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New Parent Survival Guide

Think of becoming a parenthood as starting a job. In time, you'll learn the skills, such as changing diapers and giving baths. However, it could take weeks or even months to feel like you've mastered it all. Tricia O'Brien, Features Editor for American Baby Magazine gives first time parents advice on how to get a handle on their new occupation.

In the first week focus on feeding. You might struggle with breastfeeding. It can be really hard at first but there is hope. Take it one step at a time. Work on getting the baby to latch on correctly. Have a lactation consultant come to your home. And don't be afraid to admit that breastfeeding is hard.

Week two it is time to find ways to get your sleep because by now you are exhausted. You're feeding the baby every 2-3 hours (if you're nursing) and every 3-4 hours (if you're formula feeding) which means waking up 2-3 times a night. Also, even though newborns sleep a lot (16 to 18 hours), some don't do it at the "right" times. Nap when the baby does or map your bedtime to the baby's. If you're formula feeding, alternate late-night feedings with your spouse. Breastfeeding moms can pump after a month or so, so Dad can help. Wake your child during the day if he sleeps more than four hours at a stretch, but keep the lights dim, even during diaper changes. Ask for help and accept any that's offered. If it is not baby related, like housekeeping, let it slide.

By week three you are trying to find a way to juggle it all. But, caring for a baby is time-consuming. With the feedings, diaper changes, and laundry it's hard to get anything else done. And most spouses have headed back to work and a visiting grandma may have packed up her bags. So, the thing to do now is be realistic about what you can accomplish. Set one non-baby-related goal every day, like doing a load of laundry, making a phone call, or writing two thank you notes.

In week four you probably will be settling into a routine. Even though things are getting into a groove, you may be coming to terms with things that didn't go as expected. You might have had to give in and supplement with formula and/or use a pacifier. You also may feel isolated from long stretches at home alone with baby. Make an effort to get out at least once a day, even if it's just a walk around the block. Also, surround yourself with other new moms by joining a new mommy group.

For more information on the new parent survival guide and other parenting tips, click here.
Tricia O'Brien & Erika Wortham