Baby Care: 7 Things Every New Parent Should Know
No matter how ready you think you are, full-time baby care is tough for every new parent! Here are 7 things you should know to make life a little easier.
No matter how ready you think you are, suddenly being launched into full-time parenthood is tough for every new mom and dad. To help reduce the stress, here are seven things you should know about baby care.
- Why Do Babies Cry So Much?
Babies cry because they can't talk, and crying is the only way they can ask for help. The situation can offer clues: Could your little one be tired? Hungry? Too cold or hot? Overstimulated? Elizabeth Pantley, author of several books, including "The No-Cry Sleep Solution" and "Gentle Baby Care," says that babies don't cry the same way every time, but you'll soon recognize particular cries as if they were spoken words. "When you consistently respond to your baby's cries and try to figure out what he needs, you'll find his cries won't be quite so desperate."
Need some advice on dealing with constant crying? Read Crying Baby: 7 Ways Couples Can Cope.
- Is She Getting Enough to Eat?
Steady weight gain over time -- as measured at well baby checkups -- is the best way to know your baby is getting enough milk or formula. "In addition to weight gain, another good indicator is your baby's diaper output," says Nancy Holtzman, a registered nurse and lactation consultant who has helped teach parents baby care for more than 20 years. She recommends you watch for six or more heavy wet diapers and several soft bowel movements each day, and listen for swallowing sounds when feeding.
- How Can You Help Your Baby Sleep?
Most babies under 3 months will become sleepy when swaddled and held, then walked or rocked until drowsy or asleep. "Young babies love close physical contact and movement, so wearing your baby in a comfortable sling or soft carrier may yield you longer naps," says Pantley. If your baby won't sleep in a crib or bassinet, try using a snug swaddle before transferring your baby, then gently jiggle or vibrate the bassinet for a minute or two to help your baby settle back to sleep.
- Is It Normal That Your Baby Doesn't Do Much?
"If it feels like almost all you're doing during the first month is holding and nursing your baby, you're probably right," says Holtzman, who notes that newborns may eat 10 or more times daily, or every one and half to three hours. Babies also spend a lot of time sleeping during the first months -- 16 or more hours a day -- but it may not feel that way to you, since there are no predictable nap times or lengths yet.
- How Can You Keep Your Co-Parent Involved?
Some people are naturals, but others need some time and experience to feel comfortable with baby care. "If your partner is more reluctant, don't push or rush them. Let things take a more gradual, relaxed course," says Pantley. Also, don't rush to take over, but give the other parent time and space to figure things out.
- How Do Other Moms Do This?!
Nothing truly prepares you for life with a newborn. "Becoming a new parent is exciting, but also stressful and exhausting, so don't be surprised if you feel weepy, anxious or down at times during the first few weeks," says Holtzman. Days at home with a new baby can feel very long and isolation makes it harder. "I encourage all new moms to find other moms and babies to connect with, either through a new moms group or informally," she adds.
- Can You Spoil a Baby?
Babies have needs based on survival instincts, and they need human touch as much as food. "In the early months, your baby needs all that holding and cuddling in order to thrive," Pantley says. "Studies even show that babies who are carried more often actually cry less overall ... Babies cannot be spoiled by too much love!" says Pantley.
While baby care may be hard at first, be patient with yourself and your baby -- you'll both soon get the hang of it. "Humans have successfully cared for newborns for thousands and thousands of years, long before we ever had phones, books -- or even fire," laughs Holtzman. "Babies are resilient, and if you keep your baby fed, clean and cuddled, you're going to do just fine."
Nancy J Price is an Arizona-based mother of four, as well as a writer, editor and web developer. One of the original co-founders of ePregnancy.com and SheKnows.com, she now writes for several websites, including Myria and Click Americana.