When you have your first baby, everyone from your mom-in-law to the current top-selling baby book seems to be giving you advice. But however much we know, we all land up making parenting choices we wish we hadn’t!
Here’s a heads-up from a family nurse on ‘rookie mistakes’ new parents often make…
Tiptoeing around the house when baby naps
This is absolutely the best way of ensuring that your baby wakes up at the slightest noise! It’s far better to let her get used to the ordinary sounds of your household – the radio, the vacuum cleaner, the rest of the family going about their daily lives – she’ll learn to sleep through them.
Rocking your baby to sleep
Once your baby has become accustomed to falling asleep to a warm body and a gentle swaying movement, she’ll need it every time. Then there’s the added challenge of putting her down in her cot without waking her. Sleep experts recommend that you get your baby into the cot before she’s totally asleep. That way, she learns to put herself to sleep. This is not to say that rocking and snuggling don’t have their place – they’re important for bonding and security.
Expecting life to get ‘back to normal’ in a jiffy
You’ve probably said this yourself before having a baby, or heard your friends say it: “We’re not going to change our lives just because we have a baby. He’ll have to fit in with our lives. Next year, we’re planning a pony-trekking adventure in Nepal. He’ll be nine months by then, so that should all work out.” Honey, there’s a new normal now, and for 99.9% of us, it doesn’t include pony-trekking.
Ignoring your instincts
Family nurse, Elizabeth Beavon, who runs a well baby clinic in Craighall says: “Parents often expect other people to have the correct answer to their baby’s needs, but when you and your baby have established the relationship, you will know your baby best. You know what she needs and you know when something is wrong. For instance, if you have a strong instinct that there is really something wrong with your baby, get her to a doctor without delay. Early intervention sometimes prevents long-term repercussions.”
Failing to read over-stimulation signals
The book Baby Sense, by Ann Richardson and Megan Faure, has made lots of parents more aware of a baby’s sensory world. Nonetheless, the first thing we do to cheer up our crying baby in a busy shopping centre is to wave a rattle or try and play a game with baby to cheer her up – which ends up making the crying worse. When your baby’s sensory system is overloaded, she needs to be removed from the stimulating environment that she’s in and taken to a quieter place to calm her.
“Children need to know where their boundaries are; they need routine and structure and discipline in their lives. If you’re always changing the rules, your child never knows what they are. So if you say no to sweets in the checkout queue and then give in because you’re embarrassed about a tantrum in public, your child doesn’t know what the rule is,” explains Elizabeth.
Expecting too much
“I often see parents with unreasonable expectations of age-appropriate behaviour, which sometimes leads them being overly strict, controlling and critical to their toddler, in particular, to things they did that they are not old enough to understand or control. It’s important to understand your child’s development at every age and have appropriate expectations,” says Elizabeth.
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