The responsibilities that go along with bringing your first child home can often be overwhelming. Due to the stress involved with being totally responsible for such a tiny life, as well as panicking over every little thing that the child does, many parents unconsciously make several grave mistakes with their first child.
One of the biggest, most important ones is constantly holding your baby. Unless you’re prepared to deal with years of separation anxiety and insecurity, this is something you need to avoid doing at all costs. The child will scream when you drop him off with a babysitter, at Sunday school, daycare, preschool, kindergarten, this can go on for a very long time; all because of a simple mistake made from when the baby was first born. New babies are absolutely irresistible, and it’s a natural parental urge to hold your baby. By no means am I trying to say that you shouldn’t hold your baby at all, or even that you shouldn’t hold her often; but when you’re walking around your house vacuuming, washing dishes and scrubbing toilets with a baby sling tied to you, you are completely setting the stage for dealing with this behavior in the future. This is not the only reason that you shouldn’t hold your baby all the time. Babies need a certain amount of floor and tummy time in order to begin developing their motor skills. They need the freedom to move around and get to know themselves as well as their environment. I knew a woman whose son was incredibly behind in development because he was never, ever put down; she’d ask someone to hold him if she was going to the toilet! We all want to see our babies grow into strong, healthy children and adults, so why would we hold them back from becoming what we really want to see them become?
Holding your baby all the time pretty much goes hand in hand with picking them up and coddling them every time they cry. Many, if not most new parents believe that babies only cry when they need something. This is mostly true in early infancy, but when a baby is a few months old, believe me, he knows what he wants. Aside from the basic necessities, he just wants attention, and he will fight for it. Babies realize very early in life that someone will be right there to get them if they cry. Think about it, if they’ve spent every moment of their short lives thus far crying when they need something, don’t you think that as time goes on they’re going to notice that somebody comes every time they do it? When your baby is clean, fed, changed and happy, and it’s time to lay down for a nap, he will oftentimes cry. Babies are curious little creatures, and they don’t want to lose out on a moment of anything that’s going on. Let him cry it out. Picking them up every time that they cry leads to years of it. I knew another woman whose daughter wouldn’t even sit in the seat of a shopping cart without screaming because her mother had always taken her out when she got upset. She even carried her around the store when she wasn’t crying just because she wanted to be holding her all the time! Since she began that routine with her daughter from the start of her life, she was never able to put her in a shopping cart because the baby would scream every single time; and would not let up until she was let out and carried instead. No one wants to create a monster, and there isn’t much that’s more embarrassing than your child screaming and carrying on in public.
When you’re right in the middle of a good night’s rest, and you’re sleeping wonderfully, a screaming baby is the last thing you want to hear. Naturally, you find you can soothe the baby so much easier by getting her out of her bassinet and putting her into bed with you (feeding is incredibly easier as well if you’re breastfeeding). Also, new parents often bring the baby into bed with them because they feel more secure having her right there so as to be constantly making sure she’s okay. However, this is an awful solution. As far as making sure the baby is safe and breathing all night, you certainly don’t need to have her in the bed with you. This could actually be extremely dangerous in that there is a chance that you could suffocate her; be it by rolling over onto her or covering her face with blankets and/or pillows. That is one logical reason for not putting the baby in bed with you. There is also another very important reason, and I myself learned this one the hard way with my firstborn. If you get into the habit of letting your baby sleep in your bed, it is an incredibly hard habit to break. Out of all of the bad habits, this one is probably the longest lasting, most difficult one to break. She will want in every single night, usually no exceptions; and this will continue to go on for years even as you are trying to break the habit. I didn’t even let my son into bed with us every single night, and I spent around 3 to 4 years trying to get him out of that routine. It kind of went in phases; it started out where I didn’t let him in every night, then to avoid battling with him for hours in the middle of the night I started letting him stay in there more. Then as I began trying to break the habit, he would go to sleep in his own bed and at some point in the middle of the night when we were all asleep, he would get up and come crawl into my bed. When his doing that started to wake me up, I would make him a little bed on the floor and have him sleep down there. As time went on and we spent every night getting him out of my bed and into his little bed on the floor, he finally stopped trying to get into my bed and he’d just make his little bed on the floor every night. After I had that mastered, I started working him from the floor in my room to his own bed. This process was very long and frustrating and that is exactly why I STRONGLY advise against letting your baby sleep in your bed. I’ll tell you one thing, I can count on one hand how many times my little daughter has tried to crawl in my bed and that’s because I knew better that time around!
