During the third trimester of pregnancy, some women feel so uncomfortable they are tempted to ask their doctors to induce labor early. Research shows that as long as mother and baby are healthy, it’s best to wait until at least 39 weeks and let labor start on its own. These are key reasons not to induce early:
- Babies gain more weight while in utero and are able to more easily regulate their temperature at birth
- Babies breast-feed or bottle-feed better
- Brain, lungs and liver have more time to develop
- Babies are less likely to have problems with vision or hearing
- There’s a lower risk of cesarean section, infection or possible uterine rupture
While expectant moms may be eager to meet the little ones and get beyond the discomforts of pregnancy, patience benefits both mother and child.
Source: March of Dimes, “Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait” campaign
Dr. Art Nowak is a retired pediatric dentist and member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). He says pregnancy is the perfect time for expectant moms and dads to visit the dentist and address their own oral care needs. Checkups before the baby arrives provide parents with a window of opportunity to:
- Review their own oral health habits and make changes to help protect themselves and their baby
- Prevent tooth decay and cavity-causing bacteria that can be passed to newborns
- Learn the best ways to clean babies’ gums and ward off decay before teeth erupt
Nowak advises that the first year of life is considered crucial for children’s oral health. The AAPD encourages parents to follow the first tooth, first visit rule: Schedule your child’s first dental visit by age one.
Dr. Art Nowak
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
Nursery AAPD video interviews 2013
Delicate newborn skin may appear dry and peeling. While it’s instinctive to reach for lotions and creams, it’s usually best to let dry skin slough off on its own unless the pediatrician recommends otherwise. Common infant skin conditions include:
- Erythema toxicum. These red bumps with blisters appear shortly after birth, look like a fleabite and usually vanish within a week. Do not pick at the blisters, and contact the pediatrician for an evaluation.
- Milia. These small white bumps usually appear on baby’s nose and go away within a few weeks.
- Baby Acne. This usually doesn’t show up until infants are four weeks or older. It lasts a few months and is the result of mother’s hormones from pregnancy.
- Cradle Cap. These scaly patches appear on the scalp and usually resolve within a few months. Sometimes, pediatricians recommend special shampoos.
- Heat Rash. Appropriately named, this rash is the result of warmth in the folds of the face or torso. The rash usually goes away if the areas are kept cool and dry.
Newborn rashes are usually harmless, but call your pediatrician if any rash appears with a fever. And, if you do choose to use lotion or cream on your baby’s skin, choose one that is free of fragrances and dyes.
Jana, L. & Shu, J. 2011. Heading Home with Your Newborn From Birth to Reality
American Academy of Pediatrics, 2nd edition, pp. 297-299
Shelov, S. 2010. Your Baby’s First Year, American Academy of Pediatrics. p. 226
What calms one baby may not soothe another. But with patience and persistence, you will discover which techniques are most effective. Try these time-tested remedies:
- Swaddle, rock, walk with or sing to baby.
- Place baby directly on your chest. Infants cry less when held skin to skin.
- Establish a routine of a warm bath followed by gentle massage.
- Offer a pacifier, the back of your finger or guide baby’s thumb/fist to suckle.
- Try a baby swing for short periods of time – but never leave your infant unattended.
- Recreate sounds of the womb with a securely placed fan or “white noise” machine.
- Discuss any changes with breast or formula feedings with your healthcare professional.
Know that caring for a fussy baby can be stressful. If your baby cries intensely for long periods of time and you are feeling frustrated, do not hesitate to reach out for help.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
A little advance planning can help keep your baby clean and dry when you are out and about. Newborns require frequent changes (10–14 times a day), so keep your diaper bag stocked with these essentials:
- Plenty of diapers
- Baby wipes
- Ointment for diaper rash (powder is not recommended because it can irritate tiny lungs)
- Plastic disposal bags
- A small changing pad
- Hand sanitizer
- At least one change of clothing
If you use a changing table in a public restroom, always clean the surface first with a disinfectant wipe. In a pinch, you can change the diaper in the back seat or trunk of your car. Keep in mind that even newborns can squirm and fall off high surfaces, so never leave your baby unattended. Engage your infant by talking, singing or reciting nursery rhymes. Changing time – even on the go – can be an opportunity to bond.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
If your infant son is newly circumcised, follow these steps to ease discomfort and speed recovery:
- Carefully dab the area clean with a wipe or soft, wet cloth.
- Cover the tip of the penis with ointment and gauze.
- Replace the dressing at every diaper change.
- Delay tub baths until the skin heals – usually within a week to 10 days.
