The only thing more intimidating than giving birth is actually taking the baby home afterward. Newborns appear to be delicate little creatures, so parents are always worrying about whether they’re healthy or sick, full or hungry, tired or stressed, and a hundred other either or scenarios. Of course, there are some things that newborns really shouldn’t get too much of, especially in the early days.
Most new parents learn how to care for their newborns through trial and error—after all, instincts are really the only thing moms have to go on when it’s their first baby. But using the “fly by the seat of their pants” method leaves some parents with even more worries. Reading books and googling urgent questions can help… But with so many possibilities and unpredictable situations, even the best laid plans are often disrupted by a baby who wasn’t aware there was a rule book!
To help ease parents’ concerns and give guidelines for what to expect in the first thirty days, here’s a list of things newborns really shouldn’t get too much of in their first month outside the womb. After that, things get easier—at least, with most babies—and until they start getting teeth!
20 Pushing Water
Because parents often have so many concerns about their newborn’s development and nutrition, food is one of the most discussed topics in the early days. From how much to how frequently to topping off and supplementing, there’s a lot going on when it comes to the baby’s meal times. But one thing that babies don’t need a lot of in the first thirty days is water. In fact, newborn babies shouldn’t have any liquids at all apart from either formula or mom’s milk, or a combination of the two. Newborn babies’ bodies have a delicate balance of electrolytes, so giving them water—even in hot weather or if you think they’re dehydrated—isn’t the way to go. When in doubt, consult a doctor!
19 Too Much Sodium
Another element babies can get too much of in the first thirty days is sodium. However, this is one that parents aren’t directly pumping into their babies. When babies have imbalances with their water intake or with specific nutrients in the early days, their sodium can get out of balance and be an issue. Especially for babies with jaundice or dehydration, too-high sodium is a condition that could land your baby back in the hospital for observation. In most cases, however, just making sure the baby gets enough to eat—and that their body is processing it properly—resolves the sodium problem.
18 Sunning Outside
Because so many babies are born with mild to moderate jaundice—a condition that makes them look yellow as their immature systems are processing bilirubin inside—doctors often suggest putting babies in the sun so they can process the bilirubin better. That’s why so many jaundiced babies use special blankets or lights in the NICU—it helps their bodies recover faster.
But too much sun can cause sunburn in a newborn, and faster than parents might expect since their skin is so new and vulnerable. For this reason, most doctors and nurses suggest putting newborns in indirect sunlight—like the sun from a window—to reduce exposure.
17 The Neighbor’s (And Everyone Else’s) Germs
Most new parents may feel a little intimidated by the visitors who start queuing up when the mom is still in the hospital recovering post-birth. But at the same time, they feel like they owe visitors an opportunity to see and snuggle with their newborn. After all, these people have been waiting months to meet him or her! But veteran parents are different.
They recognize that other people’s feelings don’t matter as much as insulating the baby against germs and anything else that will mess with their delicate systems. Babies don’t need everyone else’s germs—and the first thirty days in particular are a period that’s critical for immune development via acclimating to their home environment and getting immune support from mom’s milk.
16 Overly Loud Noises
Some parents swear by keeping a supremely quiet space for their newborns to sleep, while others either don’t want to or can’t maintain complete silence. The thing is, although newborns don’t necessarily need absolute quiet to get their rest, loud and especially unexpected noises can cause them to startle.
Besides setting off a crying jag, loud noises can actually be harmful to babies’ hearing—especially if they’re prolonged or especially high-pitched. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try out white noises like the vacuum cleaner or a fan to help your baby—and you—get better sleep every day!
15 Bubble Baths
It’s so tempting to bathe the baby often—especially if they tend to spit up or have explosive diapers in the first month. But for babies so young, soap can be drying and even rough on their delicate skin. Many hospitals and birth centers are now recommending delaying the newborn’s first bath in favor of letting the vernix—that waxy stuff most little ones are born with—rub in and protect the baby’s skin. And once you get home and the baby’s cord falls off, too many bubbles in the bath can be irritating and even cause rashes or allergic reactions.
14 Bottles Full Of Formula
As we mentioned, feeding is one of the most worried about issues with newborns. And for moms who are nursing, it’s even more challenging to figure out the ins and outs of feeding, including knowing whether your baby is full or if they’re latching correctly. The thing is, many parents unknowingly overfeed their babies in the early days because they assume their little ones are still hungry after feeding. But topping off a baby with a bottle of formula can stretch out their tiny tummy—babies’ bellies are absolutely tiny in the first few days after birth, although they grow to accommodate a few ounces per feeding by the end of their first month.
13 Sudden Movements
Over the last few decades, there’s been a growing movement to prevent shaken baby syndrome all over the world. Since babies’ systems are delicate at first—especially their wobbly little necks—it isn’t a good idea to wobble them or bounce them around too much. A bit of play is usually safe—it’s usually just the sudden movements that can put the baby at risk of getting hurt. And of course, the roughhousing can wait until they’re much older!
12 Warm Blankets In Bed
There’s nothing more satisfying or cuter than wrapping your baby up for a nap in a snuggly warm blanket. But for young babies, blankets can pose a hazard—especially when the blanket is in their crib or bassinet and baby is left unattended. So while blankets are soft and snuggly and comfy, parents of newborns shouldn’t use them in their tots’ sleeping spaces.
A better idea would be to dress the baby in footie pajamas, sleep sacks, or other sleeper outfits that cover their arms, legs, and feet for warmth. Once they’re older, you might consider introducing a blankie to snuggle with—but you’ll still want to keep it out of bed.
