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Advice for new parents: 16 things you should know as a first-time parent

About to become a parent or recently welcomed a newborn? Parents who’ve been there, done that and washed the sick-stained t-shirt share the things they wish they’d known when becoming a parent for the first time. See their top tips for ditching the guilt, keeping stress at bay and embracing the chaos that comes with new parenthood.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Oct 17, 2022

Advice for new parents with BioGaia

In association with

Children don’t come with an instruction manual and, as any parent will tell you, first-time parenting can be an overwhelming concoction of ethereal highs and challenging lows.

From pregnancy worries about what essentials to buy before your baby arrives, to the early days of caring for a newborn when you don’t know how much sleep your child should be getting, it can feel very overwhelming. 

So, to help you navigate the new-parent minefield, we’ve compiled a handy list of tips for new mums and dads. To make sure we got the best tried-and-tested parenting advice, we scoured our Mumsnet talk forums to get tips from seasoned parents who’ve been through it all. 

Our list includes everything from those must-have baby items parents wish they’d discovered sooner, like BioGaia’s Protectis Baby Drops, as well as advice on how to soothe discomfort in your baby’s tummy. Here are 16 helpful tips for new parents. 

1. Take time for yourself

A seemingly impossible task for any parent knee-deep in nappy changing and nursing, parents on the Mumsnet forums say it’s imperative that first-timers, especially new mums, indulge in some much-needed me time.

It can be hard prioritising yourself when there’s a small human that needs your care and attention, but if you have a support network make the most of it. Whether that’s popping out for a quick coffee with a friend or taking that long-overdue shower, looking after yourself and retaining some sense of normalcy following the lifestyle overhaul that parenting inevitably brings will be hugely beneficial in the long run.

What Mumsnet users say

“Nothing wrong with having some you time. Sometimes you need a break from all the mom duties.” Danikm151 

 “You still need time for yourself - don’t underestimate how important that is and don’t feel guilty!” LadyCluck

2. Trust your instincts

Easier said than done, of course, but Mumsnetters consider this to be one of the most important rules of thumb for any new parent.

When we become parents for the first time, we have no idea what we’re doing so it can be tempting to take on every bit of advice, whether that’s from parenting books or friends and family members who’ve already had children, but trusting your gut can work wonders for stress levels and self-esteem. 

Remember, you know your baby better than anyone so if you feel that there’s something wrong, get some advice from a doctor or your health visitor. If your baby is constantly fussing and crying, it could be colic. Don’t worry, this is quite common, and can be caused by an overproduction of intestinal gas, forceful intestinal contraction, hypersensitivity to cow’s milk, changes in intestinal microbiota or maybe all of them combined. 

What Mumsnet users say

“Trust yourself and listen to yourself. Everyone will have advice and opinions. But you are the one spending 24/7 with your baby and you will become the expert on them. Sure, listen to suggestions, but always back yourself.” Cowgran

“Trust your instincts. It's amazing how primal we can still be when it comes to our babies.” AlexaStop

3. Sleep whenever you can

Sleep may seem like a long-forgotten dream when going through life with a newborn, but, according to the NHS, a lack of sleep can have a negative impact on both your physical and mental health.

 Try to make life as easy as you can for yourself, especially in the first few months of life with a newborn. While cleaning the house or doing the laundry may seem of paramount importance when your baby is finally napping, catching up on some zzzs, or simply just resting your eyes, should always be the number one priority. 

What Mumsnet users say

“You don't do loads of cleaning with a newborn and your husband should be making dinner etc. You sleep whenever you can and you make super easy food.” doadeer

4. Don’t be ruled by guilt

Most parents will tell you that guilt and parenting go hand in hand. And while it’s perfectly normal to second-guess decisions and to experience bouts of occasional guilt, being plagued by it can actually be quite debilitating.

So take some deep breaths, cut yourself some slack and know that you’re doing a great job even though it may not feel like it. Ditching the guilt and celebrating the small wins is one of the first steps to becoming a better parent.

What Mumsnet users say

“Forgive yourself. Things will go wrong. There'll be times when you realise that you could have been doing something a better way, or that ahh, if you'd just fed a bit later she might have slept through the night, and so and so forth. Don't beat yourself up. Just learn from it and move on.” CoalCraft

“Motherhood is not an altar upon which we must martyr ourselves upon. You do YOU, as long as the child is safe, cared for, and you have nourished them... you shouldn't feel guilt. The only time I felt guilt was when I screamed in frustration and made him cry, but I'm human - it's gonna happen.” Cornetttttto

5. Expensive doesn’t always mean better

When it comes to baby stuff, Mumsnetters recommend following the ‘less is more’ approach. With so many brands claiming to offer life-changing products, it can be hard to know what you need and, well, what you don’t.

That means you can get easily caught up in buying the best branded products and fill your home with the baby items you think you’ll need in the first weeks of your baby’s life, but the costs can quickly add up.

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules to making product selections, but second, third and even fourth time parents suggest shopping around for products that fit you, your baby and your budget. This may mean opting for own-brand or secondhand items from time to time.

