Having a baby is tough work, but the good news is almost every parent has been there. No, you’re not a moron (or a bad mom), you’ve just never done this before.
BELIEVING EVERYTHING YOU HEAR
If you listen to all the (often conflicting) advice you’re given, you will be paralyzed. Repeat after me: Google is not your friend. It will take you down scary rabbit holes. And from well-meaning people in the grocery store to family and friends, you’re going to be inundated with suggestions. Trust your instincts and when in doubt, consult an actual expert like your pediatrician.
PANICKING OVER EVERY ILLNESS
New parents often go one way or the other — we freak out every time baby sneezes, or we listen to people who say something potentially serious is just fine. It’s always better to err to the side of getting it checked out. I went to the doctor four times for the same cold that wouldn’t go away, just to be safe. The nurses looked at me like I was crazy, but I’m a crazy mama with a healthy baby. When your heart rate rises and you fear the worst, remember that babies are hardy creatures. They have survived for thousands of years without modern medicine, and in far dirtier situations than your home.
PUTTING YOUR RELATIONSHIP ON THE BACK-BURNER
While sleepless nights and poop explosions take up a lot of your time, you need to make sure you and your partner talk about more than just the little one’s milestones. Remember that one day the baby will be an adult, and you’ll be left with each other to talk to again.
PUTTING TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOURSELF
I have friends who are milk fountains, sleep gurus, Pinterest queens and still manage to be total bosses at work. Me? I’m stumbling through the day in a caffeine haze, doing a mediocre job at most things, including parenting. Here’s the truth: There is not enough of you to be the perfect mom (or dad). And there’s certainly not enough of you to be the perfect mom and Employee of the Month. Something has got to give. Ask for help. Leaning in, having it all, or whatever — it’s not realistic. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
COMPARING YOUR BABY
How big is your baby? When did she start walking? Is she sleeping through the night? Does he talk yet? If you stack your baby up against other infants, he may look like a champ. But he may not. Either way, every baby develops at different speeds and in various ways. Comparisons are just another way to drive yourself crazy.
Confession: I had trouble sharing my newborn. After 9 months of her being mine and mine alone, it was hard to hand her over. I knew in my head that she needed daddy/grandma/auntie time, but my hands still itched every time she was out of them. I also didn’t want to miss a single minute of my dwindling maternity leave. That also meant I never slept, rarely got things done and probably hurt a few people’s feelings. It took awhile, but I finally learned to share the love. I’ll always be her mommy.
NOT BRINGING FOUR EXTRA SETS OF BABY CLOTHES
It happens. “My daughter once arrived at a doctor’s appointment wearing nothing but a diaper and wrapped in my husband’s fleece jacket because of a one-two punch of puke and diarrhea in the car on the way there,” says Oklahoma-based mom Kelly Guinn. “And no change of clothes in the diaper bag, obviously. He cleaned her up in the men’s room before the appointment and said it looked like a war zone. Men kept opening the door to come in, they’d see what he was dealing with, then they’d turn and walk out.”
STAYING COOPED UP INSIDE
While it’s not a good idea to expose your baby to the germs of a large crowd, that doesn’t mean you have to stay at home those first few months. A little sunlight helps boost their vitamin D — and a nice stroll helps alleviate feelings of being trapped. For the 10-15% of women struggling with postpartum depression, getting out and exercising has been proven to help alleviate symptoms.
LEAVING A NON-WALKER UNBUCKLED
Just because they can’t wiggle free yet doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to not snap the straps in place. “We took our son to the zoo when he was 4 months old. I was so excited,” says Kansas-based mom Trilby McAdoo. “We took him out of the car seat and showed him some animals then put him back in (without buckling), then I thought it would be funny to push the stroller while running to make him smile. I hit a bump and the stroller flipped and so did he! He landed on the over-packed diaper bag and was totally fine. I, however, had a melt down. Now, he’s always buckled in.”
NOT TRUSTING YOUR GUT
The best piece of advice I ever got? I am the parent. I know my baby better than anyone else. Most statistics and averages are just that — a general look at all babies. There are lots of exceptions. My daughter was having trouble sleeping after the first couple months. She hated being swaddled (despite the fact that all my friends swore it was the miracle cure.) She would only fall asleep stomach-down on my chest. Not in my arms, and certainly not on her back in her bassinet. So, in desperation, I lay her on her stomach one night. And you know what? She slept for 6 hours straight. (I, of course, did not sleep, certain that she was going to die of SIDS.) My pediatrician told me that she couldn’t sign off on it, but that it was, unofficially, probably fine. And now my little snoozer sleeps almost through the night. I’m NOT advocating someone put a newborn on their belly — that’s a bad idea. But by that point, my baby could move her head and practically do a pushup during tummy time. The bottom line is that there is a host of information out there, much of it good, a lot of it overwhelming. It’s about making an informed decision for your particular child. Deep down, you know what’s best for your baby.