How do I know which stroller to buy? How do I find a good daycare? When can my partner and I go out on a date? As any parent knows, the first few months with your baby present a dizzying array of new questions and challenges, and finding straightforward, trustworthy answers can become its own stressful process.
After experiencing the frustrations of searching for information as a new parent, “TODAY” producer and NYC mom-of-two Patrice Poltzer decided to create her own how-to video series. “New Baby Basics” launched earlier this month on TODAY.com to answer essential parenting questions, from how to find a babysitter to dealing with teething, with equal parts advice and humor.
What inspired you and your husband to create this series together?
It was August, 2013 and I had just given birth to my son. I was a brand-new mom, about four days into the whole parenting shtick and I was failing…or really I thought I was failing! For starters, no one ever told me how hard it was to get your baby to eat. Jenson wasn’t latching, and I was (unknowingly) 24 hours away from getting mastitis. There were a lot of tears in the house, and I’d say 80 percent of them were mine.
Moments like the above happened week after week, and they are still happening. Whether it was undoing my stroller, swaddling my son, making his bottle or preparing solid foods, I would waste hours online looking for video tutorials, as my brain was usually operating at half-mast and an article wasn’t cutting it. So then I figured I might as well do something about my frustrations. I began making videos on a personal YouTube channel where parents could quickly stop by and watch a “how-to” parenting video, and then started posting some of them to our TODAY.com site. The response was really positive, and once the TODAY brand started ramping up its parenting community, a “how-to” series seemed like a natural fit. I am super excited that I am able to take an idea that was born out of such frustration and bring it on a much larger playing field to hopefully help other parents. We’re really all just winging it here as parents.
As for my husband…well he didn’t exactly sign up to be the token English dude who gets exasperated at his wife in Baby Basics, but the week I was shooting at my apartment he happened to be working from home, so I asked him to sit on the couch with me and chat about our first date night after baby. When I looked back at the footage, I liked the fact we were talking about issues in a natural way and I thought his male perspective was refreshing, as so often you hear only from the moms. So he went from set grip to co-star overnight.
How do you come up with ideas for each segment? What are some topics you’re most excited to tackle?
The topics are generated from a few different sources. First, we look at what our TODAY Parenting Team audience is asking. What are new parents asking the most? What are the trending topics we’re noticing for new parents? Some of the topics I do because I personally struggled with that particular question, for example, the “How To Find a Daycare” episode. That was a really daunting task for me that I had to tackle before I headed back to work, and I’m fortunate that I live in a community where you can’t walk down the street without running into a stroller and parents freely share information. But what if that wasn’t the case for some parents? How are those parents finding answers and what if they didn’t want to spend hours and hours curating bits on the Internet? Sometimes it’s just easier and more efficient to ask a trusted source. The other way I get topic ideas is by asking my friends, co-workers, new moms I meet out and about, Facebook, etc. I have so many topics to tackle.
The videos balance information and humor—why do you think it’s so important for new parents to be able to laugh about their experience?
If you don’t laugh at the experiences you will literally be crying…all the time. I found the first year of parenting especially challenging. Don’t get me wrong, now that I’m in the toddler regime that brings a new set of challenges, but the difference is Jenson can talk to me, so at least when he’s acting irrational he can at least irrationally explain to me why that is the case. With new babies and it being your first run-around, you are relying a lot on your gut and instinct. But that confidence in trusting your gut takes a bit of time as a new parent, and there are many frustrating moments along the way. As new parents, we’ve all been in that public space where baby has a blow-out and you have no back-up clothes or wipes. We’ve all been there when you are so sleep-deprived that the “wrong” look from your partner is enough to ignite the wrath of a thousand angry demons in you. Or when it’s four in the morning and you are still rocking your baby and possibly even sleeping on the ground next to a crib knowing that somehow violates every sleep-training tip in the book! We parents must laugh at all of this, because there really isn’t an alternative.
What do you hope parents take away from the series?
I’d love for parents to be entertained first, and maybe walk away with a bit of advice they hadn’t heard before. Or even just receive some reassurance that what they are going through is normal, and there is a whole village of people going through the exact same experiences, like colic and sleep training; two issues that I know can make parents feel like they are on island. So it’s my hope that these videos bring a little bit of confidence to the parent arsenal, because as you can see from them, none of us know what we’re doing.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give first-time parents who are overwhelmed by all the information and opinions they’re bombarded with? How can they tune out all the noise and focus on what’s important?
You know what you are doing! For real. It’s so easy to think that everyone else (but you) knows how to “handle” this new parenting thing. But the dirty secret is…nobody does. We are all just trying different things on for size and seeing what works. You know your baby better than anyone, and while someone might want to sleep train, you might not need to. Your friend might swear that nannies are the only way to a Harvard education, and you might think daycare is a better fit. Guess what? You’re both right. I find I get the most valuable advice from my mom friends and a few trusted sources online. I hope that “TODAY’s” Baby Basics can eventually be that trusted place where parents come to find information in a fun, entertaining and smart way!
To check out “New Baby Basics,” visit today.com!