Following circumcision, temporary swelling and discoloration are normal. But if you notice pus or spots of blood larger than the size of a quarter, contact your pediatrician.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
Because the safest way for babies to sleep is on their backs, giving them regular, supervised time on their tummies is important to help strengthen head, neck and shoulder muscles. This also helps prevent flat spots on babies’ heads.
- Place baby on a clean blanket on a smooth area on the floor.
- Start with a few minutes – twice a day – within the first weeks of birth, then gradually increase.
- Dangle a stuffed animal, rattle or brightly colored object at a safe distance from baby’s face.
- Watch baby follow the action with the eyes and head – and soon reach with outstretched arms!
- Always stay with your baby – floor level – as you talk and sing.
- Encourage older siblings to play with baby during tummy time.
Dr. Harvey Karp is a nationally renowned pediatrician and child development specialist. In his new book, “The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years,” Dr. Karp says creating an environment that imitates the womb helps babies sleep. Here he shares five techniques –called the 5 S’s – to trigger a baby’s “calming reflex”:
- Swaddling – Wrap the infant snugly with the arms down.
- Side/Stomach – Place the newborn on the stomach or side before bedtime (Babies should always be turned on their backs to sleep).
- Shushing – Create a strong, rumbly white noise close to the baby’s ear.
- Swinging – Use a rhythmic motion, from slow rocking to fast, tiny jiggling.
- Sucking – Allow baby to suckle on your breast, a clean finger, a baby-bottle nipple or a pacifier.
You can find more information on Dr. Karp’s website: www.happiestbaby.com. If baby is hungry or needs a diaper change, take care of those basic needs first and only then try the calming reflex techniques that will help your newborn drift off to sleep, sweet sleep.
Source: Tips from “The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 years,” by Harvey Karp, MD.
The best prevention against viruses for babies under the age of 3 months is to keep them away from others who are sick. This is especially important during the winter months when many viruses are circulating. Here are some other tips to help reduce your baby’s risk for illness this season:
- Wash your hands and clean baby’s regularly. Viruses spread easily hand to hand or, in the case of baby, hand to mouth.
- Sneeze or cough into a tissue, then throw the tissue away.
- Disinfect surfaces. Viruses can live for days and sometimes even months on household surfaces and toys.
- Immunize. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends immunization against the flu for children 6 months and older and for all adults.
- Do not smoke. Babies who live with smokers get more colds, ear infections and upper respiratory infections.
- Breastfeed. Antibodies in breast milk help baby’s immune system fight off viruses. If you are breastfeeding, keep going!
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics
Prepare as much as you can by reading up and attending classes on childbirth, newborn care, infant CPR and safety. The more you know in advance, the easier the journey will be. Here are a few tips for the day your baby arrives:
- Communicate openly with your nurse. If you’re scared, in pain or confused, speak up.
- Limit use of electronic devices. Free yourself from distractions in order to think clearly.
- Reserve a couple of hours of quiet time with your partner and baby before allowing visitors.
Cherish these first precious moments. Your baby’s birth will be life changing – and certainly one of the most memorable experiences of your life.
Your baby’s umbilical cord will dry and fall off within a few weeks of birth. In the meantime:
- Keep the cord dry by sponge bathing rather than submersing your baby in a tub.
- Use only plain water to clean the cord. There is no need to use rubbing alcohol.
- Fold diapers down to clear the stump area so it can air out and stay dry.
If you notice significant bleeding, a yellowish discharge or redness around the stump cord, don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician.
Most babies lose weight after they’re born and then start regaining within the first week or so. In general:
- Newborns usually regain or exceed their birth weight within two weeks.
- Babies may gain up to an ounce a day during the first few weeks.
- Amazingly, most healthy infants double their weight by four months and triple it by age one.
Most likely, your little one will see a pediatrician for weight checks within a few days after hospital discharge and then again at one and two weeks of age.
The best position for babies to sleep is on their backs in a crib or bassinet that meets all current safety standards. In the 20 years since the American Academy of Pediatrics first issued its “back to sleep” recommendation, the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the United States has dropped dramatically – by almost 50 percent. It’s also important to follow these general guidelines:
- Use a firm crib mattress with a well-fitted sheet.
- Clear the crib of all stuffed animals, toys, wedges, bumper pads and pillows before bedtime.
- Consider one-piece pajamas or swaddling blankets as alternatives to covers that might pull loose.
- Keep your infant’s sleep area in a smoke-free zone you can monitor closely.
