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If Only I Knew Now ...

Hundreds of dollars for the "right" stroller. Hundreds -- even thousands -- more for experts from everything from sleeping to potty training to child-proofing. These are costs that some parents gladly pay for peace of mind or help getting a family on track.

Remember those first days with your newborn? Jarring, weren't they? Forty weeks to prepare, but then this living, breathing thing called a baby has arrived and you've got no clue how to care for it. Sure, the hospital's nurses can teach you to change a diaper or swaddle a baby, but nursing? For some, it's easy. Others, not so much. I was one of the latter. Two lactation consultants gladly took my money, but neither really solved a problem that only time could -- a larger mouth that could latch properly.

I suspect that experience -- and my bargain-shopping nature -- led me not to pay for some other child extravagances. Need to child-proof your house? Get down on your crawler's level and get curious. You'll soon see what needs to move or get locked up. Potty training? The more you push it, the harder it is. At least that's what many of us learned the hard way. Sleep? Everyone's got their methods, from sleeping in your bed (Sears) to cry it out (Ferber) to set nap and sleep schedules (Truby King) to any combination of methods.

"If only I knew then, what I know now," a mom friend of a kindergartner said this weekend. And how right she is. Sometimes, I think my kids grow up despite my choices.

So, if only I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn't have spent hours researching wheels on a stroller. I wouldn't have pulled the potty out quite so fast with my oldest. I wouldn't have sweated "tummy time" quite so much. And I definitely wouldn't have caused myself so much pain with a poor-latching infant. That bottle wasn't such a bad thing after all.

What about you? What are your "If only ..." moments?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 10, 2008; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Babies , Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers
Previous: Momnesia | Next: Parties and Parents


We have a 3yo and an almost 2yo.

The biggest if I only knew now moment that my wife and I had was dealing with sleeping. We learned quickly with number 2 that the more relaxed you are about it the better sleepers they are. With no. 1 we knew if the morning nap was 47 mins or 58 mins. With no. 2 we just knew yes...he napped today. That is really all you need to know. Give them the opportunity to sleep and make sure they are well-rested and all will be ok.


Posted by: HappyDad | March 10, 2008 6:32 AM | Report abuse

I never went crazy researching anything prior to my baby being born. I happily accepted hand me downs (including equipment). I did check regular safety standards but that was about it. I actually think a little more about the second kid. The two things I regret not registering for or buying was 1) collapasable infant stroller frame (borrowing from cousin this time around) 2) a play pen gate thing that collapses. They really don't make real play pens anymore and this works much better then those pack and plays. The other thing I learned was don't buy too many bottles a head of time. Babies can be particular about the nipples. And if your going to buy name brand for anything make it a breast pump. Registered for a fairly cheap one and end up getting a Medella after about 3 weeks of going back to work. Of course now I have the Medella but wished I knew a pump was worth the brand name extra price tag.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 10, 2008 6:45 AM | Report abuse

Re: foamgnome. Better yet, rent a hospital grade pump for a month (Medela Symphony). If it doesn't work for you, it's a waste of money to buy a breast pump (Medela Pump In Style Advance), since those available for purchase aren't nearly as good as the hospital grade pumps. I'm so, so envious of people who can pump. I could breast feed fabulously from the start, but I would not produce for the pump.

Borrow as much as you can to see what your baby likes! Some babies hate the swing and love the bouncy chair, for instance.

As far as "techniques," we got lucky with the Baby Whisperer and The Happiest Baby on the Block. They were the first 2 we grabbed, and they suited us and the baby well. Now, we're onto toddlerhood, and it's much harder.

Posted by: atb | March 10, 2008 7:33 AM | Report abuse

my children are now 37, 34 and 32, so you can see about 31 years ago i was having a lively time of it.
what i regret most was what my mother kept telling me: it all goes by so fast, so enjoy the moments. kids thrive in all sorts of cultures, conditions, clothes and strollers, so get as much sleep as you can, don't sweat the small stuff, and spend time just savoring how crazy-wonderful kids are.

