5 common mistakes new parents make

New parenthood is overwhelming. For one, there’s that whole new life to take care of – and there’s also a mass of baby-related information to take in. There are do’s and don’ts and safety precautions enough to make your head spin. But no matter how much you absorb as you set out on your parenting journey, keep in mind that all parents take wrong turns here and there. And while most of those so-called mistakes are harmless, there are a few common areas you’ll want to pay particular attention to. Here are 5 common mistakes new parents make while caring for their newborn:

Carseats

Most new parents focus on proper carseat installation and keep informed of the latest recalls and recommendations. However, many don’t consider the potential hazard of leaving baby for too long in at carseat while not in the car. Especially with the prevalence of portable carseat baby carriers, the tendency to let baby sleep in the carseat until he or she wakes is common. A baby’s respiratory system can be compromised by leaving him or her in a semi-reclined position too long, and this is particularly risky for premature babies 10 pounds and under. Although it’s tempting to let baby carry out a napping session if he or she falls asleep in the carseat, your child should be taken out and placed in a crib or bassinet.

Baby Products

New and expecting parents often receive gifts of scented lotions, baby powder, and washes and with all of the sweet and adorable packaging and marketing they’re easy to fall for. However, it’s important to know that these types of consumer products – even baby ones – are not regulated by the FDA. Many are packed with toxins that can easily be absorbed into your baby’s tissue like skin. The best solution is to purchase products for baby that are free of unnecessary chemical ingredients. Remember, just because a product is pricey and says it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s the best for your baby.

Over-stimulation

Newborns don’t need a lot and in fact, too much stimulation from electronic toys with lights and loud sounds can be disruptive to them. Hearing your voice read books or sing, feeling a soft blanket, or looking in the mirror are great, basic ways to stimulate baby without going overboard.

Sleep

Although you always hear about the goal of getting baby sleeping through the night, for the first two weeks until your baby gains sufficient weight you need to make sure thatdoesn’t happen. Your baby will need to be woken up every three hours during the night to eat, until your pediatrician gives you the OK to let him or her sleep for a long stretch.

In addition, many new parents assume that keeping their baby up as much as possible during the day will result in their infant sleeping through the night. However, this is not the case. When infants are over-stimulated or overtired, they are unable to power down at night and their adrenaline kicks in. Until your baby is about one year, more sleep during the day equates to more sleep at night. Apply an approximate 90-30 rule – for every 90 minutes your baby is awake, he or she should nap for 30 minutes.

Stress

When you have a baby, things to stress over abound. From baby care to sleep deprivation to financial worries, you will feel stress at some point. But keep in mind, whatever form your stress takes radiates from you and is sensed by your baby. This can translate to fussiness for seemingly no apparent reason. Try your best to practice a “let things go” approach right from the start. Find outlets such as exercise, yoga, or writing to deflect any built up anxieties you have. No one is perfect and there’s not just one way to care for your baby.

What nobody ever told me about breastfeeding

Did anything about breastfeeding surprise you? We asked moms to share their most memorable lessons learned.

1. “I was utterly shocked (and then kind of impressed) by the spraying fire-hose effect. When my babies would pull off, the milk would go ballistic in all directions. (I had a lot of milk.)”– Lauren

2. “One thing no one told me, and that took me by surprise, was how comfortable I’d be with having my nipples out in the open!”– Claire T.

3. “Someone told me that if feeding isn’t ‘working’ in the beginning that it might not be my fault. (I.e. position, tongue tie, reasons other than you). I was mentally prepared for feeding not to come naturally, per se, and that was really helpful.”– Youngna

4. “That breastfeeding would make me feel isolated. I wasn’t comfortable with people—especially extended family—seeing my breasts, and covers didn’t work well for me, so I ended up in separate rooms than everyone else a lot of the time (like at family dinners). My first baby would nurse for 40 minutes at a time, so I’d miss a lot of the family conversation.” – Kim

5. “For the first several weeks, it takes two hands. (At least! A third is often required!)” – Claire T.

