Doctor-approved answers to the questions “Is my baby eating enough?”, “When will my baby sleep through the night?” and “Why does my baby get sick so often?”
Being a new parent is far from easy, as my wife, Martha, and I (parents of eight) can attest. I know you have what feels like an infinite number of questions. Experts, not to mention familyand friends, sometimes offer contradictory advice. Is it any wonder new moms and dads feel overwhelmed and confused? Here are answers to three of the questions I’m asked most by new parents.
When, Oh When, Will My Baby Finally Sleep Through The Night?
There is no magic way to get a baby to nod off. But even though you can’t dictate when and how much your baby will sleep, you can create conditions that encourage sleep and provide cues that it’s time to rest. Babies eventually learn to soothe themselves to sleep. As your child grows, encourage him to fall asleep on his own by putting him in his crib while he’s still awake. Others may encourage you to leave just before baby drifts off, but there’s nothing wrong with staying until he’s asleep. Remember: The goal of nighttime parenting is to help your baby develop a healthy sleep attitude; sleep is pleasant and a fearless place to remain. Once your baby sleeps through the night, try increasing the distance between you and his crib, or put him to sleep in his own room. Until then, try these sleep-inducing tips:
It’s All About the Routine
Settling your child in for the night requires more than just putting him to bed. Infants who go to bed at a reasonably consistent time each night usually have less trouble falling and staying asleep. If your baby has difficulty winding down, then a warm bath or a soothing massage before bedtime may help him relax. With a child younger than 6 months, you can also try wearing him in a baby sling or carrier as you stroll around the house. In our family, we call this style of nighttime parenting “wearing down,” and it helps baby calm down because the motions mimic being in the womb.
Another way to lull him into slumber is to breastfeed or bottle-feed him until he drifts off. To prevent tooth decay and ear infections, don’t let your infant fall asleep with a bottle in his mouth, and don’t leave a bottle in the crib.
Try various sleeping arrangements. I’ve found the easiest and quickest way to resettle your baby when he wakes at night is to have him sleep in your room. You can move your newborn’s crib next to your bed or buy a co-sleeping crib (such as those made by Arm’s Reach) that attaches to your bed. The idea is to comfort your baby before you and he are fully awake.
When your infant wakes up crying, and feeding or changing doesn’t comfort him, check for ill-fitting sleepwear, a stuffy nose, a bedroom that’s too hot or too cold or nasal irritants, such as cigarette smoke, animal dander or dust. All of these factors can contribute to waking. If eliminating them doesn’t help, discuss possible medical causes — such as reflux, food or milk allergies or ear infections— with his doctor.
Why Does My Baby Get Sick So Often?
During the two years before their immune systems fully develop, most babies get at least three respiratory illnesses and a couple of diarrhea-inducing intestinal infections.You can lessen the frequency and severity of sickness in the following ways:
Nurse, Nurse, Nurse
Breastfeed your baby for as long as possible. Breastfed babies experience fewer colds, ear infections and intestinal bugs. When breastfed infants do come down with these illnesses, they tend to be less severe.
Do a Nose Hose
Keep your baby’s nose clear. If your infant’s nose is clogged, put unmedicated saline nasal drops in her nostrils and suction them with a nasal aspirator. Both are available over the counter in pharmacies. Do this as often as needed.
In the winter when central heating dries out baby’s respiratory passages, making them more prone to infection, take your infant into the bathroom, run a warm shower and let her inhale the steam for about 10 minutes. Or turn on a cool-mist vaporizer in your baby’s bedroom at night, and keep the machine clean and free of mold.
Keep It Clean
Make sure baby’s sleeping environmentis clean. Remove dust collectors such as stuffed animals from the nursery (a few are OK, of course), and avoid using products such as paint, aerosols, perfumes and hair sprays near your baby or her room. Don’t allow smoking.
Take your baby to your pediatrician for well baby checkups. During these visits, your doctor will give your child immunizations. Staying on schedule for vaccines is the easiest way to protect your baby’s health.
Is My Baby Eating Enough?
In the first few weeks, it’s hard to tell if your baby is getting enough milk, so see your pediatrician often to track weight gain.
In the first month, a well-nourished, breastfed baby will have six to eight wet diapers per day and three or four with stool. If you feel your baby sucking vigorously, hear him swallowing, feel your milk letting down (this is sometimes accompanied by tingling) and see your baby drifting contentedly off to sleep, chances are he is well nourished. While it’s normal for babies to lose a little weight after birth, weight gain is generally the best indicator he is eating enough. Well-fed infants usually put on an average of 4 to 5 ounces a week for the first few weeks and an average of 1 to 2 pounds per month for the first six months.
It’s easier to tell if a bottle-fed baby (breastmilk or formula) is well-nourished. Many newborns may only take 1 to 2 ounces at each feeding for the first week. By 1 month of age, most infants are up to 3 to 4 ounces at each feeding. Ultimately, it depends on baby’s weight, body type and age, but as a general guideline, a bottle-fed infant will usually consume an average of 2 to 2 ½ ounces of breastmilk or formula per pound per day. So, if your baby weighs 10 pounds, she may take 20 to 25 ounces per day.