Posted by: kathleen | March 10, 2008 7:34 AM | Report abuse

with no. 3 currently in utero, the thing i wish i had really understood the first time around was what my midwife kept telling me over and over during my pregnancy: "90% of nursing problems originate with the baby." in other words, it's not your fault, the baby just doesn't get it yet and you're going to have to hang in there. in our case, my daughter didn't latch real well, but she also just wasn't a particularly hungry baby--she ate fine when she was hungry, but as is the case with any newborn, if she wasn't interested, you couldn't make her. that kind of baby, paired with an extremely anxious first-time mom and some not-particularly-helpful lactation consultants resulted in weeks of hand-wringing and sleepless nights (the baby slept great--it was ME awake, worrying over her feedings), and the acceleration of some incipient postpartum depression. in the end, my daughter nursed very successfully and for quite a bit longer than i had planned, but oh, what we went through just to get there. by the time my son arrived, also with a crummy latch that resulted in seven weeks of excruciating nursing pain, i understood that we'd get there, it was just going to take time, and a lot of ice and ibuprofen.

my experience is that MOST women have some trouble getting started nursing--pain, poor latch, trouble pumping (i did much better on that front the 2nd time than the first), whatever--and i wish that more expectant moms got that message beforehand, so that they didn't blame themselves or feel they were failing at it. some women aren't able to nurse even though they want to, and that's a fact, but there are also women who could probably do it if they had the support and encouragement it takes.

Posted by: Vikki Engle | March 10, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

I so agree with what Vicki said. I had similar nursing experiences. Both my kids latched well but had unusually high palettes and small mouths so they would flick their tongue up as they were nursing to push my breast in more to get a better latch. It was really painful for me. I will say though that I had great friends who also had problems nursing and shared lots of stories. Although none of them had had my particular problem, they suffered themselves and either got through, or not, but were there for me. So, I wasn't devastated and didn't feel like a failure when it was hard. I did almost give up but a wonderful nursing group at the now-closed Columbia Hospital for Women got me through. I would definitely encourage new moms to find a lactation group.

What I wish I had known with my first is that they outgrow a lot of things on their own. I remember sweating out every "phase" -- poor sleeping, tantrums, not eating certain foods -- feeling like, "Oh no, this is my life now." But, then just a few months later, they're on to something else. So with #2 I learned to ride through the phases doing the best I could to lead them to the next phase but knowing that it would be temporary. That really helped with the nursing issue the second time around and a lot of sleep stuff too.

And, I agree with the poster with the grown kids too -- it goes really fast. My daughter is 8 now, can barely fit on my lap she's so tall, and I so, so miss those baby, toddler days!

Posted by: Pt Fed Mof2 | March 10, 2008 8:19 AM | Report abuse

My daughter is now six years old. I wish I had taken her to a pediatric dentist sooner. I wish I had not purchased so much junk that she never played with and never needed. I wish I had paid more attention to my own health, my own physical fitness, when she was small.

I am glad that I let her potty train at her own pace. I am glad that I never pushed sleep rules on her. I am glad that I spent a lot of time reading to her and doing things with her. I am glad that I surrounded her and me with a caring community of people of all ages. I am glad that I gave her swimming lessons and enrolled her on a soccer team and took her to Kindermusik. I am glad that I took her to the beach every summer and to church camp and to Disney World last summer. I am especially glad that I took her to visit her grandpa often before he died.

Posted by: alive | March 10, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

I wish I had known not to take it all so seriously. I was primed for a freakout: took 2 miscarriages and some fertility treatment before we had my daughter, then she came out not breathing; oh, and and my husband's company shut down when I was 8 mos. pregnant, and we moved to a new state with a newborn. So I spent the first year or so of her life waiting, watching anxiously for the next thing to go wrong.

So every little thing was a Crisis -- and usually "my fault." Trouble nursing (lost a lot of blood, so milk very slow to come in) = I'm a failure as a mother (already! record time!). Colic = clearly my fault, because if I was able to produce enough milk, I wouldn't have had to supplement with formula, and so her little tummy wouldn't be upset. Tantrums = I must be paying her too much attention/not enough attention. Waking up at 5 AM? Well, ok, that was her dad's fault -- he's the one who provided the engineer genes. :-)

Took me a while to realize that (a) ain't no such thing as perfect, (b) kids survive just fine when we don't live up to our own unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and (c) my freakout was about me, not about her, and she was Just Fine. Also helped to read the "Spirited Child" book and realize that there are actually other kids like her!

Posted by: Laura | March 10, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

What I regret most was not having my youngest son, now 23, checked for being tongue tied. I had terrible sore nipples for 9 months, during which I spoke with lots of nursing moms and a lactation specialist. I didn't find out until many years later when he was having speech problems that he was completely and utterly tongue tied. The frenulum was attached at the very tip of his tongue. If someone had known to look, it could have been clipped when he was a little baby. I'm sure he would have nursed better and had less speech problems.

