Tips for parents: babies

Advice for parents on how to survive the first year with a new baby.

Page last updated: August 2010

Page last reviewed: 20 August 2014

PDF version: Tips for parents: babies (PDF 334 KB)

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New babies and coping with change

Adele and Jack were happy to have new baby Carl in their lives, but after two weeks Jack had to go back to work. Now Adele is at home during the day with Carl and his three-year-old sister, Camilla, by herself. They can't believe how much there is to learn about babies all over again – how much time a baby takes – and Carl isn't sleeping well, which doesn’t help. Adele feels drained and Camilla is always at her for attention. She can't find the energy to clean the house. She also can't find enough time for Jack and Camilla and is worried about it.

When she takes Carl to the baby health centre for his check-up, Adele talks to the nurse about how she feels. The nurse tells her lots of women feel that way and that it might be a good idea to try and take some time out and get some help for a little while. Adele rings her mother to chat and tells her how tired she feels. She ends up crying on the phone. Her mother remembers this feeling and offers to come and stay for a couple of weeks, if that is what Adele wants.

She talks to Jack about everything that night. She's not sure how he will feel about her mother coming to stay. Jack thinks it is a good idea and tells Adele how tired he is feeling and how he wishes he could take more time off work.

Camilla thinks it is a good idea too, because she likes her Grandma. Adele hopes the support will give her some breathing space and help her to catch up on some sleep. Top of page

Make time for yourself and other relationships

Enjoy your baby

  • Cuddle, talk to and play with your baby. Babies like sound, colour and movement.

Make time for yourself

  • Look after yourself. Eat well and rest when your baby is asleep. Take the phone off the hook.
  • Your baby will take up lots of time. Try to make time for your other relationships as well.

Your relationship with your partner will change

  • Spend time talking about how you both feel about the changes in your lives.
  • Share the care of your baby. This will help you both have better bonds with the baby and each other.
  • Make special time to spend together to support each other. You will have less time and it may be hard to get used to this. Top of page

Childcare

  • Find a friend or relative who can mind your baby regularly so you can have a break.
  • Find out about occasional care in your area. You will be able to leave your baby there for a short time when you need a break.
  • Your local council will know about childcare in your area. Book your baby in early if you are returning to work or want a regular break.

When to seek advice

  • If you are unsure about anything, talk to a family member or friend.
  • If talking to friends and family does not reassure you, talk to a health professional you trust.
  • If you get depressed, talk to your baby and maternal health nurse or doctor. It is common to suffer from depression after having a baby.
  • It is common to experience symptoms of depression during your pregnancy or after the birth of your baby. You should feel comfortable talking to family, friends, or your child health nurse or GP about how you are feeling.

Getting your baby to sleep

  • Your baby's sleep pattern will take time to establish. Try to get your baby to sleep two or three times a day. They will sleep less as they get older. If your baby won't settle, try to be patient. If your baby is safe and comfortable, you may want to leave your baby to settle.
  • Some babies sleep more than others. New-born babies may sleep better during the day than at night. Be patient and gradually your baby will begin to settle into a more regular sleep pattern. Seek advice and help if you are worried.
  • When sick or not in their normal routine, babies will sleep less. Be patient, it may take time to get your baby back into a regular sleep pattern. Top of page

Babies' safety and health

  • Put your baby to sleep on its back and use light cotton blankets. Don't overwrap your baby or use pillows.
  • Avoid smoking near the baby.
  • Many serious childhood diseases are preventable. Check with your doctor or baby and maternal health nurse about immunisation.
  • Make your house safe before the baby starts crawling. Put up barriers around unsafe places. Keep detergents and chemicals well out of reach.

If you feel angry

  • Make sure your baby is safe and comfortable. Have a break or a shower; ring a friend, Lifeline or Parents Line.

Breastfeeding

  • Many women want to breastfeed their baby, but breastfeeding isn't always easy.
  • If you are having problems, ask for help from the midwives at the hospital, the Nursing Mothers Association or your local baby and maternal health nurse.
  • Everyone will have an opinion about what is best for you and your baby. But only you can decide how long you want to breastfeed your baby.
  • Many babies are ready to start eating some foods like rice cereal between 4 and 6 months. Ask for advice from your local baby and maternal health nurse. Top of page

Babies cry as a way of communicating

  • All babies cry. This is your baby's way of letting you know it needs something.

  • Get to know your baby's different cries. Your baby may need a nappy change, or be cold or sick or hungry or may want to be entertained.

  • Tips for calming your baby. Check your baby is not sick or uncomfortable first. Try playing calm music, or give your baby a bath or take your baby for a walk.

  • If your baby won't stop crying and is safe and comfortable, take a short break. If you think there is something wrong, seek advice from a baby and maternal health nurse or a doctor. Top of page

A new baby? Tips on surviving the first year

While everyone's experience is different, all new parents should expect lots of changes in their lives.

You and your new baby have arrived home! You are happy and overwhelmed at the same time. It's all so new, but gradually you will get the hang of it.

Getting to know your new baby may take time. Lots of people will give you advice. Trust yourself to work out what is right for you and your baby.

Make time for yourself

Looking after yourself as a parent is important. You need to find time to have a break and rest. This means getting support and not feeling guilty about asking others to help. Asking for help or support is sensible and a sign of strength, not failure. Make a list of all the people and services you can call on for support. Even small things like getting a meal cooked every now and then, will help.

Talk to other parents

Your new baby's first year is a time of incredible growth and change. Enjoy your baby, take a break when you need one. The more energy you have, the easier it is to care for your baby. The time you spend with your baby now will help to set up a lifelong relationship that will change and develop as your child grows. Top of page

Feeling down?

Many women feel a bit down after having a baby. Some women experience symptoms of depression, such as crying a lot, worrying all the time or feeling alone or helpless. Family support can help, or you can talk to your local mental health professional to get the support you need. For more information on postnatal, or antenatal, depression go to the beyondblue website or call the beyondblue Info Line on 1300 22 4636.

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Note. This information has been updated to reflect current ordering arrangements.

To obtain a hard copy of this brochure, please email National Mailing and Marketing or ring (02) 6269 1080. The code for this publication is MH008.

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Useful numbers

Parent help lines in the following states and territories:

NSW 1300 1300 52
Vic 13 22 89
SA 1300 364 100
Qld 1300 301 300
NT 1300 301 300
Tas 1300 808 178
ACT 02 6287 3833
WA 1800 654 432

LifeLine 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

Playgroup Australia 1800 171 882

Raising Children Network: the Australian parenting website

You can also contact Maternal and Child Health services, social workers, community health centres or your GP. Check the White Pages for phone numbers.

Tips for parents was funded by the then Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

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