What Mumsnet users say 

“Buy as much as you can secondhand, especially clothes. They grow so fast and secondhand is really cheap and better for the environment. Also, design your baby's bedroom with a small child age 3-5 in mind. Forget about a fancy nursery. The first 6 months they are in your room (or longer). And they honestly grow so fast nursery furniture is a complete waste of money. If I was doing it over, I'd just get a really good travel cot and call it a day!” gigi556

“They don't have to be expensive at all, or you can spend a fortune! Obviously if you can get second hand equipment that really helps!” Frequentcarpetflyer

Advice for new parents with BioGaia

6. Babies don’t need much

It might be tempting to furnish your baby’s nursery with all the latest kit (and many new parents certainly enjoy this process) but, according to parents who’ve spent a significant amount of time gearing up for a new baby, it isn’t always necessary – and can sometimes be more hassle than it’s worth.

Yes, there are newborn essentials that will make life easier, such as travel systems, maternity bras , breast pumps , baby bottles, and nappies but, when it comes down to it, all a baby really needs is clothes, food and a comfy place to sleep. 

Many Mumsnetters recommend buying the bits you’ll need in the first few weeks of your baby’s life and then adding other items as and when you need them - that way you prevent wasting your time and money buying something you may never actually use.

What Mumsnet users say

“My tip - A new baby doesn't need that much and most things can be bought second hand. Also it's ok to stop, and ask for help.” cataclysmiclife

7. Look after yourself and your baby

This may seem obvious but keeping yourself and your baby healthy is all that really matters in the first months of their life. At a time when your body is already going through so much – from sleep deprivation to recovering from labour - it is important to take steps to look after yourself.

Mums who’ve been there and done it recommend eating decent meals – batch cooking during pregnancy can really help with this - resting when you can and getting fresh air to keep you feeling healthy. 

You can help give your baby a healthy start too. This includes giving them a food supplement with probiotics, such as BioGaia Protectis Baby Drops with Vitamin D*. Vitamin D contributes to the normal function of the immune system in children. 

What Mumsnet users say

“At the moment you are trying to learn the toughest job in the world, getting to know a tiny human who doesn't know night from day, all while recovering from pregnancy and giving birth, and while getting the kind of sleep pattern that would probably be considered torture under the Geneva convention. Do not be too hard on yourself right now. It will get better, I promise.” katmarie

8. All babies are different

Seeing your baby hit those all-important milestones is an exciting time for any new parent, but it’s one that can also result in stress and panic, especially in the wake of not-so-humble brags from other parents whose child has already learnt to crawl or discovered where their nose is.

Babies are their own people and, while it’s only natural to worry about their development (not to mention how much they are sleeping or not sleeping), the resounding agreement among Mumsnetters is that comparisons are never your friend.

What Mumsnet users say

“Don’t compare them or yourself to others. Children develop at different rates and how you chose to parent is your decision.” Bol87

9. There’s no such thing as perfect parenting

Despite what celebrity Instagram accounts will have you believe, one sobering and, quite frankly, relieving fact is that there’s no such thing as perfect parenting.

While you may have visions of creating a beautiful, halo-crowned brood – not to mention looking like Kate immediately after giving birth – the reality of parenting will, unsurprisingly, be quite different.

So be kind to yourself, know that you’re allowed to get it wrong (there’s a lot to learn after all!), and realise that your best is most certainly good enough.

What Mumsnet users say

“We all get it a bit wrong. It's inevitable. There is no proper training, just learning on the job. Somehow we muddle through and it all works out fine. It doesn't seem to have messed up our kids.” CruelAndUnusualParenting

10. You can say no to visitors

You’ve arrived home from the hospital. You’re just settling into life as a new parent. Then you receive that inevitable question: “When can I see the baby?”

It’s only natural to want to show off your baby to everyone, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it straight away. While you may feel pressured to allow visitors into your home, especially excited first-time grandparents, Mumsnetters recommend waiting a few weeks before introducing your newborn to family and friends. This will allow you time to get to grips with your new parental responsibilities and allow you to put the wellbeing of you and your baby first.

What Mumsnet users say

“The biggest thing is make your voice heard. If you don't want visitors or you don't want someone to hold your baby etc than say it. Your opinion and your DH is all that matters. Who gives a toss if it upsets someone. It's your baby.” PixieDustt

BioGaia's advice for new parents

11. Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone

Breastfeeding can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as a parent, allowing you time to build a strong emotional bond with your baby as well as providing some important health benefits.

But it can also be one of the hardest things new mums go through, leading to frustration, tears and discomfort – not to mention painful breasts and cracked nipples. 

Breastfeeding support is available for mums who are struggling and Mumsnetters recommended tips, such as nipple shields, for helping a baby latch on properly. If you do manage to breastfeed, it is advised to give your baby Vitamin D, this could be in the form of BioGaia Protectis Baby Drops with added Vitamin D, which you give to your baby daily to help support their immune system and the normal growth and development of bone.

