Take some of the guesswork out of your newborn care and become a confident new mom with answers to your top questions.
A new baby fills you with questions as you try to figure out everything that your little one is doing. First of all, stay calm and remember: Millions of other parents are just like you and millions have been here before! Nevertheless, here are answers to some key questions to help you be a confident new mom in these early months:
When will Baby sleep through the night?
Newborns do not have the ability to self-soothe and will probably only sleep in two- to three-hour increments for the first few months of life. Be prepared to be up whenever your baby needs you. Realistically, it’s not until about 4 – 6 months old that a baby can make it through the night without a feeding, and even that’s not guaranteed.
According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, by 9 months of age, 70 – 80 percent of babies are sleeping nine to 12 hours straight through every night. Sleeping habits really develop on a child-to-child basis, say experts at the Sleep Foundation. Some children will sleep through the night at 4 months, others not until 11 months. Seek advice from your pediatrician if your baby is having trouble establishing good sleeping patterns. Old wives’ tales – such as feeding your baby cereal hoping a fuller stomach will keep him asleep longer – can bring problems like indigestion and diarrhea.
How can I guard against SIDS?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the diagnosis when a baby (younger than 12 months old) dies of unknown causes in his sleep. New parents are often terrified of that prospect. While completely preventing SIDS is impossible, the American SIDS Institute says you can reduce the risk of SIDS by: placing Baby to sleep on his back only; utilizing a firm mattress with no covers, pillows, bumper pads or toys; keep your home smoke free; don’t overdress your baby or overheat his room; and breastfeed, if possible.
Can I spoil my baby by picking him up too much?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you cannot spoil a baby by giving him attention. During the first few months, it is important to respond to all of your baby’s cries; he’ll cry less if you are there to comfort him. You’ll soon be able to distinguish between your baby’s cries – the sound of a hunger cry is different than a cry of pain or distress. You also might be able to eventually identify a leave-me-alone cry. Pediatricians agree that babies often have fussy periods during which nothing will console them; this seems to be a way for them to relieve tension and excess energy, often leaving them more alert and content afterwards.
What’s the best way to keep my newborn healthy?
The number one way to keep your baby healthy is to take him to all of his pediatrician appointments reports the AAP. Get all of his immunizations, and chart his growth and development. Most pediatricians agree that the other important factor in newborn health is breastfeeding. Breast milk has the optimal nutritional composition for babies, one that cannot be mimicked completely by man-made formula. Breastfed babies also gain important immunities and protection from various ailments through breast milk. If you are trying to breastfeed, however, and your baby is not getting enough, you need to get support. Contact a lactation nurse at the hospital you delivered at, or the La Leche League near you.
How can I balance having a baby with returning to work?
The AAP recommends taking the longest maternity leave that you can “so that parent-child bonding may be firmly established and maintained.” Be sure to adequately prepare yourself and your family for your return to work so the transition is easier. And, if possible, work part time for awhile. Being actively involved in your child’s day care is one way to manage your feelings and to ensure the quality of your child’s care. Visit the program regularly, talk to the caregiver often and help with events there. If you plan to continue to breastfeed after returning to work, introduce a bottle to the baby a week or two before your job resumes.
What’s the best way to get my partner to help?
Experts agree that the most important way to get your partner to help with the baby is to simply let him. A common new-mother complaint is that the partner isn’t helping with the baby or around the house, only to realize that she is hovering every time he changes a diaper or tries to soothe the baby. Men and women do things differently, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one way is right and the other wrong. Give him time alone to bond with the baby and to figure things out in his own way. Also make sure communication is clear. Talk about your concerns, explain where and how you need more help, and figure out together how to handle baby care, housework and careers as a team. Here are some tips that can help:
• Ask Dad to take the night shift from time to time so Mom can get some sleep
• Let him know that babies love the soothing strength of their father’s arms: show Dad how to walk the baby around, rock, sing, etc.
• Help with diaper duty
What if my baby doesn’t hit his milestones like other babies do?
Children grow differently and go through stages at different times and rates, assures the AAP. Developmental milestones are general guidelines; don’t get too attached to specific months. Some children will crawl at 5 months, and some will crawl at 10 months. It’s generally nothing to be alarmed about. Again, see your pediatrician regularly to monitor development and bring up any concerns with the doctor.
What makes a person a good mother or father?
So many factors go into good parenting, but it all starts with taking care of a child’s (and your own) basic needs. This means providing nutritious food, a safe place to live and play, love and affection, respect and a willingness to listen, having reasonable rules and encouraging your child’s quest for knowledge and self-discovery. Be responsive, and you’ll be a fantastic parent.