It's not tough to see why parenting comes with so much worrying. There's a whole lot of love involved, and parents want to do what's best for their precious babies. Add to this the inexperience factor of new parents, and it's the perfect recipe for more than a little fear. After all, fear is generally concern over the unknown or something that seems risky. For many new parents, each and every thing they do with a tiny newborn seems a bit risky. They're so little and completely brand new to the world. It can feel like the simplest things are monumental decisions with potentially catastrophic consequences.
In reality, newborns are remarkably resilient, and we don't mean this in the cliche, "they're not going to break" way. We simply mean that mom and dad should take a deep breath and relax just a bit. It's going to work out, and baby will be just fine. After all, there's always going to be a learning curve involved for new parents. There's just no way to prepare for many of the things a newborn does and needs.
And, trust us, the baby isn't going to remember that botched first bath, with the too cold water and the epic crying fit. In fact, they'll probably end up loving bath time, refusing to get out, and ultimately making that first attempt look like a walk in the park. That's just how babies work. They're fickle, tricky, and absolutely adorable. So, sit back, and take these tidbits to heart, because what follows is a list of 15 Things That Terrify Most New Parents But Shouldn't:
15 Waiting On The Milk
For first time moms who intend to breastfeed, there's an extremely unnerving time between the moment baby arrives and the point at which actual milk becomes available to feed that precious bundle of joy. Typically, it can take anywhere from 1 to 4 days for the breasts to begin producing milk. Until then, baby receives colostrum, which is a thicker, sometimes clear or yellow newborn superfood produced prior to breast milk. Because it's difficult to tell at first what a newborn is receiving from the breast, many first time moms become terrified that baby is hungry or not receiving adequate nutrition.
Depending on the culture of the hospital, they may begin pushing the use of formula on a new mom. What new moms need to understand is that the body is perfectly designed to provide everything that baby needs, and colostrum is more than adequate in filling the cherry sized tummy of a newborn baby. Barring medical complications, or other issues which prevent mom from breastfeeding, there is no reason to be scared that baby is not getting what they need. In addition, counting wet or dirty diapers is an extremely helpful tool in ascertaining the amount of nutrition a baby is receiving via the breast. Moms should take advantage of lactation consultants in the postpartum unit and keep baby feeding as much as possible, as that directly influences how quickly milk becomes available.
14 The First Bath
One of the most common misconceptions regarding newborn care is their need for daily baths. The reality is, a newborn baby isn't getting dirty. While they can definitely benefit from a warm cloth to the diaper area, and their tiny necks tend to hide leftover milk, they're not out playing in the dirt or prone to body odor of any kind. This means bath time can absolutely wait. In fact, their tender, newborn skin will benefit from less exposure to the drying effects of water and baby products. So, new parents need not be terrified about bath time at all...just skip it.
Now, when the time comes that a bath is actually warranted, it's perfectly understandable to be a bit intimidated. Water is of course a dangerous element where a tiny human being is concerned, but believe it or not...they're mostly waterproof! There's no reason to be scared or to overcomplicate the matter. While fancy and expensive baby bathtubs are great if that's a parent's style, running a baby carefully under some warm tap water also does the trick.
13 Using Medications
Medications are a dicey topic for many new parents. They can be controversial in terms of perceived safety and necessity. Many take the stance of banning them altogether, while others pick and choose what they might use. Neither stance is right or wrong. Ultimately, parents should trust their instincts and do what they feel is best for them and their child. That said, if a medication is specifically cleared and marketed as safe for newborns or infants, parents need not be scared to use them in moderation to provide intended benefits.
So often, parents wrestle with a faulty sense of guilt if they consider "resorting" to medication of some kind. It's almost as though they feel they've failed in their ability to soothe their child if they are turning to a bottle for help. In reality, babies occasionally suffer discomfort just like adults, and there's nothing wrong with trying something that may help if it's available. Plus, a quick e-mail or call to the Pediatrician can really help to alleviate any fear a parent may have about using medication in their small child.
12 The Dreaded "Leap"
What is a leap? And, why did all of my mommy friends warn me that they were something to take seriously? Yeah, I didn't know at first either, but I learned quickly, and they are absolutely worth understanding. Trust me.
A "leap" refers to a phase of rapid cognitive development that typically occurs at the same time in every baby for the first 20 months of life. They are completely different than milestones. They don't necessarily refer to physical abilities or correlate with demonstrable actions that parents will see in their children, but rather, they are about advancements in the baby's ability to comprehend and process things happening around them.
Leaps are explained in detail in a popular parenting book entitled "The Wonder Weeks", but the content of the book is casually thrown around in parenting circles as if it was required reading in high school. In summary, there are 10 of these blessed events and they do tend to align with fussier behavior, which is why parents warn each other about them. Baby is happy and independent one week, then turns into a clingy, crying mess the next. OH! It's Leap time! In reality, while they sound like terrifying periods of time with nothing but crying fits and meltdowns, there's no reason to fear. Instead, look forward to the outcome, which is often a whole new world of recognition and ability.
