You already know that worrying is part of the parenting turf. (You'll find it listed in the job description right after "guilt.") What you may not realize until after your baby arrives, however, is just how many things there are to worry about ?- and how normal it is to drive yourself crazy by panicking about every little thing. Here are some tips on making sense of your concerns.

Ann Douglas


Worrying is nothing new
Believe it or not, you will probably find yourself obsessing about the very same things that your parents worried about when they were raising you -- and that their parents fussed about a generation earlier. While child rearing philosophies and infant feeding practices have changed dramatically over the years, worrying about your new baby never quite goes out of fashion.

Here is a list of the top ten worries of new parents.

1. Will my baby die?
There's no doubt about it: if there's one thing that tops the new parent worry list, it's the possibility that your baby could die.

It's a fear that Cindy Durrett, a 34 year old mother-of-two from Tallahassee, Florida, experienced particularly acutely when her first child was born: "The first time he slept though the night, I awoke in a panic, petrified that something had happened to him."

Tracy Janevic, a 31-year-old first-time mother from Ann Arbor, Michigan, experienced similar feelings: "I was so afraid that he would just stop breathing and slip away from life. He was perfectly healthy, but he seemed so little and fragile. It was amazing to me that his lungs were working, that his little heart was beating, that he was a complete little human being suddenly separate from me. It almost didn't seem possible."

The fear of losing a child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can be particularly strong for new parents, notes Dr. Tiffany McKee-Garrett, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Even though recent educational campaigns about the importance of placing babies to sleep on their backs and not exposing babies to second-hand smoke have reduced the number of SIDS-related deaths, SIDS continues to be the stuff of which new parent nightmares are made. The good news on the SIDS front is the fact that SIDS deaths are relatively rare, occurring in just one or two of every thousand live births.

2. Will I be able to protect my baby from harm?
The world can suddenly feel like a very scary place when you're entrusted with the task of caring for a newborn. Tracy Janevic, a 31-year-old first-time mother from Ann Arbor, Michigan, remembers being almost paralysed with concern about her baby's safety.

"I was terrified of dropping my baby, or falling down a flight of stairs with him, or accidentally smashing his head into a door jam while I carried him around the house... I could sense danger everywhere. Previously innocent household items suddenly seemed like dangerous weapons. A pencil lying on the table was no longer a simple writing instrument but a pointy object capable of rolling off the table and poking my son's eye out. My sister's dog was no longer a friendly pet but a large beast capable of tearing my son's foot right from his leg. I had a helpless newborn on my hands, and it was my duty to shelter and protect him from every last possible danger on earth!"

Fortunately, newborn babies aren't nearly as fragile as they look, and common sense and parental instinct enable most parents to keep their babies safe from harm.

3. Is my baby "normal"
Something else that most new parents worry about is whether or not their baby is developing normally.

Marilyn Copley, a 43-year-old mother of three from San Jose, California, recalls being particularly concerned about the well-being of her first baby, who was born prematurely: "Perhaps the most damaging sort of worry is how your child compares with other children of the same age. Until her first birthday, my first daughter was always a little behind in most areas of development -- something that was not at all unexpected, given that she was born nearly two months early. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but notice what children the same age were doing. Finally, I had to force myself not to compare."

McGee-Garrett spends a lot of time reassuring worried parents that their babies are well within the normal range in terms of their development. "I try to remind these parents that there is a large variability in the timing of when babies do things," she explained. "In the vast majority of cases, despite the parents' concerns, the baby is developing just fine."

4. Is my baby getting enough to eat?
While parents of formula-fed infants may also fret about whether their babies are getting enough to eat, feeding-related worries tend to be more of a concern for parents who are breastfeeding. Part of the problem, of course, is that it's impossible to measure the amount of liquid that a breastfeeding baby is consuming -- other than counting the number of wet and soiled diapers that the baby produces over the course of a day.

"I was constantly worried that my breastfeeding baby wasn't getting enough to eat," admitted Deb Saltrick, a 39-year old mother of two from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Saltrick, like other mothers, found that she grew more confident in her body's ability to provide for the needs of her breastfeeding baby once she and her nursing baby gained a little more experience.

5. Is my baby crying too much?
Many new parents are shocked to discover how long and how often newborns cry, and may worry that the crying could be a sign of a more serious problem.

