Guide for First Time Parents

Men kissing belly

Becoming parents brings forth plenty of excitement and joy as you enter into a new chapter of life and experience parenthood for the first time. Though it is a period of celebration, it can also feel daunting as you begin to learn more about the life changes that await you.

The key to transitioning into parenthood and newborn baby care is preparation.

This will enable you to prevent stressful situations from happening, or to know how to handle the inevitable situations that new parenthood brings that you cannot prepare for.

This 5-part guide provides the following sections:

• Page 1 – Overview – Guide for First Time Parents: Caring for a Newborn Baby
• Page 2: Tips and Advice for First Time Parent
• Page 3: Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms and Health
• Page 4: Birth Plan and Baby Checklist
• Page 5: Newborn Baby Care

Note: This guide offers tips, information, and resources for first time parents. Please consult your doctor, nurse, or other medical professionals with specific questions.

Tips and Advice for First Time Parent

Tips for New Parents

Even after preparing to become new parents during the nine months of pregnancy, you may still leave the hospital after labor feeling like you have no clue what you’re doing. Rest assured that this is certainly normal for first time parents, as the best (and only true way) to learn how to be parents is through experience.

Many first time parents seek the following resources:
• Nurses – Ask them questions, as they are a great resource to help you learn how to hold, burp, change, and care for your newborn.
• Feeding specialists or lactation nurses – They help to guide them through bottle-feeding or nursing during the first few weeks at home.

Newborn Hygiene

When it comes to newborn hygiene, it is critical for new parents to keep in mind that their newborn babies are very vulnerable when it comes to germ and illness exposure. Newborns do not yet have strong immune systems, and are susceptible to infection and bacteria.

Aside from optimum hygiene for a healthy newborn, the most important piece of advice for new parents is to prepare as much as you can ahead of time by doing things like cooking meals and freezing them, forming a birth plan, and buying what your baby needs well in advance.

New Parent Books

Learning as much as you can about parenting, and also reading as much advice for new parents as possible, will help you feel prepared when your family’s newest addition arrives. Books will help you understand how the new baby will be developing and coping after birth, what you can expect during pregnancy and delivery, and much more, and give you tools to navigate new parenthood.

Below are popular books for first time parents:
● Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin – The nation’s leading midwife, Ina May shares with you the key elements of having the best birth experience for you. She discusses the benefits of natural childbirth through birth stories and practical advice.
● The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp – This book for first time parents is arguably the best of the decade. Dr. Karp addresses remedies for a crying baby, granting parents relief and understanding of the calming reflex.
● The Attachment Parenting Book: A Commonsense Guide to Understanding and Nurturing Your Baby by William and Martha Sears – A doctor and nurse husband and wife team, Dr. Bill and Martha Sears answer many questions of first time parents in this book and practical guide to parenting.

Parenting and Childbirth Classes

Childbirth classes are a great way to prepare for birth and new parenting. Classes are set up in a variety of ways, ranging from a one-time course to weekly classes offered over a time period of a month or two.

A trained childbirth instructor typically leads the classes that teach parents-to-be about childbirth. This will enable first time parents to be able to make more informed decisions when it comes to their birth plan, and to ultimately minimize any worry or fears.

Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms and Health

Pregnancy is a different experience for each woman. Over the course of the next nine months, you will go through various symptoms that may differ throughout your first, second, and third trimesters.

Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Early signs of pregnancy are noticed by women at different time periods following conception – not everyone feels them at the same point in time after conception. Hormone levels are drastically fluctuating after conception, and your body will begin to change as soon as two to five weeks afterwards.

The biggest indicator is a missed period, though other early signs of pregnancy are:
• Sore breasts
• Morning sickness
• Heightened sense of smell
• Food cravings
• Cramping

If you experience any early pregnancy symptoms when trying to conceive, the best way to confirm if you are pregnant is to take a test.

First trimester

Your body will be undergoing many changes throughout your first trimester of pregnancy, which can be overwhelming as you feel many new symptoms.

Some symptoms are more common than others, but again, every pregnancy is different (even a woman’s first pregnancy from the second).

Common symptoms (all stem from the changing of your hormones) are:
• Tender, swollen breasts
• Morning sickness
• Increased urination
• Fatigue
• Heartburn
• Constipation

Second trimester

If you do not feel well during your first trimester, the second trimester is typically where you begin to feel better. Morning sickness should taper off, mood swings may decrease, and you should see a rise in your energy level. This is the best time to begin preparations for your coming baby.

You will start to feel some fluttering sensations of your baby’s movements during your second trimester. You should also expect your breasts to grow larger as they continue to prepare for breastfeeding, though they may not be as tender as they were during your first trimester.

Thanks to your growing belly, you may feel some discomfort regarding your skin, such as stretch marks starting to appear or itchiness and sensitivity to the sun.

Other common symptoms of the second trimester are:
• Leg pain
• Puffing and swelling
• Back pain
• Heartburn
• Urinary tract infections

Third trimester

You’re in the home stretch of your pregnancy once you hit the third trimester. There can certainly be some physical challenges during this last stage, and it’s important to know what you may experience in terms of symptoms, such as:
• Back aches
• Discomfort in your hips and pelvis
• Braxton Hicks contractions
• Enlarged breasts
• Vaginal discharge
• Fatigue

Birth Plan and Baby Checklist

A birth plan will help you to navigate various critical decisions you have to make ahead of time. It is also useful to have a birth plan to share with others when the day of labor arrives.

