Bringing your baby home from the hospital launches what may be the most stressful, challenging, wonderful year of your life. You are now responsible for another human being! All of the baby classes and “What to Expect” books probably got you about 20% prepared for what that first year will entail.
It’s also when you’ll establish some of the baby habits that resonate throughout the first years of your little one’s life. Many of those will be good habits, I hope. On the other side of the coin, here are some baby habits you’ll want to avoid getting into.
1. Baby Sleep Shortcuts
This is an important one, because it ultimately affects your baby’s health, your own sanity, and the peace of your household. Mainly, you get into bad baby sleep habits by taking shortcuts: letting your baby sleep on the couch or in your bed, never establishing a consistent bedtime routine, keeping the little on up too late, etc.
Do yourself a favor: learn and follow good baby sleep training practices. This will pay off big time!
2. Letting the Germs In
Babies have a tendency to put everything in their mouth. It starts with their hands, and once they master fine motor control, it extends with anything they can grab. Anything you hand to your baby — a bottle, a book, a toy, a pacifier, needs to be clean. The same goes for your floors, the stroller, the crib, and other places where your baby spends time. Especially if you have pets.
It’s important to realize the most virulent germ carriers that will come into contact with your baby: humans. This includes you as well as all the people who touch your baby’s cheeks or hands or toes.
Don’t worry about hurting people’s feelings. Put your baby’s needs first. If you read my article on what to expect when your baby gets sick, you understand what’s at risk here!
You gotta love it when a friend pets their dog or a relative comes in from the garage and wants to touch your baby without any hand washing. Put up the wall, and offer them some hand sanitizer. There are a lot of germs out there, and most people don’t wash their hands enough.
3. Baby Gear Overload
You know those annoying commercials where “there’s an app for that?” Baby gear is kind of like that too. They have not just one, but five baby products for just about everything. It’s hard to know this in advance, but there’s a lot of crap out there that you really don’t need. And this might vary from one baby to the next.
For example, our little ones never liked the baby bouncer, the little one on a stand that vibrates and plays music. But some babies love those. The best thing you can do is ask other couples with 1- and 2-year-olds what products they never ended up needing, and what gear they wouldn’t survive without.
4. Giving Up On Nursing Too Soon
Nursing might seem like the most natural thing in the world, but the fact is that it can be hard. It’s difficult to get started, it wears you out, and it’s tough to do while working or traveling. Even so, nursing has countless important benefits:
- It provides the best nutrition for your baby
- It confers natural immunity
- It creates a special bond between mother and baby
- It saves money, LOTS of money.
So even though it’s tedious and uncomfortable sometimes, don’t give up on nursing. Keep going as long as you can!
5. Buying Everything New
You will need a fair amount of stuff, especially if this is your first baby, but buying it all new is going to cost you. Besides, there’s a lot of stuff — especially big things like strollers and jumpers and play yards — that stays in good shape when you get it second-hand. You can find relatives, friends, or even strangers on Craigslist who are selling these things in good condition for a fraction of the cost. Second-hand baby gear stores are also great for nabbing deals and encountering all kinds of products you didn’t even know existed.
A couple of safety tips if you buy something second-hand, especially from Craiglist. First, make sure the product’s not under re-call, like a drop-side crib. Second, meet the seller in a public place and don’t bring a bunch of cash or valuables with you. There are bad people out there, though most of them aren’t peddling baby gear.
6. Insufficient Babyproofing
Undoubtedly you’ve spent some time getting your house ready for baby, especially as he or she enters the scooting/crawling/walking stages. I can tell you right now, it’s probably not enough. Babies are clever and motivated. The moment your back is turned, they’ll be finding the loopholes in your home babyproofing plan. So double-check your home for these gotchas:
- Electrical outlets. You not only have to cover all of these that are within reach, you have to keep them covered after vacuuming and inevitably losing some of the covers. But this was an easy one; I’m trying to build your confidence.
- Mini blind and electrical cords. Keep these strangulation hazards up out of reach, and secure them with hooks or twisty-ties.
- Stairs, ledges, and fall hazards. Babies don’t yet understand gravity, and falls are one of the most common kinds of injury.
- Tippy furniture and decorations. Tables, bookshelves, vases, grandfather clocks, anything that can be pulled over will be pulled over. You can bolt things to the wall or move them to a secure room, or put them in storage for, you know, years from now.
- Drawers and cabinets. I hate installing those latches (everyone does) but you’ll have to put in some. As a failsafe, you can sometimes use bungee cords and/or rubber bands to secure some of these; it doesn’t look great but it does the job. Put your sharpest, smallest, or most valuable objects in the best-babyproofed drawers or even better, cabinets up high out of reach.
Good babyproofing requires constant vigilance and improvement.
7. Letting the Time Fly
Taking care of a baby can keep you so busy that you forget to cherish it. Every day, your little one gets older, bigger, stronger, and a little less reliant on you. At some point (if not already) they won’t want to snuggle you any more: they want to roam around and explore the world.
Devote some time — maybe a few minutes each day, maybe once a week — to taking photos, writing down milestones (or first words, or hilarious parent-child conversations), and otherwise making a record of this moment. They’ll never be this little again. One day you’ll look up and realize how much time has gone by already.
So cherish that little baby!