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New Parents: Expectations vs. Reality

Being a new parent can bring on a mix of feelings, from excitement and joy to stress and frustration. It may not be easy, but with a little parental-logic, you can take on the challenge!

Premiered: Runtime: 8:12Topic: Body + BrainBody & BrainNova
Premiered on PBS

In this episode, co-hosts Bethany Van Delft and Dr. Alok Patel reflect upon their own experiences becoming parents to discuss the expectations and reality of new parenthood.

Visits to the pediatrician’s office or online parenting forums can shake a new parent’s confidence in their child’s health. Although there are expected milestones for your child to meet, the reality is that every child grows and develops differently. As a doctor, “I understand why some breastfed babies don’t poop every day,” Alok says. But as a father, Alok admits he worries when his new baby daughter doesn’t poop for days at a time. Bethany adds: “I’ve actually called our pediatrician and said, ‘I think my son’s head is growing too fast.’”

Regardless of whether you are parenting alone or with support, it’s important to discern which parental roles you can take on and which you may want to delegate, if possible. Finding support through friends, family, childcare, and healthcare professionals can greatly improve the transition into parenthood. Even if one parent is doing what seems like “more work” than the other for a time, “all parental roles are equally important,” says Bethany.

Once your child does arrive, bonding will likely be top of mind. Bonding with your new baby can happen through chemical and physiological processes, and/or through time and experience parenting. In his experience, Alok says birthing parents are more likely to mention bonding with their child immediately, thanks to the release of oxytocin during breastfeeding. For non-birthing parents, it may take some time to forge that bond. Alok found that stimulatory parenting (i.e. “picking up the baby, reading to your baby, interacting to your baby with touch”) helped him forge a bond with his newborn.

New parenthood can be tricky. But with support, Bethany says, we can raise “happy, healthy, safe, loved children.”

This episode includes clips from NOVA’s “Fighting For Fertility.” You can watch the full episode here.

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Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust.

Major funding for Parentalogic is provided by the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation and PBS.