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Guide to Babycare Choices

Feeding

What to consider:
Repeat this to yourself as often as necessary: Your baby will grow and thrive whether you breastfeed, use formula, or use a combination of both. Having confidence in your choice will make feedings go more smoothly.

Factor in how you'll be spending the day with your baby (are you also chasing a toddler around, or going back to work?) and who else (such as your mom or husband) will be around to help.

One side:
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the first choice for infant nutrition. Nursing offers your tot such benefits as fewer illnesses and infections and a lower risk of asthma, diabetes, and obesity. It's very convenient, since the milk is ready when your baby is; however, breastfeeding a newborn every two or three hours can be exhausting, and using a pump can still feel like work.

The other side:
Formula feeding is pretty simple: Just fill 'er up and go. And you can easily share the work. But formula costs (along with bottles, nipples, and other accessories) can really add up. And every time you go out you'll have to plan ahead to measure, tote, and store feedings. Bottle-fed babies sometimes have more constipation and may also develop an intolerance for formula, which can make finding the right one a challenge.

For more info:
For breastfeeding support, visit La Leche League International

What moms say:
"I breastfed because I knew it was best, though I ended up having to add a few bottles of formula into the mix. I'll do the same with my next baby  -- just combine the two."
 -- Danielle Spears, Indianapolis

Sleeping

What to consider:
Safety is number one when it comes to catching zzz's, so always place your baby to sleep on her back to lower her risk of SIDS, whether she's going down for a short nap or a longer haul (let's hope!) at night.

One side:
Putting your sweetie to bed in her own little pink (or blue) room is ideal if you're a light sleeper, so you won't have to hear every cough and coo. And declaring your room a kid-free zone can be a nice bonus for Mom and Dad.

You will, however, be popping up and down often to feed and soothe. You may tire of this, or you may decide to tough it out until your baby eventually learns to sleep for longer stretches.

The other side:
Keeping your tot close by in a bassinet attached to your bed or in a crib in your room will make nighttime feedings easier and let you get to her quickly without having to roam all over the house.

But, again, newborn noises can be loud, and your own sighs and snores may, in turn, bother her. And if the idea of baby stuff cluttering your room sounds like a drag, this isn't the method for you.

For more info:
Visit the Parenting Corner from the American Academy of Pediatrics

What moms say:
"We had our babies close at hand in a bassinet in our room when they were newborns (it made waking up every two hours easier); later we moved them to their own cribs in their own rooms."
 -- Nicole Silva, Hampton, GA

Working

What to consider:
Whether to go back to work or stay at home after your baby is born is one of the most difficult decisions that moms face. Money, health benefits, loving your job, yet wanting to be your child's sole caregiver are all important factors.

One side:
Working outside the home can be rewarding, giving you a chance to connect with other adults and earn your own income. If you have a supportive spouse who will pitch in with household errands and chores, you're extra lucky!

But leaving your baby can be heartbreaking, and once you're home your "second job" begins, with joyful parts (hugs and kisses) and the more tiring (dinner and laundry).

The other side:
Staying home with your babe can be equally rewarding. As her primary soother and cuddler, you will know her better than anyone else, and you'll be around to chart every milestone.

However, days alone at home with a new baby, especially if your baby is colicky or you have other kids too, can be long and draining  -- and you may find yourself counting the minutes until someone arrives to help out.

For more info:
Other moms are lifesavers, so seek them out for advice and support. Look for local parenting groups or sign up for a Mommy & Me or Gymboree class. Mommy blogs can also be a source of comfort and a good laugh if you feel unsure about your decision.

What moms say:
"I worked outside the home after my baby was born. At first it was a relief to get out of the house, but by the time she was one, I decided to stay home. I know, however, that being a stay-at-home mom isn't for and wouldn't work for everyone."
 -- Tracy Wainwright, Toano, VA

Childcare

What to consider:
Whether you work full-time or part-time or are just dying to go to the grocery store alone, you will need a responsible, loving caregiver or a safe, nurturing daycare center. Always check references for all babysitters you might hire as well as those from parents who use the center you're thinking of joining.

One side:
A well-run daycare with a trained, licensed staff can be an excellent option for working moms, as can family care (daycare at someone else's home). Check for flexible hours (open early and late) and ask about the sick-child policy.

One drawback is the germ factor  -- but your child will have better immunity as a result! Ask if staff turnover is low to ensure consistent care, and be aware that waiting lists can be long.

The other side:
In-home care, whether with a relative, friend, or nanny, means your baby will get more attention in a smaller, personal setting and she won't have as much exposure to sickness from other children.

Babysitting at home, however, can be more expensive, and there's often no backup when your sitter is ill. Your reference checking must be scrupulous since sitters and nannies don't have to be licensed as staff does at daycare centers.

For more info:
Call ChildCareAware at 800-424-2246 or visit their website

What moms say:
"I've had great luck with babysitters from a local college in my town. There's a child development program there that many of the students are part of."
 -- Elizabeth Rossetti, Ipswich, MA

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