30 tips for first-time parents

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

The Magazine's recent piece on irritating advice for parents - ahead of the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's first child - prompted lots of readers to email examples of good and bad practice.

The original piece included the problem of "unbearably competent (borderline patronising) friends" and people who endlessly drone on about how parenting is "better in France".

But below are 30 of the best bits of advice from readers to any new parent.

Be realistic

Louise McKinney Louise McKinney thinks it's important to be realistic about how life changing children can be

1. When pregnant and you hear yourself say "this baby is going to fit in to our life and we'll carry on as normal". Don't believe a word of it. Louise McKinney, Kenilworth, Warwickshire

2. Your life for the next two years will feel similar to a constant hangover. Don't worry, go with it, even try to enjoy it - it will get better. Don't listen to the advice gurus that use the principles of puppy training... the ones where you have to open the nursery curtains at 8.23am every day. Respond to your baby's needs when required and give them all the love you can manage through your constant hangover. Social life? Forget it. Gilly Beddows, Manchester

Samantha Browne and her daughter Abby Samantha Browne, with Abby, 3, says "don't sweat the small stuff"

3. Firstly and most importantly, give up all your cherished ideals. Such as believing that your child will never eat and watch TV; your children will never be given anything (bribed) to keep them quiet; you will always have time for your child and never fob them off; you will never compare them with other children; you will never be competitive about them; you will never wonder what it would have been like to remain childless; that all you want is for them to be happy; you will never wish you could have a minimalist, neat, tidy house; you will never resent having to always get up early because you can't sleep with the squabbling, the toys banging or the singing. Once you've done this you will learn to love your kids for who they really are and enjoy them and realise that they really are one of the best things that happened to you. And when you are in your sixties and they ring you up for a chat, and you go out for a meal with them and they patiently listen to you reminisce on how you brought them up you don't regret one minute of it all. Peter Marks, Chesterfield

4. I have a three-year-old tornado and after pulling my hair out trying to keep my house, toddler and myself perfect, my friend gave me great advice. Don't sweat the small stuff. As long as both you and your little ones are in clean-ish clothes (seriously unless they have covered head to toe in spaghetti sauce, a little ice lolly juice on their front is no worries), they are fed (always keep snacks on hand - fruit, jelly, yogurt, cheese), happy and healthy you are doing great as a parent. Samantha Browne, Las Vegas, US

5. There are only two things any new parent needs to know: a) it's fine to make mistakes as your child will be OK, b) buy a tumble dryer. James Parry, London, UK

Practical tips

Ben with three of his four children Ben's top tip is hold a child side-on

1. When you pick up a child hold them side-on. That way they can't kick you in the groin. Also you can't have too many muslin squares. The rest of it you can pick up as you go along. Advice honed from having four children. Ben Cronin, London

2. Buy a drop-sided cot for your first child so that you can still reach in to get them out when you are pregnant with the next (assuming having the first hasn't put you off). Marian Campbell, Pill, North Somerset

Father of two Mike Powell Father of two Mike Powell thinks a long T-shirt is an essential buy

3. Put a clock with a very loud ticking sound close to baby to simulate the sound of the mother's heartbeat. Breege O Neill, Drogheda, Ireland

4. Keep a box of tissues handy in every room to mop up nasty spillages. If they offer, let your visitors make tea for you. David Walker, Kent, England

5. Advice to new parents - make sure that when choosing a new T-shirt (after the birth of your child) that it will be long enough to cover your posterior (whilst bent over) and when covering your nose. This is essential, as the T-shirt-over-nose helps avoid some of the more ripe nappy-pongs and the extra length avoids builders' bum when bending over. Mike Powell, Havant, England

Do it your way

Mother-of-four Mandy Mother-of-four Mandy advises the "nod and smile" tactic

1. The best advice I can give for those new parents on the receiving end of unwanted advice is to smile sweetly, nod politely and go and do things exactly how you want to. Mum knows best. Mandy, Middlesbrough, England

2. When my first child was born a friend gave me a warning: Everyone, including complete strangers, will give you advice (or "instructions" because they expect you to obey them) and they will be offended if you don't accept their advice. His advice was the best I every received: Never argue - smile and say, "That is very interesting." Then ignore the advice unless I actually agree with it. (NB Do not ignore the advice of a doctor or other health professional!) He was right. Never let other people bother you, or make you feel like a poor parent. Michel Hey, Derby, UK

