The arrival of your bundle of joy may have kick-started the parenting gene, but many parents are afraid of making mistakes. All parents will take some wrong turns, but most of them are harmless. There are a number of very common mistakes new parents make that could harm a baby.
The five most common likely will sound familiar.
1. Car seats
"Car seats are vital for protecting the baby inside the car, but experts warn that leaving infants asleep in the seat outside of the car can create a situation where the babies respiratory system is compromised," said Carole Arsenault, a registered nurse who specializes in newborn care and the founder of Newborn Nurses LLC.
This is the case with premature babies, as they have not reached the recommended weight and size requirements for car seats.
"Even an 8-pound, 9-pound or 10-pound baby cannot keep his head up, which causes the airway to be closed off," Arsenault said.
Allowing an infant to remain in this position for an extended period of time could cause mortality.
"As soon as the baby comes home, he should be taken out of the car seat and placed in a crib or bassinet," said Arsenault. "That is the safest place for a young infant."
2. Time for a bath
Pediatricians and newborn nurses encourage parents to use green or organic products on and around their young infants.
"Infants cannot detoxify like we can, especially not during the first three months of their lives," Arsenault said.
Using fancy baby products means parents may unintentionally expose their babies to chemicals that may not be harmful for older children but are toxic to newborns.
"An infant’s skin is like tissue paper, so whatever we put on it, like shampoo or soap, has to be organic because it goes right through,” Arsenault said.
Parents, your mother-in-law, books and the Internet all provide a wealth of information and a multitude of opinions on what is best for your baby.
"More resources are not necessarily better," Arsenault said. "For example, Baby Einstein videos are not educational videos. They were not developed to help your child develop; they are just a marketing tool."
Family and friends have the best intentions when they shower the new baby with gifts; however, most of these are best-saved until the baby is a little older. According to Arsenault, the use of these over-stimulating products, especially in the first few months, have been linked to behavioral problems such as ADHD.
"You don’t need a lot," said Arsenault, "a shiny red ball, a mirror and a black-and-white story book." Armed with just these three items, parents can provide their baby with the level of stimulation they need.
Repeating the same storybook and the same song may seem boring to parents, but it actually benefits the baby. An infant’s young brain is not ready to take in and digest the great amount of information and stimulation to which they often are exposed.
4. Sleeping through the night
Parents who feel blessed when a baby sleeps through his first night at home actually should be concerned.
"Until a baby is 2 weeks old, they should not sleep through the night," Arsenault said. "So even if the baby does sleep, you need to wake him up to eat."
After three weeks, the nighttime feedings can be spaced out, but prior to that the risk of dehydration during the night is high without regular feeding.
5. The importance of naptime
Some parents believe that keeping their baby up all day will result in the infant's sleeping through the night. The opposite is true.
"Keeping the baby up all day guarantees he will be up all night," Arsenault said.
When infants are overstimulated or overtired, they are unable to "shut down" at night. Until the baby is 1 year old, more sleep during the day equates to more sleep at night, Arsenault said.
"I recommend the 90-30 rule," she added. "For every 90 minutes the baby is awake, he should nap for 30 minutes."
All well-intentioned advice available from friends, family and the Internet never replaces the expert information a pediatrician can offer. Most parents realize they will make some mistakes along the way, and they will learn and grow with their babies. Being well-informed by a pediatrician or a newborn nurse, however, can prevent parents from making those mistakes that could potentially harm a baby.