I was really fairly realistic, I think, in my expectations about what it would be like to have a baby for the first time.
I knew my little love would need me to be there always. I knew about the sleeplessness, the importance of breastfeeding, and which baby essentials were really, well, essential.
I knew the love I felt for my children would be one of the most beautiful and intense thing I had ever experienced.
But I must confess my knowledge was a bit lacking in one area: mealtime.
As an experienced mom to two tiny tots at this point, I now have more than three years of breastfeeding experience. I’ve put in hours in front of that high chair (and at the grocery store, and at the counter cutting things up into teeny, tiny pieces, and, yes, in front of the microwave).
I think it’s easy for new moms to become overwhelmed and impatient when feedings, either by breast, bottle, or solid foods, are a little more complicated and less seamless than they originally anticipated. It was easy for me to feel that way!
And it doesn’t necessarily get any simpler from there – a year flies by, and then you’ve got a toddler on your hands…
To get better baby-feeding habits started now and lay a good foundation for the future, check out these 15 things new moms do that waste time.
15 Missing The Chance For Bottles
I’m not sure if there are many things as frustrating as trying to get a baby to take a bottle when they just don’t want to.
Sadly, I know from experience.
You may think you’re 100 percent sure that you will exclusively breastfeed, or that you can worry about the whole bottle thing once your maternity leave is up.
But then, when you decide you desperately need a date night, your family’s financial situation changes, or it’s time to head back to the office, you try to introduce a bottle to your baby and… no bust!
Babies who are not introduced to a bottle as soon as breastfeeding is firmly established may really fight, or completely refuse, taking one when it’s offered later on.
Parents then spend small fortunes buying dozens of different bottles and nipples. They go around town buying every available option.
They have various people attempt the feeding, they pace around outside and sing and dance to try to distract the baby from the task at hand. But it’s sometimes all for nothing – because it’s too late, and the baby just isn’t willing to drink milk or formula in this way.
14 Hesitating To Call In The Pros
New moms might (very sadly and frustratedly) waste a lot of time, in the very early weeks of the baby’s life, struggling with breastfeeding.
The thing is, they can seek the help of lactation consultants (covered by health insurance!), or even La Leche Leagues or other nursing support groups or mothers’ circles, and someone is likely to know or do or say something that just makes something click.
Breastfeeding is a learned skill, for both mothers and babies.
Although it is of course a natural process, both new and experienced moms encounter problems sometimes, both at the onset of nursing and of course sometimes also later on.
There’s no need to struggle alone, feel bad, or give up.
Hospitals sometimes have lactation consultants making the rounds in the maternity ward, and home visits can be arranged afterward.
13 The Constant Cleaning
Whether you are still spoon-feeding a baby at around 4 to 6 months up through, well, maybe even getting toward the second year (depending on who your child is) or the little one has decided to take a stab at feeding himself, there is usually just no point to be constantly cleaning up throughout the course of the meal.
There will be purees on the head, peas on the floor, and other foods in any other place you might be able to think of right now.
While some children will request to be wiped up a bit at certain points (say, they don’t like the feeling of their hands being all sticky or slippery before they take a drink), trying to keep everything spotless throughout the meal is a pointless endeavor. Polite dining will come later. Now is the time to say, “Well, at least it’s all washable!” and clean up at the meal’s end.
12 Sweating The Small Stuff
It’s very easy for moms to put a LOT of thought (and worry) into what and how much their baby or young child is eating.
A great eater can turn finicky seemingly overnight. Things like teething, illness, developmental stages, and other life changes can impact appetite and preferences.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns (and hopefully it’s not your doctor who has you so concerned by doing that thing they love to do where they point out how short or tall or large or small your kid is compared to every other person his age in the country…), but here’s what mine has to say:
Offer a variety of foods at each meal, including foods from all the various groups at many meals.
If you get all worked up about it, your intense attitude might even kill the fun mealtime vibes for your tot and make things worse. It can be REALLY hard, but many would recommend we try to chill out, offer plenty of healthy meals, snacks, and water (as age appropriate), and move on with our lives.
11 Not Handing Over The Spoon
I know that some moms are hesitant to encourage (or even allow) their babies to try out using utensils. Believe me – I know.
It is a huge mess – sometimes. Anything in a bowl will probably get plopped out on the floor, or the tray, or the baby’s head, or hey, maybe even yours! But that’s OK because you know what else will happen? Baby will at some point manage to get a bite or two in there.
