Parenting Advice for New Moms
Feeding, sleeping, diapering: There's so much to learn about taking care of your newborn. We pinpoint the most common rookie mistakes, then tell you how to bounce back like a pro.
1. Cramming the Crib Too Full: It's tempting to load the crib with baby paraphernalia; it's all so adorable! But too many toys and other objects can be overstimulating and downright dangerous.
The Fix: Pillows, stuffed animals, blankets and even crib bumpers can be suffocation hazards. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a statement urging parents not to use sleep positioners, which can increase the risk of babies suffocating. “Your best bet is to have a quiet, dark, cool environment for baby to sleep in,” says Kim West, author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight. “A clean, well-fitting sheet and a firm mattress are all he needs.”
2. Not Taking Care of Yourself: Moms are typically great at nurturing others — not so stellar at taking care of themselves. “It's easy to make the baby the priority and neglect your own health,” says Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Baby Books. “You mistakenly feel selfish if you think of your own needs.”
The Fix: Admittedly, getting good sleep, or even a five-minute shower, can be tricky the first few months, but you can make an effort to eat healthy. (You wouldn't feed your baby Cheetos and Diet Coke for lunch — so why are you having that?) Teeny-tiny efforts count: Maybe your new life doesn't include Zumba class, but there's no reason you can't put the baby in a stroller or sling and walk every day.
3. Comparing Your Tot to Other Babies: Competitive parenting starts early these days. “With baby classes, Mommy and Me and other group activities becoming more and more popular in the past 10 to 15 years, parents have more opportunities to observe and compare other babies with their own,” says JJ Levenstein M.D., a Los Angeles pediatrician. “They quickly assume something is amiss if their baby doesn't perform like the others.”
The Fix: Yes, certain general developmental guidelines apply to all babies, but remember that your kid is an individual. Her inborn personality will affect how she hits milestones; some babies are verbal but physically passive, others wiggle, grasp and crawl first. Keep in mind that as your child gets older, the span of “normal” widens. Notes Dr. Levenstein, “Social smiling usually happens around 8 weeks, sitting up between 5 and 7 months and walking at 9 to 16 months. There are perfectly normal babies who achieve milestones on either end.” As always, go to your pediatrician with any major developmental concerns.