11 Nail Duty
Newborn babies have a secret weapon at their disposal upon birth. In fact, they have 20 of them! They're tiny, often times razor-sharp nails, which can feel more like claws when those arms and legs flail about. Amazingly, their nails also grow like weeds, and even if mom or dad manage to get them trimmed to a safe and acceptable length, it can feel like seconds have passed before they're deadly again. This all adds up to a lot of required nail trimming.
But, parents should have no fear. Nail trimming is a piece of cake. Just wait for baby to sleep...then, take as long as needed for manicure time. Of course, some babies tolerate nail trimming from the day they're born like champs while wide awake, but for the rest of us normal folks, sneaking this task in during nap time is truly the way to go. In terms of potential bloodshed, parents should consider one of the many baby nail clippers on the market with a safety window, which lets parents see exactly what they're about to trim before they cut. This mommy personally swears by the NailFrida. They seem awkward at first, and then quickly become a product you'll scour the house for, insisting that nothing else will do. NOTHING. Seriously, anyone having a baby needs these nail clippers.
10 The First Outing
Adults are generally pretty skilled at getting themselves out the door. Chances are, they've developed a good getting ready routine and are able to leave the house in a semi-organized and timely fashion each day depending on their tasks at hand. Then, baby arrives, and those same organized people turn into frantic messes who have to return to the house three times to grab forgotten items, are an hour late to everything, and seem completely distracted the entire time they're out of the house anyways.
Okay, we're exaggerating just a bit, because in reality it's not that difficult to get of the house with a newborn. The best thing parents can do is pack a baby survival bag that stays in the car or stroller caddy. This way, there's no worries over whether everything is packed in the diaper bag, or what they'll do if baby dirties their clothes, because the bag will have everything necessary to keep on going. So, really, get out there and enjoy the world with baby. You'll be thankful you did, and in no time, trips out with a baby will be a no brainer.
9 Unexplained Crying
This is a tough one, because it's absolutely heart-wrenching to experience a little one crying hysterically and be unable to soothe them. I personally experienced this the second night home from the hospital with my firstborn, Emma. My husband and I were in bliss, falling so in love with the baby we'd dreamed of for nearly 3 years. Then, we got our first real taste of parenthood.
Looking back, I suspect it was some painful gas that resulted from my breast milk finally coming and her gulping mouthfuls of it as a result of a strong letdown, but let me tell you...I'm pretty sure our entire block was painfully aware of our situation and Emma's unhappiness. The fact of the matter is, while we were terrified at the time, sometimes, babies just cry and there's little you can do except be there for them and hold them until it stops. With a full belly, dry diaper, and cuddles, there's no reason to fear. Try the tricks you have up your sleeve (tight swaddle, vibration, walk in the stroller, white noise, etc.), but at the end of the day, crying will happen, as will learning what works for each unique baby. I can probably count on one hand the number of times Emma cried like that where I was unable to immediately soothe her, and they all made an impression on me, but I'm thankful I learned not to fear them. Instead, I focused on learning from them.
8 Germ Overload
Germs are bad. Washing hands thoroughly and often is good. Avoiding contact with sick people is even better. But, that's about all anyone can do in preventing germs or illness from infiltrating their home. Most new parents are terrified of germs. They may insist on visitors dousing themselves in hand sanitizer, or ban anyone under the age of 18 from their homes, out of fear of kiddy germs. In reality, it's okay for baby to be exposed to every day dirt and grime, and germs will make their way in one way or another. It's part of building baby's immunity, and while proper hygiene and sterilization of new products is always a good practice, there's no sense is wasting time worrying about something that parents can't completely control.
Look, we understand. No parent wants their child to fall ill. It's not pleasant, and their tiny bodies should never be subjected to the pesky cold and flu viruses we loathe so much. However, life happens, and when it does, it helps to keep in mind that this too will pass.
7 Baby's First Fever
Fever. It's a dirty word to parents with young children. It can mean sleepless nights, misery for their little one, and more than a few tears...and not just on the baby's part. But, it is also a very normal part of childhood. Fever is typically an indication that the body is working to fight an infection or perceived threat of some kind. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers a normal temperature for a baby to be between 97 and 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit. If baby's rectal temperature is 100.4 degrees or higher, a fever has been confirmed.
But, this is still no reason to panic. If baby is at least three months old, parents can safely use Acetaminophen (Infant's Tylenol) at the recommended dosage to help control the fever. Taking the child's temperature regularly in order to confirm that it does not rise is important. If a fever persists for more than a day or two, or is present in a child under three months old, a call to the pediatrician is needed and can do much to help alleviate any lingering fear over what to do moving forward.
6 Starting Solids
There's something very thrilling and completely strange about allowing baby access to solid foods for the first time. Current guidelines from The American Academy of Pediatrics state that babies should be fed nothing but breast milk or formula for the first six months of life. After that, solid foods can be gradually introduced, but should not replace breast milk or formula for nutritional purposes until after 12 months of age. In other words, food before the age of one is simply an "experience" for baby. They are meant to explore their ability to grasp, chew, manipulate, and swallow food slowly, so that they are able to transition to meeting their nutritional needs via food by the time their first birthday rolls around.
