Taking care of a newborn can be overwhelming. When it comes to raising a baby, many new parents will admit they are a little clueless. Just like with learning anything new, you’re bound to make a few mistakes, and that’s ok. It's inevitable you won't do everything just right. The truth is no one is perfect — especially new parents. However, if you know the most common parenting mistakes, maybe you can keep from making them yourself.
Whether you already have a baby, are expecting a baby, or are just curious about what to avoid when you become a parent, we’ve compiled several common mistakes new parents make that you can look out for. The most important thing to remember is that parenting with love and logic should always be your guiding principle.
Scheduling baby’s feedings / Not feeding on demand
New parents often have the right intentions and are trying to establish better sleep patterns from the get-go; including longer sleep stretches. This can mean avoiding frequent feedings at night or not feeding on demand. They let their baby sleep too long between feedings, likely due to exhaustion and their own need to get a bit of rest. That's a mistake.
In the first few weeks, your baby needs to be fed every two to three hours. This means they need to be fed even if they don't demand it. This schedule will also help establish a better and quicker milk supply for breastfeeding moms.
So, what if your baby is sleeping soundly? As shocking as it may sound, waking your baby from a peaceful slumber is actually necessary in the early stages of development to ensure they are getting enough sustenance to keep growing. Once they have regained their birth weight and you get your pediatrician's OK, it's fine to cross your fingers and hope that you get a stretch of three to five hours without the baby waking to be fed. Just remember that newborns should still be allowed to feed on demand, and should never be deprived of eating because it is not the scheduled time to eat.
If your baby is skipping two frequent feedings in a row and does not seem interested in eating, then you should get her evaluated by your doctor.
Not burping baby properly
One of the key mistakes parents make with newborns is failing to take the time to properly burp them. Burping is as essential as feeding a newborn. Babies need to burp once they are done with feeding to avoid any reflux issues or discomfort. Failing to burp can cause your baby to spit up and gag (losing some of that precious milk), or wake up in an hour or so screaming in pain.
Try burping your baby when you switch between breasts (if breastfeeding), and also after each feeding. You should give different burping techniques a try until you find the one that works best for your baby.
Keep your baby elevated after a feed or put her on your shoulder for 15 to 20 mins. If you have to put your baby down for any reason, put her in a baby rocker which keeps her elevated. Wearing your baby is also a good option for keeping her elevated and to avoid any reflux issues.
When you’re feeding in the middle of the night, all groggy and tired, it can be easy to forget burping. It might take you seconds or an additional 10 minutes at the end of the feed, but your baby will be happy.
Mistakes in mixing formula or breastfeeding
Mistakes measuring formula and water happens often enough. Parents might be mixing formula wrong by making it too concentrated or dilute. When diluted, the baby isn't getting enough nutrition and that's when they fail to thrive. Be sure you're reading and following the directions on the formula properly.
Breastfeeding moms may not have the baby fully latched onto the breast, so while the baby looks like it's nursing, he or she isn't actually swallowing and feeding. You can pump out breastmilk and bottle feed to have a better understanding of how well your baby is eating so far.
Although every mom wants to have a supply right after delivery, unfortunately, that’s not true for every woman. Some women get the right amount of milk supply right away to meet their babies’ nutritional demands, whereas some have to wait.
If your newborn loses more than 10% of her birth weight in the early days of her life and she does not have enough wet diapers within 24 to 48 hours, then this needs immediate attention. Check in with your pediatrician regularly to make sure your baby is gaining weight appropriately.
Not enough tummy time
An unfortunate mistake new parents make is keeping their baby constrained in a car seat, bouncy seat, or other sleepers. When your baby is not sleeping or not in the car traveling, they really should be on their tummy or held by a parent.
Lack of tummy time and too much time reclining can create a soft spot on the back of your baby’s head. It can also cause language delays and other issues due to a lack of stimulation.
Tummy time will strengthen the muscles they need to be able to roll or lift their head up, which provides added safety from suffocation when rolling in the crib.
Proper temperature for baby in the home / Dressing baby properly
A common concern for many new parents is how warm or cool their baby should be, or what temperature setting is best for the home. In general, the thermostat should be around 68F to 72F, and baby should be dressed appropriately for the room temperature.