11 Vitamin Supplements
Because so many new parents are concerned about their babies’ nutrition from day one, it’s not uncommon to hear moms asking about using supplements for their little ones. But for newborns, mom’s milk or formula should be plenty in the way of nutrition.
Formula is created to have a balance of nutrients, so babies shouldn’t have, for example, a vitamin K deficiency as that’s packed into the milk. For nursing moms, vitamin K could be one of the nutrients she’s lacking, but the mom should take a supplement—or add to her diet—instead of giving the baby the supplement directly.
10 Flushed With Fluoride
Fluoride has long been touted as a miracle cavity preventative, although in recent years it’s come under criticism because high doses of it can have negative effects. Regardless, nursery water—water treated with fluoride—is still widely available and is intended for parents to use to mix bottles of formula.
Most of the time, this probably isn’t an issue. But in some cases, babies can develop problems with their teeth—fluorosis—later on due to consuming too much fluoride earlier in life. Of course, it’s tough to tell how much fluoride is too much, especially if the mom consumed lots of fluoridated water during pregnancy or nursing.
9 Seeing The Sights
It’s a well-known fact that newborn babies are born with fuzzy eyesight—their vision takes a while to sharpen up. That’s why staring at mom and dad is a big part of the newborn’s development—they’re honing their eyesight while bonding with their parents. But because newborns’ eyes are so new, bright lights and even “loud” colors can be intimidating to them.
Although crib mobiles and bright toys are quite popular for babies, your newborn might feel stressed out with so many shapes and colors and bright lights in their eyes. You might want to wait until your baby is a bit older to introduce such toys, and keeping lights dim is helpful, too.
8 Smelling Lots Of Scents
Most parents know that scent is big for babies—remember that video of a breastfed baby crying for their mom, only to calm down when they smelled one of her shirts? And many birth professionals note that babies begin to bond with their mamas thanks to the familiar scent—and the amniotic fluid carried a specific scent that is similar to mom’s milk, too—which further helps baby find and bond to his mama. But that also means that other scents can be overpowering and even negative for the baby—especially really pungent smells of food cooking or strong perfume.
7 Alone Time
A lot of parents get super stressed when their babies are young, especially if they’re not getting enough sleep. And with all the “experts” out there suggesting teaching babies to sleep on their own from an early age, a newborn baby literally needs touch from mom and dad to regulate her body temperature, heart rate, and help her feel loved.
So giving your new-to-the-world baby a lot of “alone” time can actually be detrimental to her health and her ability to bond with you later. While that might mean more sleepless nights, it will likely pay off in the long run—if you can stay awake to snuggle your little one.
6 Hanging Out In The Car Seat
When your newborn sleeps most of the day, it’s easy to fall into the routine of letting them nap in their car seat. After all, the motion of the vehicle will often lull them to sleep, and who wants to wake a sleeping babe?
But the thing is, car seats aren’t meant for naps—and there have been cases of serious issues with the positioning of the car seat. It’s also not safe to put your baby’s infant carrier on top of a shopping cart, on the counter, or on top of tables (or upside-down high chairs at restaurants). All of these are fall hazards, which we want to avoid for all babies.
5 Essential Oil Odors
Essential oils have taken the world by storm, but as much as people tout the benefits of diffusing, applying, and even ingesting the concentrated oils, there are still risks associated with them. Some people can be allergic to particular scents or formulas, and some blends are actually not recommended for children under a certain age.
Even if they are deemed “safe,” it’s still possible for babies or kids (and pets) to have reactions to essential oils in the air. While it’s safest to not use any EOs around babies, parents who do will often make sure the area is ventilated and they keep an eye on their baby for any reactions.
4 A Collection Of Binkies
Pacifiers are probably the most common “sign” of a baby’s presence, but in reality, not that many babies really need them. For babies who are breastfeeding, especially, experts tend to recommend that moms avoid introducing a binkie until nursing is well-established. For most infants, that takes more than thirty days—usually closer to six weeks or more. At the same time, the more a baby nurses, the more milk his mom makes, which is typically a positive thing. Using a pacifier instead will only mess with mom’s supply, so it’s not usually necessary in the early days—or even at all.
3 Bottles Of All Kinds
Of course, babies who are formula fed need bottles. But for babies who nurse, it’s not usually recommended that moms introduce bottles until breastfeeding is well-established. Just like with pacifiers, giving a baby a bottle while they’re still figuring out how to latch and get milk effectively may confuse them. It can also mess with the mom’s milk supply, since her baby isn’t creating the demand her body needs to amp up the supply!
Of course, exceptions apply for babies who have special needs or need calorie supplementation, among other needs. Then again, mamas who nurse often struggle to get their babies to accept a bottle later on—so it might be a good idea to introduce it early, just not as early as 30 days old!
2 Sibling Snuggles
One of the most rewarding things about having a second or subsequent child is watching your older kid interact with the new baby. Sibling relationships are super special, so it’s understandable that parents are all about letting their older children bond with the newborn.
But when kids are at school or daycare all day, there’s more of a chance that they’re bringing home unfamiliar germs that could negatively affect the baby. Immune building is great and all, but if your preschooler brings home everyone else’s germs from their school center, the baby could get sick—sicker than everyone else, even. In this scenario, hand washing is key—but so is making sure kids know not to put their hands in their mouths—or the baby’s mouth, either.
1 Lots Of Sleep
While newborns do need a lot of sleep in their first month in the outside world, too much sleep is not a good thing, either. Now, parents don’t usually have much control over this—babies sleep when they want, right? But too much sleep is a sign that your baby is having some kind of issue. It could be that if they already have jaundice or another birth condition that it’s making them lethargic. However, there are other conditions that can affect newborns that cause drowsiness—so if you have concerns that your tot is napping too much, definitely see your doctor for advice.