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8 Happy-Baby Secrets

During our 40 years of parenting eight kids and our 35 years of caring for new families in my pediatric practice, my wife, Martha, and I have learned a lot about what it takes to raise a happy, healthy child  -- and how to enjoy the ride yourself. When our Babytalk editors recently challenged us with the question "What are the top pieces of advice you think every new parent should receive?" we came up with a list of eight basic childcare principles that we've found help bring out the best in Mom, Dad, and the baby. May they do the same for your family!

1. Get connected.
In our early years of pediatric practice (Martha worked as an office nurse), we noticed that some moms seemed more tuned in to their babies and felt happier in general about being parents. We coined a name for their babycare style  -- attachment parenting  -- and took note of their habits, which we call the "Baby B's":

Birth bonding. Ask to be with your baby as much as you want to in the hospital, from birth to discharge.

Breastfeeding. Besides all the health benefits it bestows on both infants and their moms, nursing helps mothers and newborns get to know each other more quickly.

Babywearing. Babies who are held and carried close to a caregiver (in arms, a sling, or other carrier) fuss less and often seem more content than babies who aren't. Try to "wear" your baby as often as is comfortable.

Believing in your baby's cries. Crying is your child's language; she uses it to communicate, not manipulate.

2.Don't forget your well-being.
A few years later, we added another "Baby B" to the above attachment tools: balance. In your zeal to meet your baby's needs, it's easy to neglect your own and those of your marriage. Just remember: A happy mother equals a happy child, so never feel guilty about taking time for yourself. The first question I ask parents when they come in for their baby's checkups is: "How are you doing?" If Mom and Dad are doing fine, their baby is likely going to be fine, too.

Babytalk contributing editors William Sears, M.D., and Martha Sears, R.N., are the authors of more than 35 books.

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