The last thing most new mothers want is unsolicited advice and, most of the time, mothers know best. But there are exceptions to that rule. Many of the things on this list aren’t things a mother would do if she knew the risks they presented to her baby. On the surface, these fifteen habits are just shortcuts or small actions that are naturally happen when a mom is short on time and sleep. Most of them don’t seem overtly dangerous but the consequences can range from injury to developmental delays or fatal consequences.
Anyone with children will tell you that falling asleep with the baby on your lap or carrying them everywhere is sometimes the only way that they can get sleep or get dinner on the table. Marketing popularizes some of these ideas as well, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that many of these habits are life threatening for the baby. And when the pressure to be “super mom” is added in, it’s easy to why some parents would miss the dangers and other parents wouldn’t admit that they slip into these bad habits now and then.
Whether you already have kids, are expecting kids, or are just curious about what to avoid when you become a mother, these are fifteen mistakes that moms make with newborns and infants.
15 Letting The Baby Sleep With Loose Bedding
A quick stroll through the bedding aisle at any baby store or in the baby section of a general store will turn up whole bedding sets designed to go into a crib. Matching sets of bumpers, sheets, pillows, and blankets. Many of these sets even include coordinated stuffed animals that are supposed to share the crib with the baby. With all these products on the market, it would be natural to assume that they are safe for the baby to sleep with. Except they’re not.
Loose bedding increases a baby’s risk of SIDS because they pose a suffocation risk. The blankets could go up over their faces and there have been cases of babies rolling in their sleep until they get caught between the bumper and the mattress. The only truly safe sleeping arrangement for babies is in a crib without pillows, toys, bumpers, or loose blankets. Babies should be swaddled or put into a “sleep sack” to help them stay warm and put to bed flat on their back in the crib or bassinet.
14 Adding To The Bottle
There is a period of time about four or five months into a baby’s life where formula or milk is not quite enough to keep the baby full unless they are fed every two hours, but blended solids are a bit much.
Some parents are tempted to add things to the bottle to thicken up the milk or formula.
At a certain point, usually, at about four months, some doctors will recommend adding a little bit of baby cereal to the milk and cutting a slit in the nipple so that the baby can get some mild solids into their diets. It is very important to note, however, that this is limited to cereals specially ground and prepared to be fed to babies. Normal rice is too big and things like Karo syrup will give the baby more sugar than is healthy and quite possibly cause them to develop an unhealthy sweet tooth later in life. Always check with a doctor before adding things to your baby’s bottle, and make sure that the things added to the bottle are safe for the baby.
13 Using Allergy Meds To Help The Baby Sleep
Every parent on the planet is familiar with this situation: the baby is screaming and fussing, obviously exhausted. The parent goes through the bedtime routine, assuming that an obviously tired baby will fall asleep soon after the bedtime routine is complete. An hour later, however, the baby is wide awake and showing absolutely no signs of wanting to go to bed.
On nights like these, some parents find it tempting to turn to Benadryl. This over the counter drug, the brand name for diphenhydramine, is usually used for treating allergies but it is also well known for making people drowsy. Overly tired and highly stressed parents might think this shortcut is a great way to get the baby to sleep. In reality, it is never a good idea to give babies a drug to make them sleep. If the baby is struggling to sleep, it’s time to consult a doctor or a relative who has less aggressive methods.
12 Falling Asleep During Feedings
If there is one word that can describe every new mother, it is “tired”. Either the baby doesn’t let the mother sleep or the mother is dealing with some kind of discomfort that makes it hard for her to sleep even when the baby is snoozing away. This can lead the mother to doze off at bad times.
One of the worst times to doze off, short of behind the wheel, is when holding the baby.
Some moms swear by sleeping upright with their baby on their laps in the first few months. Most of these moms make sure that the baby can’t roll off their laps and that they won’t drop the baby when their arms relax during sleep. This presents its own issue, but we’re not referring to that practice. This is in reference to moms who regularly doze off while feeding their babies. It might be hard to stay awake or move the baby to a safe sleeping place. But it’s worth avoiding the risk of injury to the baby.
