Being responsible for a tiny human is one of the most amazing—and terrifying—things you can do. But here’s the good news: Whatever it is that you’re worried about, you’re not alone. That’s why we polled real moms to find out their biggest fears and then did the research to put things into perspective. Here, the biggest concerns new moms face and why they’re not worth freaking out about.
1. Am I doing everything I can to prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)?
How to feel better about it: Topping the list of new parent fears is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death since it usually happens during sleep. In fact, more than one mom confessed that she had accidentally woken up her snoozing baby because she wanted to check that they were still breathing. But while SIDS (the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby younger than 12 months old) has no definitive cause, researchers know that certain factors put babies at risk. Chief among them is putting a baby to sleep facedown on their stomach or on their side. In fact, after the American Academy of Pediatrics released its “Back to Sleep” campaign, the incidence of SIDS in the United States decreased by 53 percent over the next decade. To follow the AAP recommendations for safe sleep, always place your baby on their back to sleep. You should also place your baby on a firm mattress and keep any soft objects (like pillows, stuffed animals, loose bedding or crib bumpers) out of the sleeping area. Other guidelines include practicing room sharing (without bed sharing), putting your baby to sleep with a pacifier if they’ll take it and ensuring they don’t get too warm while sleeping. Finally, make sure your mini gets all the recommended immunizations—this is important for multiple reasons, but it’s also associated with a 50 percent decreased risk of SIDS.
2. What if my baby gets a flat head?
How to feel better about it: Flat head syndrome (medically known as plagiocephaly) happens when a flat spot develops on the back or side of a baby’s head. And honestly, this is pretty common (one study found that nearly half of all infants aged 7 to 12 weeks had plagiocephaly). But you can relax, mama—this usually sorts itself out on its own. (How many adults do you see walking around with a flat head? Not many.) But there are some easy ways to prevent flat head syndrome, including alternating your baby’s head position during sleep and giving them plenty of supervised tummy time. As long as you keep up with your baby’s well visits, your doctor can make sure that everything is developing appropriately.
3. What if I can’t figure out how to breastfeed?
How to feel better about it: Truthfully, it can take a while for you and your baby to get the hang of nursing. But the good news is that plenty of resources are available if you need some help (and plenty of women do). If you’re concerned, speak with a lactation consultant before giving birth and ask if your hospital will have one after delivery. Or tap your mom friend who’s been there, done that. “The best thing a woman can do to prepare for breastfeeding before the baby comes is to watch babies nurse,” international board-certified lactation consultant Leigh Anne O’Connor tells us. Find a breastfeeding support group in your area (La Leche League is a great resource) and watch a demonstration or spend an afternoon observing your bestie in action. (And remember, there’s plenty of evidence that it’s really and truly OK if you’re unable to nurse.)
4. What if I try to clean baby’s umbilical stump and accidentally open the scab?
How to feel better about it: Pediatricians actually recommend that you don’t even touch it. Instead, just keep the area dry and expose it to air as often as possible to help dry out the scab (you can fold the diaper down to avoid covering it and opt for kimono tops instead of onesies). Skip the bathtub until the scab has fallen off (this should happen within a week or two) and opt for sponge baths instead. You’ve got this.
5. What if my baby is developmentally behind?
How to feel better about it: Well, here’s one thing not to do: Don’t compare your baby to other babies. Your cousin’s month-old has started rolling over but your 4-month-old is still turtling on his back? Not only is that totally fine but it also doesn’t mean anything (sorry, cuz, this doesn’t make your kid a shoo-in for Harvard). Each baby is unique and will develop at their own pace. That’s not to say milestones should be ignored, but don’t worry if your mini isn’t hitting them—think of them as general guidelines instead of hard and fast rules. Another important thing to remember is that these milestones are actually ranges (e.g., a kid might start walking anytime between 9 and 16 months). But if you’re concerned about something, bring it up with your pediatrician (who will most likely tell you it’s nothing to worry about).
6. What if my baby overheats? Or what if she’s freezing?
How to feel better about it: One mom told us that she spent the first few weeks of her daughter’s life being totally preoccupied with temperature. (“Is she too hot? Too cold? Do I have enough layers on her?”) When it comes to the baby’s room, experts say the ideal temperature is between 68°F and 72°F (20°C to 22°C). When in doubt, just follow the advice of pediatrician Michel Cohen: “The perfect temperature for Lucy’s room is room temperature. Not too warm, not too cold. In other words, whatever works for you works for her.” Translation? Don’t overthink it. (But if you’re really worried, buy a digital thermometer to keep the room at a comfortable level.) As for the great outdoors, Dr. Cohen says, “You can take Lucy out in frigid winter temperatures. Unlike older kids, babies are easy to keep tightly bundled up. On the other side of the spectrum, heat is also fine; remember, for nine months Lucy lived in a kind of terrarium, with a minimum temperature of 97 degrees, without any air conditioning.” In other words, don’t sweat it.
7. What if my baby isn’t getting enough to eat?
How to feel better about it: In the first month, you should breastfeed your baby every two to three hours during the day and every four hours at night, even if you have to wake him up to feed, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you’re formula feeding, your newborn will take two to three ounces of formula per feeding (approximately every three to four hours during her first few weeks). How can you tell if she’s getting enough? The devil’s in the diapers. In the first six weeks, you should expect at least five or six wet diapers a day, plus three or four poopy diapers a day, per Kelly Mom. Weight gain is another clue. Most newborns will gain about five to seven ounces a week for the first few months, according to the American Pregnancy Association.