Becoming a mother for the first time is a unique experience. There is no handbook, and the advice mom receives can be contradictory. How does mom need to care for her newborn, and what are the things she absolutely must not do in those early days?
Though recommendations have changed through the years, there are some things that should always be avoided due to the risk to the baby. Newborns are definitely sturdy, but at the same time, they are fragile and dependent. Knowing when and how to respond as well as how they should sleep is essential.
Mom’s instincts will kick in and guide her, but it’s still not a bad idea to know what not to do for times when sleep deprivation sinks in and the mind is blurry. To keep a newborn safe, it’s important to know the research and do everything possible to ensure proper care. It’s also a good idea to let caregivers know what mom expects so bad practices won’t take place when she is not around.
The following are non-negotiable, and moms of newborns should avoid these actions at all costs.
20 Baby Swing Sleeping
Many women have children who do not like to sleep. Getting them to rest for a sustained period of time is a challenge, and these moms use many means to get their little ones to rest. The problem is that babies are not meant to sleep in certain items, and when they do there is an increased risk of problems.
While the lull of the baby swing may put a child to sleep, it’s not safe to let a child sleep in a swing for a prolonged period of time. A child’s head may fall to the side.
19 The Cry-It-Out Method
Babies cry often. It can feel both frustrating and stressful to constantly respond to an infant’s cries, especially in the middle of the night. However, it’s part of the job. Though some moms adopt the cry-it-out method, an approach that leaves a child to cry in an attempt to learn to self-soothe, there are problems with this approach that may be long term.
Newborns need to be fed and held, and they need their diapers changed frequently. Leaving them to cry through a problem they can’t take care of on their own could lead to attachment issues as well as failure to thrive. Respond when a newborn calls.
18 Let People Face Kiss The Baby
Who doesn’t want to cuddle and smooch a newborn? It feels like they were made to squeeze and snuggle. However, mom and dad need to make sure that everyone doesn’t kiss the baby on the face. Babies are born without much of an immune system, and spreading germs through kisses is a real problem for newborns.
A small germ that might only cause a cold in an adult can cause an infection in an infant that leads to hospitalization. RSV and other infections are highly contagious, and people who kiss the baby and are carrying these viruses put the child at risk.
17 Stomach Sleeping
The Back-to-Sleep campaign has worked hard to help parents understand the risks of putting babies to sleep on their stomachs. Still, some parents swear their children won’t sleep any other way and take the risk despite the warnings. This is way too risky.
A baby who is on his stomach may not be able to roll over. He’s stuck in one position and vulnerable. Even if it’s inconvenient in those early days, put the baby to sleep on her back without blankets or pillows that could become dangers. It's the safest way for a child to sleep.
16 Layer Too Much Clothing
A newborn will have problems regulating temperature after birth. This is a normal part of living outside the womb early on, and many moms compensate by bundling their little ones. It is smart to have extra layers available so the baby doesn’t get cold, but it’s equally important to make sure a child isn’t wearing too many clothes. Bundling a child up in multiple layers can lead to overheating and all the problems that come with it.
Be especially careful when a child is in a car seat. A child will start to sweat easily, and it’s not easy to tell if mom is driving.
15 Skip Check-Ups
The doctor’s office will be a familiar place in those early days of parenthood. Pediatricians see babies often to assess their health, growth, and development, and mom doesn’t need to miss those appointments. Problems that go undiagnosed grow more complicated, and it’s wise to have a pediatrician’s eyes on a child in those early days.
Routine vaccines are given, and measurements and overall well-being are assessed during check-ups. Though it may simply feel like the same thing over and over again, this progress needs to be tracked and the only way that can happen is if mom keeps the baby’s appointments.
14 Using Crib Bumpers
Save yourself some time and leave crib bumpers off the registry. Though they are cute and claim to make the crib safer, the opposite can actually be true. Babies can press up against the crib bumpers. Crib bumpers can also pull away from the crib bars, causing problems.
Since blankets and pillows aren't allowed in a crib, crib bumpers shouldn't be either. It doesn't make sense to remove other loose items and then put items in that can be hazards if they become loose. Skip this item and offer the baby safer sleep.
13 Long, Sleeping Car Rides
Babies tend to either love car seats or really dislike them. Some infants like them so much that they fall asleep when the car starts moving. While this may feel like a relief to mom, it’s actually not great. Newborns are not supposed to sleep in car seats for prolonged periods of time due to the risks.
A newborn cannot hold his head up, so if it falls to the side or front while he is sleeping in a car seat, leading to serious problems. Not being able to move his neck will leave him stuck in that position.
12 Ignore Hunger Cries
Babies eat, and they eat very often. A newborn’s stomach is tiny, and breastmilk flows through the system quickly and efficiently. This leads to feedings that can occur an hour to two hours apart in the early days. During a growth spurt, a newborn may cluster feed, seemingly never giving mom a break.
Don’t ignore a child’s hunger cries or try to put a newborn on an eating schedule. A baby knows when he needs to eat and will let mom know. If a child isn’t eating often enough, he may not thrive or have other developmental issues.
11 Stay Far Away from Him
Babies can’t see very far when they are first born. If mom moves more than 15 inches from her baby’s face, she is pretty much a blur to the baby. That’s why it’s not a good idea to stay away from the baby in those early days. In order to encourage attachment and a feeling of safety, the baby needs to know mom is near.
