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The 8 Key Moments You Need to Survive in Your First Year of Parenthood

There are plenty of baby milestones to look out for in the first year. But what about parenting milestones?
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Published May 13, 2024
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The first year of parenthood is filled with glorious highs—and many moments of pure terror. Guiding your child through their first year is intense work, and many days you may find yourself surviving instead of thriving. But not to worry—pretty soon all that anxiety about baby milestones and sleep deprivation will turn into anxiety about your toddler jumping off the couch and bumping their head! Speaking of milestones, though, us first-time parents go through them too. Ahead, read about the eight key “firsts” to watch out for in the first year of parenthood. When you’re on the other side of these, you’ll know you can handle just about anything.

1. Your First Night Alone with Baby

When the sun starts to set, that’s when the fear sets in. Nights with a newborn can be exhausting, mind-numbing and harrowing all at once. Pop in your headphones, put on a podcast and repeat this mantra: I will sleep again. And while you’re at it, read our tips for establishing a baby bedtime routine.

2. The First Time Another Caregiver Watches Baby

Whether you’re doing your first daycare dropoff or handing the reins over to a babysitter so you can run an errand, it’s completely normal to feel anxiety about leaving baby with someone else for the first time. But once you’re totally ready for it, it can be surprisingly freeing. Is there any purer bliss than walking out the door without a diaper bag on your shoulder?

3. Baby’s First Sleep Regression

When baby starts sleeping longer stretches, it’s downright rejuvenating. But during the first year, sleep will inevitably hit a snag, whether it’s due to teething, separation anxiety or…just baby being baby. Remember: This, too, shall pass. In the meantime, stick with a consistent bedtime routine and don’t be afraid to adjust baby’s nap schedule as needed.

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4. The First Overnight Trip with Baby

The sheer amount of packing required to travel with baby can be mind-boggling. And once you’re on your way, you’ll find that some babies are excellent travelers who nap on the go, while others…aren’t. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to make travel with baby easier, like sticking to their schedule, packing all their favorite toys and gate-checking your stroller. In the meantime, having a sense of humor about it all—and scheduling some downtime when you come back—will do wonders.

5. Baby’s First Illness

When you’re a first-time parent, it’s hard to know when to call the doctor in baby’s first days—and when not to worry. And it can be heartbreaking to feel helpless when baby feels crummy. Don’t hesitate to check in with your healthcare provider if something seems off.

6. Baby’s First Solid Foods

Whether you’re doing purees or baby-led weaning, introducing baby to solid foods is a huge step. But it doesn’t have to be scary. Make sure to read up on the most common choking hazards, as well as learn infant CPR, so that you’re fully prepared. Then, let baby dig in and get messy!

7. The First Time You Miss a Milestone

Whether you’re away at work or just in the same room with your back turned, there will probably come a time when you miss something big—and you realize you’re not going to be fully present for every key moment in your child’s life. (Ugh, why is parenthood just one long lesson in letting go?) Just know that even if you miss a big “first” like a first step or first word, the first time it happens when you’re there to witness it is also a big deal. And you should celebrate accordingly!

8. The First Time You Feel Truly Overwhelmed

Maybe it’s when you’re pumping in the middle of the night, maybe it’s when you’re dragging yourself out of bed for the third nighttime wakeup, maybe baby and the whole family are sick again. At some point, you’ll look down at baby and realize that this new job is forever—and you’ll have zero days off. You consider the enormity of the next 18 years, and wonder what the heck you just signed up for.

Take heart that there’s one constant in parenthood, and that’s change. You think you’ll never sleep again, and then you do. You think baby will never adjust to their new daycare, and then they do. The tough moments do pass, and the whole parenting gig—while daunting—can also be endlessly rewarding. And know this: After you’ve survived the first year, you’re more than well-equipped to handle whatever’s ahead.

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