There is no real manual to parenting, no matter what that website trying to sell you that parenting book says. Every parent is different, as is every child, and that too can change at the drop of a hat as baby grows, develops, and changes. This means that the type of parent someone envisions themselves becoming can change drastically once baby arrives. Already have a child, but have another on the way? Odds are that child is going to be completely different than their older sibling and a completely new outlook on parenting is going to emerge.
The parent training wheels are going to come off the second that baby arrives, and a lot of decisions are going to be made – some of them will be absolutely terrible! But these mistakes aren’t unicorns, they’re actually pretty typical for new parents, and that’s why we can warn you about them!
While the first year of parenting may seem like a competitive event with all eyes watching, and every little screw up or mistake counting, the good news is that babies aren’t going to remember what a hot mess their parents were way back when. Here are 15 mistakes parents make in that first year, and how you can avoid these common baby blunders.
15 Posting That Selfie
There are going to be some pretty fantastic photo worthy moments in that first year, but they aren’t going to happen every day. On average a newborn baby will need two to four ‘costume’ changes a day thanks to spit up, drool, and blow out diapers. Social media identities of parenting, or life in general, are carefully curated, so people generally aren’t posting what’s going on behind the scenes. This can make it easy to make new parents feel like failures! Even if the perfect post worthy picture doesn’t happen, make sure to take photographic evidence anyway. As your child gets older it will be less and less important what they were wearing or who has spit-up all over their shirt (in my house it was always me).
14 The Car Seat Isn't Safe
This one is scary: approximately 93 percent of parents leaving the hospital with their newborn child do so with an incorrectly installed car seat. The most common errors parents make include a harness that is too loose, poor retainer clip placement, and the incorrect harness slot to correspond with the size and age of the baby. Many fire stations and other places will inspect car seat installations to make sure they are installed correctly – so take advantage! For regular spot checks: make sure there is no slack in the harness, that the chest clip is even with the baby’s armpit, that the angle is correct, and that there isn’t too much wiggle side to side and back to front of the actual seat.
13 Overdoing The Baby Gear
It’s tempting when nesting, or when scanning potential items on a baby registry to buy all of the baby things. After all, they’re so little and cute. Baby items are really expensive and buying in excess might be affordable now, but by the time baby is nine to 12 months old and all of the gifted items are outgrown, most parents are glad to have some extra cash to spend on new essentials. Buying in bulk is a great way to save cash, but remember a newborn is constantly growing, so many parents end up giving away or donating the glut of diapers, clothes and other items that they bought on impulse. Baby doesn’t really need a wipe warmer or more than one Sophie the Giraffe.
12 Hovering Over The Crib
Parents have every right to be overjoyed and want to protect their child, heck it’s our job. Some get obsessive over checking in on their child, whether it’s hovering above their crib while they sleep at night fearing for SIDS, or inspecting a bump, bruise or rash to excess. Parents who are not sleeping because they are so preoccupied with a particular thought or fear are causing themselves a great deal of stress. SIDS risk peaks between two months to four months. There are a few things parents can do: Use a pacifier at nap time (it lowers the SIDS risk) and ensure that baby is sleeping on their back. Take a deep breath and recognize that you can’t (and shouldn’t) check on a child every five minutes.
11 Comparing Your Kid To Other Kids
When other people have kids in a peer group or family it helps many prospective parents dip their toes into the waters of what parenting might be like. Here’s the issue, other kids, even kids that come from the same parents are completely different. Some kids are good sleepers, others aren’t, and just because a child is sleeping through the night at three months doesn’t mean they are at four months or even a year! Comparing your own child to other kids is a sure-fire way to feel like a failure as a parent. Try to enjoy the unique individual needs, and quirks, of your own child without constantly comparison shopping about what other babes are up to, because guess what? Babies can’t be exchanged for quieter models!
10 Letting The Baby Come Between The Marriage
The new baby is important and he or she is going to be a major priority, but mom and dad should never forget to schedule some time for a little relationship TLC to make sure parenting isn’t the only thing on their agenda. Some couples find it helps their relationship to schedule a regular date night at the restaurant or the movies, even if it is only once a month or so. For parents to really connect, they should consider turning the phone on DND and banning all talk that has to do with parenting, baby or work. Even if the night is spent planning a vacation that won’t happen for two years, it will still be nice for mom and dad to enjoy that time together.
9 Pretending The Feelings Aren't There
The term ‘Baby Blues’ has always bothered me. I think it’s because the title seems to diminish the magnitude of what’s going on. It trivializes it to a very vulnerable population who is clearly going through some big changes. Baby Blues are short term, whereas postpartum depression stays on longer. It’s totally normal for life after baby to be stressful, trying and difficult and for it all to feel like an emotional roller coaster. That being said, if any of these feelings seem particularly extreme or last for more than two weeks, get help right away. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and the faster help is received the sooner a parent can begin to enjoy parenthood and all it has to offer.
