How to Worry Smarter As a New Mom
There are so, so many things to worry about when you become a parent.
While it can feel overwhelming at times, I think that that “worry” is actually the best sign that you are doing it right. After all, we will all have some parenting decisions that we will look back on and wish they had gone the other way, but as long as you are actively trying to make the right choice for your family (or, worrying about what the right choice is!) more often than not you are doing exactly what you need to be for your child.
But even if worry is a sign that things are going right, it doesn’t make it feel any better! As I’m going through the newborn phase for the 4th time, I’ve realized how different the process looks than it did for my first and I want to share some of the things I’ve learned over my almost-6-years of parenting. Specifically, I want to share the things I spent countless hours worrying about, but which were pretty irrelevant in the long-term, versus those things that I am glad that I took the time to worry about. I don’t want to tell anyone not to worry (is there anything worse than hearing that when you are wracked with indecision or fear over something???), but I hope this can help you worry smarter!!
THINGS I DIDN’T NEED TO WORRY QUITE SO MUCH ABOUT
These all basically boil down to two principles: (1) If something is causing you an excessive amount of worry, don’t waste too much time before you contact a doctor, who can help you decide if your concern is justified or not. (2) If it’s something that you know won’t be a concern in a few weeks/months/years, try to let it go. It’s like that old saying: very few children are still sucking their thumbs at college graduation!
Pacifiers: So many women worry about the dreaded nipple-confusion but for the vast majority of us, pacifiers are an excellent tool for soothing a baby. Yes, you may eventually face a bit of a battle when it’s time to drop it, but even that is nothing more than a 3 day process (though, granted, those 3 days can feel like hell when you are going through them!). But in the grand scheme of things, pacifier dependence is low on the list of things with any lasting effects on baby.
Introducing Solids: Oh, the hours I agonized over this! What I wish I had done: simply follow the most up-to-date AAP recommendations. So, rather than overthinking this one, just speak to your doctor and use the guidelines to guide your approach.
Sippy Cups vs. Bottles: As long as your child *can* drink from a sippy cup (for developmental purposes), and isn’t being put to sleep with a bottle full of sugary sweetness (for the sake of their physical and dental health), the use of a bottle past 12 months is not necessarily something to spend hours worrying about.
Potty Training: Yes, it is a messy, annoying, frustrating experience.Yes, it can feel ENDLESS when you are in the midst of it (as I now am!). But, barring those few situations when the help of a medical professional is required to address an underlying issue, virtually everyone is potty trained eventually.
Formula Mixing: I had read so many things cautioning against supplementing breast milk with formula, I seriously thought the two might explode when they touched! Surprise: that’s not the case. So, if and when you decide to introduce formula don’t worry about mixing the two. If you decide it’s the right time to switch don’t waste so much time worrying because your baby needs you emotionally present and bonding no matter what type of feeding you are doing. Do what you have to do to be the best parent you can be!
THINGS I’M GLAD I WORRIED ABOUT
Sleep Schedule: Putting (and keeping!) my children on a sleep schedule often feels like a full-time job. But knowing that I have well-rested children with appropriate sleep habits is well worth it, in my opinion. Given how many adults there are with sleep problems, I just hope that I’m setting them up for a healthy relationship with sleep for the future – not to mention the fact that having them on a regular schedule is the only way to keep my life from going off the rails!
Fevers/General “Off” Behavior: Fevers are virtually always a sign that there is something going on inside of your child. Unless you are a trained doctor, it’s important to figure out what that “something” is and treat it quickly. Similarly, I have never regretted trusting my instinct when a child seems “off” and I can’t figure out why. This is how the doctors were able to catch a serious illness with my second child and treat it promptly. Always trust your instinct when it comes to illness and injury and err on the side of caution, as the alternative can have devastating results.
Vaccines: For the sake of my children and all of the children in their community, I will always make sure that they follow the most up-to-date vaccination schedule. If we want to prevent more outbreaks of previously-eradicated diseases like measles in places like this and this, we must all make this a huge thing to worry about.
Teeth Brushing: This is something I have huge struggles with (is there anything more difficult than trying to forcibly brush a 2 year old’s teeth?) but it is so important not just to prevent cavities in baby teeth, but for future dental health as well.