Posted by: Fraggle Mom | March 10, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Kathleen - it looks like about 38, 35 and 33 years ago you were having lively times!

Posted by: Amelia | March 10, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I wish I had known that the first year, everything is a phase and not to sweat it.

Posted by: va | March 10, 2008 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Totally OT, but did anyone else see that 17 month old reading on the Today show? IN-Sane! I wouldn't even know where to go with a kid like that!

Posted by: Moxiemom | March 10, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

My mother always says "they grow up inspite of their parents." I love that.

I think not reading books about parenting would have helped me a lot. You have to trust your instincts and then if you must have a book or another mother back up what you decide, find the book or the friend who you know will back you up.

Mom to 3

Posted by: Amy | March 10, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

If only I knew that my baby nursed primarily for the comfort of breast feeding and not because he was hungry..., I would not have spend so much time trying to stuff a bottle into his mouth.

If only I had known that my wife would completely soak her shirt at the grocery store after listening to her baby cry over the cell phone..., I would have never made the call with the baby in my arms.

If I had only known that a 1 year old was perfectly capable of dragging a chair from the dining room and using it to climb up on the kitchen counter..., I would never have put the bottle of vitamins next to the toaster oven.

And if I knew how expensive girls were going to be when they turned into teenagers, I would only have 1 kid. Hahaha! Isn't ignorance bliss?

And after all these kids, and all these years, and all that I have learned along the way, I'm still making it up as I go along!

Posted by: DandyLion | March 10, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

re: 17 month reading

"I wouldn't even know where to go with a kid like that!"

The library would be a good start!

Posted by: DandyLion | March 10, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I wish I had known that my sons disinterest in college was disinterest in college, and not spent $3,500 on a college consultant!

He finally went to MC, and now a couple of years later is interested in where to transfer. Not a one of those places is what the consultant suggested. That $3,500 pretty much covers what I spent on the first year tuition at MC. Why didn't I just save it for that?

Because I was convinced an "expert" would fix him. As it turns out - he's fixing himself.

Posted by: RoseG | March 10, 2008 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I wish I'd never listened to any parenting advise whatsoever from anyone. I got quite confused in the hazy post-partum days, about advise and books etc. I learned just to do my research and base my decisions on proven scientific facts, or if that didn't exist, my own intuition. Oh, and I really wish that someone would have told me that nursing is really painful to start with (we stuck it out because I'm pigheaded and my husband is lovely). And I really, really, really wish that we'd not been discharged from hospital BEFORE nursing was established. Another day and it would have been SOOOO much better for everyone.

Posted by: DopeyMummy | March 10, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

What Amy said.

I wish I had known that 95% of parenting books are 95% balderdash. And they sounded so convincing, too. The only things that work with YOUR kids are the things that work, not somebody's theory about a hard case they solved once.

The books that address temperamental differences are a refreshing exception to the rule. I spent some long hours sniffling in the bathroom with a copy of "Raising Your Spirited Child."

Posted by: Floomby | March 10, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

lol dandy lion lol!

Posted by: moxiemom | March 10, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

moxie- I was wondering if the baby has a photographic memory or if she knows phonetics. Either way, it's really incredible.

Posted by: atb | March 10, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

"Totally OT, but did anyone else see that 17 month old reading on the Today show? IN-Sane! I wouldn't even know where to go with a kid like that!"

I saw it while I was working out this morning. The parents did say that they went public in the hopes of getting some guidance. And they are both professional speech pathologists who have taught their daughter sign language along with speaking to her.

Posted by: CJB | March 10, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I wish someone had told me about postpartum depression before my son was born.

Posted by: Brady | March 10, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I'm the opposite of some of the moms who have posted here- I wish I had just given up trying to nurse #1 sooner, instead of torturing us both for 6 weeks when it obviously wasn't working. (I won't go into the gory details- BF promoters are just going to have to trust me on this.) Now, years later, it seems silly that I felt so guilty about stopping (which is why I kept trying so long). I knew what was right for us, but I went against my gut feelings and did as I thought I was expected to do. Pure ego on my part.

Posted by: acorn | March 10, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

If I knew then what I know now...

I would have burned "What to Expect..." the day it first came into the house.

