Life as a mama in the first year is tough! That’s why I’ve got 101 top tips and hacks for coping with a baby.
These are the very best and most valuable tips you will find for surviving the first year.
Remember the most important one of all is, and always will be, you as the parent know best.
Hopefully these ideas will help you navigate your way through the difficult first year of motherhood.
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1. Your job is simple. The early days feel really overwhelming. But remind yourself that there are just a few things your baby really needs: Milk, sleep, warmth and love. Don’t let your mind be cluttered by the tons of advice books, gadgets and routines that your should be following. Just focus on those basic care needs.
2. Remind yourself everything changes. The early weeks and months are hard. But they don’t last forever. Everything changes so quickly and the difficult nights will not last forever.
3. Take it easy. In the early days you do not need to be rushing around. Don’t plan any trips out. Pull up the draw bridge and stay at home!
4. Keep visitors in check. You may have lots of loved ones banging on the door desperate to meet the baby. Don’t overdo it on visitors in the early days and if you’re finding it overwhelming, take a break from having people over for a few days. Read more on coping with visitors here.
5. Fold the diaper down. Protect the umbilical cord from being rubbed and irritated by folding the nappy down so it doesn’t cover baby’s belly.
6. Keep your wounds clean and dry. Caring for yourself is just as important as caring for your baby. If you had a tear or cut in labour, or underwent a C-section, be strict about following guidelines for healing fast.
7. Keep up with your pelvic floor exercises. Your bladder, and you will thank you for it! Remember to tighten and release your pelvic floor muscles every day, three times a day.
8. Try white noise for bedtime. You can buy cute cuddly toys that make white noise, which is similar to what your baby will have heard in the womb. It helps to soothe some babies, though you may have mixed results.
9. If that fails get out the vacuum. Vacuum cleaners are another type of white noise. Many mums swear by them for getting their baby to nod off.
10. Have your changing bag packed. Never leave the changing bag less than fully stocked! Try to restock it after you get back from every trip out so that you’re never caught without wipes or nappies.
11. Use a baby sleeping bag. These stop baby from kicking the covers off in the night. Perfect for the winter, but you can get thinner ones for summer.
12. Get a pre-made swaddle. Forget about fiddling around with a normal blanket. Get a pre-made swaddle that makes it easy to wrap your baby up tight. Swaddling can encourage your baby to sleep.
13. Tackle day-night confusion. Get some blackout blinds to make sure their room is in total darkness when it’s nighttime. During the day, get the curtains open to let the light into the house.
14. Stick to comfy clothes. Don’t rush to get back into your jeans. Stick to leggings and loose clothing to help any wounds heal and let your body relax.
15. Have spares in your car. Always keep a few nappies, wipes and a change of clothes for baby in your car. You never know when you’ll be caught out!
16. Get a bath seat. Babies get seriously slippery in the bath! Use a bath seat so that your baby’s head is supported out of the water.
17. Blow bubbles. Does your baby cry at bath time? Try to distract them by blowing bubbles as you bathe them!
18. Use sauce pots to protect pacifiers. Sterilise small sauce dipping pots that come with your takeaway and use them to store pacifiers when you’re on the move.
19. Over door shoe storage. These shoe storage hangers can also be used to store all sorts of baby gear, from onesies to nappies and wipes. They’re a great space saver.
20. Don’t bathe them every day. Washing baby skin daily can actually dry out their delicate skin. If you do want to bathe daily, slather your baby in a baby-friendly moisturiser when their skin is still damp.
21. Choose onesies that zip up. This is particularly valuable at night when you might be changing your baby in the dark.
22. Get them to sleep any way you can. Don’t panic about “bad habits”. If your baby responds better to be being rocked to sleep, then just do it. You can switch tactics in future months when you’re better rested.
23. Take breastfeeding one day at a time. Don’t set yourself a goal of one year if it feels overwhelming. Instead pat yourself on the back after every day you’ve managed to keep going. There are lots of tips for breastfeeding over here.
24. Do not panic about formula feeding. If you do switch for formula, or mixed feeding, your baby will be absolutely fine.
25. Easy teething relief. The cheapest teething relief I’ve ever come across is to get a wash cloth, soak in water and then pop in the fridge overnight. Give it to your baby to chew. There are lots of teething relief hacks here.