If you’re still struggling, it’s important to remember that breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone and that’s OK.

What Mumsnet users say

“And please don't take this as unsupportive, as it's certainly not intended to be but, while breastfeeding can be marvellous, it's not with your sanity and if you're not able to sleep because you're up all the time to feed it may help to bottle feed, even if it expressed milk and only bottle during the night, so your DH can do his share and you can rest.” Mommabear20

12. New mums feel lonely too

Having a new baby is one of the most life-changing things a person can go through. But after the initial rush of visitors has come to an end and your partner is back at work, the continual nappy changes and feeds on little to no sleep can be all-consuming and overwhelming, which is when feelings of inadequacy, isolation and loneliness can start to creep in.

Loneliness can affect people at all stages of life, including new mums who have just given birth and, while talking about loneliness may still feel taboo, it most certainly isn’t uncommon.

What Mumsnet users say

“Also you're not supposed to be doing it alone, we evolved to live in close groups where you'd have other mums around to help. It hard doing it alone!” Olderthanyouthink

13. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

In the early stages of parenting, it can sometimes be tricky to ask for help and, fundamentally, to recognise when you might need it. We may feel like we can – or should be able to – do it all, but the sleepless nights and caring for a baby all day can take its toll if you try to do too much all on your own.

Whether it’s someone offering to make you a cuppa or a grandparent babysitting for an hour so that you can use the loo by yourself or take a shower, help comes in all shapes and sizes, and can be more beneficial than you may initially realise. 

What Mumsnet users say

“My best advice would be: if you are struggling, do not keep it to yourself; raising a child is not your responsibility alone. Reach out to friends, family, your midwife or health visitor, or GP. If I could turn the clock back, I would take this advice!” qwertypie 

14. Know that this too shall pass

While most Mumsnetters describe first-time parenting as a huge shock to the system (no sugar coating here), they also acknowledge that eventually things do get better. You’ll probably hear people say ‘it’s just a phase!’ a lot and that’s because most things are. 

Remember that light at the end of the tunnel? Well, it most definitely exists in parenthood too. Plus, sometimes babies just cry and there ain't nothing you can do about it. From cluster feeding to toddler tantrums, these things rarely last forever, even if they may feel like they will at the time!

What Mumsnet users say

“Forgive yourself. Things will go wrong. There'll be times when you realise that you could have been doing something a better way, or that ahh, if you'd just fed a bit later she might have slept through the night, and so and so forth. Don't beat yourself up. Just learn from it and move on.” CoalCraft 

15. Remember that all babies cry

Even the happiest baby will cry at times so try not to be hard on yourself when you can’t soothe them instantly. If they’re fussing a lot it can lead to a lack of confidence in your parenting but try to remember that babies cry to let you know something is wrong and this could be anything from a dirty nappy to trapped wind.

Soothing a crying baby can be difficult. If, for example, you think your baby has digestive issues, a gentle baby massage can help soothe tummy troubles. Also giving them probiotic drops, like BioGaia’s Protectis Baby Drops with Vitamin-D, can help their digestive system. 

Obviously, if your baby cries constantly, there could be something else going on so do get some advice from your GP or health visitor. 

What Mumsnet users say

“Every baby cries and sometimes it takes longer to soothe them than others. You're not damaging them because you cannot soothe your baby straight away.” lockdownpregnancy

Advice for new parents with BioGaia

16. Savour every moment

Finally, if there’s one thing parents everywhere have learnt, it’s to embrace every last little bit of the rollercoaster that is parenting. 

What Mumsnet users say

“Enjoy your baby. Yes it’s tiring and relentless and the early months are pretty much all work with little positive feedback but it gets better as you see this little person you made grow into their own little person, developing a personality and traits.” Sidge

“Try to enjoy it, take photos, you are about to have the fastest couple of years of your life. Their first birthday will arrive and you'll think where did the last year go! Advice doesn't need to be acted on.” Lockdownbear

“Being a mum for the first time was the most wonderful time of my life, as others upthread have said. Lovely just to focus on the one baby, and enjoy your time with them as they are tiny.” pookypup

About BioGaia 

BioGaia is a Swedish world-leading probiotic company that has been at the forefront of microbiome research for more than 30 years. BioGaia develops, markets and sells probiotic products. The products are sold through local distribution partners in more than 100 countries worldwide. 

BioGaia’s products contain strains of the lactic acid bacterium L. reuteri, one of few bacteria that has co-evolved with humans and because of this it naturally colonises and has a strong adaptation and interacts with us. 

Results from clinical studies with BioGaia’s probiotic strains have been published in more than 200 articles in scientific journals.

Behind BioGaia’s products, you will find over 200,000 hours of probiotic research. In 2000, the company created the world’s first probiotic chewable tablet and in 2004, it launched the world’s first probiotic drops for babies. Today, BioGaia’s probiotic products are available in more than 100 countries worldwide. 

With more than 75 million sales and counting, parents everywhere choose BioGaia Protectis baby drops to give their children the best start in life. 

BioGaia. Supporting your invisible heroes.