For many parents, they are intimidated by what to choose for baby in terms of purees or feeding methods. With the recent boom in popularity of baby-led weaning and homemade baby food, many parents find themselves terrified to venture into this unknown land of feeding baby solids. In reality, it can and should be very simple. Offer baby nutritious foods, sticking to one thing at a time for several days, before adding something new in order to identify the cause of any tummy issues or sensitivity. Let baby lead the way, and enjoy! After all, it's just food.
5 Teething Torture
Teething takes years. That's right. Years. It typically begins around 6 months of age and lasts for what feels like the rest of the baby's diaper wearing years. Okay, in reality, teething happens in stages, but a child's molars don't erupt until between 2 and a half to 3 years of age! So, when new parents first observe junior chomping on his fingers, drooling excessively, or gumming anything he or she can get his hands on, they tend to panic and think, "This is it! He's teething!" And, yes, he may be, but there's really no reason to fear, because you'll be doing it for the next couple of years...and well, that would just be exhausting.
Teething can be uncomfortable for babies, and we're not downplaying the need to provide a teething toy, occasional doses of Tylenol if a parent's comfortable with doing so, and monitoring of the situation, but there's no reason to be worried. It's a natural process, and baby will make it through just fine. Plus, those baby smiles only get more adorable with random chompers peeking through.
4 Diaper Explosions
Terrifying may be a bit of an overstatement when it comes to the horrors parents experience in the early months of diaper duty with a newborn, but it definitely comes close. Babies are incredibly capable of producing epic messes without batting an eye. Thankfully, the issue is usually short lived, stopping as baby grows and their digestive systems become more mature (read: baby poop becomes more solid).
While parents are dealing with the worst of it, there's no reason to be scared. Instead, parents should consider moving up a size in diapers. For many new parents, they take the weight range on a box of diapers literally, instead of understanding it's simply a marketing suggestion. Moving a newborn into Size 1 diapers at birth is absolutely fine if it keeps mom and dad from changing baby's dirtied clothes every hour. Similarly, keeping a bin of water with some OxyClean handy as a soak for sullied clothes until it's time to run a load is very helpful. This bin can be rinsed out at the end of the day and makes keeping stains from setting in while mom or dad are busy keeping up with baby super simple. See, no reason to fear.
3 Sleeping Dangers
One of the most profound worries every parent has pertains to the safety of their child during sleep. The stories of infant deaths as a result of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) are unimaginable, and it's beyond tragic to even consider the scenario. Perhaps no one can come close to feeling the appropriate level of compassion for those who have lost a child in this way. This is why attempting to alleviate the fears new parents have over the topic seems somewhat taboo (as though we are trivializing in any way the grief experienced, because we could never do such a thing), but the statistics are that SIDS affects approximately 1 in 2,000 babies. This means that the chance is very, very small that the average baby will suffer its effects.
That said, The American Academy of Pediatrics' "Back to Sleep Campaign", which insists that babies be placed on their backs to sleep, with no accompanying blankets, stuffed animals, or anything else in the crib is extremely important. There are other precautions parents should take as well to support safe sleeping, but ultimately, parents need not be fearful about their child' safety while sleeping. Instead, they can channel their concern into ensuring the proper sleep environment and getting quality rest themselves.
2 First Time Away
It's not easy, and nothing we can say will make it so, but leaving baby isn't something to be terrified over. It really isn't. Now, please understand that this is coming from an exclusively breastfeeding mom, who managed to finagle a nearly 6 month long maternity leave out of her workplace by pointing out that it didn't make much sense to return to work (a high school) with only a few weeks before final exams, thereby confusing the students, so taking the summer off as well just made sense. I get it, and I was and still am that attached to my baby. I stressed for weeks about leaving her for more than an hour or two.
In reality, the experience is truly good for baby. It allows them to strengthen other relationships, and allows them to explore activities and personalities mom simply can't produce. We're not saying there won't be an adjustment period, complete with its little obstacles, but babies do adapt well, and spending time worrying over parting with them is simply not worth the effort. Plus, their smiles when you return after an absence of any length are simply amazing.
1 Missing A Milestone
We live in a day and age where everything is documented. It's on social media within minutes of happening, and it's painstakingly logged via adorable photos, text messages, video clips, and more. Even for parents who prefer to remain offline, or unplugged in terms of what they share, there's still an overwhelming compulsion to document and be there for every event. But, here's the thing...babies couldn't care less if they've done something before, because their sense of wonder doesn't fade. This is why parents need not fear missing out on a milestone as their baby first accomplishes it, because those babies are going to be just as excited and thrilled to crawl for the second, third, and twenty-seventh time as they were for the first!
So, moms and dads need not fear that baby might take a step while they're away at the office, because ultimately, it will be just as momentous and profound at 7pm in the family room as it was in daycare. Relax, new mommies and daddies...you're on a parenting journey, and the thrills and curves ahead are endless.