This morning I had the pleasure of meeting Kim Carrigan of Fox 25 Boston news channel for a live segment on common mistakes that new parents make. To be clear, I do not in any way see “mistakes” as a negative thing–in fact, I think they’re a necessary and common part of parenting, enabling you to learn what’s best for you and your family. However, I do love to share tips like these because in most cases, they’ll enable you to save that “ah ha” moment for another, perhaps more personal issue on the new-parent learning curve. So here are five of the most common “mistakes” I see among new parents and ways you can avoid them:
1. Going Baby Gear Overboard. The baby business is a big market—a 7 billion dollar market, so try not to get caught up in all of the things you think your baby needs.
  • Besides a car seat and a crib (or safe sleeping place) your baby does not need all of the latest gadgets.
  • Avoid buying unnecessary items such as bottle or wipes warmers, shoes.
  • The best stimulation for babies under eight weeks old is to be cuddled affectionately and spoken to—not flashing or loud toys.

2. Skipping Hospital Details. When you get to the hospital, the last thing you want to be doing is worrying. Being prepared can eliminate that.

  • Tour the hospital and familiarize yourself with the parking, admitting and payment protocol before hand.
  • Pack light and don’t bring unnecessary items like your baby’s car seat to the birthing room.
  • Ask family and friends not to bring gifts to the hospital—this is just extra work for you and flowers are almost always left behind. An ideal gift is a home-cooked meal delivered right to your freezer!

3. Stressing. All new parents run into one hiccup or another during their first few days/weeks with their baby, but you’ll be much happier if you give yourself some slack right from the beginning!

  • It’s OK if for some reason your baby doesn’t breastfeed or receive prolonged skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. And if you have breastfeeding issues at all along the way simply reach out to professional resources such as lactation consultant or baby nurse who will help you get on track.
  • Newborns constantly change, so don’t be surprised or frustrated when your “schedule” suddenly veers off course or your baby becomes a little more fussy. Less stress from you, less fuss from baby.
  • Rest aids relaxation so get as much as possible and try to limit visitors, especially in those days at the hospital.

4. Unaware of Toxins. It takes some digging to become informed about potentially harmful toxins around you. Do that digging and make a few small changes to help keep your family safe and healthy.

  • Buy organic versions of high-pesticide produce.
  • Make your own cleaning supplies or use those with lowest chemical content. Ventilate your house and baby’s room is properly with open windows.
  • Read personal care ingredients carefully—they’re not FDA-regulated and expensive products or those that claim to be “natural” are not always safest for you or your baby.

5. Lopsided Parental Roles. Maternal instinct and years of “traditional” nuclear family roles are powerful things but everyone, especially baby, will benefit tremendously if both parents engage in all aspects of care. 

  • Diaper and clothing changes, bathing, soothing, giving bottle or bringing baby to mom to breastfeed—Dad can and should do it all right from the start!
  • It’s never too early to start reading—cuddle up with your baby and let him enjoy the closeness and rhythms of your voice, whether it’s the Wall Street Journal, a John Grisham novel or nurse rhyme!
  • Communicate along the way and establish routines everyone is happy with.
Tell me, what other first-time parent mistakes to avoid would you add to this list?