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10 things mums and dads wish they'd known as new parents

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who welcomed little Archie Harrison into the world last week, would feel more confident about what lies ahead if they knew these simple truths, midwife Vicki Scott tells Lisa Salmon

First-time parents: Harry and Meghan with newborn son Archie Harrison
First-time parents: Harry and Meghan with newborn son Archie Harrison

Trust your instincts, nobody gets it right all the time and you're doing a great job - these are all crucial parenting tenets, yet most new mum and dads don't know or won't believe them.

Instead, many new parents feel unsure of themselves in the early days and worry they're not the perfect parent.

Recent research showed more than half (62%) of parents believe they're failing within the first year.

The WaterWipes study, which launched the #ThisIsParenthood project to give a candid picture of life as a parent, also revealed half of UK parents put on a brave face rather than be honest about their reality.

Midwife Vicki Scott says: "When it comes to parenthood, there's no one-size-fits-all approach - the perfect parent doesn't exist.

"Many of the new parents I work with often feel they should know everything as soon as their child is born, and if they don't, they are in some way failing.

"This just isn't the case. You are, in fact, the very best parent for your baby. It's all about that precious connection and loving bond, even on those tricky days."

The fact that most new parents are probably doing really well, despite their own doubts, is something many more experienced mums and dads say they wish they had known before they had their first baby, and would now tell others.

Here, Scott reveals the top 10 things parents of older children would tell their less experienced counterparts...

1. Nobody gets it right all the time

New parents aren't expected to know everything about parenting, particularly with their first child, says Scott. "I always try and reassure parents of this and help guide them on their journey, learning as they go," she adds. "With so much pressure to be perfect, particularly with social media, it's important to remember you won't always get it right and you aren't expected to know everything."

2. Trust your instincts

Mother knows best, but so do fathers, stresses Scott. "There's nothing like a parent's instinct - they know their child better than anyone, and it's important to listen to this. The feeling of failing comes from a number of sources, including social media, but my advice would be to switch off from this and listen to your own thoughts."

3. You're doing a great job

"Parenthood can be a real challenge, with those early days being particularly testing at times, so all you can do is try your best," says Scott, who stresses that celebrating the realities of parenting will build confidence and create open conversations.

4. Sometimes, your child cries for no reason

Babies crying is completely normal and a vital part of how an infant communicates its needs. "Sometimes they may be tired, or hungry, or just want a cuddle," says Scott. "It goes back to trusting your instincts." She advises parents to pause, take a breath, don't panic and do all they can to soothe the baby until he or she settles down. "The most important thing is that you're supporting your baby until its need is met," she explains.

5. If someone offers to help, take it

Parents can often feel alone and unable to share their struggles. The WaterWipes research found 41% of UK parents feel they can't be honest about struggles due to fear of judgement. However, many support networks, such as friends and family, antenatal classes and mum and baby groups, are available, and over half of UK parents (53%) would urge new parents to accept help.

6. Care for yourself

In the early days of new parenthood, your focus is on your baby, but it's important parents don't forget about themselves, stresses Scott. Almost half (47%) of UK parents wish they had known the importance of self-love in those early days and would now advise new parents to bear it in mind. "While you're trying to do your best, you must remember you're only human and need time to relax and reflect too," says Scott. "Think of it as taking care of your baby's most precious possession - its parents."

7. You'll be very emotional for virtually no reason

Scott says many new mums struggle to manage emotions in the early days as their hormones are "all over the place". But although mums are likely to have more extreme reactions than usual around the time of the birth, dads will also often feel all sorts of emotions. "It's important not to be too hard on yourself. Understand that feelings can be difficult to interpret and manage at this time," says Scott. "Just go with it, be sure to talk about it and things will settle with experience and time."

8. Sleep takes time

Supporting your baby to develop healthy sleep patterns doesn't always happen quickly or easily. Scott says: "Parents need to be made aware that it will often take time to master - and just when you think you've mastered nap-time, along comes a new developmental stage and sleeping patterns can change again."

9. It can be hard to adjust to becoming a new parent

Becoming a mum or dad for the first time won't necessarily feel natural straight away. Over a third (34%) of UK parents want to make sure other parents know this. "Being a new parent can be difficult and many can find it hard to adjust to the new way of life," says Scott.

10. You'll go through more nappies and wipes than you imagined

"You can never have enough nappies and wipes, and never underestimate the mess that comes with a small child," stresses Scott.

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