Transitioning to life with an infant can be as gratifying as it is overwhelming. Read on for time-tested tricks and expert tips that will help your baby — and you!
No, it’s not just you. New parenthood is rife with uncertainty.
“It’s a major life change,” says Camille Graham, M.D., a pediatrician at Mercy Health Primary Care and Family Medicine and Pediatrics in Kenwood.
“No matter if it’s your first baby or your fifth baby, it’s still another human being added to the family dynamics,” she adds.
Feedings, growth spurts and sleeping patterns are always changing and are some of the topics that concern new parents. One of the best things to do for these curveballs is to prepare and know that every baby is unique. With an infant,you’ll need to plan on leaving early for outings, allow yourself time to rest and gather up all of the family and friend support you can, according to Graham.
“There is no magic thing that says every baby is going to be perfect,” says Graham. “Parents just kind of have to let their instincts be their guide.”
Gather Info Wisely
In the midst of a perplexing dilemma, what parent hasn’t turned to Google or an online parent support group for quick answers? But, proceed with caution — if you’re in need of advice, the internet isn’t always the best option.
“Not Facebook and not Google,” laughs Graham.
If your baby is crying, uncomfortable or if something doesn’t seem right, your pediatrician is always the best way to go.
“We are used to questions like that and we are used to new moms,” she continues. “I would rather someone call.”
Don’t skip your newborn’s well-baby checkups. Your baby’s physician will assess his overall health to ensure he is gaining weight as he should. A newborn should regain their birth weight by around 10 to 14 days of age.
“We monitor growth and development; two very important things, even for babies that seem normal,” assures Graham. “We want to make sure the head circumference is growing frequently, also looking at developmental milestones; are they growing at an appropriate time, are they making beginning language sounds like cooing, things like that,” she adds.
Your pediatrician not only makes sure your baby is healthy, he or she assesses your wellbeing, too and offers safety, positive-parenting tips and age-appropriate vaccinations.
A common misconception for parents who choose not to vaccinate is they don’t need to keep up with their well checks, when in fact they do, according to Graham. Your pediatrician will still want to assess and go through all of the other important elements.
Your baby’s appointment is also a good time for you to ask questions and raise any concerns.
Babies eventually will adjust to your routine. Sleeping when Baby sleeps can help.
“A routine is good in general, even going forward as the child gets older,” says Graham. “The first month or two of life, you have to go by the baby.”
Let them sleep and eat when they want during the first couple months, and by two months, try scheduling quiet time and nap times to help Baby slowly ease into a routine. Infants are smart and can adjust to your families schedule so you can get rest during this time as well.
Feeding Your Baby
Just as babies don’t care about clocks when it comes to sleep, they also eat on demand, anywhere between eight and 12 times in a 24-hour period.
“Babies eat a lot during their first weeks thanks, in part, to their tiny tummy size, and the rapid physical and mental growth they experience in the first couple months of life,” says Jenna Eschol, M.D., a family medicine physician.
But if you’re breastfeeding, how do you know if Baby is getting enough?
“If your baby seems happy and your pediatrician has assured you that weight gain is commensurate with the age, and enough dirty diapers are being produced, then your baby is probably getting plenty to eat,” assures Eschol.
If you participate in a breastfeeding support group at an area hospital, lactation consultants usually conduct weigh-ins, too.
Because a baby’s skin is sensitive and thin, they are more susceptible to dry, chapped skin. Avoid long baths, and bathe your infant in lukewarm water only two or three times a week using fragrance-free hypoallergenic soaps.
“And no bubble baths!” Eschol says.
For a newborn, nothing is as comforting as Mom or Dad’s arms.
“There’s no such thing as holding them too much, but parents do eventually have to go to the bathroom and take a shower,” laughs Graham. “It’s precious to hold a baby or a newborn. It does help with their mental development and bonding,” she adds.
Although there are many benefits to holding a baby, it’s OK to teach your baby to have those few minutes to themselves by setting them down and practicing self soothing.
“There’s no such thing as spoiling them,” assures Graham.
In addition to skin-to-skin contact, talk and
sing to your baby, and show her storybooks with high contrast colors like red, black and white.
While you should hold your baby as much as possible, don’t fall asleep that way.
“Safe sleep is Alone, Back and in the Crib [ABC],” says Graham. “When we say ‘Alone’ in the crib, we mean nothing in the crib. Any soft surface is not good. We want them to be on a firm mattress,” she states.
If your baby does fall asleep while nursing, be sure to place him on his back in his bassinet near your bed for naptime and bedtime. Do not use fluffy blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or crib bumpers.
Cry Me a River
Babies often cry when they’re hungry, tired or if they have a dirty diaper. Other times they seem to cry for no apparent reason. Parents worry that it could be cholic.
“Colic isn’t caused by pain,” Eschol says, but it’s still a mystery. She suggests the following tips for a colicky baby:
• Try a pacifier
• Hold Baby while rocking in a glider
• Place Baby in a mechanical swing
•Sing or play soothing lullabies at low volume
• Wear Baby
• Take Baby for a stroller or car ride
• Give Baby a warm bath
If you are becoming frustrated with your crying baby and no one can help, take a timeout by placing Baby safely in his crib and taking a warm shower. Better yet, have someone you trust take over duties for an hour or more.
Tears can signal a health issue. Call your doctor if your baby seems sick, has difficulty breathing or isn’t feeding.
“There are some serious things that cause crying,” says Graham. “Rather than have a parent wonder about those things, we’d like to hear from them.”
Time for You
Without taking time for self-care, attending to your baby’s needs can become exceptionally challenging and overwhelming.
“It’s helpful to have others help pitch in for the extra cooking and cleaning so you can focus on Baby and yourself,” says Graham.
Even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes, time to yourself is important to your health and wellbeing so you can be the best for your baby and you.
Know that postpartum mood disorders are common and curable. Contact your health care provider if you are struggling.
“Parenthood is miraculous, a privilege, joyous and rewarding, but it’s not predictable,” says Eschol.
Embrace Life with a Newborn
• Tune into your feelings: reflect, meditate, breathe, journal, read an uplifting, inspirational book
• Call a friend
• Simplify life by ordering meals from a delivery service, hiring a housekeeper or sending out laundry
• Get a massage, gentle yoga or a mani/pedi
• Exercise (with an OK from your doctor)
• The Cincinnati area has a wealth of new mom support groups. Click here for the updated 2020 list.