6. “My daughter spat up blood when she was one week old. I was mega-traumatized and took her to the ER, only to have the doctors tell me that’s super normal because I had a cracked nipple, and she had swallowed blood. Wish someone had told me!!!!” – Kate

7. “How painful those first two weeks are. Ow. Ow. Ow. Nobody talks about blistered or bloody nipples. I also had swollen ectopic breast tissue (swollen nodes in my armpits).” – Youngna

8. “I was so surprised at how long it took to nurse a newborn—especially one who constantly fell asleep at the breast! It took me about an hour to do each feed (with the diaper change and all the attempts to wake him with cool face cloths, and taking his feet out of the sleeper, or tickling his face). Then I’d still have to pump. And the next thing I knew, I’d be doing it all over again!” —Sadiya

9. “No one told me what letdown feels like… And it’s pretty weird. For some people it’s a burning sensation, for others it’s a tingling or pins-and-needles feeling. I would feel letdown even when I was away from the baby for a few hours, skipping a feeding. You don’t even need a clock—your boobs tell you when the baby is likely hungry.” —Ariel

10. “How you will be sleeping with a bra on for a looooong time. I didn’t really realize the leakage situation pretty much has you in a bra for as long as you’re nursing.” —Youngna

11. “Nobody told me how much more difficult it would be for me to stop breastfeeding than for my baby. She just up and quit one day, and I was left feeling really devastated. Suddenly that special bond was broken and I was surprised by how unprepared I was for those emotions.” — Karen

Be an Active Family

10 tips for becoming more active as a family

Physical activity is important for children and adults of all ages. Being active as a family can benefit everyone. Adults need 2½ hours a week of physical activity, and children need 60 minutes a day. Follow these tips to add more activity to your family’s busy schedule.
  1. Set specific activity times 
    Determine time slots throughout the week when the whole family is available. Devote a few of these times to physical activity. Try doing something active after dinner or begin the weekend with a Saturday morning walk.
  2. Plan ahead and track your progress 
    Write your activity plans on a family calendar. Let the kids help in planning the activities. Allow them to check it off after completing each activity.
  3. Include work around the house 
    Involve the kids in yard work and other active chores around the house. Have them help you with raking, weeding, planting, or vacuuming.
  4. Use what is available 
    Plan activities that require little or no equipment or facilities. Examples include walking, jogging, jumping rope, playing tag, and dancing. Find out what programs your community recreation center offers for free or minimal charge.
  5. Build new skills 
    Enroll the kids in classes they might enjoy such as gymnastics, dance, or tennis. Help them practice. This will keep things fun and interesting, and introduce new skills!
  6. Plan for all weather conditions 
    Choose some activities that do not depend on the weather conditions. Try mall walking, indoor swimming, or active video games. Enjoy outdoor activities as a bonus whenever the weather is nice.
  7. Turn off the TV 
    Set a rule that no one can spend longer than 2 hours per day playing video games, watching TV, and using the computer (except for school work). Instead of a TV show, play an active family game, dance to favorite music, or go for a walk.
  8. Start small 
    Begin by introducing one new family activity and add more when you feel everyone is ready. Take the dog for a longer walk, play another ball game, or go to an additional exercise class.
  9. Include other families 
    Invite others to join your family activities. This is a great way for you and your kids to spend time with friends while being physically active. Plan parties with active games such as bowling or an obstacle course, sign up for family programs at the YMCA, or join a recreational club.
  10. Treat the family with fun physical activity 
    When it is time to celebrate as a family, do something active as a reward. Plan a trip to the zoo, park, or lake to treat the family.

 

Make physical activity a regular part of the day

woman running with dogChoose activities that you enjoy and can do regularly. Fitting activity into a daily routine can be easy — such as taking a brisk 10 minute walk to and from the parking lot, bus stop, or subway station. Or, join an exercise class. Keep it interesting by trying something different on alternate days. Every little bit adds up and doing something is better than doing nothing.
Make sure to do at least 10 minutes of activity at a time, shorter bursts of activity will not have the same health benefits. For example, walking the dog for 10 minutes before and after work or adding a 10 minute walk at lunchtime can add to your weekly goal. Mix it up. Swim, take a yoga class, garden or lift weights. To be ready anytime, keep some comfortable clothes and a pair of walking or running shoes in the car and at the office.

More ways to increase physical activity

At home:

  • Join a walking group in the neighborhood or at the local shopping mall. Recruit a partner for support and encouragement.
  • Push the baby in a stroller.
  • Get the whole family involved — enjoy an afternoon bike ride with your kids.
  • Walk up and down the soccer or softball field sidelines while watching the kids play.
  • Walk the dog — don’t just watch the dog walk.
  • Clean the house or wash the car.
  • Walk, skate, or cycle more, and drive less.
  • Do stretches, exercises, or pedal a stationary bike while watching television.
  • Mow the lawn with a push mower.
  • Plant and care for a vegetable or flower garden.
  • Play with the kids — tumble in the leaves, build a snowman, splash in a puddle, or dance to favorite music.
  • Exercise to a workout video.