Though a prepared birth plan can help you focus on giving birth rather than decision making, it is important to understand that situations may occur that you did not plan for, forcing your plan to change.

Early Signs of Labor

Though it is unknown what mechanisms bring on labor, there are distinct signs of labor to look out for toward the end of your pregnancy term. A first sign of labor is when the baby “drops”. You may notice even a few weeks before labor that the baby has moved lower in the pelvic region and looks to be sitting lower.

Another unmistakable sign of labor is contractions that are strong and regular. Uterine contractions guide the baby into a lower part of the uterine canal, and ultimately, contractions will push the baby out into the world. It is considered labor when the contractions occur closer than five minutes apart for more than an hour or two.

A sign that labor is right around the corner is also when your water breaks, or when the protective sac of amniotic fluid ruptures. A pregnant woman’s water can break days before labor, during labor, or not at all.

Stages of Labor

During the first stage of labor, the cervix begins to dilate. Over the next several hours, contractions (lasting between 25 and 45 seconds) will occur and become more frequent, and the cervix will continue to dilate.

During active labor, contractions become drastically stronger and closer together in frequency. This phase is typically between 2 and 6 hours, and the cervix dilates to about 8 centimeters.

Once you are in the transition stage of labor, dilation is complete and contractions are strong. The next stage of labor is birth, where your body shifts from dilating to pushing. This phase can last from 15 minutes to several hours as the baby makes its way through the birth canal.

Baby Checklist

If you think about all the items you should acquire before your baby arrives, it can be overwhelming. By making a checklist of the essentials, you can cross items of the list as you purchase them over time, making the process less stressful and more exciting.

Below are the must-have items on your baby checklist for diapering, feeding, and hygiene:
● Diapering – diaper changing pads, rash ointment, waterproof pads for a changing table, dirty diaper receptacle, wipes or cotton cloths, small thermos to contain warm water for infants under six weeks old, two newborn diaper packages
● Feeding – nursing pillow, six burp cloths, five bottles with newborn nipples, bottle brush, insulated bottle holder for diaper bag to warm bottles on the go, nursing bras and pads, and a breast pump
● Cleaning – hooded towels, two packs of washcloths, cotton swabs, baby shampoo and body wash, an infant bath tub, baby nail clipper, soft brush and comb, rubbing alcohol, petroleum jelly, a digital thermometer, bulb nasal aspirator, and mild soap for laundry

Newborn Baby Care

Once your baby is here and you are on your way from the hospital, you will likely feel all sorts of emotions, including joy and excitement, in addition to possibly feeling overwhelmed. Take a look at the following advice for the next twelve months of new parenthood:
0-12 months age advice

• Asking for help is encouraged and does not make you an incompetent parent
• Babies don’t need as much as you may think. They outgrow clothes quickly and you may consider borrowing some baby items from friends or relatives.
• Figuring out how to get your baby to sleep is the way that you will be able to get regular sleep.

Sleeping, Diet, Teething

Swaddling is one technique that helps babies sleep soundly. They have a reflex that sometimes startles them awake, but being swaddled will prevent this from happening as often and help your newborn baby to stay asleep.

Known as “dream feeding”, the feeding right before the newborn baby’s bedtime is critical to their sleeping through the night.

For newborn babies, it is recommended to stick with breast milk or formulas. Feed your newborn baby as they demand it, which is typically between 8- to 12 times daily.

Drooling and fussiness are often signs of a teething infant. When it comes to newborn care, teething usually begins around six months of age.

Baby Check Ups

Infant care requires many regular checkups at the doctor’s office to make sure that they are healthy and developing on track, as the first two years of a newborn baby’s life are critical for development.

Newborn care scheduling usually follows this pattern:
• 1 week
• 1 month
• 2 months
• 4 months
• 6 months
• 9 months
• 12 months

Essential baby health tips

Healthy Feeding – When it comes to newborn baby care, one of the most important things to do is to help your baby gain weight through healthy feeding. By month four, the baby’s weight should have doubled since their birth weight, and typically triples by their first birthday.

Rashes – These are a common health issue with newborns. You can consult your baby’s doctor to determine next steps if your baby gets a rash, as they are sometimes caused by allergies, fungus, eczema, and other causes.

Vaccines – There are several vaccines that are part of newborn baby care. Getting vaccines for your children is the best way to protect them from life-threatening diseases, such as polio or measles.

In summary, entering into the chapter of life known as new parenting is an exciting and joyful time. With the right preparation and knowledge of what to expect during pregnancy and as parents of a newborn baby, the transition will flow smoothly and allow you to enjoy your new baby as much as possible.

Sources and Additional Readings: is the website for the magazine “Parents”, with healthy and supportive information for babies and children: prepares parents for raising healthy babies and provides content on health and development-related topics: is a social media website for reading and showcases reviews and book summaries: is the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, featuring physician-reviewed patient education materials, that includes care for the physical, mental, and emotional health of the whole family from newborns to older adults:

Continue Reading

• Page 1 – Overview – Guide for First Time Parents: Caring for a Newborn Baby
• Page 2: Tips and Advice for First Time Parent
• Page 3: Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms and Health
• Page 4: Birth Plan and Baby Checklist
• Page 5: Newborn Baby Care