26. Keep bibs handy. Add a sticky hook to the back of your high chair to hang bibs on.
27. Consider co-sleeping. This could help you get through the days. Read up on safer sleeping guidelines.
28. Try a side-sleeper crib. This can help if you don’t fancy co-sleeping. Your baby is close at hand in the side-sleeper but they’re in a safe environment.
29. Do the arm test. Want to know if your baby will stay asleep when you put them down? Try the arm test. Just lift up your baby’s arm then drop it. If it flops straight down baby is totally asleep and should be OK to put down. If baby doesn’t drop their arm immediately, they’re not quite in a deep sleep just yet.
30. Careful of car seat straps. If you bundle up your baby in lots of padded, warm clothing, you may not be able to tighten the car seat straps enough. Avoid dressing baby in padded coats, and instead lay a blanket over them once you have done up the straps.
31. Try tummy time little and often. Tummy time can be one of the most stressful tasks for a parent. Many babies hate it! Try giving your baby tummy time in short bursts of just a few minutes. Distract them or make it easier by laying them on your tummy as you lay on your back.
32. Have a nappy station on every floor. Save yourself the trouble of dashing up and down the stairs all day by keeping changing essentials underneath the sofa.
33. Relieve silent reflux. Many new babies have an under-developed muscle at the top of their stomach. This can allow some milk and stomach acid to pop up and cause pain. Help your baby by tilting their crib at an angle. You could add stacks of books underneath the legs to do this. This means gravity can help to give the feed down.
34. Get rid of cradle cap. You may have to try a few different methods to find one that works for your baby. Some swear by coconut or olive oil rubbed into the scalp then gently combed out to lift the flakes. For me the only thing that worked was this shampoo. There are more tips for getting rid of cradle cap here.
35. Trim nails when baby is sleeping. This way they are not fidgeting and you’re less likely to nick the skin.
36. Soothe eczema. Baby eczema presents as red bumps or patches on the skin that are itchy. Try to keep their nails trimmed and try bathing in an oat bath! Just get some porridge oats, pop them in the foot of some tights, tie a knot to keep the oats inside then add to running water in the bath. It makes the water creamy and soothing.
37. Store pump parts in the fridge. If you are using a breast pump regularly throughout the day, you don’t have to wash them after every use. Just pop them into the fridge and leave them there until your next pump.
38. Double up the bedding. To save spending ages changing bedding after a nighttime nappy explosion or vomit, have two layers of bedding on the mattress! So put down a waterproof mattress topper, then a fitted sheet, followed by another waterproof mattress topper and a fitted sheet.
39. Have an emergency car kit. Pack a bag or box with spare clothes for you and your baby plus nappies and wipes.
40. Relieve gas. Lay your baby down flat on their back and then bicycle your baby’s legs to help get gas moving. With trapped wind, you may also find this helps: Sit down and hold your baby upright while rubbing their back, then while holding baby close to you, stand up quite quickly. This can help to shift the gas.
41. Use a carabiner. These handy little clips can help you attach baby’s toys and other vital items to your backpack or buggy.
42. Just get in the shower. You could shower in the evening after baby goes to sleep. But if you prefer a morning shower, just hop in! Pop your baby in their crib or a baby seat close to the bathroom door (preferably so you can still see them) and get washing. You may have to rush but you’ll feel better for it!
43. Give baby nappy-free time. This is really beneficial for their skin and can help to treat nappy rash.
44. Tackle stained clothes. Baby clothes get all sorts of stains! Try a capful of Soda Crystals in your wash to get rid of stains.
45. Designate a dumping area. Have just one spot in the house where the mess, dirty laundry and other stuff you don’t have time to put away goes. This will make the house work feel a little less overwhelming.
46. Get a vibrating chair or rocker. These are great at distracting your baby when you need to get stuff done.
47. Make a list of chores. That way when someone comes over to offer a helping hand, you know exactly what needs to be done. Motherhood tends to make you forgetful.
48. Get a slow cooker. You can dump all of the ingredients for your evening meal into it in the morning and it’s done by dinner time. Nutritious and delicious food without hours of stress.
49. Grocery shop online. Don’t struggle your way to the shops. Instead order your groceries online and get them delivered.
50. Keep baby’s health paperwork handy. Getting out of the house on time is one of the biggest challenges! Keep baby’s health paperwork, including vaccination record, close to the front door so you can grab it on the way out to medical appointments.
