Being a new parent is a bit intimidating, isn’t it? There are so many things you don’t know, because you’ve never had to deal with them before you had a baby. Fortunately, the entirety of human history is filled with first-time moms who never got any advice and figured it all out on their own. Much of it is instinct. The rest is common sense. None of us would be here if those ancient moms didn’t know how to take care of their babies. If they can do it, so can you. However, if you’re still feeling a little bit apprehensive about some things, here is a bit of basic baby advice to help make things easier until you get the hang of this “mom” thing.
How to Handle an Infant
One of the most intimidating things for new mothers is the sheer tininess of their baby. With being so small comes a greater chance of being inadvertently hurt and no one wants to accidentally cause their innocent little baby any pain. Babies are fragile, but they’re not made of glass. So don’t worry if yours gets an accidental bump or bruise here and there; he or she won’t break. Here are some things you should remember when handling your newborn, to make sure she stays as safe and secure as possible.
- Make sure you and everyone else who touches your baby has clean hands. A baby’s immune system isn’t finished developing yet, so you want to keep things as clean as possible.
- Newborns are still too small and delicate for typical games that you would play with a toddler, such as bouncing the baby on your knee or throwing him into the air and catching him. Don’t do this until the baby is at least 9 months old or more, and even then, be careful.
- Always support a newborn’s head and neck when holding him or her. Your baby’s neck muscles aren’t developed enough yet to support his own head. You’ve got to hold it up for him to avoid it falling back and causing spine or muscle injuries.
How a Baby Should Sleep
Have you ever had a cat? If so, you’ve probably noticed that cats sleep a lot. This is because cats need more sleep than humans. However, babies are a lot like cats when they are newborns in that they need a lot more sleep than all other humans. Newborns usually sleep about 16 hours a day or more. Don’t be alarmed at this and try to keep your baby awake, as this much sleep is totally normal and totally needed by your baby. Just remember, the baby won’t sleep this much in one stretch. If that was true, there would be a lot more well-rested parents out there.
Your baby will typically sleep in 2 to 4 hour increments. The only time you should wake your baby up while she’s sleeping is if she has been sleeping for more than four hours, because she needs to be fed at least that often due to her small digestive system. Babies usually start sleeping through the night on their own, without the need for frequent feedings, at around 3 months of age. However, this varies from baby to baby.
Finally, always place babies on their backs when they sleep. This reduces the risk of SIDS. Don’t put anything fluffy in their crib, either. This includes bedding of all kinds and stuffed animals. A baby could suffocate on something too fluffy. Wait until the baby is older for those things.
Whether or not you choose to vaccinate your child is up to you, your beliefs, your child’s health, and the advice of your health care practitioner. However, most parents vaccinate. If you do, this is the typical vaccination schedule you’ll follow (though the routine may vary a bit according to where you live).
- Birth–It is recommended for babies to get the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth. However, it is not required in most places, and this vaccine can be given at any time later on if you choose.
- 1 to 2 months–If your baby got the Hep B vaccine at birth, a second dose should be administered at 1 to 2 months.
- 2 months–Your baby will get a series of vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, the flue, polio, pneumonia, and the rotavirus.
- 4 months–Another round of all of the 2 month vaccines.
- 6 months–Another round of the diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hep B, pneumonia, and rotavirus vaccines.
- 12 to 15 months–Another flu vaccine, the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, the pneumonia vaccine again, and the chickenpox vaccine.
- 4 to 6 years–Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, MMR, pneumonia, and the varicella vaccine. These are the vaccines your child gets just before starting school.
How to Know When to Call a Doctor for Your Baby
Sometimes, it’s obvious that a child needs to see a doctor, or even go to the ER. Other times, it’s not so clear. As a parent, you’ll learn to make these judgment calls, and even known when no medical treatment is necessary or if it’s something that can be treated at home. With newborns, you’re bound to be a little more careful than with older children, especially if this is your first child.
As a general rule, minor things like scrapes, bruises, rashes, small cuts, and minor colds can be handled at home, unless your baby has an underlying medical condition that makes these things serious enough to warrant a trip to the doctor. You’ll know that before you bring your baby home in most cases. Anything that seems sort of serious but not life threatening, such as a need for an x-ray, medication for a moderate illness, or stitches can be done at an urgent care center.
If your child is having major medical problems that seem life threatening, such as serious bleeding, a head injury, a fever of over 102, or difficulty doing anything that should come naturally, then a visit to the ER is in order. If you aren’t sure of what to do or how serious something is, call your doctor and get instructions. Most things aren’t serious, but you want to be prepared, just in case something does turn out to be a big deal.
Being a new parent can be scary, but it’s also a wonderful time, too. You get to bond with your new baby and experience a love like you’ve never known at any time in the past. It’s exciting to see this little miracle you made grow and thrive and experience the world for the first time. Remember, your baby is getting to know you just as much as you’re getting to know your baby. With a little maternal instinct and some sound advice from the pros, you’ll both be just fine.