Baby may even like what she tastes, or be so excited to do it ALL BY HERSELF that she eats up those pureed veggies like your 7-year-old niece eats up a bowl of ice cream.
My second baby insisted on it. There was no stopping her. Once she realized that we had tiny spoons just her size, it was self-feeding only from there on out.
And you know what? It wasn’t even all that messy! And even when things get dirty, they’re washable! And she’s learned a very important skill (one that allows mom to eat herself, cook, or clean up other stuff in the kitchen while she does it).
10 Transitioning To A Tiny Table
I haven’t read much about this topic anywhere yet, but I have plenty of (very recent) experience with it from within my own young family.
I bet moms probably feel strongly about this one on both sides, depending just on what they’ve found works best for their own children – and that’s a beautiful thing! Do what works for you and your child (as long as it’s safe).
I have witnessed very clearly, though, parents ditching the high chair for toddler mealtimes way too soon. They waste time chasing the kid through the house, following them around and trying to convince them to have a bite (and it’s not safe to eat when they’re not sitting still, by the way…), and generally fighting a battle that doesn’t have to be fought.
If a tot is too young to have the self-control to sit nicely and focus on eating, leaving them in a high chair is entirely appropriate.
Kids nearing preschool age, even, may need a lot of practice and encouragement to sit still and focus on a meal without leaping up to play, chase the dog, or you name it.
9 Purchase A Fancy-Pants High Chair
It is still sitting in the corner, and we used it for three total years, but my husband and I were just making plans to finally get rid of this week: It’s our first child’s high chair, and I am first to admit that I did not choose the right one. Here’s why:
I registered for the one that looked really, really cute. I think it was also one of the more expensive choices – and although sometimes spending more money does mean getting a better product, of course that is NOT always the case.
It has a dark wood finish. The pad was removable and had adorable woodland creatures on it. There was a tray that could be removed leaving a secondary tray below it. All good, right?
Baby cereal, cheese, and more, would quickly dry and harden onto the wooden finish, and any amount of scrubbing to (unsuccessfully) try to remove the gunk would take off the varnish instead. The angle of the seat was to extreme, the pad never stayed in place, and my tot just never looked that comfortable in it.
For kid number 2? A hand-me-down plastic chair I can strap to a regular dining chair. Much better.
8 Seeking Shelter
Of course do whatever makes you comfortable. You do YOU – duh!
But I know for a fact that there are a good amount of women – and people in general – out there who think that it is a complete waste of time to attempt to cover up or go hide yourself away somewhere before nursing your baby.
The baby is eating, and it’s perfectly natural to let him or her go ahead and do that whenever and wherever works for the two of you.
Some older babies may thrive in a private and quiet environment. Mine, while teething, nurses best sitting out on a bench with the sound of cars and birds and trains and toddlers playing.
But to feel that you need to drape a cover over yourself or relocate might really be wasting time and effort (and diaper bag space!). Once my first tot was old enough to reach and grab, she thought a nursing cover was a hilarious (and distracting) game I for some reason pulled out every time she got hungry. Needless to say, I stopped bothering.
7 Not Seeking Silicone
Learn from my mistakes (or rather, my initial ignorance… or perhaps very specific frugality?). I bought a huge pack of cloth bibs, said to have some moisture protection on the back side, that did very little to protect my first baby’s clothing from getting saturated in food and water during messy mealtimes.
When she was into toddlerhood, we noticed our (very smart) friends pulling out a silicone bib with a food-catching lip on it every time we ate together. “Aha!” we said, and then meant to get one for a while, and then finally picked on up at a baby boutique we passed by one day.
For smaller babies who really drip a lot of goopy food everywhere still, it may not contain everything, and a change will still be in order afterward. But they still help a great deal.
We now have a small collection of silicone bibs, and they can be quickly rinsed or washed, saving us some clothes changes and time on hands and needs cleaning up dropped and plopped food.
6 Passing On Placemats
No, I am not a silicone salesperson. But I finally realized why today’s parents seem so in love with certain dining products made of the soft (and quite resilient in many applications) stuff.
There are the aforementioned crumb-catching bibs, of course.
And then there are these wonderful things I finally JUST obtained after more than three years as a parent.