Vague and alarmist book + slightly neurotic wife = VERY long nine months.

Posted by: Thad | March 10, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

amen, Thad--i am convinced my postpartum depression began the morning i sat up with "what to expect" and read the chapter on what to eat.... evil, evil book!

Posted by: vikki Engle | March 10, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Thad: while I was pregnant, one of the doctors at one of my appts told me to do the same thing...

Posted by: atlmom | March 10, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

This is a little sentimental, but I'd wished that I'd known that my mother wouldn't be around to enjoy her grandchildren. Unfortunately, she passed away before I became pregnant, but it would've given her enormous satisfaction to laugh behind my back and say "revenge is mine!" as I'm experiencing the trials of a 3-year old, 18-mo. old, and a baby due in May. It also would've been wonderful for me to be able to personally apologize for driving her nuts oh so long ago. Wherever she is now, I am sure that she would be very amused by it all.

Posted by: erin | March 10, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I wish I had known that there is no such things as the perfect mom, that I was doing just fine and trying to live up to an impossibly high standard made me doubt myself way too often. I just wish I could have my babies back as little ones for a day (they are 21 and 18 now).

Posted by: Christine | March 10, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I wish I'd known that one-handlebar strollers were way easier to push one-handed than two handled ones. Would have saved me a lot of money.

I wish I'd known that the only time you need to use Dreft is when the baby's skin reacts -- waste of time and $$ to wash it all separately otherwise.

I wish I'd known that I would not be perceived as a complete failure for giving up on breast feeding after 3 months.

What I'm glad I knew:
- routines work, so stick with them (bedtimes, bathtimes, reading times)
- we all have "bad parent moments"
- carrying cloth diapers with you at all times will prevent a lot of messes, and they can be thrown out

Posted by: Mom of 2 | March 10, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I wish I had known all the places where you can find used baby crap (swings and strollers and so forth). So much of that stuff gets used for such a short time that it's really a waste of money to buy it new. But the problem is, you don't find out about the consignment sales, mothers' swaps, etc, until after you have kids!

Posted by: reston, va | March 10, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

"I would have burned "What to Expect..." the day it first came into the house."

LOL! DH and I actually barbecued that &^%%$#@ book. The first trimester is the ultimate black box, and "What to Expect..." just makes it worse.

What I wish I knew... Never, ever wake a sleeping baby, regardless of what the lactation consultant says. I totally obsessed about breast feeding with DS#1, and the consultant just made it worse.

When I took DS#2 for his 1 month checkup, the nurse asked how often he was nursing. After I responded "Who knows? Whenever he's hungry", she whipped out the detailed spreadsheet (broken down into 6 minute intervals) I kept for the first 3 months of DS#1's life. Every nurse in the practice gathered 'round to laugh at me and then congratulate me for finally getting the hand of "that motherhood thing".

Posted by: two terrific boys | March 10, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I have been thinking a lot about DD and my work lately. She is almost 6 1/2 and I am approaching my four year anniversary at work.

It seems amazing that when I started work she is a crib and not toilet trained. I was happy that she could say "I want milk" when she was thirsty.

Now she has been places on kindergarten field trips that I haven't. In the next two weeks she has two more trips one with kindergarten and one with her school after care and I have only viewed the places on the web. The only thing I plan to "do" is the morning of the trip remind her to not stray from grownups and to listen carefully to all instructions.

Posted by: shdd | March 10, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you, Christine. Mine are now 26 and almost 29 (the elder one has a daughter now) and I would love to go back and cuddle those cute, snuggly little boys again and not feel like a failure because I wasn't perfect in every way.

Posted by: Lynne | March 10, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I wish *someone* had bothered to pull their DSM-IV off their office bookshelves, and showed us the autism and Aspergers diagnostic criteria, before older son was half way through 1st grade.

DH had previously worked in a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescents. Who and what our son was - it wasn't "autism" under the old DSM-III criteria that we were used to seeing.

I'd still like to b!tch-slap the idiot pediatrician substituting for our regular one, who saw our boy at the 2-year well-child check-up. (Older son is 15 now - can I hold a grudge!) The pediatrician's entire response to our questions about the boy's lack of language was: "well, do you talk to him?"

I wish I'd been with DH for that appointment - "Oh, of course, that must be the problem. We never speak, how silly of us!"

Duh, idiot, if we weren't talking to him, how could we know if he weren't talking to us. Conversations are two way.