When it comes to dressing your baby, the general rule is that babies need one extra layer than what you are wearing. Many new parents keep their infant either too warm out of fear of freezing, or too cool out of fear of overheating. If the baby is chilled, then his body will need to burn extra calories to raise his body temperature, instead of those calories going toward a healthy weight gain. If overheated, he can become lethargic and at risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Often times, new parents will fear at the first sign of a cold hand and begin to overdress, assuming that their baby is too cold. It’s important to understand that newborns don't have good circulation yet, so having cool hands and feet is normal. To accurately check your baby’s core body temperature, you should feel his chest, tummy, or back. This core area is where all the blood flows to protect essential organs and helps to determine hypothermia. A baby's core should always be warm and dry to the touch, not hot, sweaty, or cold.
To help ensure proper temperature regulation in any season year-round, we recommend using a Woolino 4-season baby sleep bag. This sleeping bag is made of 100% natural merino wool, which has natural temperature regulating and moisture-wicking properties to create a microclimate around your baby. For other natural merino products, check our merino wool babywear collections. Follow the room thermometer and dressing guide that comes attached, and you’ll be dressing your baby worry-free.
Smoke around them
While smoking is your own personal decision, you should consider the consequences on your newborn. Cigarette smoke contains all sorts of toxic pollutants that are harmful to your baby, especially given their weak immune system. Since your baby has a small body, it’s easier for all these toxins to accumulate in his bloodstream.
Secondhand smoke is even more dangerous to developing lungs. Studies have shown that smoking around babies can cause asthma and other more serious health problems later in life. Inhaling secondhand smoke – and even third-hand smoke from your clothes or the room – makes your baby prone to certain illnesses and increases his risk for SIDS.
It’s hard to quit smoking. Nobody is saying it’s easy. But smoking parents owe it to their children to try
Waiting too long to change a diaper
Regularly changing diapers is another tedious task that is undesirable for many. Tired parents might wait too long to change a diaper. If you wait too long, it can lead to painful diaper rashes and even urinary tract infections. Ideally, you’ll have to change your newborn’s diaper every two to three hours, although in the middle of the night you can wait for him to ask for a change so as not to disturb his sleep.
One other reason a parent might not change their baby frequently is to conserve diapers. Diapers can be expensive and the costs can add up, but it is not worth conserving diapers when your child’s comfort and health are at stake. If you find yourself in this situation, some non-profit organizations may be able to provide you with diaper donations. You may also want to consider cloth diapers as an economical option as well.
Shaking the baby
It is normal for babies to cry, and it's normal for parents to get frustrated, but it is NEVER ok to shake a baby. Vigorous or angry shaking can result in Shaken Baby Syndrome.
Shaken Baby Syndrome is a combination of serious injuries that can occur when someone violently shakes an infant or young toddler. It may only take 1 or 2 hard shakes to seriously injure a small child. This is because babies and toddlers have relatively big, heavy heads and weak neck muscles. When they are shaken, the brain slams back and forth inside the skull, resulting in bleeding around the brain and damage to the brain itself.
The number one reason given for shaking a baby is "I just wanted the baby to stop crying". Crying is how newborns communicate; it does not mean your baby is being naughty or trying to frustrate you on purpose. Try to have a plan for what you will do if your baby keeps crying and you become frustrated — there are things you can do and people who can help you. It's OK to walk away! Put your baby in a safe place, close the door, and take a break. Do not pick up your baby until YOU have calmed down.
Never leave your baby alone with someone who may lose control, and be sure to share this message with everyone who is caring for your baby.
Keeping baby’s head in one position at night
Safe sleep rules can be confusing, especially when you're exhausted. As many new parents are taught (should be taught), placing babies on their back in the crib is the safest way to put an infant to sleep. What they don’t realize is that just putting them on their backs in the same way every night can actually affect the development and shape of their baby’s skull.
Babies’ skulls are very soft and the bones can be affected by pressure. Babies also have weak neck muscles. Because of this, they tend to turn their heads to one side when placed on their backs. If babies turn their heads to the same side, the skull may flatten in that area. This is known as plagiocephaly, or a ‘flat head’. A little bit of flattening goes away on its own. More serious flattening may be permanent. Fortunately, there are ways in which you can help prevent it.