51. Avoid dry clean only clothes. Stick to clothes that will wash in the machine. You don’t need that extra stress, or expense.
52. Don’t overcomplicate the gadgets. You don’t need every single baby item going. If there were one gadget that stopped babies waking at night, made them eat their food properly and prevented crying, you would be reading about it every day!
53. Same goes for bottles. Some bottle teats come in four or five different parts. This is no fun to reconstruct when you’re exhausted and the baby is hungry. Go for simple bottles that don’t involve multiple parts.
54. Switch to cloth nappies. You’ll be helping the environment and save money! If you use the same set of cloth nappies for subsequent kids, you’ll be saving a fortune in disposable nappies.
55. Hairbands on board books. This hack is amazing. Babies can struggle to turn the pages of their books at first. Pop a hair band or two around individual pages of a board book, and it will separate the pages so that their little fingers can pull the pages easily. It also prevents pages getting stuck together.
56. Fitted sheets on your car seat. Avoid spillages on your car seat by popping a waterproof fitted mattress sheet down on your car seat underneath the baby seat.
57. Seal bath toys with glue. When bath toys fill with water, they become mouldy over time. Stop this from happening by using a glue gun to fill up the small holes.
58. Hair ties on cabinets. Need a quick baby-proofing fix? Get a hairband and loop is over cabinet handles to stop baby getting in there.
59. Keep track of medication doses. If both parents are administrating medicine to a baby it can be tricky to keep track of who has given what dose. Get a plain white address label and draw a grid on there with days of the week and the dose (dose one in the first column, dose two in the next etc). Then tick off the bottle when each dose has been given.
60. Use a make-up brush for nappy rash cream. Keep your hands clean by using a small make-up brush to apply baby’s cream to their bottom.
61. Speak to your baby constantly. You will vastly increase your baby’s vocabulary and speed up their speech by talking to them all the time. It’s never too early. Tell them about the weather, the washing up, the dinner, whatever you want. There are lots more baby speech tips here.
62. Warm the wipes. You could spend a small fortune on buying a wipes warmer (I’m pretty sure you can buy one on Amazon). Or you could simply pop the pack of wipes under your pillow before going to sleep. When it’s time for a nighttime nappy change, take them out and they’ll be warm for baby’s bottom.
63. Keep your changing kit handy. When you’re out, keep changing supplies either in a pouch you can easily grab or a plastic bag. This way you can nip to the changing room without taking your entire changing bag.
64. Keep your changing bag light. Always use a pack of wipes that’s half full in your changing bag, rather than a brand new one. I just switch them around so that my bag is lighter.
65. Give baby your tee. If your baby is being clingy, try using a top you have worn as a mattress cover. Your baby will like being close to your smell.
66. Clean those fingers and toes. Use a damp cotton wool bud to get rid of the fluff that gathers in-between your baby’s fingers and toes.
67. Convince baby to take medicine. Try giving your baby their medicine in a familiar way, such as through their dummy. Snip the tip off the end of a dummy and drip the medicine through it. You could also try a pipette or bottle teat which they may prefer.
68. Keep them entertained when changing. Once your baby can move around more, they will be tricky to keep still during nappy changes. Get some toys that you use just during changing time to distract them. Try small toys that make a noise.
69. Wash baby socks in a mesh bag. Don’t lose the socks, use delicates bags to keep them all together when in the washing machine.
70. Get under cot storage. Use that space under the cot for storing clothes baby has grown out of and other items. Under bed drawers and bags can be bought on the cheap!
71. Get rid of nasty smells. Has your baby been sick in their bed? After cleaning away the liquid, try sprinkling some bicarbonate of soda over it and leave for a few hours before vacuuming away. It absorbs the smells.
72. Everyone’s baby has a bad night. You may meet mamas who say their babies sleep 12 hours a night every single night. This can make you feel pretty rubbish about the two hours you just about managed to get the night before. Remember, all kids will have at least one bad night at some point. Don’t compare your baby’s sleep to others.
73. Warm baby’s mattress. Try a hot water bottle on baby’s mattress before you put them down. They may settle easier in a warm bed.
74. Look at daytime sleep. Is your baby refusing to sleep at night and waking often? If they are over five months, have a look at your daytime sleep pattern. Baby could be getting too much or too little sleep in the day.
75. Don’t rush to every cry. Babies may settle themselves back to sleep, so give them a few minutes before you rush to their side.
