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Advice for first-time parents from a neonatal nurse

By Laura Dryjanski

Years of planning and anticipation lead to months of waiting and meticulous preparation, and, finally, the arrival of your newest family member. All this time culminates in the day that you finally get to bring your baby home. If you’re like most expectant families, you have elicited the help and advice from every source imaginable as you have prepared to become parents. Numerous books on parenting now decorate your bedside table. Your friends and family members have all shared their personal anecdotes. Mommy-blogs dominate your Internet bookmarks. Your DVR is no longer filled with the newest episodes of prime-time shows but the most recent intelligence from Dr. Oz. This wealth of information, all coming from seemingly credible sources, can be overwhelming and even contradictory. Your sister swears that pacifiers are a savior, while the book you just read urges parents to consider the impacts of nipple confusion.  For many first-time parents, going home and transitioning to parenthood is incredibly perplexing.

It’s important to acknowledge that every baby is different and that you as a parent get to decide what information to use in the parenting of your child. You’ll grow to know your child better than anyone else and will be charged with the task of discovering what will work best with your child, regardless of what the mommy-blog or your neighbor impressed upon you.  Even as staff members, it can be difficult to sift through the amount of information out there on babies and parenting; it’s even more challenging trying to educate parents in a manner that aligns with their views paired with what will work best with their individual child. With all things said, it’s vital to understand that you alone will know what your child needs, what will work best for your family, and you will become the expert regarding the care of your new baby.

As a staff member, I can tell you that no matter what type of parenting and care you have chosen to uphold when it comes to your new baby, we are here to support you.  Before taking your new family member home, it is our ultimate goal to make you feel comfortable and confident in your skills and knowledge as you prepare to successfully raise your child. Some of the most commonly presented questions by new parents surround breastfeeding and basic care. While it’s considered natural and holistic, for the average first-time mother, it is hard. Babies aren’t born with the innate knowledge encompassing all things breastfeeding, including immediately knowing how to latch or coordinate feeding. It will get frustrating at some point. You will wonder if you will ever be able to successfully establish feedings or why the advice and guidance you enlisted when preparing for your child is failing you. Just know that the first couple of weeks are tough for every new family, but you and your baby will figure each other out.

Over time, you will get to know your child better than anyone else, and you will become a key asset to your child’s health care. While your new pediatrician may be an expert on childhood development and common illnesses, you will become the expert on your child. As your child begins to grow and develop, trust this information and know that your knowledge is valuable when it comes to your child’s health care. You alone are your child’s best advocate and trust the sense that you will develop. As health care providers, we greatly value your knowledge and the information you bring regarding your child’s needs.

Lastly, the best piece of advice that I can personally offer as a staff member is to enjoy every stage of your child’s development. Your child will transition quickly through stages and before you know it, you’ll be trading your sleepless nights for days spent chasing your now mobile child, who can’t seem to help but get into everything around the house. Appreciate each phase and developmental milestone your child experiences, trust in your parental instincts, and be patient with yourself as you transition into this exciting new time in your life.

Laura joined Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in 2008 after graduating from Bethel University. She’s currently in graduate school studying to become a family nurse practitioner at Minnesota State University, Mankato and will graduate in 2014. She wants to specialize in either sports medicine or genetics. She’s active in leadership in the NICU as a member of the Unit Council and works on the family experience committee. In her spare time, she’s an avid Crossfitter.