Top 10 New-Parent Mistakes

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Becoming a new parent should be a joyous time in your life — so, don’t get too hung up by the bumps along the way like these common new-parent mistakes.

The thought of having to take care of something so tiny can be a daunting task for some new parents. Worry, frustration and more begin to set in before you know it. Don’t get hung up on these new-parent mistakes. You WILL conquer this parenting thing and soon enough, you’ll be an expert at it!

1. COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER PARENTS

New parents waste an awful amount of time in the first year of their baby’s life by worrying about every little thing and comparing their baby to others. Am I doing this right? Is he doing that wrong? Does he cry too much or not enough? Any of that sound familiar to you?

“Don’t compare your baby to others’ babies in any situation,” advises Wendy McHale, IBCLC and owner of Nurturing Lactation, “and that includes eating, sleeping, teeth coming in, or walking and talking. Babies grow at different rates.” She explains that while first-year milestones are there for a reason, it’s important to remember that they’re flexible. If your baby isn’t walking as early as your best friend’s baby did, maybe that’s because he’s putting his energy and effort into learning his first words instead. “It’s not a reflection of the parents,” adds McHale. “They’ll get there, you can’t make them do things before they’re ready.”

All of the worrying gets in the way of enjoying being a parent, and enjoying your infant’s first year. You have to remember that moms and dads have been raising babies for thousands of years. Take it easy on yourself, do your best and when all else fails, sit down and rock in the rocking chair for YOU.

2. WORRYING ABOUT A FEEDING SCHEDULE

Breastfeeding moms are often told a baby will eat every three hours, but McHale says that because breast milk is digested quickly, your baby might be hungry more often, and that’s perfectly OK. “Offer the breast first when Baby fusses, and don’t worry about a schedule,” she advises, adding that if the baby won’t latch, he might be fussing over something else, like a gassy tummy. It’s all a matter of learning your baby’s cues in those first few weeks and months, according to McHale. Those cues may not be easy to recognize by new parents, but don’t worry. It won’t take long to figure them out.

When transitioning to solid foods, McHale encourages parents to talk to their pediatrician. Breast milk will be the main source of nutrition if you’re breastfeeding, but if you’re using formula, you’ll want to make sure you cover your baby’s nutritional needs with your doctor. The introduction of solid foods at this point is mostly about getting babies used to texture, how to use their new teeth, and for learning social cues, according to McHale.

3. NEGLECTING BABY’S TEETH EARLY

Lots of new parents don’t think they need to do anything about their baby’s gums until it’s too late. Start him off on the right foot by:

  • Never allowing the baby to sleep with a bottle in his mouth as it can promote baby tooth decay.
  • Wipe down your baby’s gums with a lukewarm washcloth after eating and begin using a toothbrush when baby teeth appear.
  • Make sure to visit your pediatric dentist by Baby’s first tooth or first birthday — a pediatric dentist has additional training for infants and children and can often detect and correct potential tooth and gum issues before they become severe.

4. COMPETING OVER SLEEP TIME

“Sleeping’s tough!” admits McHale, adding that new parents should remember that babies aren’t meant to sleep like adults, who want to sleep a long stretch at a time. Think of it this way, says McHale: Your baby’s working hard to nearly triple his weight in a single year. That’s a lot of work that requires a lot of nutrition. He’s often waking up because he needs to keep that little brain and body fed and growing.

Of course, babies will wake up for other reasons, too — they may be cold or lonely, or they may have gas or are teething. Whatever the reason, babies will need some help from Mom or Dad to get back to sleep, whether that’s feeding, rocking, holding them, or all three. Infants don’t yet know how to self-sooth, says McHale, but they will learn, so don’t worry that you’re setting up bad habits. She also points out that new parents should remember that periods of waking in the night will ebb and flow — just as your baby starts sleeping for longer stretches, he might hit a growth spurt that has him up all night.

5. NOT HAVING A TRUSTED SOURCE FOR GOOD ADVICE

Many new parents feel cornered by all of the advice from relatives, friends and even total strangers who want to tell them how to do this or that with their infant. YOU are the parent, and you have to learn to trust yourself. Know who you can turn to in a pinch or even in the middle of the night. Look to your parents or to family members whom you feel do a great job with their children, or maybe you have a doula that you can consult. Talk with your pediatrician about your concerns. Breastfeeding moms will want a lactation consultant they trust — start by visiting La Leche League of Ohio (which includes Northern Kentucky) at lllohio.org. As time goes on, your expertise will grow and along with it, your confidence. Before long you’ll have a solid system in place for figuring out parenting matters with your children.

6. USURPING THE SPOUSE

Intentionally or not, a lot of new moms are guilty of making their spouse feel like they can’t do things for the new baby as well as they can themselves. Try to avoid this. If you feel your spouse needs “work” in baby care, then help him out. Find ways to encourage his involvement and allow him to help rather than shut him out.

“I work nights, so I take care of our baby for a few hours and let my wife try to sleep,” says Justin Watkins. “I just do whatever I can to help my wife out. She did all the major work, so diaper duty and morning feedings are no biggie. I love my baby girl and our time together.”

7. ARGUING IN FRONT OF THE BABY

Vibes are contagious at home, and when parents yell at each other, even a 3-month-old can pick up the worry, say parenting experts like good, old Dr. Spock. Look at the intensity and frequency of your fights — snapping every now and then is a normal part of living with another person in a sleep-deprived time. Find ways to honor each other by giving one another a break. When you MUST have a serious argument, take it quietly into another room, if possible.

8. BUCKLING UP BABY

This one point can’t be hammered enough because new parents are dealing with a surprising number of new conflicts in their mind. It’s easy, in a rush, to just assume the seat is installed correctly. Installing a car seat can take time and be tricky. Once you’ve chosen the best seat for your baby, visit safecar.gov and check the Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator to find a location nearest you to have your seat installment checked properly.

9. THINKING DISCIPLINE STARTS EARLY

Pediatricians agree that disciplining a baby before 7 – 9 months isn’t necessary or effective. Before that age, a baby isn’t capable of manipulation or of consciously “being bad.” Until a child can understand, the best way to thwart undesirable behavior is to distract with toys or another activity. Around 8 or 9 months of age, you can discipline most effectively by rewarding desired behavior with attention and kind words, and by withholding these rewards when the baby does not behave as desired.

10. THINKING YOU CAN SPOIL A BABY

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you cannot spoil a baby by giving him attention.

“My mother was always telling me that I’ll end up spoiling our baby when she saw me pick her up when she cried,” says Julie Anderson, mother of two. “I would feel chided and that I was doing something wrong,” she adds.

During the first few months, it’s important to respond to all of your baby’s cries; she’ll cry less if you’re there to comfort her. You’ll soon be able to distinguish between your baby’s cries — the sound of a hunger cry is different than a cry of pain or distress. You also might be able to eventually identify a leave-me-alone cry. Pediatricians agree that babies often have fussy periods during which nothing will console them; this seems to be a way for them to relieve tension and excess energy, often leaving them more alert and content afterwards.

Jenna Fleming is a freelance writer and a mom to two children.

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