Finding solid parenting tips for babies and toddlers can be tricky.
Good parents are not born; they are made. You become one after being thrown into the deep end when you have your first child, and you have to consciously decide to be the best parent you can be to this tiny human.
This is often easier said than done, and while you may have good intentions, you will inevitably make some mistakes along the way.
However, if you play your cards well, especially during your child’s early formative years, you will end up raising a healthy, happy, kind, considerate, generous, and genuinely good person. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?
Don’t know where to start? We’ve put together this detailed guide to give you some tips on how you can give your child the best start in life.
Parenting Tips for Babies
Over the first year of life, your baby will be adjusting to life outside the womb. Your baby will reach milestones in how to move, behave, play, learn new things, and eventually, speak. From the day your baby is born, they will be curious about the world around them, and will also start developing strong bonds of love and trust with you as you care for her.
It is your interaction with your baby at this early stage that sets the basis for how they will interact with others as they grow.
Understanding Baby Developmental Milestones (Month by Month)
The first thing you have to do is understand what milestones your baby is expected to hit and when. However, you should keep in mind that every baby is unique and yours may hit these milestones sooner or later than average. If you have any concerns, be sure to reach out to your Midwife.
Here is a quick breakdown of some of the developmental milestones your baby will go through each month:
- Notices faces
- Recognises your voice
- Moves their hands close to their eyes and mouth
- Is attracted to monochromatic patterns, especially in black and white
- May smile at people
- Follows things with their eyes
- Recognises familiar people at a distance
- Turns their head in the direction of a sound
- Holds up their head a little during tummy time
- Coos and makes new sounds apart from crying
- Arm and leg movements start becoming smoother
- Self-soothes and calms down when spoken to or when they get picked up
- Opens and shuts their hands
- Cries differently depending on their needs
- Enjoys playtime and may cry if playing stops
- Can tell the difference between your face and others
- Reaches for and swipes at objects that are in front of them
- Chuckles a little
- Copies facial expressions
- Can hold their head up without support
- Can push up onto their elbows during tummy time
- Can differentiate between colours
- Babbles and makes more new sounds
- Can entertain themselves for short periods
- Puts things in their mouth (danger!)
- Can understand simple words
- Can creep along the floor a little
- Can roll over from tummy to back
- Reaches for the toys that they want
- Enjoys looking at themselves in the mirror
- Can pass things from one hand to the other
- Leans on their hands for support when they sit
- Can understand a wider range of sounds
- Copies the sounds and gestures of others
- Can look for and find partially hidden objects
- Explores things by dropping them on the floor
- Can lean over and pick up toys
- Can stand while holding onto something
- Has a favourite toy
- Can point at things
- Responds to their name
- Can sit up without assistance
- Can play simple games like peekaboo
- Can look for objects that they've dropped
- Makes a lot of different sounds that are starting to sound like words
- Becomes wary of strangers and enjoys the safety of familiar people
- Can feed themselves finger foods
- Can grasp things with their thumb and index finger
- Develops separation anxiety when away from familiar people
- Can crawl up the stairs when supervised
- Makes sounds with changing tones like speech
- Can say mama and dada
- Responds to simple words like yes and no
- Can pull themselves up to stand without assistance
- Can shuffle along the floor while holding onto furniture
- Can use things for their purpose, for example drinking from a cup
- Can make basic gestures like waving bye-bye or shaking her head no.
After the 12th month, your baby will keep learning and growing and finding out new things about her body. They may start doing things that will surprise you, such as discovering that they can carry more items by carrying one thing in each hand and tucking one more under each arm.
By the time they are one years old, your baby will also have a basic understanding of how words work and start putting in more effort to speak. Give your baby lots of encouragement and keep watching them over the next year, because that little beanstalk is going to keep growing and surprising you even more!
Why Babies Cry
When babies are little, all they do is eat, sleep, and cry. Crying is their primary means of communication, and when you respond to her cries, it makes her feel safe. This is essential to her healthy growth and development.
That said, there are situations where a baby’s cries could be a cause for concern. For example, if your baby has colic, she may cry a lot and be hard to comfort.
If you are worried about your baby crying or if you feel like you cannot handle it, seek the assistance of a professional.
When a baby is born, she already has a personality. Some babies are more relaxed and quieter while others are more intense. This is completely normal.
