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5 Things New Parents Really Need

I thought it might be helpful to recap some of the things we really appreciated after the birth of our son.

What do new parents really need? To know you're there for them.

It's vital to have support as you enter parenthood. The saying "it takes a village to raise a child" has historical roots. In the past, new parents had their families nearby, their neighbors, and many hands willing to help in the rearing of their child. Today, though, that sense of community isn't a given. New parents can face raising a child completely on their own, without the support of nearby relatives or friends. It's really important to avoid becoming isolated.

1. Fellowship/Support Groups

There are a lot of options when it comes to fellowship and support groups. You'll find there are local groups that meet weekly or monthly -- these are a great opportunity to get out of the house and feel like a person again. Not sure where to find any such groups? A number of international groups such as La Leche League, Mothers of Preschoolers, and Babywearing International have listings of local chapters near you.

Once my husband went back to work and I was at home with our infant all day long, I found these support groups invaluable. It was nice to get out of the house, to sit and talk with other moms who were going through the same things I was going through, and just to be someplace where no one cared if I was dressed in sweatpants and a t-shirt.

2. Homemade Meals

When you have a new baby, there is nothing better than having people deliver homemade meals to your front door just before dinnertime. Having a meal registry really takes the stress of "what's for dinner" out of the picture. Plus, it's a great way for your friends and family to have a chance to meet the new baby when they stop by. We were blessed to receive meals from a number of local moms and our relatives too. The moms typically dropped off the meal, said hi to baby, then left. Our relatives would bring over enough food to feed both us and them, so we had time to relax and let someone else hold the baby for a while (and usually take care of dishes for us afterwards too!).

If you're thinking about delivering a meal to new parents, keep in mind -- any meal is appreciated, no matter how simple. It's never a bad idea to have leftovers either -- so don't worry about making too much... it won't go to waste. One of our favorite meals we received was pepperoni cheese bread and salad. Simple, but good. Make sure to ask about any food intolerances or allergies -- I know some nursing moms who've had to cut out dairy for their baby's sake. Freezer meals may be an option to consider too.

3. Offering/Receiving Help

Some new parents are really reluctant to ask for help, but are more than willing to accept help if offered. Trust me on this one, I am stubborn and don't like to ask for help. With my first, I had a particularly difficult recovery (cesarean *after* 24 hours of labor), and learned that I really did have to ask for (and accept) help. My mother and mother-in-law were such a blessing to my husband and me during the postpartum weeks.

After the hubbub of the first week or so, life started to settle into a routine for us, but we had some friends who would regularly touch base just to see how we were doing and to ask whether we needed anything. Remember to reach out not just immediately following the birth, but in the weeks, or even months after as well. Some couples take longer than others to adjust to the new demands of parenting, so they may be appreciative of your staying in touch.

Sometimes the best help is offering to hold the baby so that mom can get a shower or nap; other times it might be to take care of the dishes overflowing from the kitchen sink. Really, the most important thing is just letting new parents know that you're there for them.

4. A Break (Date Night)

As the days and weeks fly by, new parents can get caught up in diapers, feeding, and all things baby -- neglecting themselves and their relationship in the process. Some say "baby comes first," but do you remember how in airplanes you're told to put on your own oxygen mask so you can then be able assist others around you? Make sure to keep your marriage, your relationship, a priority. By nurturing yourself, you will be better energized to care for your child.

But how to do things as a couple when baby makes three? It can be tough, particularly if your infant doesn't take to being left with others. Fortunately, in the newborn stage, babies are pretty portable. You can take them out with you for dinner at a restaurant, or go on a walk together with baby in tow. Once you have a general idea of when your baby naps and sleeps, it may be possible to plan a date night "in" at home -- even if it's just a movie.

5. Experience (It Takes Time!)

As with any new thing, adjusting to parenthood takes time. Don't worry about parenting perfectly -- there is no such thing. You'll do the best you can with what you've got. And yes, you WILL make mistakes. Everyone does. But, the great thing about parenting is's a learning process. We learn through experience, by listening to the experiences of others, and by remembering to be flexible. You don't have to set your parenting rules in stone, you can change and adapt along the way. Take what works, and toss the rest.

What are some good sources of advice? Well, those who've been there, done that... parents and in-laws, for starters. We have a bunch of parenting books, but most of them I haven't read, to be honest. The best sources of advice are really tidbits gleaned here and there, through conversation with other parents.

One tip we received from good friends of ours? Parenthood will only change you as much as you let it.

You don't have to lose yourself in parenthood. You can keep your identity, expanding it to include parenthood. Being a parent is an addition to your life, a new phase of life -- not separate or compartmentalized. You are still yourself, so don't forget to keep on doing what gives you energy, what revitalizes you and makes you feel excited about life.

BONUS Item: Photos of Baby

Sometimes new parents get so caught up in "surviving" they forget to take snapshots and have professional portraits of baby taken. Despite our plethora of photos from my son's first year, I just realized that aside from our professional newborn session, we have no photos of the three of us. There are plenty of dad with baby, mom with baby, and baby all by himself, but the three of us? Not so much. I am so glad that we have the portraits from our session (thanks Liz of Oh Baby Photography for visiting us in the hospital and creating lovely newborn memories for us).

Resources on Taking Care of New Parents

Ultimate Guide to Taking Care of New Parents ~ Lemon Lime Adventures

Taking Time For Mom

Gift Ideas For New Parents

Frugal Tips for Parents

Tips for Parents of Multiples/Preemies

Capturing Baby Milestones on Camera

It is so exciting to watch your child try something new for the first time. Milestones are a big part of growing up, and babies have *a lot* of growing to do in their first year. While looking for images to share with this post, I was reminiscing over so many fond memories and milestones. It's amazing how quickly they grow, and how quickly we forget those things which were a given at the time.