You can probably see how the first few mistakes we’ve discussed kind of fit together like little puzzle pieces. Children pretty much just want attention and to be close to their parents, probably stemming from having been in the womb; and while giving them those things is vital to their growth, development and spirit, you can see how too much of a good thing can really turn out to be a bad thing.
When your baby is napping, you are naturally inclined to try and keep their surroundings quiet. As strange as this may seem, this is also a mistake. Start in early infancy to not change anything you would normally do if they were awake. Keep your voice at a normal level when speaking to people, don’t turn down the television, wash dishes, vacuum, do everything as you normally would. If you start doing this at a very young age, and continue to do so as your child grows older, he is less likely to wake up at every little sound produced. I can (and every now and then I do) vacuum my house in the middle of the night. If I have the energy, I take advantage of it while I have it and my kids sleep right through. It’s great to be able to concentrate on things you have to get done during the day, without worrying about which things you can do when and timing them around your child’s nap times.
Bottles and pacifiers are a big thing. Knowing what time is the right time to take them away is a difficult thing that most parents go through, especially new parents. I’ve noticed that new parents also have a tendency to let their children keep these things way too far along in their lives. Oftentimes that is due to laziness. Of course nobody wants to go through another set of sleepless nights and children crying all day because they want their bottles and binkies. That’s why it’s vital that these things be taken away from babies when they turn a year old. At this age babies begin to drink real milk, are well into eating solid foods and have no need for these things anymore. Ideally, your baby should have been introduced to a sippy cup quite a few months ago. Even if this is not the case, at a year old you are due to throw out those bottles and binkies and give your baby a cup. People don’t seem to realize this but it is extremely easier to get rid of these things when babies are a year old than to let them keep them for who knows how long. The reason is because when children are a year old, they are still young enough to where they forget things pretty rapidly. If you take away the bottle and the pacifier this early, your baby is likely to forget about them within a few days, if not sooner. As opposed to letting them keep them until they are two, three, four years old and older when they are old enough to remember things for quite some time; in some cases, forever! They could very well be asking you to give them a bottle every day for a couple more years until they don’t care anymore. One of my little cousins is almost 3 years old and still cries for and gets a bottle. It just looks ridiculous to me; a child who can walk, speak in full sentences and hopefully by this age use a toilet, still walking around with a bottle in its mouth! I also have another cousin who might as well have had her pacifier glued to her face she was so attached to it. I went over to spend the night one day (mind you, I was only about 13 at the time and still realized the importance of kicking these habits) and she was just over one year old. I said to my aunt that she really needs to get that thing away from her, and she gave me permission to give it a shot. Since I didn’t live with them and she wasn’t my child, I let her sleep on the couch-bed with me to comfort her. I was able to get her to sleep without the pacifier, and after that night she never used one again. That’s how quickly they forget about things when they’re so little, we just had to get past that first initial night and it was over! Basically, kicking the bottle and pacifier habits at a year is essential because they will get over it quickly if you have the patience; thus keeping their teeth from sticking out like a rabbit’s and keeping them from becoming dependent upon anything.
One last mistake a new parent makes is freaking out when their child has a little fall or gets a little scrape. If you run to the child and start to baby him when something like that happens, then he will freak out as well. Instead, wait a few seconds to see how he himself reacts or start clapping for him, praising him and so forth. Usually, when you take the route of praising him he will get right up with a big smile on his face and feel totally proud of himself. Then go over to him and check him out to make sure he’s okay. It’s just important that you let him absorb what just happened and react on his own instead of screaming, jumping up and running over to him. You know the difference between a major accident and a little scrape on the knee; and the more you treat him like a big boy by praising him before he has a chance to freak out, or letting him think it out on his own, the more likely he will be to act like a big boy in the future when he does become one.
New parents being new parents are always going to make mistakes. It’s part of the learning and growth process that we go through even as adults. Ultimately, these mistakes are the biggest they can make (at least in my opinion) because they are all mistakes that affect the child’s future and the kind of person that he turns out to be. Hopefully this has helped at least one person on their journey in parenthood. We all know it is a very long and difficult road, but it is the most rewarding of them all! Happy parenting!