The average baby will cry and fuss for about 3 hours a day. However, depending on her temperament, your baby may cry for a lot longer than this.
The good news is that as your baby grows, she will spend less and less time crying, so at least that’s something to look forward to.
The key to getting your child to cry less is to understand why she is crying. Babies cry when they are hungry, tired and overstimulated, wet or uncomfortable, unsettled, in pain, or just because they want a cuddle or to feel comforted.
When you hear your baby crying, it is important to comfort her. This teaches her about how her world works.
When you take care of her needs and comfort her when she cries, she will start to cry less and feel safer when you are around.
If your baby cries a lot and you find it frustrating, it is OK to take a step back and take a breather until you feel calmer. You can put her down in a safe place for a few minutes or ask your partner or someone else to hold her for a while. And because no one knows your baby as well as you do, if you think her crying is a cause for concern, talk to your doctor.
Read more about Why Babies Cry.
Here is a quick collection of some basic breastfeeding tips to help you with your little one:
When Should You Start?
Start as soon as your baby is born, possibly within the first two hours of birth.
What Are The Benefits Of Breastfeeding?
For your baby, breast milk is the perfect food because it is packed with nutrients and antibodies. It boosts her immunity and nourishes her, and it is also the primary way that your baby bonds with you.
For mums, breastfeeding is convenient and cost-effective. It also reduces postnatal bleeding and delays menstruation after delivery. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of conditions like postpartum depression and breast cancer. Plus, it is a great way to shed the extra baby weight faster!
What Are Good Breastfeeding Positions?
The best breastfeeding position for you is the one that is most comfortable for you and your little one. Here are a few popular ones:
- The cradle hold: Lay your baby horizontally across your body facing inwards towards you. Offer the breast
- The laidback hold: On a comfortable chair or bed, have your baby lie vertically on your torso with her mouth at your breast. Guide her latch.
- The football hold: Hold your baby beside you instead of in front of you, tucked comfortably under your armpit with her head at your breast.
- Side by side: Lay your body besides your baby’s so that you are parallel to her. Position her so that she can access your breast.
What Is Colostrum?
Colostrum is the thick nutrient-rich yellow-orange breast milk that you produce in the first few days after giving birth. You will produce it for about a week, and by the second week, your breast milk transforms into mature milk, which is plain white.
How Do You Know If Your Baby Is Getting Enough Milk?
As long as your baby is latching properly and feeding frequently at least every 2-3 hours, she is likely getting as much milk as she needs. If you have concerns, confirm that she is gaining weight steadily, has regular wet nappies every day (6-8), and has regular bowel movements. When in doubt, consult your Midwife.
How Will I Know If My Baby Is Latching Correctly?
our baby is latching correctly if your nipple is entirely in her mouth as well as part of your areola. Her lips should be turned outwards with her nose and chin lightly touching your breast.
Should You Breastfeed Your Baby? Try to remember that breastfeeding is not mandatory and not every mum can or wants to breastfeed their child. Breastfeeding is a personal choice and there are no right or wrong answers on this subject.
Weaning Tips for Your Baby
Weaning-Off is how you gradually transition your baby from breast milk or formula to regular solid foods. Here is a quick list of weaning tips for your little one:
What Are The Different Weaning Styles?
There are two main approaches to weaning: traditional weaning-off and baby-led weaning. Traditional weaning is where you start with purees and gradually introduce more solid foods over time, moving to mashed foods, then chopped, then finger foods, and then regular food in small portions. Baby-led weaning is where you allow your child to self-feed from day one, offering solid foods as finger foods and letting your child explore them at her own pace.
What Are The Best Foods For Weaning-Off?
The best first foods include:
- Soft-cooked veggies. Examples include peas, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potato, potatoes, carrots, and broccoli. You can serve them pureed, mashed, or as finger foods.
- Examples include millet, quinoa, rice, and oatmeal. Cook them and mash or puree them to a nice, smooth texture, then mix in a bit of breastmilk or formula to improve acceptance.
- Soft fruit. Examples include peaches, plums, cooked apples, cooked pears, avocados, raspberries, blueberries, mango, or bananas. You can serve them pureed, mashed, or as finger foods.
Be sure to keep offering breast milk or formula for at least another few months because the amount of food eaten as you wean is less important than the number of different types of food that your baby gets to try.
