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The Most Common New Parent Mistakes

Dianna Graveman |14, September 2012


People often joke that there is no instruction manual for new parents; most everything is learned through trial and error, accompanied by the guidance and support of friends, family members, and advice from a pediatrician. Still, those first few days home with a new baby can be a little intimidating. Obviously, you want to do everything "right." Fortunately, there isn't always a right or wrong way. But most childcare specialists agree that many new parents make similar mistakes in those early weeks that can sometimes have adverse effects for the baby.

"I was so afraid to take my baby out of the house for the first six weeks," remembers Mary. "When I mentioned at a well-baby checkup that I was feeling pretty down, my baby's pediatrician suggested I take Charles out for walks in his stroller on a nice day -- or even to the store during off hours when it wasn't super crowded."

Mary's hesitance to leave the house is a common mistake, according to pediatricians, and one that can make postpartum depression symptoms worse -- or simply lead to frustration or the blues for the new mom. Fresh air and a change of scenery is good for both parent and baby, if weather permits. On the flip side, however, pediatricians do not recommend new parents expose their newborns to crowds during the early weeks. The baby could get a dangerous bacterial infection. Even a simple virus that causes a fever in a very young infant could land him in the hospital for tests that will cause discomfort for the baby and lots of anxiety for you.

If your baby is born around the holiday season, it can be tough to resist the pressure from friends and family members to attend big holiday gatherings. Stand your ground: if your doctor doesn't recommend it, don't go.

Another mistake new parents make -- and one that most pediatricians agree can be dangerous -- is to let their newborns sleep for more than four hours at a time during the first few weeks. According to doctors, babies can become dehydrated quickly if they go long periods without eating. Long sleep periods in newborns can also be an indication that something is wrong. For instance, your baby could be severely jaundiced and lethargic and have trouble waking on her own to nurse. After your baby is two weeks old, discuss her progress and weight gain with your pediatrician. If she's doing well, the doctor may give you the go-ahead to let her sleep for longer periods.

"My mother-in-law said I would spoil my baby if I fed her whenever she acted hungry, and that I should keep her on a schedule," says Kelly. Wrong, say pediatricians. Your baby does not need to be on a strict schedule, if she is eating at least every four hours. When your baby wakes crying or shows signs of hunger, feed her. There is absolutely no valid reason for making your newborn "wait" until a certain time to eat.

Today's knowledgeable parents know that research has proven babies should sleep on their backs to decrease risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but even as recent as a few decades ago, parents were told to put their babies to sleep on their stomachs. Be careful to avoid well-meaning advice of older relatives who may not have kept up with recent research. Make sure that grandparents who babysit are aware of the latest findings and insist that your baby always be put to sleep on his back.

Another very dangerous mistake new parents make, according to pediatricians, is letting a few incidents reported in the news or through social media outlets scare them into avoiding the recommended vaccinations for their babies. It is important for the long-term health of your child to follow the guidelines for vaccinations set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bringing your first baby home can be a joyous but stressful time, so remember to listen to your heart and follow your instincts. If your baby is running a fever, call the doctor. If you think something is wrong, consult your pediatrician. Never worry about being a bother or about what someone at your pediatrician's office is thinking. It is never worth putting your baby in danger. If you have a feeling something is wrong, it might be.

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