76. Spot the signs of teething. If your baby is fussy and you’re wondering if they might be teething, get a clean finger and feel around the gum. If a tooth is about to pop through you’ll feed a bump on the gum.
77. DIY play pen. A travel cot is great for when you’re abroad. It’s also handy as a pop-up play pen. Use it in the living room if you need your baby to stay in one place for 10 minutes.
78. Stop trapped fingers with a pool noodle. Cut a pool noodle into five equal pieces, then cut them lengthwise. You’re left with a piece you can fit around the edge of your door, preventing it for slamming shut and trapping little fingers.
79. Keep the nappy on. Once your baby gets control of their limbs, they will start to rip their nappy off! Keep it on by turning it back to front, so the tear strips aren’t within their reach. You could also put them in vests with poppers so that they don’t have immediate access to their nappy.
80. Get a mini chopper for weaning. This little mini chopper was my best weaning investment. You can dump a couple of tablespoons of your own meal (spaghetti, roast dinner, whatever) and puree it fast.
81. Freeze food in ice cube trays. You don’t need to buy specific baby weaning freezer containers. Just get some ice cube trays and divide any food you make for baby between those.
82. Get plates that stick to the high chair. You can buy baby plates with suction cups on the base, so that your baby can’t tip or throw the plate.
83. Stop water spillages. Attach baby’s sippy cup to the high chair using a strap. Babies love to fling their cup on the floor.
84. Avoid giving juice. Regular consumption of juice exposes the teeth to sugar that can cause cavities. It’s fine to give baby a little juice now and then, but try to stick with water when baby is eating meals.
85. Freeze dummies in breastmilk. Dip the tip of a pacifier into a ice cube tray then top up with expressed milk. Pop in the freezer and give to baby when they’re teething.
86. Get a room thermometer. One of the biggest stresses in the first year can be the worry about your baby being too hot or too cold. Have a room thermometer to help you decide how to dress your baby for the night.
87. Organise your feeding station. Have a breastfeeding station with a bottle of water, the remote control, phone charger and comfy cushion so you can support your back. There are lots of tips for organising your feeding station here.
88. Invest in some giant muslins. You can use them as burping cloths, tummy time blankets, bibs, blankets in the summer and more!
89. Keep your bathrobe over your clothes. Are you about to go out? Just got dressed? Put your bathrobe on over your outfit to prevent any nasty accidents involving vomit or poop.
90. Don’t worry if your baby won’t eat solids. Weaning is about teaching your baby to chew and swallow, and use a spoon. Do not panic if your baby is not eating huge amounts of food, or if they’re eating none at all. Keep offering it every day and eventually something will just click.
91. Give baby a taste of peanut butter. Health studies have shown exposure to potential allergens can reduce the risk of an allergy developing. Give baby a tiny bit of peanut butter to try and first and check them for any reaction. Then try to feed them some once a week.
92. Have a solid bedtime routine. Baby refusing to go to sleep at night. First of all, take a look at their daytime sleep to see if they are getting too much or too little. Next, have a regular bedtime routine that you do every night.
93. Read to your baby. Your newborn is never too little to sit on your lap and be read to. You could read your favourite magazine, or try a baby book.
94. Put a shower mat under your high chair. This is a cheap and quick way to catch any spillages, especially if your high chair is on carpet.
95. Learn baby CPR. Some charities run free courses, so research what’s available in your local area.
96. Get down to baby’s level. Once your little one starts to crawl, you need to think like them to figure out what in your home needs baby-proofing. Look at anything that’s within reach, and remember soon they will be pulling up to a standing position too. There are lots of baby-proofing tips here.
97. Find a tribe. Mum friends can really help you through. Look for baby groups in your area, and try different ones until you find a group of like-minded mothers.
98. Get a hobby. Keep your sanity by finding something that is just for you to enjoy. There are a ton of cheap and easy hobbies you could do at home, check out this list.
99. Set aside time for you. Give yourself time for self-care, whether that be taking a bath, reading a book or going for a short walk.
100. Trust your instincts. You know your baby best. Don’t let anyone else tell you any different.
101. The first year is tough. No-one finds the first year easy-peasy. You are not alone! Try to remind yourself regularly that eventually your baby will sleep better and you won’t feel quite so in over your head. Don’t worry if parenthood’s tough reality has taken you by surprise, just try to embrace the chaos.