Once your baby is eating at least 3 small meals of regular food every day, you can start increasing the variety of foods that you offer, including:
- Finger foods like breadsticks, rice cakes, cooked pasta, soft fruits, and soft veggies.
- Meat and poultry that is soft and easy to manage.
- Fish that is well-cooked and without any bones.
- Well-cooked eggs.
- Dairy products, especially full-fat dairy products like plain yoghurt and cheese.
- Grains and cereals like barley and couscous.
- Nuts and seeds as long as they are finely ground or given as butter. Do not offer whole nuts.
- Pulses like peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
By the time your baby is 9-11 months old, she should be able to eat the same food that the rest of the family does but in smaller portions.
Read more Weaning-Off Tips For Your Baby.
Mealtime Essentials for Your Baby
Here is a look at some of the must-have mealtime essentials that will help give you some peace of mind as your baby transitions to regular food:
- Tableware Sets: Exactly what you need to encourage your kiddo to eat independently. Get her a spoon, cup, bowl, and plate in a toddler-friendly design and baby-safe materials (bamboo is great).
- Velcro Bibs: If you dread the mess that a self-feeding baby can make, you are not alone. While a bib won’t stop her from throwing her food off her high chair and onto the floor, at least her clothes will be safe!
- Sleeved Bibs: Yet another great innovative bib option with elastic sleeves that will not only keep your little one’s clothes safe but are also easy to clean, lightweight, and comfortable.
- Snack Pots: If you need help portioning your baby’s food during weaning, a snack pot is the answer to your prayers. If you have older kids, snack pots will also allow them to take control of what they eat and when they eat it, teaching them how to be disciplined with food in the process.
- Straw Bottles: Drinking from a straw helps boost your child’s oral motor and swallowing skills, which are essential for speech development. Plus, straws are just a lot of fun to use and a great way to help toddlers transition from sippy cups.
Parenting Tips for Toddlers
Toddlers are tiny humans with a blossoming sense of independence. They are active, curious, and often very emotional. When they are happy, you can see it in their eyes and it melts your heart. But when they are frustrated, they have meltdowns and throw tantrums of epic proportions, and it can feel like there is nothing you can do to help them.
If there are any first time dad's reading this article make sure you also check out our First Time Dad Tips which covers off lots of helpful dad focused parenting tips!
This is why it is so important to have a good understanding of how to navigate the toddler years. Here are some of the most important things you need to know.
Toddler Development Activities
Here is a look at some fun developmental activities you can try with your toddler:
- Fun with textures:
Trace the letters of the alphabet onto poster paper, then ask your toddler to decorate it with things like beans, paster, sandpaper, and cotton balls. Once done, touching the letters will help her feel how the letter is formed.
- Teach your child how to measure:
You can teach your child how to measure with rulers, as well as how to tell the difference between months, seasons, and times of the year. Make it fun by finding out how many Legos tall she is or how many blocks wide the couch is. How many books does it take to cover the bed completely? Just get creative with it!
- Label things in the house:
Type, print, and cut out words for individual things in the house such as the refrigerator, TV, windows, and so on. This begins to teach her that every name can be written down in a few common letters and she will soon be able to identify the words independently.
- Teach her basic organization skills:
Teach her to keep things like toys, clothes, dishes, and other household items in specific places, you can turn it into a guessing game by asking your child where certain items go. You can also, for example, place her toys in the freezer and ask her to fix your mistakes.
- Have scavenger hunts:
Because toddlers love to explore, you can create impromptu scavenger hunts as you go about your day. For example, at the supermarket, ask her to search for foods of a certain colour or things of a certain shape. At home, you can send your child on fun missions to find round things, red things, or a certain pair of socks.
- Vocabulary songs:
Create funny tunes or sing easy classic songs like the alphabet song together. Encourage your child to sing them in the car, around the house, or during bath time! This will help teach her new words and deepen her understanding of basic concepts.
Learn more Toddler Developmental Activities.
When to Potty Train Your Child?
When potty training your child, it is always a good idea to wait until your child shows signs of readiness before starting the process.
Here are some common signs that your child is ready to be potty trained:
- She shows an interest in learning to use the toilet and you can tell she wants to be more independent.
- She can walk and sit independently for short periods.
- She can verbalise and understand toilet concepts, such as when she needs to go peepee or when she has a dirty nappy.
- She has started disliking wearing a nappy.