11 Letting The Baby Sleep With A Bottle
This is one of those habits that parents fall into because it is easier than dealing with a fussy baby who just does not want to go to bed. It is so easy to give the baby a bottle and let them fall asleep while nursing, then swap the bottle out for a pacifier. There are, unfortunately, serious problems that come with letting a baby fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth.
Most of the risks start when the baby’s teeth begin to come in. Formula or milk left on the teeth and in the mouth while the baby sleeps will contribute to tooth decay. In extreme cases this can lead to babies having their teeth pulled instead of letting them fall out naturally. A good alternative is a bottle with warm water instead of milk or formula, but the absolute best option is to put the baby to bed with a pacifier and save the bottles for daytime feedings.
10 Lighting Up In The House
Just about everyone knows the dangers of smoking while pregnant. The baby can be born underweight and suffer developmental issues after nicotine exposure. Even more people are aware of the dangers of smoking and, in some ways worse, secondhand smoke. But this doesn’t stop some mothers from smoking around their babies, including newborns.
Secondhand smoke is even more dangerous to developing lungs. Studies have shown that smoking around babies can cause asthma and other more serious health problems later in life. It predisposes them to smoking, and that doesn’t even touch on the risk of burns if the parent smokes while holding the baby.
It’s hard to quit smoking. Nobody is saying it’s easy. But smoking parents owe it to their children to try as hard as they can to kick the habit.
9 'Relaxing' While Feeding
It’s a hard and fast rule in America that you don’t drink while pregnant. Other countries have other policies about this, but in America we tend to avoid alcohol entirely during pregnancy.
Many moms, unfortunately, do not realize that this prohibition extends to the duration of breastfeeding as well.
Alcohol as well as many drugs and over the counter medicines all transfer into the mother’s breast milk. Many of these substances either have negative or unknown effects on babies. The idea of “unknown effects” might not seem so bad, but the known effects are bad enough to more than make up the difference. Alcohol and other toxins in the breast milk can cause the baby to lack nourishment, suffer from stunted brain development, or be delayed in reaching their developmental milestones. The risk is just not worth it.
8 Holding The Baby While Cooking
There’s a certain image of mothers that movies and television love to shoe. A woman cooking supper, one kid at the table coloring or something else artsy while the smaller baby is on the mother’s hip. The image is almost nostalgic and is kind of an American icon for the mom who has it all together: well-behaved kids, time to cook dinner, and a family that works together.
The reality of that situation is not nearly as idyllic. Holding a baby, whether in front of you or on your hip, is not safe when cooking. This goes double for wearing the baby in a sling while cooking unless the baby is on the mother’s back and neither hands nor feet can get caught in an errant blast of steam or oil, or catch on pot handles and stovetops.
7 Not Changing Diapers Fast Enough
Nobody likes changing diapers. It’s a little easier in the beginning, when the baby’s legs aren’t as strong so the kicks hurt less and the poop doesn’t smell quite as bad. Diaper changes become even harder to endure when the baby is old enough to kick and flail, roll over, and generally act on their displeasure at cold diaper wipes being used on sensitive places. With all this unpleasantness, it can almost be forgiven when some parents don’t change their kids right when the baby has a dirty diaper. Almost.
Leaving babies in diapers until the diaper sags is a recipe for diaper rash and even more unpleasant things.
Dirty diapers also leak, leading to more work in the long run. There’s no need to run the baby to the diaper change for a little bit of wetness. But if there’s a lot of wetness or a worse mess in the back, it is definitely time to change that baby. Don’t wait until the diaper is sagging!
6 Practicing The 'Cry It Out' Method
A popular parenting method for several decades was the let the child “cry it out”. The idea was that the newborn or infant would learn to “self-soothe” and would not turn out spoiled or needy. Many experts warned against this method based on the field of baby brain development and early childhood psychology, but the method took off all the same.
