8 Mistakes Rookie Parents Make
Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, but you can learn a thing (or eight) from these common new parent mistakes.

If it sometimes feels as though your parenting strategy can be summed up as “trial and error,” join the club. Mistakes will be made, early and often. But when it comes to the health and well-being of your baby, we think you’ll agree: The fewer missteps, the better.

Fortunately, parents have been making mistakes for years, and this is your opportunity to learn from them. We consulted with a leading pediatrician, author, mom.me contributor, and - most importantly - mom of two, Dr. Cara Natterson, on eight common mistakes new parents make.

  • Taking a newborn to crowded places

    Maybe you have cabin fever after being cooped up in the house with a newborn. But your baby is perfectly happy to be home with you, where all of her basic needs — eating, sleeping and pooping — can be met easily. When you do venture out with baby, be smart about it. “Don’t go to the grocery store at 5 P.M. on a weekday when everyone is stopping in after work,” Dr. Natterson says. “Don’t take the baby to your toddler’s preschool and let all of the runny-nosed kids come up and touch him.” And remember that your baby has a baby immune system, so keep your hands clean and try to avoid crowds.

  • Forgetting the sunscreen

    Just like teeth brushing, applying sunscreen is a health habit that should be enforced early and often. The majority of your lifetime sun exposure happens during childhood - 80 percent, according to Dr. Natterson. And we know that skin cancers are caused by the harmful rays of the sun.

    "I tell parents to keep the sunscreen bottle next to the toothpaste tube," she says. "In the morning, make sure that as soon as you have finished brushing the teeth, you slather on the sun protection." And don’t make the rookie mistake of relying solely on a hat - toddlers are experts in hat removal.

  • Putting blankets in the crib

    It may be tempting to fill baby’s crib with ruffled pillows and matching blankets, but stifle your inner decorator, because these objects are dangerous. Infants can get trapped under a pillow or suffocate on a blanket. “The bassinet or crib should look more like a jail cell than a magazine spread,” Dr. Natterson says. Toys in the crib are also a no-no, as babies can choke on a loose button or part. “When my son was about 9 months old, I thought I was being genius by putting a board book in his crib,” Dr. Natterson shares. “We still have the copy of ‘Goodnight, Gorilla’ with a huge bite taken out of the thick binding.”

  • Waiting to baby proof

    "You can wait to baby proof," Dr. Natterson says, "but then you might as well wait to install the car seat until you get into an accident." Safety gates and outlet covers may make your home more inconvenient for you, but it’s better to baby proof sooner rather than later. There are real hazards in your household, and waiting until your child is cruising or walking to address them is too late. Think this through now, and reduce your risk of regret later.

  • Not brushing baby’s teeth

    Brushing your baby’s teeth is as much about setting precedent as it is about promoting health. Dr. Natterson recommends twice daily, starting when the teeth first appear.

    Parents who skip early brushing may find themselves chasing their toddlers around the house with a toothbrush. This can be dangerous: “I cannot tell you how many kids bonk their heads or wind up with stitches because of the tooth brushing pursuit!”

  • Turning baby orange

    Urban myth or rookie mistake? In fact, feeding your baby too many orange foods - such as sweet potatoes, carrots and winter squash - can make her skin resemble the color. You’d have to eat a LOT of orange foods, but it happened to Dr. Natterson’s sixth-grade math teacher (too many carrots). That’s because of high levels of beta-carotene in certain fruits and vegetables. While foods like carrots and sweet potatoes promote good vision and eye development, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. “The goal here is not to give your kid so much carotene that he starts to resemble a vegetable,” says Dr. Natterson. “Everything in moderation.”

  • Talking baby talk

    If you’re speaking baby talk to your child, you might as well be speaking a foreign language. “Your baby is desperate to learn how to communicate with you, and if you don’t use a legitimate language when you are talking, you are missing an opportunity,” Dr. Natterson says. “She doesn’t need to understand every word. She needs to hear the cadence of our speech and watch the formation of your mouth.”

    If you want to teach your baby more than one language, that’s even better. Many studies show that brain development is enhanced by exposure to multiple languages in the early years. If you want to raise your child bilingual, Dr. Natterson recommends having mom, dad or the nanny each choose one language and stick with it, rather than switching back and forth: “One person switching back and forth is confusing. And switching back and forth using baby talk is just downright useless.”

  • Keeping baby awake so he’ll sleep longer

It makes sense that if you keep baby up longer, he should sleep in the next morning, right? Wrong. In fact, keeping him up later just makes him wake up earlier. “A baby who sleeps through the night and goes down at 7:00 will often stay asleep for 11 or even 12 hours,” Dr. Natterson says. “If you keep him up until 8:00 or 9:00, all you have is a very tired, unhappy baby in the evening who will wake you up at 5:00 the next morning.” Still have doubts? Repeat after the doctor: “Sleep begets sleep. Remember that mantra.”


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    not planning on having kids soon, but these things are good to know!
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