It’s also important to hold and talk to the little one in those early days. This stimulates his mind and helps him start understanding language. It's okay to put the baby down, especially if mom is feeling overly stressed and needs a break, but just don't walk away for too long.
10 Walk Away During Bath Time
Bathing a newborn is often a bit stressful. Some babies love bath time, but that doesn't change the fact that newborns can't hold up their own heads and can fall face first into the water easily. Parents have to be on constant watch during bath time, no exceptions.
It is never okay to leave a baby alone in the bathtub. The amount of time it takes for something to go wrong is short, so bath time should be when mom or dad is totally focused on the task at hand. Don't walk out of the room or get caught up in a text message loop that takes eyes off of the baby.
9 Bother the Umbilical Stump
The incredible umbilical cord that keeps the baby nourished while in the womb leaves behind an ugly parting gift in the form of an umbilical stump. The stump stays in the belly button for days or weeks, falling out when it is ready. Advice from doctors is to leave it alone.
Don’t mess with the stump or try to encourage it to come out early. Simply fold diapers down so they won’t agitate the area and make sure it doesn’t become infected. Though it may be hard to look at, messing with it can make things worse. It will leave when it's ready.
8 Follow Advice Over Intuition
Having a baby seems to announce to the world that mom wants unsolicited advice from strangers. Even those closest to her may offer advice that she didn't ask for and expect her to follow it. However, moms have intuition. Intuition should guide over outside advice.
It's fine to seek assistance when mom doesn't know what to do. It's just also important for mom to trust herself and listen to the internal maternal voice that guides her. Each mom knows what is right for her child, so don't let other people's opinions throw you off course. Ask for help but follow your gut.
7 Punish Them
Contrary to what many people think, babies can't manipulate adults. Newborns don't act out because they are disobedient little people. Everything they do is about getting a need met. That's why punishing a newborn for bad behavior is unacceptable.
Newborns are dependent on the adults in their lives to survive, so they cry and wake up at night to be cared for and nurtured. Responding in the wrong way can lead to long-term problems. It's okay to hand the baby off to a partner and take a break when it all gets too hard.
6 Offer a Pacifier Immediately
No one is disputing the fact that pacifiers are awesome. They can reduce the risk of SIDS and help a baby calm down. However, introduce one cautiously at first. A woman who wants to breastfeed may have that planned derailed if a pacifier is introduced too early.
The way a child sucks a pacifier is not the same as the way she nurses from the breast. Nipple confusion can occur if a pacifier is offered before the breastfeeding relationship is established. For some babies, it’s not a problem, but others won’t be able to latch after getting used to a pacifier.
5 Express Uncontrolled Anger Toward the Baby
Being angry doesn’t make mom bad. In fact, most women are surprised by how angry they can get in those early demanding days of caring for a newborn. Hormones are fluctuating and sleep is scarce. Anxiety can creep in and manifest as constant irritation. What’s important is that mom handles her emotions appropriately.
Self-care is hard but possible in those early days. Taking breaks and asking for help will keep mom from expressing her anger at her baby who isn’t doing anything except what he or she is supposed to. Meditate, rest when possible, and seek help when anger tries to take charge.
4 Cover Them in Scented Soaps and Lotions
Recent reports of toxic chemicals being used in baby care products are concerning. Companies may advertise sweet smelling shampoos and lotions, but what mom really needs to know is what is actually in the product. Slathering a baby in products containing formaldehyde or asbestos can have bad consequences. No mother wants to do this on purpose, but it takes real effort to know what we’re putting on our kids’ bodies.
Use products from companies with transparency who guarantee the safety of their ingredients. Watch for recalls and remember that babies don’t need fancy body care items. Their skin is fine and just needs to stay clean.
3 Ignore PPD Signs and Try to Tough It Out
The good news is there is so much more awareness about postpartum depression now than there was years ago. The bad news is many women still don’t come forward when they have symptoms of PPD. They often try to tough it out hoping the problems will pass on their own. This struggling in silence takes a toll, and it’s not worth it.
When a mom notices signs of PPD, she needs to see her OB. There are approaches and medications to help mom through, and she can feel better and enjoy those early days of motherhood. Waiting it out may lead to an increase in symptoms, and that is dangerous for mom and the baby.
2 Fill the Bottle with Rice Cereal
A grandmother or aunt will likely offer advice if the baby isn’t sleeping well, and that advice may include slipping some rice cereal into the baby’s milk. The logic seems to be that the baby will sleep longer because his belly will be full. Unfortunately, this approach can lead to problems that people don’t take into account.
The World Health Organization recommends babies avoid everything except breast milk for the first six months of life. Early introduction of solids can lead to food allergies or intolerances. The rice cereal can also cause a child to have digestive pain or gas, and that is not going to help him sleep peacefully.
1 Stand by a Hot Stove Wearing the Baby
Babywearing is convenient and great for mom and the baby. It’s an easy way to experience the skin-to-skin connection, and breastfeeding is possible using many baby carriers. It’s just important to know the circumstances when wearing a child might be a bad idea.
Wearing a child while handling hot liquids or standing near a hot burner is not wise. The carrier can fall onto a burner and catch fire, and hot liquids can splatter right where the baby is being carried. It’s best to put the baby down or let someone else hold her when it’s time to enter the kitchen for preparation that involves heat.
Sources: Babycenter, Babbletop, WHO.