Guest post: "Professional tips from a newborn girl" by Ricardo Oliveira
What can business professionals learn from a 6-week-old baby?
Occasionally on “when hope writes” I’ll publish guest posts by brilliant artists and writers. If you want to be a guest blogger on my Substack, please connect with me on LinkedIn or my website.
Today I’m sharing an informative, helpful, relatable essay on the parallels of being a parent and work by, a talented writer, editor, and publisher of and .
Ricardo Oliveira wears a bunch of different hats at TechFinitive.com, primarily helping their Editorial team produce content. One of their latest projects—a fortnightly newsletter at the intersection of tech and movies called FlashForward—is available here on Substack. In his guest post below, he talks about the experience of having a newborn daughter and how much of that experience has parallels with work. He recently started his own Substack, writing about League of Legends.
Before I became a parent, a friend told me that the 3am feeds were going to be magical. Just you, the baby and the world outside, wrapped in silence, he said.
He was right. I did come to enjoy those moments—and the promise they held—very much.
One other thing that I came to enjoy at 3am was ‘time to think’. Walking around the house, cradling your baby to sleep, your mind finds plenty of opportunity to wander. And while, in my personal experience, the “wandering” mostly led to a mix of dread and enthusiasm for what lay ahead for my daughter, there were times when my brain just thought about work.
And then there were times when those two realities—of being a parent and being a worker—crossed paths.
Not sure why or what it says about me. That’s, perhaps, an exercise for another time; today, I’m just jotting down some of the thoughts that occurred to me during those nightly walks. Perhaps they’ll come in handy for both parents and professionals alike.
Now, before we get started, a disclaimer: this is not an article about parenting. There’s plenty of that out there. For the rest of this article, just keep in mind one thing: during the first 6 weeks of parenthood, sleep is more or less the epicentre of the baby’s life and, therefore, yours/your partner’s. Everything you’ll read below is against that backdrop.
Stick to the plan but adjust the schedule
For the first few weeks of a baby’s life, they are kind of predictable. They sleep, they eat, they need help burping and then they like to be held until they are ready to sleep again. In between, there are some diapers to be changed (usually after the burping is out of the way). This is typically called a “cycle”.
While every baby is different, you can expect a variation of the above to be true in most cases. We found that predictability could be put to good use in the form of a plan. A plan meant having as much prepared as possible before each cycle started. Knowing what bottles would be needed, when to sterilize them, how much to feed them, who would feed her (in case of a mix between breastfeeding and bottle), where to change the baby, where in the house to cradle her back to sleep, what clothes to have her sleep on, so on so on so on.
You can plan a lot in advance and having that plan is guaranteed to make it easier to keep your baby happy and going through the motions with little stress (for you included). When you are operating on 2-3 hours of sleep, that plan will often be a godsend.
Embedded in a plan, there’s a schedule and a sequence. When things follow the schedule and sequence you assumed they would, parenthood is less of a challenge.
But often, they won’t and that’s when you need to adapt. In our experience, more often than not, it was the schedule that got adjusted, not so much the plan. Sometimes our daughter would wake up earlier than expected, sometimes later. Sometimes she’d want to stay up a bit longer. We learned to read her behaviour and adjust to her timings while keeping to the plan as much as possible. It didn’t always work perfectly, but it helped us keep on course.
Sticking to a plan is all too familiar at work. More often than not, timings and schedules will need to be adjusted. This is not to say that plans won’t. But in the context of work, I’ve found that even if the tactical parts of a plan change, the overall plan—if well crafted—rarely does (and when it does, it’s for good reason).
So, lesson one: stick to the plan—as much as possible—but give yourself the flexibility to adjust schedules whenever needed.
A comfortable setting makes a world of difference
In those first few weeks of our daughter’s life, we more or less stayed confined to specific parts of the house, most notably, the couch in the living room. That couch became the epicentre of meals and naps alike, particularly in the middle of the night when our daughter was much happier sleeping in our arms than in her bassinet.
