When I was pregnant for the first time, I read pregnancy, newborn parenting and child rearing books, and took Lamaze childbirth and breastfeeding classes. Still, I don’t believe I learned how to be a parent from them. Here are some of my early parenting mistakes. It took me some time to realize that I was making mistakes, and once I corrected them, thankfully they did not have long-term ramifications. When I gave birth again, my real-life experience of being a mom made me prepared and much less prone to making mistakes. Today, both my children are happy and healthy kids.
Like every new mother to be, I was indundated by the “breast is best” mantra. So when nurses and lactation consultants at the hospital said newborns can survive with little or no feeding for a couple of days, it did not raise a red flag in my mind. I had absolutely closed my mind to supplementing with formula. Not allowing formula feeding even when my newborn was hungry and my breastmilk was inadequate was my biggest parenting mistake.
Breastmilk comes in 2-3 days after birth, and it takes up to two weeks for supply to be established. Even though I nursed for hours and gave him all the nutrition-rich colostrum I could produce, my son lost more than 10% of his birth weight. It took a lactation consultation in week 2, and incessant pumping and feeding expressed milk for my son to recover.
When my daughter was born, I breastfed during the day but grudgingly agreed to formula at night if she seemed hungry. The 2-3 ounces she got during her hospital stay kept her birth weight stable, and she was actually able to nurse better than my son. I am very thankful to eventually be able to exclusively breastfeed both children, but I continue to remind myself that feeding formula is better than starving.
Not setting a schedule
As a new parent, I thought putting a baby on a schedule was harsh and took “feeding on demand” too literally. My infant son ended up eating around the clock instead of 2-4 hour intervals. Because of this incessant grazing, my son was never too hungry, and his portions remained small. It took a full year to establish a sound sleep schedule, since my son continued to wake up to nurse during the night. As a result, I felt constantly sleepy and cranky.
When my son was a year old, I finally had the epiphany that he was old enough to not starve if he did not eat around the clock. I restricted feeding times to 30 minutes, after which I removed the food and fed him only when the next scheduled feeding was, at least 3 hours later. I tried several sleep training techniques, and ultimately, one helped him (and me) sleep through the night.
Adopting someone else’s parenting style
As a new parent, I took direction from leading pediatricians and parenting experts such as Dr. Sears, Dr. Ferber and Dr. Karp. I soon realized it was a mistake to follow their parenting styles whole heartedly. For example, I was comfortable with some aspects of Dr. Sears’ attachment parenting, such as co-sleeping but not others, such as baby carrying. Implementing just one approach made me unhappy.
I realized my mistake when my husband was able to get my son to sleep through the night using Dr. Ferber’s sleep solution, which I was opposed to. I now treat expert advice and tips as that and nothing more, and I use my common sense to pick and choose what works for me and my children.