Parents, regardless of experience, are prone to making mistakes. Raising a human being is not easy.
Without too much exaggeration, every little thing you do as a parent can (but not necessarily will) shape your child in some way.
It can be especially terrifying as a new parent. You know, frantically Googling every little thing.
What the hell did people do before Google?
The good news is, most mistakes that new parents make are not fatal. You learn from each issue that comes up and eventually parenthood isn’t terribly daunting.
The more problematic mistakes are the more common ones that tend to repeat and persist.
And half the reason that they’re common and problematic is because you don’t even realize you’re making a mistake.
So what are the most common mistakes of new parents?
Keep reading, and I’ll tell you…
Here are some of the most common mistakes made by new parents. Chances are, you’ve experienced some (or all) of these, and maybe you didn’t even realize you were making a mistake.
Mistake #1: Trying to stick to a sleep routine for yourself.
Everyone knows that parents of newborns are going to have interrupted sleep, but for some reason, these parents often insist on maintaining a regular sleep routine.
Although babies sleep a lot (newborns can sleep for up to 18 hours in a 24 hour period), they don’t have the same types of sleep cycles as adults. This is probably the most obvious fact you read today.
So, the key to surviving the sleeping habits of a baby is to simply not plan for your own sleep. Sleep when you can (i.e. when the baby is sleeping).
You won’t feel great, but it’ll be better than only trying to sleep during your traditional sleeping hours (for most adults, 10:00 or 11:00 PM to 6:00 or 7:00 AM).
Depending on age, here are what the sleep cycles look like throughout a baby’s first year of life:
- 0-3 months: Your baby won’t sleep more than 1-3 hours at a time, and will need to be fed frequently. During this time, get used to taking lots of naps, because it will be a challenge to string together more than 3 hours of sleep at a time.
- 3-6 months: By this time, your baby will be capable of nearly 10-11 hours of sleep at night, with 2-3 day time naps of 1-2 hours each (total of around 16 hours of sleep per day). Around 3 months, you may still need to wake up to feed him or her once or twice a night, but by 6 months, your baby should be capable of sleeping through the night most nights.
- 6-9 months: It only gets better here, as your baby can expect to sleep around 14 hours a day, including 7-8 hours straight at night. At this point, your baby has likely figured out how to settle itself back to sleep, so even if he or she does wake up, it won’t necessarily interrupt your sleep.
- 9-12 months: By now, your baby can sleep 10-11 hours at night, with a couple hour-long naps mixed in during the day.
Although you shouldn’t be planning your own sleep routine early on, it’s important to establish a consistent naptime and bedtime routine for your baby.
This will help your baby’s sleep patterns become more predictable (which helps you sleep better), and will help ensure your baby gets enough sleep, which is crucial for development.
Mistake #2: Panicking over everything.
New parents have a tendency to worry about everything. You can’t blame them – they’ve never done any of this before.
Is my baby eating enough? Or too much?
Is my baby sleeping the right amount?
Is my baby pooping too regularly?
WHAT DOES THAT CRYING MEAN?!
Breathe, and calm down. It’ll all be okay.
One thing you need to do as a new parent is simply get used to the fact that nothing will seem “normal” to you because you’ve never raised a baby before. You’re learning what “normal” is, or at least, figuring out that “normal” doesn’t seem to exist in many cases.
There’s a balance that you need to strike between calling the doctor every five minutes and not worrying about leaving your baby unattended in a car for two hours.
No one’s going to be able to tell you exactly what that balance looks like, so you need to use common sense. There are certain things (like a low fever) that are no problem if they only last a day, but may be a problem if they last for more than a few days.
Not sure what a reasonable amount of time is before talking to a doctor? Here’s a little helpful guide from WebMD.
The bottom line is, you should call your doctor if you’re worried. But the challenge is finding that sweet spot of when you should actually worry.
Mistake #3: Trusting unreliable sources (and “Google-ing” too much).
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a new parent is trusting unreliable sources. With the internet’s wealth of information, it’s easy to find lot of unreliable sources, but they exist offline as well. You know, like the people who tell you that vaccines will cause autism for your baby.
Anyone with a voice or a keyboard can make statements that seem reasonable and valid, but it’s important to check your facts and use your judgment whenever anything seems questionable.
New parents are quick to “Google” answers, or take anecdotal advice from a relative or neighbor, without ever questioning any of it. That’s a dangerous game to play when you’re inexperienced.
The best defense against this consists of two primary strategies:
- Talk to an actual expert (in most cases when health is involved, your doctor).
- Find multiple sources that confirm an answer, and seek out any contradictory advice to assess its validity.
Both of these can still lead you down the wrong path – doctors can be wrong at times, and just because 10 websites say something is true doesn’t mean it is – but you’ll significantly decrease your chances of being wrong.
It’s easy to trust an unreliable source as a new parent, because you don’t know any better. But if you understand that this is a common mistake, maybe you’ll take a more critical view when seeking help.
Mistake #4: Neglecting your spouse.
As soon as that baby pops out (and often for the months leading up to that point), everything is about the baby. It’s as if nothing else exists in your (and your spouse’s) world.
New parents are so focused on doing everything right for the baby, that they make one critical mistake: they forget about themselves and each other.
Children do give parents a sense of purpose and a common goal, which are both things that can help strengthen a relationship. But this can’t be the only thing keeping your relationship afloat.
Giving each other attention used to be easy, but now it requires a conscious effort. There are a lot of things you can do, and they’re going to vary based on what you like, but a very common solution for many new parents is to set aside one night per week as a “date night.”
This is one night a week where you get a babysitter, get out of the house, and do something together – just the two of you.
What’s important here is that you make this a regular occurrence. It can’t be once every few months, or only happen when it becomes clear one of you is feeling neglected. Put it on the schedule and plan for it. Once a week is good, or once every other week if you feel like every week is too often.
Don’t neglect your spouse. You will regret it.
Mistake #5: Comparing your baby to others.
As your baby ages (from birth to adulthood), you will constantly wonder: “Is my child progressing at the right pace? Is [insert anything he/she does or doesn’t do] normal?”
While there are some general age ranges for different developmental milestones, every baby is different. If you constantly compare your baby to others, you’re going to find yourself frustrated or worried more often than not.
If you want some peace of mind, just remember that changes happen at different rates, and at different times.
For example, one baby may say her first word at 11 months, and yours might not say anything until 13 months. But then, your baby might start walking sooner, or become potty trained sooner.
Focus on giving your baby the best environment for development and stop comparing him or her to others. There will be plenty of time later in life for comparisons (in school, in the workplace, in relationships, etc….).
Which of these mistakes have you made?
As a new parent, I’m willing to bet you’ve experienced some of these, if not all of them. Not to worry – there’s still time to correct your mistakes.
And if you’re soon to become a first time parent, pat yourself on the back for being proactive about attempting to avoid common mistakes of new parents.
Did I miss anything here? What are some of the most common mistakes you see new parents making?