"I remember having days when I was worried about his crying, thinking I must be doing something wrong," said Tricia Jones, a 33-year-old first-time mother from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

"I was worried that I wouldn't recognize his cries and know what they meant," adds Kelly Bagapor, a 37-year-old first-time mother from Falls Church, Virginia.

McKee-Garrett tries to reassure the parents that she works with that crying is perfectly normal infant behavior, and that as long as the baby looks well, the crying is unlikely to do him any real harm. And to parents of colicky babies, she offers these reassuring words: "This too will end. Your baby will grow out of the colic by age three months ? age four months if you're really unlucky."


Typical concerns
While child rearing philosophies and infant feeding practices have changed dramatically over the years, worrying about your new baby never quite goes out of fashion. Here are some more of the most common worries of new parents.

6. Is my baby sleeping too much -- or too little?
If your baby sleeps through the night right away, you may worry that he's not eating often enough. memories of pregnancyIf he's not sleeping through the night by the time he's six months, you may worry that you're setting him up for a lifetime of bad sleeping habits by failing to teach him to sleep through the night.

"I was always worried that my firstborn was sleeping too much," admits Copley.

Fortunately, most newborns settle into more adult-friendly sleep patterns by the time they reach three to six months -- good news for parents who can't imagine anything more satisfying than a good night's sleep!

7. Will my other children learn to love the baby?
Parents who are expecting their second or subsequent child frequently worry about how their firstborn will adjust to the arrival of a new baby brother or sister.

Anne Hoover, a 39-year-old mother of three, from Peterborough, Ontario, was worried about how her older two children -- Molly, 10, and Dean, 7 -- would react to the arrival of their new baby sister: "I was really afraid of the reaction of my older two kids. Would they love her? Would they still love me? Would they feel I still loved them?"

It didn't take Hoover's children long to adjust to their new sister. One year later, they can hardly remember life before Lauren.

8. Will life ever be the same for me and my partner?
Another worry at the top of the list for many new parents is how they will manage to stay connected with their partner when baby makes three -- or four -- or more!

"I remember worrying after the birth of each baby how we would ever manage to find time as a couple again," recalled Debbie Clanton-Churchwell, a 38-year-old mother of six from Doraville, Georgia.

"I worried about how I would juggle being a mommy and a wife and an individual," admitted Cindy Durrett, a 34-year-old mother of two from Tallahassee, Florida.

While it's hard to find much "couple time" when you have a newborn around, most couples take solace in the fact that the exhausting newborn phase only lasts for a short time. Once the baby is sleeping through the night -- or at least for a couple of hours at a time -- most couples are able to find the time and energy for romance again.

9. Will I be able to provide for this child financially?
Another big worry -- especially for first-time fathers -- is money.

Bob Dony, a 35-year-old father of three from Guelph, Ontario, remembers being struck by the extent of the responsibilities -- financial and otherwise--he had agreed to take on. "I think the biggest concern was the overwhelming sense of responsibility--knowing that a completely helpless life was now absolutely dependent on my wife and I for everything."

It's a comment Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., bestselling author of The Mother Dance, has heard time and time again from men: "New fathers feel tremendous pressure to earn, earn, earn."

Despite what many panicked first-time fathers fear, babies don't have to cost the earth. Borrowing as much as possible from family members and friends and shopping secondhand are two excellent ways of reducing your baby's bottom line.

10. Will I be a good parent?
One of the most common worries of new parents -- particularly of new mothers -- is about whether they are up to the challenges of parenting. Given society's extraordinarily high standards of mothers, new mothers have good reason to be scared, says Lerner. "Society has expectations for mothers that even a saint couldn't meet."

Alison Peck, a 27-year-old first-time mother from Salem, Massachusetts, remembers wondering whether she was up to the task. "I was really worried about whether I was going to be a good mother. I still have this worry."

Most mothers find that while this particular worry never disappears entirely, they resolve their Madonna complex by learning how to accept their imperfections on the parenting front. While there are plenty of things for new parents to worry about during their baby's first few months of life, most parents discover that their anxiety level begins to decrease a little as time goes on.

That was the case for Laura Augustine, 31, of Winter Park, Florida, whose son, Sam, recently turned one. "I was pretty paranoid when we first brought Sam home from the hospital," she recalled. "I can't believe how much easier it is now."

Tags: fears

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