This post is dedicated to our friends J and E who are expecting their first baby in February. *applause* But any time now would be good, right J? lol They had little cards to write advice on at their shower, but I neglected to do so. I'm trying to make up for it now. :)
The best advice that I can impart on any first time parent is this simple phrase; Begin with the end in mind. Take a couple of minutes to sit with your partner and talk about how you see life after baby. There are so many different parenting techniques/models/styles. So talk with your spouse or partner and figure out what is important to you.
Do you want baby to sleep in bed with you or in their crib in their own room? Do you want to carry them around in a sling? Do you want them to play well on their own? Do you want to teach them about healthy eating? Do you want them to be able to sleep through the noise of a party? Do you want to rock them to sleep every night? Do you want them to have a pacifier or not? Do you want to teach them that reading is important?
I'll give you an example. K and I always said that we wanted to make sure that C would sleep through anything. When people first came to the house to visit they would whisper if she was asleep. We quickly told them not to worry, speak normally, in fact, speak loudly. The dog would bark, the phone would ring, and C would sleep right through it because she was used to the noise. On the flip side I heard of a couple who would turn the phone off when their kids slept, and any little peep would wake them up.
There are of course things that will come up that you didn't anticipate. K and I said that we didn't want to give C a pacifier, well, she had a really strong suck reflex, so really the paci was something that turned out to be beneficial for the first bit. That is, until she started waking up from sleep because she had spit it out. We realized, after a couple of restless nights, that we would have to go back to our original plan of no paci. It took another few restless nights to break her of the habit, but she slept much better after that. It's much easier to avoid developing a habit, than it is to break one, but that's not always possible.
Now you might think that some of these issues won't arise until they are much older, but I would argue that that is not the case. Everything you do as a parent develops attitudes, personality traits, habits and values in your child right from the start. If eating healthy is important to you, then you as a parent need to lead by example, maybe even think about making their baby food. If you want them to love reading, then maybe a book before bed every night is the way to go. I'm not trying to say what is right or wrong or even if there is a right or wrong. What I am saying is you need to decide what is important to YOU which means acting in a way that will lead to your goal.