8 Keeping Score
Partnership isn’t always going to be fifty-fifty, and this is one of the many reasons that it’s so important not to keep score. When things like nights out or diapers changed per parent are constantly being monitored nobody wins. One partner may feel like the other is acting like some sort of deranged hall monitor, while the other feels they’re doing all the work, and let’s be honest in the early infant days parenthood is not the most rewarding or luxurious job. If one parent wants help, they should ask for it. If someone needs a night out, make it happen. When both are feeling overwhelmed consider some outsourcing whether its babysitting, housekeeping or cooking to make sure both parents and baby are getting the self-care they need.
7 Keeping The Doctor On Speed Dial
We’ve gotten so used to information at our fingertips that unless we’re online experts on a topic we get shaky. Sometimes a cough is just a cough, and a bad night's sleep is just that. The early and often very sleep deprived state can cause a constant sense of panic in even the coolest cucumbers of parents. By constantly contacting the doctor for every little minute ‘issue’ time is being taken away from another patient who genuinely needs health care. They’ll also be less responsive in future because the worst offenders will fall into the ‘crying wolf’ category. Looking up absolutely everything online is another source of unnecessary stretch. Consider common sense, or calling a trusted veteran parent for their thoughts before sounding off all the alarms.
6 Decisions Are Mission Critical
Sure, parents are going to be faced with some important decisions in the first year of parenting, but odds are rice cereal selection isn’t going to matter in one week, let alone one year from now. Don’t get lost in the weeds of parenting and stress about each decision like it’s going to have some sort of butterfly effect on baby’s future. One of the biggest gifts of having twins, in addition to two absolutely lovely children, was that I didn’t have the time to stress about the little things like I saw many parents of singletons doing (yeah that’s right, that’s what we multiple parents call you). That easy breezy feel typical of veteran parents is because they have less time to sweat the small stuff. Keep this in mind!
5 Refusing The Help
The expression ‘it takes a village to raise a baby’ exists because parenting is crazy hard and we need all the help we can get. Some people think they’re going to be judged if they say they’re struggling. If someone is judging a new parent who just needs someone to hold the baby while they take a shower or a nap, then maybe it’s time to look for other people to ask. People want to help, and when they offer something, they mean it. So when someone asks if they can bring something over when they’re visiting the newborn don’t be afraid to ask them to bring coffee, toilet paper, laundry soap or whatever else is on the ‘needed to have it yesterday’ list.
4 Instincts Go Out The Window
If something feels right, sometimes it’s best to just roll with it. It might not be conventional, but if it works, give it a go. When my newborn daughter had colic we’d spend hours watching hockey on TV and slowly tapping her little bum to help keep her calm. Odds are this technique isn’t going to make any top ten parenting lists, but it worked and became a staple for months. There is a bond between parents and their children -second guessing not only makes new parents stressed, it also robs them of precious (and fleeting) moments from when their baby is still very small. Parents are the experts on their own child, so just take a pause to think about a particular parenting choice and give it a whirl.
3 What Self-Care?
Some parents love to wear the martyr badge like it’s one of honour. Most people feel gross if they don’t shower at least several times a week. For some reason the image of a parent who hasn’t shampooed their hair in weeks is more common than not. Take some time to do little things that make mommy feel better about herself, it’s important. Baby will be safe in their crib for a few moments while the shower is running, so stop stressing. Put on that mud mask, get that blow out, enjoy a magazine, and do whatever is necessary to refuel the tank. If momma is empty, she’s going to have nothing left to give to baby, so keep this in mind. It’s not selfish, it’s essential!
2 Living In The Bubble
While some cultures have a rule where only parents, immediate family, and medical care professionals can see the baby, that doesn’t mean that baby equals isolation (even if this is the practice). Days with an infant can be long, boring, and cripplingly lonely. Take some time to communicate with friends and family both in person and online. Getting out there is important for both mom and baby’s health. Recent research has found that social isolation can negatively impact C-reactive protein, blood pressure, waist circumference, and body mass index, and that social integration positively impacts the same key areas of health. Social bonds are important in every life stage, including as we get older, so be sure to include the grandparents in social activities!
1 Everything Will NOT Go Back to Normal
Remember how much life changed after that special someone came along? How about when the relationship got seriously committed? Things got different because that’s how life works. There’s no reset button after baby is born where magically things will go back to the way they once were, and that’s called progress, so don’t sweat it. It can be disheartening when friends who were once close become distant, but beyond making an effort to get out and see people with (and without) baby there’s not much that can be done about this natural life phase. Friend groups change with half of all friends being replaced on average every seven years, so don’t blame that on baby, and remember a new BFF might be right around the corner.