- She can make the connection between feeling the urge to go and using the toilet.
- She can follow simple instructions and can copy simple bathroom habits.
- She can keep a nappy dry for about 2 hours.
- She can go potty and stay on the toilet long enough to pee or poop before getting off.
- She can pull her pants up or down on her own.
If your child shows most of these signs, she is probably ready to be potty trained.
How To Potty Train Your Child
Here are a few tips and tricks to help potty train your child:
- Watch and learn: Pay attention to her and learn when she has a wet nappy. Try to identify the cues she makes before going. Notice the pattern and timing and make a mental note of it, for example, if she has to poop after a meal.
- Consistency is key: Set a routine and stick to it. Tie this routine with existing bathroom habits. Then feed her lots of fibre-rich foods and water to avoid constipation and make the process easier.
- Stay alert and involved: Be flexible, because she may not always follow the routine you’ve set up. Remain observant throughout and watch out for any changes in her bathroom behaviour.
- Enjoy the process: This is a huge milestone! Make it fun and enjoyable for both of you. Be positive and encouraging, and reward any small successes she has. Don’t be stressed or frustrated and she will be excited to go through this process with you!
Read our guide on How to Potty Train your Toddler so you can navigate your way through the poo and wee...without losing your mind!
How To Respond to Your Child’s Temper Tantrums
Watching your child in the middle of a tantrum can be tough. However, while meltdowns are a nuisance, they are part of childhood. Your child is still developing her own coping skills, which is why she will just lose it when things don’t go her way.
If your toddler has been having temper tantrums, here are some things you can do about it:
Handle Aggressive Behaviour Immediately
If your child becomes aggressive during a tantrum (kicking, hitting, or throwing things), stop them immediately and remove them from the situation. Remain calm and firm, and let them know that while it is OK to experience their feelings, it is not OK to hurt others, themselves, or destroy things. Have a zero-tolerance policy for aggressive behaviour.
Try Not To Shout
If you shout, your child will match your volume to try and engage with you. Model the behaviour you want to see and try not to raise your voice. If you do shout, apologise, and take responsibility, which also shows your toddler that this is what you want her to do in such situations.
Let Them Be Angry
This will help your child learn how to vent in a non-destructive way. She will be able to let her feelings out and regain self-control without engaging in a shouting contest with you. Be there to support her and let her experience her feelings safely without ignoring her.
Pick Your Battles
Sometimes, it is OK to give in a little. But don’t give in too much, because you reinforce that she can get away with things when she throws a tantrum. Just give in a little to the simple things, like playing the same song over and over in exchange for some peace of mind.
Use Short, Brief Commands
Be specific. Say “Don’t hit the dog” or “Don’t spill that water.” Then give them something specific to do by saying, “Let’s colour” or “Time to water the flowers!” Don’t give vague commands like “Be good.”
Toddlers have short attention spans. It is easy to divert them to something else. If she is having a meltdown about not getting a certain brand of cereal, you can say something like, “Oh, want to go check the fish tank?”
Undo The Source of Frustration
Is she crying because she can’t put on her shoes? Teach her how to do it so she can feel accomplished instead. Undoing the source of frustration eliminates the cause of the tantrum.
If your child is having a public tantrum, change locations and take her to a safe place like your car or a changing room where she can blow off steam. Gently explain your position calmly at the new location.
Give Them Advance Warnings
Toddlers don’t like surprises. Give her plenty of advance notice so she knows what’s coming next. For example, you can tell her she gets to ride her scooter two times around the park then you have to go home. This gives her some control so she won’t feel ambushed when it’s time to go.
Don’t Take It Personally
Your child’s actions come out of their own frustrations. It’s not about you, so do not take it personally. The tantrum will pass and your toddler will forget all about it before too long. So don’t take it personally, either!
For more inspiration read our How To Respond To Toddler Tantrums blog post.
Parenting babies and toddlers is not easy. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming! Hopefully with the tips and tricks outlined here it will be a little easier for you (and a lot more fun!).
We also reached out to some of our community to ask parents and carers what they would change about their parenting if they went back in time and did it all over again so be sure to check out their Top Ten Parenting Tips Of All Time.
You are on a beautiful journey that you're going to remember for the rest of your life.Why not enjoy it? Good luck!
You can read more of our Parenting Tips and Tricks here.