It’s been six years since my daughter was born, and I’ve been mind-blown by how much has changed since I brought her into the world. It’s funny how, when you have your first child, you “know” absolutely everything about parenting, but when you’re expecting your second child (as I am now), you’re suddenly aware of how little you really knew to begin with. Here are some common mistakes that first-time parents make with newborns — mistakes I don’t plan on making a second time.
1. Not taking the right steps for your baby’s health and safety.
My daughter survived her infancy, of course, but I now know that there are several things I could have done differently and should have done differently. I avoided pacifiers because I thought that they would complicate breastfeeding, but we now know that pacifiers help to prevent SIDS in babies. I also made the mistake of delaying some early vaccines because I was concerned about side effects and didn’t think that newborn vaccines were important or necessary. I know understand that “delayed” vaccinating is a serious risk to babies, increasing the risk not only of disease, but also SIDS.
One of the common mistakes of first-time parents of newborns is to forgo medical experts’ advice in favor of what they’ve heard from blogs and in-laws, but I’m glad that I’ve started listening to the right people. Check with the American Academy of Pediatrics, or your own pediatrician, for advice on SIDS prevention to minimize the chances of a tragedy striking your family.
2. Not taking enough time for yourself.
I was so determined to be a supermom to my first newborn baby that I neglected myself, which made life unnecessarily hard for everyone. I can’t count the number of times that I skipped meals, showers, and even using the bathroom because I simply couldn’t tolerate the idea of my newborn baby crying for even a second, and that took a very real toll on my mental and physical health. By the time a second child rolls around, most parents know that it’s impossible to be a “perfect” parent 100 percent of the time, and it’s a lesson I wish I had learned sooner.
To prevent this mistake altogether, accept help offered by friends and family, and don’t let your drive to nurture your baby prevent you from nurturing yourself. Obviously, it’s not good for any parent to leave a baby screaming so she can talk on the phone and drink a beer, but letting yourself shower, eat, and brush your teeth is absolutely okay. “Mother” does not have to mean “martyr.”
3. Budgeting poorly and buying the wrong things.
First-time parents of newborns make many mistakes when it comes to budgeting, but once you’ve been there and done that, it’s a lot easier to do things correctly. Many a first-time mom has spent a lot of money on bibs and newborn clothes, none of which are truly necessary. Bibs aren’t important until your baby is eating solid food (after four to six months of age) and babies outgrow newborn clothes in a matter of days or weeks. “Cute” things like shoes, nursery décor, and decorative burp cloths are great for sentimental value, but if you’re going for function, it’s best to get few or none of these. You’ll probably get more than you could possibly want at your baby shower, anyway!
It’s also easy to make a mistake about where the biggest financial drains of parenting a newborn come from. Maybe you’ve clipped tons of coupons for diapers and formula, but the cost of these actually pale in comparison to the steep price tag on maternity leave, paternity leave, and medical emergencies. If possible, make sure everything is arranged before your baby arrives so that your finances can be managed while you and/or your spouse take off work to care for your little one. Remember that emergencies arise pretty frequently that make it necessary for both parents to take leave, or that involve a hefty hospital bill, so these plans are worth making even if you hope not to need them.
All parents make mistakes with their first newborn babies (and their second, and their third, and so on) and, no matter how carefully you plan things or how much you hope to do things “perfectly,” some mishaps are bound to occur on the way. But, if you take a step back and try to avoid the most common mistakes new parents make with newborns, it can make that difficult an