A simple way to prevent your baby from getting a flat head is to change the position of your baby’s head each time you lay him down (to face his left side, then right). Every time you feed him or change his diaper, switch around the position of his head. Also, during the day, make sure to cuddle and carry him often. You may be wondering, how much should I hold my baby? The answer is “as much as you’re able to”. Wearing your baby in a wrap or carrier is best if you need to get other things done. Holding your baby helps him to see the world around him, strengthen his neck muscles, prevent flat spots, and bond with you.
If your baby still develops flat spots, talk to your pediatrician or family physician.
Taking newborns into crowded places / Letting too many people hold your baby
Bringing a newborn baby to a social situation can oftentimes feel like a game of hot potato as everyone takes their turn holding your little bundle. It is perfectly normal for new parents to want to take their newborn to large family gatherings to show off their tiny miracle. Unfortunately, this is a mistake if you want to protect your infant’s health.
So, when can I take my baby to visit family? How long should a newborn stay home after birth, or how old can a newborn be to leave the house? Well, the first two months of your baby's life, you really need to protect them from exposure to germs and people that are potentially sick. Your baby's immune system is weak and still growing and developing. It is best to limit your newborn baby’s exposure to crowded areas until he is a bit older and his immune system is stronger.
That doesn't mean you can't leave the house. Take daily walks, sit in your backyard, or on the front porch. You may notice babies love fresh air the best.
Letting other people kiss baby
I think everyone can agree, babies are adorable, and yours is no exception. When you see something that cute, it’s very difficult to resist kissing those squishy cheeks. However, with newborns and their still-underdeveloped immune systems, kissing is a really, really bad idea.
There are numerous illnesses that can be transmitted through airborne droplets. Some people may be carrying them even if they’re not exhibiting any symptoms. Your little one could easily catch these pesky microorganisms, which could lead to illness!
Do your newborn a favor and make sure that physical contact is kept to a minimum.
Use a pillow or soft cushion / Loose bedding
For many first time parents, being advised to place your fragile newborn on just a firm, flat crib mattress can seem cold or uncomfortable. As adults, we understand the joys of comfort and we want our infants to feel the same. Don’t be tempted to use soft objects and try to avoid puffy pillows, cushions, blankets, or toys in the baby’s sleep space. These comfy looking items can actually cause suffocation. If your baby ends up on his tummy, especially without proper strength or control over his head and neck, his airway can become blocked by the soft materials and he may have trouble breathing.
Loose bedding of any kind, including loose blankets, are not safe for sleep. Babies are able to roll and wrap themselves up in loose blankets, posing a strangulation hazard. If you’re worried about your baby’s comfort and wish to give them a blanket while they sleep, we recommend using a Woolino wearable blanket. This sleeping bag or sack stays on all night and fits snugly over their torso to prevent sliding over your baby’s face. It is roomy to allow for kicking, rolling, and healthy hip development.
Waiting out a fever
Fevers can be very serious for infants in their first three months of life because their immune systems are not set up to handle an infection on their own. One very common mistake parents make with newborns is seeing the symptoms (coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, fever) and thinking their baby will be able to overcome the illness. If your baby is younger than three months and develops a fever of 100.4 or higher, call your pediatrician or doctor immediately.
When it comes to fevers in older babies and children, parents shouldn’t freak out by the number on the thermometer; rather, they should take a closer look at how their child is acting. Are they drinking fluids? Are they happy and playing? Are they sleeping ok? Are they having any trouble breathing? Waiting out a fever in older children may be alright, as long as there are no signs that it could be dangerous.
Believing everything you hear
The truth is, no matter how much you know, there is always MORE to learn, and the same goes for other parents as well. While advice from experienced parents can be helpful at times, there are still instances where the advice that worked for one baby may not work for another. Try not to get caught up in all the dos and don'ts from other people. Believing everything you hear can be unwise. Take the time to research for yourself and get to know your OWN baby. Your methods may be different from your other parent friends, and that’s okay. As long as your baby’s safety comes first, you should follow your instinct.