Having a baby often comes with a lot of two things: love and questions.
While every infant and family are different, many pediatricians agree that there are common themes in what parents want to know in their child’s first year.
Am I feeding my baby correctly?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization encourage breastfeeding, as it provides optimal nutrition for infants. And both recommend exclusive breastfeeding (meaning no solid foods or formula) for a baby’s first six months. However, that’s not always an option for everyone.
“What’s most important is that your baby is growing and that feeding is a pleasant experience for everyone involved,” says Dr. Edith Kaselis. “Whether that means breastmilk, formula, or a combination of the two.”
For parents who want to breastfeed but have questions, many peditatric offices offer lactation services. At Briarpatch’s Newborn & Lactation Support service, Sarah Ray’s job is to educate and support parents in achieving their feeding goals.
“Breastfeeding is a learned skill that can come easily to some but require extra support for others,” Sarah says.
She encourage parents to meet with a lactation professional before their baby arrives. “Prenatal education can alleviate stress and build confidence for successful breastfeeding.”
Dr. Kasellis tells parents to expect to feed your baby every two to three hours during their first few weeks. Once they have doubled their birth weight, you can begin to space things out, including dropping an overnight feeding.
Bottom line: Watch for your baby to be gaining weight and producing six or more wet diapers a day.
Beyond nursing or formula-feeding, many parents also wonder about introducing solids.
Dr. Jen Russell frequently discusses with parents the process of advancing from breast milk or formula. She advises waiting until your baby has adequate head control, then slowly introducing purees, mashed fruits, and vegetables, remembering to space out new foods every five to seven days. Some pediatricians may recommend slowly introducing solids at around 4 months old.
When will/should my baby sleep through the night?
“Some families swear by sleep training or crying-it-out; some dislike the concept, but almost every parent I meet with wants to know when their baby will sleep through the night,” says Dr. Catherine Suppan. “I try to remind them that waking during the night is developmentally appropriate for babies. And it helps protect them should they be getting too little oxygen.”
“Babies don’t have regular sleep cycles until about 6 months,” Dr. Suppan adds. However, she does suggest introducing a sleep routine around 3 months. This could be dimming the lights and practicing calming activities (reading aloud, singing, etc.) for 10 to 20 minutes, then putting your child to bed in their crib.
Bottom line: Every child is a different sleeper, even those in the same family whose parents try the same techniques. Your baby’s sleep depends on their age, weight, and overall health. The most important thing is to practice safe sleep, which means placing your baby on their back in an empty crib.
Is my baby meeting milestones?
Your baby will grow and develop incredibly fast during the first year. By 4 months, your baby will likely roll over and at 6 months, they may begin to sit with little help. Your baby may begin to take a few steps alone at 1 year, or earlier, and could start walking alone at 18 months.
If your baby was born before 37 weeks, their milestones may look different and should be adjusted based on their due date, not their actual birthday.
Bottom line: No two babies are alike; yours will develop at their own pace. Early Intervention is an excellent resource if you or your pediatrician have any concerns.
Am I doing this right?
“Despite what your social media and social circles may say, properly caring for your baby boils down to pretty basic concepts: feed them, change them, play with them, cuddle them, and love them,” Dr. Kaselis says. “It’s these everyday things that teach your baby what to expect about having their basic needs met — by caregivers, relationships, and the outside world.”
What about me?
Babies typically get half a dozen check-ins with their doctor in the first few months; new moms don’t. But taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your baby.
“It’s so important for mothers to receive adequate care and support,” says Dr. Richard Bloom. “You’ve delivered a baby; that alone takes recovery time. Plus you are adjusting to a life that is completely different than it was just months ago. Don’t underestimate what this means for your body and mind.”
“Postpartum depression and anxiety are real and they’re serious,” Dr. Bloom adds. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help, education, or just a safe space to vent.
Dr. Bloom urges new moms — and all new caretakers — to speak openly with their doctor or other health professionals about how they are feeling and any concerns they may have about their own well-being.
Learn more about Boston Children’s Primary Care Alliance.
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