old, we brought out the hair dryer, and she immediately calmed down when she felt the warm air and liked the noise it made. There are cautions online that using a hair dryer can cause wind burn, so we are very careful with the blow dryer and only use it for around 10 seconds, moving it around so it’s not concentrated in one area. Camille is eight months old and has continued to seem content during diaper changes.

Be prepared to set boundaries.

new parents holding their baby togetherEarly on, my husband and I decided we were uncomfortable with pictures of Camille online. We are fortunate and knew that family would respect this, and we communicated early on that we did not want pictures posted to social media. We still wanted to share photos of Camille with our family, so we created a Google photo album and shared the link with close family. This has worked well. My husband and I also learned early on that discussing our comfort level with people holding Camille before entering a social situation helped us feel more comfortable. We talk about whether we are comfortable with people holding her and who we are comfortable holding her. I am still learning not to worry too much about hurting people’s feelings if they want to hold Camille, and I tell them no. Mentally preparing for these situations ahead of time has helped, and I will run through what I can say if I need to tell someone no, such as if someone I don’t know asks to hold Camille.

Self Care Wheel from Olga Phoenix.comTake care of your “whole” self.

A big part of my identity is being a “hard worker,” and my feelings of self-worth are impacted by productivity. The shift from my job (where I felt I could often go beyond basic job expectations, reaffirming my need to feel valued/productive) to being a stay-at-home mom has been challenging. I share this self-reflection because I imagine these feelings are not uncommon. Since being a parent doesn’t have a clock-out time, for the first several months, I struggled to allow myself to rest fully, especially when my husband was at work, and Camille was down for a nap. If I sat down to read or watch a TV show, I would feel anxious and have a running list of everything I thought I needed to accomplish. Making a to-do list has been very helpful, and I can prioritize what I need to get done. I still struggle to truly rest sometimes, and I’ve started to think about what I need to feel balanced. I will add those things to my list (like a walk, time outside, calling a friend, etc.). I like the self-care wheel because it helps you look at caring for your “whole self” and consider areas you may be neglecting. I am a long way from where I want to be, but I am slowly making progress. I hope you can take some time and reflect on what area/areas you need to take time for yourself in 2024. Your well-being is so important, and taking care of yourself helps you be the best version of who you are for your little one/little ones.