Congratulations on completing your first year of parenting! As my own daughter just turned one- I’ve been able to reflect on the challenges, joys, and learning opportunities that I’ve encountered in the last 12 months.
Here are some key things that I’ve come away with:
#1 Sleep is essential
You may have heard firsthand how important sleep is for both you and your baby. Getting enough rest has a huge part in your focus, patience, and (ahem!) mood – which can make a huge difference in your ability to handle the challenges of parenthood. Although it isn’t always helpful advice to “sleep when the baby sleeps” (maybe you should also try to “do laundry when the baby does laundry” and “clean when the baby cleans” too! Sorry, not helpful!) – you SHOULD try to prioritize your rest. Stick to a bedtime for yourself, watch afternoon caffeine intake, put the phone down, and if you are tired mid-day, make it a priority to at least sit and relax for a bit.
#2 Babies develop quickly
If you’re anything like me, you are amazed at how quickly your baby grew and changed during their first year. From barely being able to sit on their own, to crawling and walking (and quickly running after that!), to taking in and exploring the world around them – every day has brought new milestones and accomplishments. No one prepares you for the fact that once you learn how to take care of a newborn, they just as quickly become a 6-month-old. And once you learn how to take care of a 6- month-old, they become a 10-month-old! Just when you start to think that you’ve got a grip on what you’re doing, your child has the audacity to grow up and change.
#3 Routine is helpful, but don’t let it control your life
Establishing a regular routine for yourself and your baby can be incredibly helpful in managing the demands of parenthood. A consistent schedule of naps, feedings/mealtimes, and bedtime can help your baby feel more secure and help you plan your day. That being said – don’t allow your schedule to dominate your life. It’s important to still have a life outside of having a baby. It’s ok every now and then to have an inconsistent nap arrangement, a later dinner time, or a missed bath because of a social event or activity.
#4 Self-care is important
This is a topic I am particularly passionate about. Taking care of yourself is essential for your own well-being and helps you be a better parent. Taking time for exercise, hobbies, and other activities you enjoy can help you feel more balanced and energized. And let me tell you, this extends to so much more than bubble baths, face masks, and “mommy wine” culture. Boring self-care (like making sure you’re eating breakfast, changing the bedsheets, or cleaning out the refrigerator) matters too.
#5 Parenting takes a village
Whether you’re co-parenting with a partner, relying on family and friends for support, or seeking guidance from parenting groups or resources, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to do this alone. Building a support network can help you feel more confident and capable as a parent.
#6 Every baby is different
While there are many common experiences and challenges when it comes to parenting, every baby is unique. What may work for one family or child, might not work for the next. Take suggestions from well-meaning loved ones (even me!) with a grain of salt. It’s important to stay open-minded and flexible as you navigate your own parenting journey. Do what works best for your child and your family.
#7 Patience and self-regulation is key
I have learned that patience is one of the most valuable things I can cultivate for myself as a parent. From dealing with fussy newborns who want to cluster feed for HOURS, to navigating clingy infants who want to move and explore the world so badly but just can’t yet, to pushing boundaries (did anyone else need to fence off their Christmas tree this year?) – it’s important to stay calm, compassionate, and patient as you help your child grow and develop.
Overall, the first year of parenting has been filled with immense joy, excitement, beauty, wonder, and, ok, maybe a few tears along the way. It’s a year that I look back on and know that so much growth and learning happened. By staying open to new experiences, building your village, prioritizing your self-care, and rolling with the punches from time to time, you can help ensure that you and your baby will continue to thrive in the years ahead. And remember, I’m right there in the trenches with you.
We got this!