It’s now been made clear that children cannot really self-soothe until they’re closer to a year old. Self-soothing requires the ability to know that their caregiver is coming back, have a sense of the passage of time, and the motor skills necessary to make themselves comfortable. There is even a great deal of evidence that letting babies “cry it out” damages their sense of trust in their caregiver if done too often. All in all, unless it can’t be avoided, tending to a crying baby relatively quickly is healthiest for everyone involved.
5 Letting The Baby Play With Small Objects
Babies put literally everything in their mouths. Fingers, toes, clothes, toys, random debris. Other people’s fingers and toes. If they think they can fit it in their mouth, they are going to try. This is why it is absolutely vital that parents not let babies find their way to small objects. Some parents miss that memo, unfortunately, and don’t pay close enough attention to what their children are playing with and putting in their mouths. This can lead to children choking and potentially dying when the small pieces get stuck in the child's throat.
A lesser issue would be the part finding its way up a child’s nose, which is often less dangerous but still a costly mistake to fix.
These small pieces can be anything from small toys and parts that have come off bigger toys to beads and sequins that come off something else and make their way into the infant’s hands, and everything in between.
4 Giving The Baby Tylenol
It is really hard for parents to see their children in distress. This is especially true for the itty-bitty children who cannot tell their parents what is wrong. As adults we often reach for the medicine cabinet when we don’t feel good. Some parents want to take this same approach with their children, but that can have severe consequences. Most medications are not designed with a dose that is safe for infants and babies.
There are infant-sized doses out there, but in most cases they aren’t needed. It is strongly recommended that parents check with their doctors or a free call-in line before trying any sort of medication on their children. And, with the exception of fevers, there’s a good chance the doctor will tell you that the medication isn’t needed at all. It’s hard to watch a child in discomfort, but it might be a parent’s only safe course of action.
3 Letting People Kiss The Baby
There is something about the chubby cheeks of most babies that makes people want to pinch or kiss them. Moms are especially familiar with this urge, and who can really blame them! Babies don’t seem to mind the attention, for the most part. But that doesn’t mean that anyone and everyone should be getting in the baby’s face to deliver smooches.
The obvious issue with this is that random people really should not be touching babies they don’t know. There’s another side of the issue, however, that includes family in the “no kiss list”, specifically family that is not around the baby all the time. This is because babies have very weak immune systems. Any disease resistance they have is due to their time in the womb and, as any parent can attest, that resistance is very spotty. People other than immediate family are very likely carrying things that the baby has never been exposed to and it puts them at a much greater risk of getting sick.
2 Swaddling Too Tightly
Swaddling is both the most convenient and one of the most frustrating parts of taking care of newborns. Many babies sleep better when swaddled and experts strongly recommend that babies be swaddled before going to sleep, though the swaddling of their arms should stop when they’re old enough to roll over in their sleep. Despite all this, however, swaddling a baby too tightly is a serious mistake that many new parents make. Swaddling too tight can cut off circulation and prevent the baby from adjusting in their sleep when it is necessary to keep their faces uncovered.
Tight swaddling during waking hours is just as bad, as it restricts babies from learning how to use their arms and legs.
It’s never fun to be slapped in the face by a flailing baby, but that is part of the price a parent has to pay so their child can learn motor functions and independence.
1 Letting The Car Seat Double As A Bed
One of the first tricks most parents learn is to put a fussy baby in their car seat and drive around for a little while. The baby inevitably falls asleep and, if the parent is careful, the sleeping baby can be moved from the car seat to the crib without waking up. Some parents, however, like to skip part of the process. They bring the baby in and set the car seat down, then leave the baby to sleep partially upright in the car seat. This isn’t a problem if the baby is only asleep for a little while, but it can be dangerous if the baby is left unattended or sleeps in the car seat for too long.
As convenient as it might be to leave a sleeping baby in their car seat, the baby should never be left alone in that position if they are not old enough to lift their head when sleeping. If the baby’s head falls forward, they can suffocate. No parent would willingly risk their child’s safety, but it’s not a risk that is often talked about. This same risk applies to propping a baby up with a breastfeeding pillow and was highlighted after several tragedies throughout 2017.