At work:

  • Get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk or skate the rest of the way.
  • Replace a coffee break with a brisk 10-minute walk. Ask a friend to go with you.
  • Take part in an exercise program at work or a nearby gym.
  • Join the office softball team or walking group.

At play:

  • Walk, jog, skate, or cycle.
  • Swim or do water aerobics.
  • Take a class in martial arts, dance, or yoga.
  • Golf (pull cart or carry clubs).
  • Canoe, row, or kayak.
  • Play racquetball, tennis, or squash.
  • Ski cross-country or downhill.
  • Play basketball, softball, or soccer.
  • Hand cycle or play wheelchair sports.
  • Take a nature walk.
  • Most important — have fun while being active!

The Unique Grief of Mothers without Living Children

In my practice, I see many mothers who have lost their only children during pregnancy or early infancy. They show up at my office struggling with grief and feelings of isolation. Some also grapple with infertility and the prospect of never being a mother to a living child.

Many of these mothers have been to multiple therapists or support groups, yet their search for adequate support continues. They report feeling like outsiders in support groups where other women talk about their living children or who are pregnant again after experiencing a loss. They talk about struggling to find a therapist who understands the unique experience of being a mother without living children.

Again and again, these mothers share feelings of invisibility and isolation and the intense grief of having empty arms with no children to fill them. More than anything, they want someone to acknowledge the pain of their loss.

Having an awareness of the unique experience of being a mother without living children is vital in supporting these women. Here are some things therapists should consider when supporting a mother without living children.

It’s common in the world of pregnancy loss to hear talk about “rainbow babies” (babies born after loss). Often there’s an assumption that moms who have experienced loss will go on to have such babies. Many support groups include discussion of mothers desperately trying to get pregnant again.

I call the idea that another baby will fix a woman’s grief the “myth of the rainbow fix.” Even if a mother goes on to have a living child, it won’t replace the baby she lost or miraculously cure her grief.

More importantly, not all moms who have experienced loss have the option to have another child. Many moms are dealing with the knowledge that they physically or emotionally can’t have another baby. Others tried for years and are struggling with infertility. For many, the baby they lost was a “miracle baby” after years of apparent infertility and trying. Some have accepted that they may never have another pregnancy and have been on adoption waiting lists for years.

Not every mother who loses her child to stillbirth or miscarriage will have another child. Making the assumption that they can or will may be detrimental to the emotional health of these mothers.

Many Need Reassurance That They Are Indeed Mothers

Many mothers who have lost their only baby struggle with whether they are “allowed” to claim the title of mother. Their idea of what it means to be a mother has been suddenly and unexpectedly altered. Being able to claim the identity of mother even though their baby did not survive can be a valuable piece of the healing process.

It’s important to work with these women to redefine what “mother” and “mothering” means to them now that their baby is no longer physically here. In what tangible and intangible ways can they continue to mother their child?

Early Loss Does Not Mean a Lesser Loss

Far too often when a mother loses a baby early in pregnancy or has an ectopic pregnancy, her loss experience is minimized. Many women whose babies died in their first trimesters often feel that their grief is dismissed or invalidated through statements like, “It was so early,” “You didn’t really know it yet,” or, “You just found out you were pregnant, so try not to get too down.”

However, for many women the love and attachment come the moment they know they are pregnant. For others, the attachment and love were formed long before the pregnancy occurred, through years of trying to get pregnant, fertility treatments, or planning to become a mother.

Depth of love has no basis in time.

Questions about Children May Be Difficult to Answer

Many intake assessments and initial sessions for any kind of medical or mental health provider include the question, “Do you have any children?” or “How many children do you have?” For those who haven’t lost a child, this probably seems like a simple and straightforward question. For those who have lost one or more children, it’s often not so simple. Internal debate immediately comes up:

Do I say yes and explain?

Do I say yes, but then what if they ask how old he/she is?

Do I have the energy to go through the story all over again?

Maybe I should just say no, but I always feel so guilty when I do that.

What is his/her reaction going to be if I say I have a child but he/she is dead?

I want to acknowledge my child, but I don’t want to deal with discomfort and that awkward silence.

Gah, I hate this question!

For therapists, I don’t know that there is a good solution for the pain and uncertainty questions like this bring up. However, asking about living children and deceased children separately may make the situation more comfortable for mothers and help them feel more accepted.

Nothing therapists can say or do will completely take away the grief and pain a woman feels after the death of a baby. We can’t fix the ache of not having a living child to hold, raise, and love. As professionals and compassionate human beings, however, we can be more aware and sensitive to the unique experience of being a mother without a living child. Support without judgment or assumptions can go a long way toward healing, not just for these mothers but for anyone in pain.