Posted by: Sue | March 10, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

with our second one, my wife learned that the lactation consultants she saw or met online were full of lies and bad ideas. Their ideas were uniformly wrong and the more she tried and failed, the more anxious and depressed they made her.

With the second one she took it much easier, ignored the anti-formula crowd, and within 3 weeks the baby was gaining weight rapidly and she'd breastfeed overnight and when she saved enough milk up.

That first one though, with those ignorant comments from uneducated lactation consultants who said breastmilk only or else you're a bad mother- and I read the online posts to prove those exist- those first three weeks were hell on earth as he lost weight and lost weight on breastmilk until we "Gave in" to formula, against the lactation consultant's wishes, and the mix worked great.

So in retrospect, I'd ignore the dire warnings that don't seem to make sense. Just because someone is an "expert" doesn't make them sane or right if their theories are wrong.

oh, and I'm not signing my name to this one... those people are ROUGH online.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 10, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

How about this,

Anybody who makes you feel guilty/less of a woman or man/like a bad mommy or daddy is a bad influence.

This is quite different from a good, honest, trustworthy friend or relative who would lend you money or take if you needed, who helps you clean the kitchen without hurting your feelings, who can tell you things, bad AND good, that you feel in your heart to be true.

In the midst of a parenting crisis, compounded unnecessarily by the judgments of conventional wisdom on the subject, that my brother said to me, "You don't have to answer to anyone about how you raise your kid. It's up to you to figure out what's best for your child and to heck (so to speak) with what people think." He also told me, back when I was preggers, "There's nothing wrong with wanting to drive your car into a lake with your kids in it. It's only wrong if you actually do it."

God bless him. ;)

Posted by: Floomby | March 10, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I would not have beaten myself up over every little thing. I cried for weeks because my mother just missed my daughter's birth. My parents were stuck in Friday traffic on 95 and my labor was much shorter than anticipated. It was months before I realized having an incredibly short labor was a GOOD THING!

Posted by: AugustMom | March 10, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't have tried to let my kid CIO when she was 6 months. It didn't work, and she started sleeping through the night on her own when she was a year old. I still feel really guilty about that ...

Posted by: Anonymous | March 10, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I wish I had known earlier that every mom, if she really tries her best most of the time, will be exactly the mom their own kids need. I wish wouldn't have always reflexively compared myself in every parenting situation to my mom-of-four best friend, who really is a great mom, but I can't be like her (and she can't be like me) - we all do it differently.

When I was expecting Son #1, and in a frenzy of worry over getting the right "baby stuff", I'm glad my male boss mentioned happily: "Oh, it'll be great, babies are the best thing in the world." Made my mouth drop open as it dawned on me that the thing to focus on is the wonderful fact of a new baby - and not the new baby STUFF.

I wish I wouldn't have listened (during pregnancy) to my colleagues' dramatic, harrowing and clinical descriptions of their own birth experiences. Made me unnecessarily anxious. (Though I probably asked them to tell their stories; I was riveted.)

Posted by: Katy | March 11, 2008 4:24 AM | Report abuse

I remember wanting so badly to have a baby "naturally" and did everything possible to have may footling breach baby turn before the due date. I wish I hadn't cared so much. I was in mourning as I went into labor. How STUPID! I may well have died along with the baby without the miracle of sonograms and c-sections. The section gave me a healthy baby and saved my life as well as an extra four restful days in the hospital. C-sections are wonderful!

Posted by: samclare | March 11, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I had a c-section for medical reasons, and it was probably the best thing for me and baby in the end. But I wouldn't call major abdominal surgery, sleep deprivation, and recovering from a hi-risk pregnancy all at th esame time, um, wonderful . . . unless you're into masochism or something, in which case it would be superb.

Posted by: no wonder c-section here | March 11, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I've heard worse c-section stories than my own - where mother or baby was permanently damaged or died. Mine is the worst one I know where both of us survived without permanent harm.

My VBAC was a million times (no, that isn't hyperbole) better. Even with pitocin to augment a slow labor. Even with an epidural that I didn't want, and which didn't work, either.

I've also heard plenty of stories of wonderful c/s's and other stories of VBAC's and vaginal births that were awful.

No regrets! And whenever another mom wants/needs to share her birth story, I'll listen, and keep my thoughts to myself, because she needs to work out her experiences, not hear about someone else's.

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