All new parents do their best to take care of their babies and toddlers. But no matter how much you read and how prepared you feel, you’re still learning along the way. Use these tips to avoid nine common mistakes new parents make.
Worry about crying
You may worry that your baby cries too much. During the first six weeks following birth, your baby cries an average of two to three hours per day. This is very normal. Keep in mind that sometimes babies cry for no obvious reason. You can try soothing techniques like:
- Diaper changing
- Holding and rocking
- Singing or talking in a soothing voice
If your baby is inconsolable, lay them down in a safe sleep area. Your baby may fall asleep after a few minutes. If not, you know your baby is safe while you take a break. If your baby is crying more than normal, talk to your pediatrician.
Understanding sleep patterns
You can expect to sleep in two to four-hour increments. Your baby wakes up to take a bottle or nurse and may go back to sleep after. If your baby stays awake at night, be patient and try soothing techniques. By three months old, your baby should sleep between six to eight hours at a time overnight.
Safe sleep mistakes
It's tempting to comfort your baby with warm blankets and soft pillows. But these items do not follow safe sleep guidelines. They leave your baby at risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Follow the ABCs of safe sleep:
- Alone – Your baby should sleep alone without any toys, pillows, or blankets.
- Back – Your baby should sleep on a flat surface lying on their back. As a baby gets older, they roll to their side or stomach. That is OK. Always start your baby out on their back for naps and bedtime.
- Crib – Your baby needs a separate sleeping area from parents and siblings. It should be a flat, enclosed area where your baby is safe.
Bottles at bedtime
Around 20% of parents lay their baby down for bedtime with milk or juice in a bottle. This leaves sugar in your baby’s mouth all night and leads to tooth decay. As your baby develops teeth, you must take steps to clean them after bottles before bed. You can wipe their mouth out with a soft cloth or brush their teeth.
You may not think dental appointments are important for toddlers, but they are. 42% of children between the ages of 2 and 11 have cavities in their baby teeth. Another 21% of children between the ages of 6 and 11 have cavities in their permanent teeth.
Your child can see a dentist as soon as they begin to get teeth. Plan to schedule a first dental appointment by your baby’s first birthday. Then go every six months for the rest of their childhood. Routine dental care helps prevent cavities and identify dental problems early.
Confusing vomit and spit-up
It is common for babies to spit up a lot in their first year of life. However, true vomiting is different than spitting up. Spitting up is gentle and often happens when your baby burps.
Vomiting is more forceful. It happens when your baby’s stomach muscles contract and relax quickly, triggering stomach contents to empty. Spitting up is not usually a concern. However, if your baby is vomiting, talk to your pediatrician. Vomiting may be a sign of illness or gastrointestinal problems.
Car seat installation
Follow the instructions for installing your baby’s car seat or base in your car. The car seat or base should be tight enough that there is less than one inch of movement. If the car seat still moves after installing it, try applying more pressure or using a different position to tighten the straps. If the car seat has a top tether, make sure you find an anchor point. Read your vehicle’s owner manual to locate the anchor points for straps.
Car seat use mistakes
Your baby should be strapped firmly into the car seat. If you can pinch the shoulder straps together, they are too loose. Make sure the straps fit correctly over your baby’s shoulders and that the chest plate is at armpit level. Adjust the tightness and height of straps as your baby grows. If your car seat changes from rear-facing to forward-facing, you may need to adjust the path of the straps.
If your baby is fussy or falls asleep during breastfeeding, you may think they aren’t interested in nursing. But these are both common behaviors. If your baby is fussy, they may not be getting enough milk. Unlatch and relatch for a better position. If your baby falls asleep easily, stroke their cheek or talk to keep their attention while nursing.