Baby Milestones

First-time parents often worry about the milestones in their baby’s life. Advice from experienced parents can make things easier, so here are some wise words from moms who made it through everything from breastfeeding to developmental concerns.

Breastfeeding

Other than the basics, there’s no foolproof method of breastfeeding. But when you’ve never done it before, it can seem pretty intimidating. “No one told me that breastfeeding each child would be so different and each kid would have their own way of doing things,” says Serena Robar, mother of three from Maple Valley, Wash. “My daughter was a very fast nurser and would be done in less than five minutes for both sides. My sons were sippers and could take up to 40 minutes to nurse.”

Even if you have a rough start, you’ll soon discover that as long as your baby is getting nourishment, it’s all good.

Coming Home from the Hospital

Everything feels safe while you’re in the hospital surrounded by helpful people who know what they’re doing. But you’ll eventually need to go home.

“I bought into all the books and articles saying that the event of the baby coming home from the hospital is a special occasion that needs to be celebrated with a special outfit and lots of relatives around,” says Kelli Estes, a mother of two from Woodinville, Wash. “Big mistake. Dress the baby in snuggly pajamas and only have the essential people around, like your husband, maybe your mom. When you get home you’re going to be adjusting to life with another person in the house, plus you’re going to be tired and full of hormones. Save the family celebrations for a few weeks later after you’ve settled into your new life and routine.”

Monica Burns of Richmond, Va., proves that Estes’ advice is well-founded. “Warning, warning – most babies have a transition period between the bright lights of the hospital nursery and the darkness of the home nursery,” Burns says. “When I brought my oldest home, I was up all night with her walking the hallway trying to get her to stop crying. I literally didn’t get sleep for almost 28 hours.”

Yet another reason to cut yourself some slack and let the family adjust.

Doctor Visits

Even the healthiest infant needs well-baby visits. Some babies may not mind, but most will be less than enthusiastic about the prodding, probing and finger pricks.

“Be prepared,” Burns says. “They will cry, and getting a shot will not feel good for them, but statistics are showing that parents who don’t vaccinate are not doing their children or themselves any good. Not to mention sending their unvaccinated kids to daycare where they can spread measles and the like to other kids who are vaccinated.”

Reminding yourself that you are protecting your baby’s health can make it a little easier to handle your precious baby’s tears.

First Trip out of the House

Making your way out into the world with an infant can be pretty scary for a first-time parent. These moms promise you’ll survive, though.

“After a few weeks we finally felt comfortable taking our newborn to a restaurant for lunch,” says Shelly Weber, a mom from Woodinville, Wash. “We packed everything (we were probably over-prepared for a natural disaster but, just in case, we brought it all). It took us 10 minutes to load up the stroller with all the stuff we might need for the next hour only to travel a few feet away to the restaurant. Once inside, we carefully scouted a far-away corner where no one was sitting. I darted to the back and kept the hood of the baby seat up the entire time to prevent anyone from sneezing or coughing in her general direction. No one was allowed to see or touch her, especially no other germy little kids. We inhaled our food and rushed back home.”

It took Weber a few more outings to become comfortable with her daughter out in public. “Chalk it up to being a new parent, we still get a chuckle about a lot of our learning curves with a new baby,” she says.

Estes worried about that first trip away from home, too. “I was terrified he’d start crying and I wouldn’t know what to do to calm him down; or I would set him down and forget him somewhere; or someone would take him if I looked away for a second,” Estes says. “I was a ball of nerves, so it took many short trips before I got comfortable with it.”

Responds to Sound

Some baby milestones aren’t about stress, but about awe and wonder, times when your baby begins to feel like a real little person.

“I was amazed when my sons were born that they turned their head toward Daddy when he talked to them,” Robar says. “They were fresh out of the womb, and the first time they heard Daddy’s voice they turned toward him because they recognized it.”

First Smiles

Nothing is quite as special as the first time your baby smiles in response to you. Natalie Damschroder’s daughter was 2 weeks old at the time of her first smile.

“Daddy had just come home from work, one of his first days back after his short paternity leave, and was holding her,” says the Mechanicsburg, Pa., resident. “He was … making faces and cooing/babbling, and bounced her up and down in the air. A wide grin spread across her face. When he stopped, it faded and when he bounced her again, she grinned. No one believed us until we showed them the tape. Of course, everyone brags about how early their child smiles, and everyone else says it’s not possible, it’s just gas. I say, you’re the parent. You know your kid. You’ll recognize that first real smile, without a doubt.”

Sleeps Through the Night

This can seem like the most anticipated milestone to a tired parent. It’ll come, have no doubt.

“Here’s something no one ever told me before I had kids – your baby might sleep through the night once, then not do it again for months!” Estes says. “When my son first slept through the night at a few months old, I celebrated and marked the occasion down in his baby book. And then he went back to waking up every few hours and we were all miserable again. I thought if I let him cry he would learn to sleep so I finally gave in, and it took about three months of that torture before he was able to sleep through the night reliably at about 9 months old. With my second child, I started much earlier letting him cry to get to sleep … and he didn’t sleep through the night until 11 months old! No two kids are alike and there’s no one answer, so don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong!”

Hopefully, some of the shared wisdom here will help you feel that you’re not so alone. Just enjoy your new baby and trust that it’ll all work out.