Caring for Baby
When I was four months pregnant, my husband accepted a new job on the other side of the country. I was terrified of leaving my family and friends and proceeded to buy every highly recommended baby book I could find. I pored over these books, highlighter in hand, hoping to find all the answers to pregnancy and parenting.
After birth, my newborn immediately became the guinea pig for the countless techniques I had learned. But once my daughter was squirming and wailing in my arms at 4 AM, I realized some of the methods I read were more effective than others.
After much trial and error, I discovered the following techniques were the most successful for my family. These are practical, time-tested methods that often work for real-world parents. Think of them as the CliffsNotes to baby care.
Swaddle Your Baby
Swaddling is comforting to many newborns because it reminds them of being inside the womb.
“Swaddling is a helpful tool, but it is not universal,” explains Dr. Gregory Germain, a pediatrician at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital in Connecticut. “Some babies are truly comforted by a tight swaddle, and some babies are irritated by a tight swaddle and do better with their hands free,” he explains.
If you decide to swaddle your baby, be sure he isn’t getting overheated. “At night, over-bundling has been questionably linked to SIDS (via overheating),” says Dr. Karen Sadler, a pediatrician in Boston, Massachusetts. “In general, infants should be clothed in whatever adults need to be comfortable, plus one thin layer.” If your baby feels sweaty or hot in his blanket, try dressing him in nothing but a diaper before swaddling him. If he still feels hot, stop swaddling altogether.
During the first few months of your child’s life, there’s no such thing as giving too much tender love and care. “Babies need to know that you are there when they are distressed,” says Dr. Germain. “Going to a crying young infant and comforting her is never a bad thing.”
While it’s important to let your baby know you’re there for her, it is OK to occasionally let her cry for a minute or two. “If your baby is crying and you’re in the middle of a load of wash, there is no harm in letting your baby cry for a while as you’re finishing your other life duties,” Dr. Germain assures.
Setting a consistent nighttime routine such as a warm bath and bedtime story can be a helpful sleep trigger for your baby. It may not work right away, but after a couple of weeks your child will likely fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer.
According to Dr. Robert Jacobson, chairman and professor of pediatrics with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, this bedtime routine should include creating a peaceful setting in the home.
“As twilight comes and the house gets quieter, probably the most important thing in this modern age is to turn the TV off an hour before the baby is going to fall asleep,” he says, explaining that the TV tends to charge the air and keep babies awake.