Get pregnant, check. Have a beautiful, healthy baby, check. Read the manual the hospital sends home with you after baby is born...wait, you didn't get one either?
Of course becoming a Mom is a big learning curve for most of us, and I was no exception. After years of raising my own children, my nieces, and helping out friends & clients, I wanted to compile a quick list of items that I personally felt that I could have done better in hindsight. As a new or seasoned Mom, you're only required to do your best, but hopefully you can skip a few of these mistakes below when it comes time to make a decision about your baby, lifestyle or routines at home. In the comments, let me know what you think? Do you agree?
Mistake #1: (Incorrectly) Bed-sharing
The very first 4 weeks of life, both of my children slept swaddled up between my husband and I, within 12 inches of our faces, so in the event the baby should stop breathing (I still worry about this even to this day!), we could easily be woken up and tend to the baby quickly. I remember waking one night to see that one of my pillows was only inches from my newborn's face- and that was the last night she slept between us. Although bedsharing is commonly practiced in many parts of the world, especially with breastfeeding mothers, the AAP actually does not recommend bedsharing at all. Recent studies have shown that most bed-sharing deaths occur when an adult that is under the influence of drugs, alcohol or is a moderate smoker, all ways to sleep heavier and deeper (thus not waking up if baby is in distress). I believe you should be able to make your own informed decision here, so if you do consider this, here are some pointers:
- Sleep with the spring mattress on the floor (no box spring), no pillows and no blankets/comforters. Parents should wear additional layers to stay warm.
- Consider investing in a safe sleeping area for baby between or next to the adult, such as the one DockaTot provides (also great to combat separation anxiety and lengthen naps!) Visit our "Sleep Must Haves" tab for more information on this Babylist 2017 winning product
- Do not sleep together with baby if you are a smoker, or smoked during pregnancy, or under the influence of any OTC or illegal drugs
- Offer a separate sleeping area for older siblings, such as next to the mattress on the floor in a larger Dockatot (the Grand)
- Do not swaddle a bedsharing baby, this may cause overheating.
Mistake #2: Keeping Baby up during the day to help him/her sleep better at night
Guys, even my pediatrician recommended this little ugly and WRONG piece of new Mom advice. When I asked at my son's 4-week appointment the common "How can I get him to sleep longer stretches at night" question, my pediatrician (who above all else was fabulous btw) answered, "Do whatever you can to engage him during the day!" LIttle did I know that a Newborn's circadian rhythm develops in approximately 6-8 weeks, meaning it'll take a little over 1-2 months for your baby to switch their nights to their days and sleep longer at night. So there I was, keeping my poor crying son up for hours at a time, and feeling absolutely defeated when this tiny overtired child would only nap for 20 minutes at a time. SLEEP BEGETS SLEEP, meaning the more rested a baby is, the better he or she will sleep. Once I was able to figure out that a child of his age should only be awake in between naps for about 90 minutes or less, he started sleeping through the night by 10 weeks!
Mistake #3: Mama Isolation or "The Newborn Fog"
Admit it, you were, or are, a much less devoted friend to your group of girlfriends now then before baby was born. And you should be by all means; children are work, but GREAT work, and sometimes (ok, always) that means social obligations fall to the side. However, this can leave a New Mom or newly-stay-at-home-Mom feeling alone. Not feeling like you can leave a breastfeeding baby for a quick break, or connect with other Moms going through the same things you are, can feel overwhelming and frustrating at times. The good news: This Newborn Fog we all experience won't last for long. The bad news: if you don't take time for yourself and reach out to others going through the same experiences, you might find yourself feeling way too lonely- or isolated- and bring on those baby blues. Try finding a local MOPS group (2 hours of morning chats with other Mother's of preschool children/babies & listening to hand-picked speakers- and most have daycares for free!), or search for a Moms group with your city name within Facebook like "Los Angeles Moms Club"- there are TONS of other women dying to meet each and chat about that gross yellow poop and exchange babysitter information. Don't be afraid to reach out, trust me you'll be SO glad you did!
Mistake #4: Pacifying my Baby to sleep every single time
Breastfeeding was LOVE for me the day I latched my daughter for the first time and got the thumbs up from the hospital nurse. She had a terrific latch, and was on her way to be an excellent feeder. This was unchartered territory for me, as my first child was a formula-fed child from Day One after a semi-traumatic emergency cesarean. I embraced feeding her, and felt proud and formed a deep connection with her knowing that I was her primary source of nutrition, I was the one still keeping this tiny human alive who was sleeping 3-4 hours at night by one month old...until she became sick a month later, causing night wakings every 2 hours. I was desperate for sleep, crying alongside her many nights. I tried something one of my friend's had mentioned, "Just put a boob in her mouth to get her back to sleep". So I tried this new idea...and it worked, she fell asleep so quickly! But as the nights went on, she went from waking every 2 hours, to every 45 minutes. She didn't need a feed every 45 minutes, as I confirmed with my doctor, hallelujah! This tiny baby could no longer fall asleep without a breast in her mouth. Now clearly if you've followed along with me for a while now you know what I did next (as she was too tiny to formally sleep train), and I can tell you I didn't stop feeding her at night. But I did stop feeding/pacifying her at EVERY waking, and instead offered an alternative form of soothing like rocking, swaying, singing, etc. After a few more weeks, she was sleeping 4-8 hour stretches at night!
Mistake #5: Comparing your Baby's Sleep to Others, Including a Sibling
"My 6-week old son naps for 6 hours a day, he's amazing, I get so much done!" or "My daughter slept through the night by 4 weeks, I don't know what the big deal is?" are examples of the conversations I've overheard in Facebook groups and Mommy playdates. Comparison when it comes to sleep will do you no good, take it from me. As parent's, we often try to focus on our child's accomplishments instead of the downfalls, and usually what you're reading on Facebook has some truth to it, but it's not all rainbows there either all the time. I often also receive emails from parents frustrated with a 2nd or 3rd child's sleep habits, mentioning that they never had a problem with their previous child. I am here to tell you, that while we are all for the majority "wired the same" when it comes to sleep, that all children are different with different temperments. Yep, you can raise your first and second baby exactly the same, and one will nap better, and one will always sleep in later, and one will never wet the bed or experience nightly terrors. So here's my PSA: Just don't worry about others, and do the best you know how to do.
What was one of the mistakes, or learning curves that you can look back on and wish you knew before you had a baby? Do you agree with the above? What was your experience as a new Mom like? Comment below and let's chat!