In some cases, back sleeping may cause temporary bald spots or flat heads – but a little tummy time each day can reduce these risks. At about two weeks, place the infant tummy down and dangle an object a few inches away. Soon you’ll see baby lifting up to see to engage in a simple game that develops strong neck and shoulder muscles. This activity needs your close supervision.
Babies get their first teeth anywhere from 4 to 10 months of age. Teething is a natural, normal process – and contrary to popular belief does not cause fever or diarrhea. If your infant experiences irritability or discomfort, try these soothing techniques:
- Gently rub your (clean) finger along the gums.
- Offer a portion of a cold, wet washcloth for chewing.
- Chill – but do not freeze – a teething ring made of firm rubber.
Do not hesitate to call the pediatrician if your baby shows any signs of illness – and always talk to the doctor before giving your baby any kind of gels, medications or homeopathic remedies.
There’s a good chance your baby will develop a diaper rash at some time during the first year or two of life. It occurs most often when babies 8 to 10 months old eat solid foods, take antibiotics or have diarrhea. To reduce the risk of diaper rash:
- Change wet or dirty diapers as soon as possible.
- Gently clean baby’s diaper area with a soft cloth and warm water.
- Avoid wipes that might irritate delicate skin.
- Allow time for the newborn’s bottom to air out a bit between changes.
If a rash develops, use an ointment made with zinc oxide or petroleum jelly. Contact your pediatrician if the condition worsens or persists for more than three days.
Skin-to-skin – or kangaroo – care is the practice of holding newborns close to the parents’ bare chest. This kind of cuddling has profound physiological and emotional benefits.
Skin-to-skin contact encourages successful breastfeeding and better bottle feeding. It also helps babies:
- Maintain body warmth
- Regulate their breathing
- Gain weight
- Sleep sounder
- Bond better
Research shows babies snuggled this way actually cry less. Dads can make a difference, too. Fathers who practice kangaroo care also help their infants thrive.
Sources: March of Dimes, American Academy of Pediatrics
Infant jaundice is a common condition that turns the skin and eyes yellow. It’s caused by excess bilirubin, a yellow pigment in the red blood cells. Sometimes babies’ tiny livers are simply too immature to help rid the body of the excess bilirubin.
Here are some helpful facts:
- Close to half of full-term babies develop jaundice during the first week or two of life.
- Infant jaundice is usually a harmless condition that disappears without treatment.
- Increased feedings can help.
- Treatments are generally safe and effective
Complications are rare, but high levels of bilirubin can be dangerous. Always call your doctor with any concerns.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all babies be examined for jaundice before they leave the hospital and again three to five days later when bilirubin levels peak.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
Dr. Winifred Booker is a pediatric dentist in Owings Mill, Maryland, and is a member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. These are some of her top pointers for new parents:
- Clean your baby’s mouth after every breast- or bottle-feeding.
- Use a damp gauze, dental wipe or clean washcloth to remove residual milk.
- Begin brushing when the first teeth come in, usually around six months.
- Opt for finger toothbrushes and baby toothbrushes for cleaning the cheeks, tongue, gums, lips and palate.
- Try brushing during bath time while your baby is in the tub.
- Sing softly or hum while brushing your baby’s teeth for a calming approach.
- Role model by brushing your teeth in front of your baby.
- Be patient and persistent.
If your baby resists, Dr. Booker recommends using a lap-to-lap method with your partner. Face one another with your baby securely in your laps and begin brushing. Early oral hygiene prevents tooth decay and promotes overall good health.
Sponge baths are best for delicate newborn skin. Here are some tips to keep baby fresh and clean:
- Use a safe, flat surface in close reach of supplies
- Dab the face, head and neck with a warm washcloth
- Rinse and add a mild cleanser to the water bin for the rest of the bath
- Wash around the umbilical cord stump without getting it wet
- Work from top to bottom, back to front, cleaning the diaper area last
- Dry each area as you go and wrap baby for warmth
Most importantly, stay close and never leave your infant unattended.
After the umbilical cord falls off, you can transition to a sink or small tub and begin to shampoo! A few baths each week are plenty in the first year of life.
Vaccines protect babies from many fatal diseases. But so many shots – so soon – often worry new parents. Here are some general guidelines:
- Share any and all questions or concerns with your child’s doctor.
- Ask for Vaccine Information Statements that provide details on benefits and risks.
- Discuss medications that can alleviate possible fever or tenderness.
- Report unusual or severe side effects right away.
Despite controversy, years of research show no link between autism and childhood vaccines.
Though adhering to the standard vaccine schedule is highly recommended, many
pediatricians offer reasonable flexibility on the timing and combination of shots for infants.
Sources: AAP, CDC