Some moms and dads love them for acting as a barrier between restaurant tables and wee ones’ food when they’re out to eat. We recently switched or eldest to a tiny table instead of a highchair, and she loves using the there.
They’re silicon placemats, and whether they use suction cups to stick down, have lips to catch spills, or are just thin, flat sheets, they can make cleaning up much, much simpler.
This can save on dishes done, paper towels used, and more.
5 Not Choosing To Chillax
This one can be a little complicated, but you’ll quickly learn how to read your own baby, of course, as well as his or her moods and behavioral cues at various ages and stages.
What I’m trying to introduce here is the idea that some babies (and their overworked, overstressed moms) need to take time to wind down, relax, and feel all warm and snuggly before a breastfeeding session.
And there is no waste at all in that!
What might be a waste is attempting to dive into a feeding or to sort of force it if one or both of you is feeling flustered or overly upset in some way.
More time overall may then be needed to make multiple attempts at the feeding, as well as even for the let-down reflex to be triggered so that milk really flows. (A baby might become frustrated or give up if this doesn’t happen as quickly as she’s accustomed to, as well.)
I thought of this one because I believe my own babe got a little impatient recently during a rough teething patch, and we are now in the habit of snuggling closely and reading a book together before every feeding.
4 Time To Hoard Some Hardware
There’s surely a limit to this, specifically cupboard and drawer space in the kitchen, but with that said, it does not hurt to have some extras around: extra baby bowls, extra baby spoons and forks, extra sippy cups, extra bottles, and extra whatever else you use to get food and drink into your baby’s eager mouth and tummy.
Older babies and toddlers eat at least breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner. Then there may also be some bottle feedings in there (or bottles or breastfeeding sessions may of course act as certain snacks). Sometimes there’s the bedtime snack or bottle feeding.
Some utensils and bowls will of course be dropped on the floor during each meal.
So if you don’t have backup, well, I’m not sure how that will work, and you’re bound to waste a lot of precious time doing hurried dishes.
3 A Slippery Nip Situation
It can be kind of a shock to first-time moms to realize what it feels like to begin to breastfeed. Many women are not at all prepared for the reality.
Nipples can become quite sore and even cracked, and lanolin is often provided right there at the hospital and promoted to new mothers as a topical way to help soothe and heal stinging and skin irritation in that very sensitive region.
But some lactation consultants (and experience moms) may caution that your wasting your time, and your lanolin, if you use too much, or too much at once.
The surface still has to be an inviting and practical place for a baby, who’s just learning to latch and breastfeed, to attach and nurse.
This natural product is very slippery, like an ointment, and if there is too much of it there, it may cause problems with the feeding process.
2 Going Only For Gerber
It may be tempting for some new parents to just buy a baby, well, “baby food.”
At around 4 to 6 months of age, many pediatricians recommend beginning to introduce “solid” foods, starting with baby cereals (powdered grains mixed with breast milk or formula) and then introducing other purees, and so on and so forth, and before you know it, you’ve got yourself a real eater!
Talk to your own family doc about a good plan of action for introducing various foods to your own child.
We’d say it could be an easy mistake to make, though – especially for first-time moms and dads – to waste time trying to convince a baby to eat only lots and lots of purees and mushy foods when she’s clearly ready to move on to something a bit more like “real people” food.
If a baby shows interest in what’s on your plate, consider that it just might be gum-able and appropriate for him to try!
Kids have to start learning to eat real food at some point, and some will even put up a fight about the “baby” stuff when they’ve decided they’re ready for a try at finger foods or small bits of the family meal.
1 Failing To Follow Baby’s Cues
If you attempt to get a young baby to follow your schedule for feedings, you might just waste a heck of a lot of time doing it.
Ask your own pediatrician, and she’s likely to say that it’s best, of course, to feed the baby when she’s hungry.
You’ll quickly learn the cues, and learn to recognize when you’ve missed them and your little love is overly hungry. (If it gets to the point of crying, you’ve probably waited too long.)
There’s not really any point to trying to get a baby to be interested in the breast if he just isn’t at the moment. Maybe he feels like sleeping, or playing, or just looking around for a while.
If you begin from the very start to base your feeding schedule on the specific needs of your own baby’s little tummy, you won’t waste either of your time. (Though at the start, a newborn nurses so frequently that you may feel like your life is one whirlwind of trying to get anything at all done between those feedings!)