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Nothing can quite prepare you for those first few days at home with your new baby. You’ve taken the parenting classes, done the workshops and read the books. But knowing that you’re solely responsible for the health and well-being of this tiny person can be an overwhelming feeling–at first.

Even though it might not feel like it at the moment, you and your partner are in the perfect place to help your child grow and thrive. It’s a learning experience for both the parents and the child! And once you have the basics down, everything else will start to come naturally as well.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here’s some advice for new parents: five simple tips to help you start your parenting journey on the right foot.

Find opportunities to bond with your baby

It might feel like your baby only wants Mom in those early days, particularly if she’s on maternity leave. Maybe they’ve already got a bit of a rhythm down, and you’re wondering where you fit in. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to build a connection with your baby.

Even if Mom is currently off work, baby duty can be relentless and exhausting—not a vacation by any means. Bottle feeding is a great way to spend some quality time with your new tot, and it’ll give your partner a bit of a break too! Babies also enjoy lots of loving interaction, whether you’re reading a simple book, singing a song or taking them out on a walk. In no time, they’ll learn to love time with Dad too, if they don’t already!

Learn from the experts

Being a first-time parent can feel overwhelming, but you can learn on the job! No one’s born a parenting expert, and even the experts are still learning.

You’ll likely have a lot on your mind, especially in those first few months. The important thing is to know when to seek out help. You can start by asking a couple of friends who have “been there”—parents who have kids a few years older than yours are often happy to share their insights from their time in the trenches.

If you need professional help, don’t worry: there are practical resources for almost every issue you might be facing. From effective nursing techniques to sleep consultants, experts are available to help guide you, online and in person. Ask around—family, friends and local parenting groups are great places to get good recommendations.

Create a baby budget

Kids aren’t cheap (but you probably know that already). One estimate pegs the annual cost of raising a child at approximately $15,000! Of course, some of those costs are variable, depending on factors like where you live, the type of childcare you’ll use and your child’s specific needs.

There’s no need to panic, but it is good to make sure you’re prepared for the price tag of being a parent. You can work out a rough budget for the necessities, like childcare, formula and diapers. Crunching the numbers ahead of time will help alleviate any stress or worries you have.

If possible, get a head start on saving for your baby as well. Once they’re born, you can put aside some money every month into an account like a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) to help prepare for their future. Post-secondary education might seem far away when your baby is still in diapers, but with the price tag of tuition, you’ll be glad you started early.

One more thing: take some time to consider whether you need to purchase a life insurance policy once you become a parent. It may not be pleasant to think about, and you may be wondering if life insurance is worth it at all–but it If your partner and child rely on you financially, having a policy in place will give you peace of mind, knowing that they’ll be taken care of should something happen to you.

For most Canadians, term life insurance is an affordable option that provides you with coverage during the years you need it the most—in your 30s-50s, when you’re likely to have a spouse, children, debts, and a mortgage. The premiums are much lower compared to other types of life insurance, which means you can put more money into the things that matter, like that RESP.

Ask for support

Being a parent isn’t easy. It’s a lot of hard work, and often it can feel thankless—although a few snuggles and a gummy smile can make it all worth it! And while the baby will always come first, it’s vital to remember to take care of yourself too.

If you have friends or family nearby, lean on them! Those who love you will also love to lend support however they can, whether it’s in the form of childcare, prepped meals or just a listening ear. As they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” We weren’t meant to raise our kids independently without any outside help—it can be a recipe for burnout.

So if someone’s willing to pitch in, don’t feel shy about taking them up on it. For example, doting grandparents would jump at the chance to look after the baby for a couple of hours. You and Mom can take this opportunity to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

If you do happen to live far away from close family, it might be worth it to work on cultivating connections within your neighbourhood or parent groups. It may not be easy, but you’ll be glad to have a network of like-minded parents in your life as your baby grows.

Trust your gut

There’s a lot of advice, must-dos and best practices out there, which can be overwhelming for a new parent. You might feel like the stakes are high, and you have to do everything right. However, not everything will work for every child, and as you get to know your new bundle of joy, you’ll get a better handle on how best to nurture them and help them grow. Just remember that ultimately, you know your baby the best! So it’s ok not to have all the answers—even seasoned parents don’t.

Something essential to keep in mind? Have frequent conversations with your partner to make sure you’re in agreement about any baby-related decisions. From everything from daycares to potty training, you’ll find multiple options to choose from and potential paths you can take. Keeping the channels of communication open can help cut down on arguments and any lingering resentments.

Disagreements are bound to happen occasionally, so it’s important to remember that ultimately, you and your partner are on the same page about what matters: making the best choices for your baby!

Parenting is a challenging journey, but one that’s also full of love and joy. There’s going to be a transition period as you get used to the presence of a new family member, so don’t forget to be kind to yourself and your partner.

Congratulations on your new arrival—you’ve got this!

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