Soon enough, that couch turned into a first-class aeroplane seat with everything within reach. The nearby coffee table was stacked with snacks of all kinds, hand sanitiser and a permanent glass of water. Multiple pillows were readjusted to turn a corner of the couch into the most comfortable seat you’ve ever sat on. A trolley was acquired to store and move around other utilities. TV remote always in sight! Several blankets.
Why? At times we’d be sitting on that couch for hours, often, during the night. When you are trying to stick to a schedule—particularly when your baby is napping and your partner is resting in the other room—the last thing you wanna do is wake everyone up because you got “snacky” at 2am. When you are at your most tired, a comfortable setting will make a world of difference—and will enable you to better look after your baby.
Not too dissimilar from doing work in the right environment. I’ve found that having the right headset, the right desk, the right chair, is rarely picking nits; it makes a world of difference in your ability to focus on the task at hand and really get the most out of whatever it is you are doing.
Use technology to your advantage
When my partner told me she’d bought a white noise machine for babies, I had my doubts.
Not about white noise, but about why on earth someone would come up with a device specifically for that purpose. Why not use an iPad and some speakers or something?
Well, as usual, I’ve been enlightened. While I’m sure a makeshift solution is not too difficult to work out, I’ve surrendered to how helpful our little “shush machine” has turned out to be.
Let me tell you why: usability and purposeful design often improve on something you didn’t know needed improving. The white noise machine my partner bought—a YogaSleep Nod—clearly has been built by people who understand how babies sleep and the routines that parents go through to help them sleep.
This is not a plug; I have no affiliation with the company that makes them (or the website linked to above).
It has but a few buttons that give you quick access to lullabies, ocean sounds, wind and, what we’ve found most useful, a “shush” sound (try shushing continuously for 15 minutes, every 2 hours, and you’ll quickly appreciate why this is so great). It comes with a nightlight that illuminates the room just enough for you to see, but not too much that it stimulates the baby. It has timers built in—so you can leave it on when the baby falls asleep and it will eventually fade away. It’s small and portable, but as loud as it needs to be.
When you are holding a baby with one hand, in the dark, at 3am, these features being accessible with just a few presses of a button, will make you truly appreciate technology. Our baby quickly learned to fall asleep every time the shush came on, which greatly helped with “sticking to the plan”.
At work, we are surrounded by technology. Yet, we are sometimes slow to fully put it to good use. In my case, it’s often some form of bias or preconceived notion that holds me back. A voice in my head that says, “That’s just a gimmick, I don’t need that”. And that’s exactly the point—it’s not about whether you need it. It’s about experimenting and embracing the possibility that there are tools out there that will straight up make your life better. Grammarly is one such tool that comes to mind (again, no affiliation). I didn’t use it for years—even though I’m not a native English speaker—and now I don’t write anything without it.
Plans, schedules, and technology be damned… every cycle will feel familiar yet all too different.
People will tell you that your baby will change before your eyes, but I’ve found that not to be true. Your baby will do something repeatedly for days or even weeks and then, all of a sudden, it won’t—except you won’t even realize it at the time.
And that’s why regularly talking with your partner about what you are personally observing will help you “learn” your baby. We’ve found ourselves regularly “debriefing” after our daughter had just gone to sleep, exchanging minutia on diapers, facial expressions, cries, reactions to sounds, clothing and a million other things. And it’s those debriefs that you crystalize what’s working, what’s not and what adjustments you need to make to the schedule and, every now and again, the plan.
Too often at work, we spend time formulating the future and detailing the next steps, without spending enough time understanding the past. There’s plenty of looking ahead in business and, too often, too little reflection and analysis of what just transpired.
Perhaps that stems from a world that too often sees failure where there isn’t any to be found. That, perhaps, is also an article for another day. As far as parenting and business are concerned, find the time to debrief—you’ll be amazed by how much you’ll learn.
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