3. My boss gave me the best piece of advice when I was pregnant with my eldest and that was to ignore anything anyone says if they had a baby more than two years ago as they won't remember it clearly. Stood me in good stead. Ali, Bristol, UK

John Whittington John Whittington thinks parents should follow their instincts

4. When we had our first child, I bought a magazine with a free book by a well-known doctor. I read it carefully, thinking it would be all my answers, but all it did was explain what hard work boys are (we had had a son). After what had been a traumatic birth and first two weeks it had me in pieces. My husband took the book, tore it in half and threw it out of the bedroom window. It stayed in the flower bed for about two weeks - it was the best thing he could do and it felt like a weight was lifted. Baby number two, I didn't read a thing and we did it our way. It was much better and child number two is far more relaxed. Freckle, Freshwater, Isle of Wight

5. The best advice? Ignore all the other advice. Ask the questions you want answers to, follow your instincts and ignore all unsolicited advice. John Whittington, Stoke, UK

Wise words?

Father-of-four John Lee Father-of-four John Lee on the importance of leaving the office on time

1. Love them a lot. Keep one end clean and the other fed. Everything else is optional. Seriously though, even as a grandmother of five, I try not to offer unsolicited advice. I have sometimes discussed parenting with my offspring, but I generally try and do it in an uncritical fashion. They do some things differently to the way I did, but they've also sometimes said "that's a good idea!" The little ones are happy and cared for. That's the main thing. Caroline, Rochester, UK

2. Don't wrap them in cotton wool as they grow up. Let them climb things, jump off things and generally play. Let them get dirty and don't sterilise everything around them. They need contact with germs to build an immune system. Julian Pickering, Todmorden, Lancashire

3. No-one on their death bed ever said "I wish I spent more time in the office" - don't regret placing your children above your career. Secondly, loving your children is not equivalent to letting them do/get whatever they want. Think long-term - the goal is for them to be responsible contributing members of society who know they are loved by their parents. John Lee, Witney, UK

4. This is not a competition. I had friends who were constantly boasting of their children's achievements and I would worry if my daughter wasn't doing the same. By the time she was two I had had enough of the boasting and realised that children do things in their own time. Ignore the bragging and the boasting. Deborah Kirwan-Devlin, Lymington, UK

5. A decent first aid course (not just CPR but more detailed - burns, scalds, bandaging etc) can come in very handy. Kids have accidents, it's just part of being a parent. The knowledge of how to deal with it helps keep you calm. Richy, Hawaii

Help...

Christine's children Christine used to leave her children with their grandma

1. Men - please don't assume that because we have the baby that we know what to do. We are in the same boat as you, with the same information and screaming baby. Work together, don't accuse each other. Sue, Folkestone, Kent

2. Bite the bullet and leave the precious newborn with a trusted baby sitter (grandparent?) as soon as possible while you go out for at least an hour. And accept all offers to change nappies. Christine, Milton Keynes

Annie Annie, with Rosie, 5, and Eddie, 3, recommends supplies of chocolate

3. Befriend your neighbours - just so they are not inclined to call social services when the noise (screams/tears etc from parent and child) gets a little excessive through the walls. And remember that what goes on indoors, stays indoors - try to appear cheery and in control when you step outside your front door. Elizabeth Howat, London

4. Prioritise time alone with your baby over everything else in the early days, trust your instincts, and remember that most problems can be solved with breast milk (for baby) and chocolate (for mummy). Annie, Suffolk, UK

5. Those who truly understand what you are going through as a new parent will not offer advice but empathy, a meal, and/or respite from your new bundle of joy in order for you to get a nap. Valerie, Cleveland, US

Simple solutions?

1. Avoid giving your toddler pineapple juice to drink. It has a spectacularly disgusting effect on their digestive systems because of the enzymes it contains. John Locke, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

2. When baby sleeps, you sleep. Housework can wait. Sam, England

3. Never underestimate the power of sleep deprivation. It can turn the most pleasant of persons into a raging psychopath. Craig Redmond

4. Buy some ear plugs and Nytol. Oliver and Danielle Reed, Warminster, England

5. Boarding school. Paul, Tremelo, Belgium

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