I'm going to share some tips for capturing your baby milestones on camera, how to document the moments that will matter to you down the road. And you'll see some snapshots from our son's first year too!

Choose a Camera You'll Actually Use

Have a camera at the ready -- seriously. I am so thankful that we invested in a nice pocket camera before our son was born. A lot of people ask me what camera I use to take photos of everyday milestones, and it's interesting to observe how surprised they are when I don't reply that I carry my DSLR and lenses with me. Yes, I love photography, but no, it doesn't dominate my life. There are more important things in life.

I knew that the best camera for documenting my son's milestones would be the one I could carry everywhere with me, one with a good battery life and self-contained lens so I wouldn't have to worry about sensor dust or changing out lenses. More importantly, a pocket camera can go anywhere with you. There isn't the temptation to leave it behind because it's too big and bulky, and you can more discretely capture moments that matter to you. The best camera is one you will actually carry with you. And, bonus for me, the one we selected also does HD videos. Perfect for capturing baby's first steps, or those adorable giggles and murmurs infants make.

Portraits of Baby's First Year

When it comes to capturing baby milestones, there's nothing quite like having professional portraits of your child's first year. As much as I might be biased ;) -- images like these speak to me in a unique way. Looking back, I'm glad we took the time to schedule in regular portrait sessions throughout our son's first year.

My Memories of Our Baby's Milestones

So, back to my personal archives from our son's first year. What memories stand out to me now? Frankly, most have blurred into a conglomeration of thankfulness, wonder, and parental pride. I don't remember the specifics of each milestone, the dates new things were said or done. For that, I'd have to consult my baby's first year calendar, or peruse my snapshots to spur my memory.

Life is so full of new experiences, new discoveries -- we have to be intentional about living in the present, and sometimes that means letting the past become faded and obscure. That's why I'm grateful for the memories and milestones I've documented. The stories and snapshots I've saved from our son's first year. They help us to remember those moments that were so amazing, that made us realize what a blessing it is to be parents.

What memories do I cherish? Remembering how tiny our son was, recalling those moments in the hospital when I finally got to meet the child who had been so wiggly inside the womb (may I add, nothing compared to #2 -- what a wiggle worm!). As they grow, you forget how tiny newborns are, how peaceful a sleeping newborn looks, and how much you loved every stage of growth, every development and milestone.

We celebrated our son's birth with in-hospital newborn portraits. I'd forgotten that we took him home on opening day -- in a baseball onesie. Both sets of grandparents came to visit us at home, as did countless other friends and relatives. We were showered with love and food, support in the ways we needed it most.

Our son held his first toy on our living room floor. He didn't like being on his tummy once he accidentally rolled over for the first time. He smiled so much we called him Mr. Smiles. We built our deck while our son "supervised" from his stroller (one of the few times we used it). He was a trooper for his first plane trip, when we visited friends in DC. His baptism was held on our newly built deck, with friends and family in attendance. Learning to sit, stand, first steps -- we have snapshots of them all. So many memories, and so few words to describe them. That's the reason I love photographs. They bring the emotions and memories of a moment back to the forefront of your mind, allow you to experience the joy and wonder once again.

And what's more, kids love looking at pictures of themselves as babies. While I was gathering these images, my son was giggling in delight at the photos, telling me about what was going on in each one, and asking me questions.

What Milestones Will You Document?

What baby milestones do you see as being most important to you? Are there memories you've documented for each of your kids that you have been intentional about recreating?

Resources On Baby's First Keepsakes, Moments, and Milestones

Here are some resources on capturing baby milestones, moments, and how to celebrate baby's firsts throughout the year! Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Displaying Baby Photos In Your Home

Sometimes figuring out how to display baby photos in your home is tougher than Capturing Baby Milestones on Camera in the first place! Actually, I'll expand that sentiment to include all types of portraits. It's great to have family portraits to document milestones -- but, once they're taken, the dilemma becomes what to do with them?

Depending on what my clients' homes will accommodate, I do usually recommend some sort of wall display. I love displaying baby photos, especially in nurseries! All too soon, babies grow into kids, and those adorable little bundles of joy become little men and women. Where space is a constraint, I've found there are still options for displaying baby photos as part of your home decor -- it just takes some imagination and creativity. A baby's first year album can be displayed on a bookshelf, a floating wall shelf, or coffeetable; smaller framed pieces can grace the smallest of walls and still look meant to be.

In the studio area, where I meet with clients, I have some more ideas for displaying baby photos to share. I mentioned this first option earlier, for those with limited wall space. It is easy to display baby photo books on a floating shelf -- you can arrange multiple books, or pair with picture frames, for a nice, modern look.

What About Your Wall Decor?

What memories do you have on display in your home? Are there photos you've always wanted to put up but have never found the "right" spot?

I know sometimes it's taken me several tries to find the perfect home for a piece of wall decor. What is your experience with displaying baby photos and planning out your ideal wall decor?

Resources on Baby Spaces + Nurseries

Here are some of the other blog posts being featured today. Topics are cover all sorts of baby spaces, from - nursery ideas and to play spaces. You may also want to check out Pottery Barn's How To Create A Frame Display (PDF), and my Pinterest board on Photo + Wall Decor. Links open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @'s board Photo + Wall Decor on Pinterest.

This post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Baby's First Year -- I'm one of 30+ blogs participating. Over the course of a week's time, there will be posts on these topics:

  • taking care of new parents
  • feeding baby
  • taking care of baby
  • baby's milestones
  • baby play
  • baby spaces
  • celebrating baby

Check out the The Ultimate Guide to Baby's First Year for a list of all the posts on each topic.