New Parents Have Milestones, Too

What to expect when you’re no longer expecting.

New Parents Issue 2024

Flip through any baby book or parenting website (guilty) and you’ll find endless lists of the milestones your baby will hit during their first year of life: rolling over, babbling, pulling themself up, and on and on. But just as fun (and less likely to lead to one-upping at playgroup) are the milestones for us, the caregivers, whose first year is also transformative and full of moments that mark our transition from ordinary civilian to full-fledged parent. So, here is our list of milestones you can look forward to — just be aware that every parent hits these at their own pace, so there’s no need to be jealous when other moms get puked on first.

The first time you see their soft spot pulsing.

Yes, this is a thing, and yes, it’s as terrifying as it sounds. Fortunately, it’s perfectly normal and harmless. At least it’s normal and harmless for your baby. It’s going to haunt your dreams long after that soft spot closes at around 18 months.

The moment you realize how much of your life revolves around your breasts.

If you breastfeed, there’s always that first time you wake up with cartoonishly large, rock-hard breasts (I don’t think I’ve met a mom who hasn’t referred to them at some point as “porn star boobs”), your first public leak (awkward but you live through it), the first time you think “Is... my breast pump talking to me?”, and the first time you squirt milk during sex (I’m so sorry, but yes, this happens) — there’s no dearth of fun firsts and unspoken milestones centered around your boobs in the early days of parenthood. Our best advice it to take it in stride and laugh when you can.

The first song you sing to your baby.

Maybe you were fully prepared and learned all of the classic nursery rhymes, or maybe you just decide to sing to your baby and the first song that pops into your head is the theme from The French Prince of Bel-Air. No matter what, it’s a nice moment.

The first time you realize babies are kind of boring.

There will come a time when you’re gazing into your baby’s eyes, soaking in the sweetness of the moment, the extraordinary loveliness that comes from your baby’s face, and you’ll think, “Man, I kind of want to scroll Instagram now.” It’s fine.

The first time you just wash your baby’s clothes with the rest of the laundry.

That first load of baby laundry was so special. Washing all those new jammies in that expensive scent-free, allergen-free, everything-free detergent you bought just for their clothes, sniffing the basket as everything came out of the dryer, hanging them up so neatly and organized. Yeah, that was fun, and now there’s just piles of poop-stained and breast-milk-covered laundry and you just need to toss it in and move on with your life. (Also, barring specific allergies, any fragrance-free detergent is fine: Don’t go broke on something your kid is going to crap through in 30 minutes.)

The first “never” to go out the window.

Truly, the best parents in the world are the people who don’t have kids but know exactly what they’ll do when they do have children. And yes, that includes each and every one of us who said “never” before the rubber met the road.

“I’ll never give my baby formula.”

“I’ll never let my baby sleep on me.”

“I’ll never let my baby watch screens.”

Yeah... about that. It’s gonna happen, babe. Maybe not all of them, but definitely at least one or two plans you were very smug about. It happens to all of us: Again, it’s best to laugh as you realize no plan survives contact with the enemy... in this case, your child.

The first (and last) time you forget a spare outfit.

Babies require a lot of stuff any time they have to go anywhere — diapers, wipes, bottles, car seats, strollers, carriers — and as you pack all that, at some point you’ll think “packing this extra outfit is overkill. We’re only going out for a couple hours. It’ll be fine.”

It’s not fine. This will inevitably mark the day your kiddo has a massive blowout that goes up their entire back. Fortunately, the horror of that unforgettable experience will ensure that you never forget or forgo spare clothing ever again.

The first time you eat something off your baby’s head.

Just because your baby is out of your body doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be more or less attached to you, and that includes meal times. Which means you are going to drop food on your kid. (Pro tip: Make sure anything you eat isn’t too hot.) You’re also going to be very, very hungry, basically all the time. And, well, you’re not going to let that bit of sandwich go to waste just because you’re have to lick it off your newborn, right?

The first time you realize that smell is coming from your baby’s neck folds.

Oh, it’s a thing. Like little shar-peis, babies are covered in adorable folds of skin, and the spaces between those folds are going to require thorough cleaning. It’s inevitable that you won’t get every fold every time, and it often happens that milk, sweat, milk and sweat, and all other manner of detritus are going to wind up just kind of... fermenting. And you won’t find out what it is until you start sniffing around and eventually finding the source.

That first magical walk.

Many of these milestones are not exactly pleasant, but you have just as many truly magical moments in store. There comes a day when you’re actually able to get out of the house with your little one (and maybe your partner). You pop them in the baby carrier or stroller and just walk out your door and wander a little bit. The weather is lovely, you feel calm, and your baby is relaxed and happy. You feel the uncertainty and hardship and isolation melt away as you tilt your face to the sun and take your first full, deep breath in you-can’t-remember-how-long. And you can see a light at the end of the tunnel that lets you know “This is really, really hard, but I’m going to get through it and find joy along the way.”

The first time you fold up the stroller like a pro.

And you just hope someone in the parking lot sees you and is like “Holy sh*t, that mom knows what she’s doing.”

The first time you give another mom advice.

Believe it or not there will come a day when another mom, maybe even one only a few weeks behind you, will talk about her experience or ask a question and you will realize that you have been through it and can actually offer some useful advice. Maybe you’ve found a great diaper rash cream, or a surefire burping technique. Maybe you can just relate to her struggle and let her know “Hey, I know it’s hard. But it will get better.”