Parenting 101: five blunders to avoid
Some classic newbie errors parents make and tips to help you avoid them.
When looking back on those first few months of child-rearing, most parents will cringe with embarrassment or stifle a hysterical laugh at the thought of the blunders they made.
To help make your first foray into parenthood a little less bumpy, we’ve rounded up some common parental pitfalls, and have offered a few tips to help you avoid making them, too. There’s nothing like learning from other people’s mistakes!
1. Going gaga over baby gear
It’s easy to get swept up in the world of baby paraphernalia.
But when ‘must have’ items include wipe warmers and nappy alarms, it’s a good idea to ask other parents what you might actually need.
Try to be practical. That pram you’re eyeing up may be perfect for jogging – even bushwalking – with baby in tow, but will it fit down the aisles of your local grocery store? After opting for an off-roader, my partner and I were miffed to discover we had to take the wheels off to get it in the car.
The same principles apply to baby clothing. If you’ve spotted something ‘adorable’, just check you don’t need to turn your baby into a contortionist to put him or her into it.
2. Not trusting your instincts
With ‘experts’ at every turn, it’s hard not to get bogged down with other people’s parenting advice, particularly when it’s coming from your own mother or mother-in-law.
But it’s important to remind yourself that you probably know your baby better than anyone. Try not to buy out the bookstore when it comes to baby books, either.
“They’re often contradictory and some were so rigid with their advice on sleeping and feeding times it stressed me out just reading them,” says mum-of-two, Kate.
If you do turn to Google for parenting advice, make sure you’re taking advice from a reputable source and you speak to your GP or maternal and child health nurse if there is anything you are worried about or doesn’t seem quite right.
3. Comparing your bub with others’
This one’s a biggie and most new parents fall for it in some guise or other, whether it’s getting drawn into the one-upmanship about sleep or fretting over milestones.
“I had one friend who always boasted that her baby was sleeping through the night from six weeks and it used to get to me, especially when I’d hardly slept a wink,” says mum-of-three, Caroline. “I realised when we went away together that it actually wasn’t the case, but by then I’d learnt to appreciate that all babies are different.”
So if your best friend’s bub is reciting the alphabet before they’re even out of nappies, just congratulate them and move on.
4. Refusing offers of practical help
In your pre-baby life you managed quite well, thanks, but playing the martyr probably won’t do you any favours when there’s a new bub on the scene.
If someone you trust offers to take baby for a walk so you can finally have that shower, take them up on it. Likewise, when your partner’s pitching in, allow them to do things their way.
They may not change a nappy quite as expertly as you, but you’ll be forever grateful that they’re competent at all the basic baby-rearing stuff.
5. Packing for an army
Regardless of how thrifty you try to be you’ll probably still end up with a lot of stuff, so it’s worth remembering that if you’re going out for a stroll, or away for a weekend, you don’t need to take it all with you.
During one of my first post-baby outings to the local shops in Bondi, I had my daughter in a baby carrier and also had a very overstuffed nappy bag hanging from my shoulder when a passer-by asked if I’d like a hand with my luggage.
Oops… the shame! I soon learnt that a clean nappy, some wipes and a spare onesie were ample for a quick trip. Nailing the weekend packing list just takes practice.
Aside from these common mistakes, some parents would also admit to worrying too much in the early days – especially those of us who were amazed that someone had actually left us in charge.
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When baby number two came along I made a concerted effort to stress less and live in the moment a bit more, because as overwhelming and all-consuming as new parenthood seems, those precious first few months are over all too soon .