As a new parent, it’s easy to worry. It seems like every time your little one takes a tiny gasp, horrible images run through your mind of your baby suffocating and suffering long term problems because of it. At night, when you’re listening for your baby to breathe, it can seem like a few seconds are the same as several hours. You stare intently over at the crib or at the baby monitor for any sign that your baby is OK. By the time you get halfway out of bed, however, she takes another breath and you’re relieved.
Really, checking your baby’s breathing is something you can and should do as often as you feel the need. If you feel the need to check your baby’s breath every few minutes, go for it. That compulsive need to make sure he’s all right is completely normal, and a natural part of being a parent to a small baby.
You do need to realize that babies go through different sleep stages. Some stages are deep, still and quiet. Others are more active, noisy and snuffly. As the night passes, your baby will breathe louder and then softer, depending on what stage she’s in.
It’s really all right if you want to make an extra trip into your baby’s bedroom to make sure he’s all right. Some parents still do this, long after their babies have become toddlers. It’s normal and natural to want to check on your kids to make sure they’re asleep.
You don’t need to constantly check your child’s breathing, to be sure. But there’s no harm in getting up and checking. After all, it’s likely that you’re going to stay awake once you’re up, at least until you know she’s all right. Checking on her will give you a little bit of peace of mind, which should help you settle back down and get some rest yourself.
It is a widely known and accepted fact that breastfeeding provides the best nourishment for your baby. Experts almost universally agree that it is ideal to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of your baby’s life. Before the 1930s, practically all babies around the world were breast fed. With the advent of infant formula, and the promotion of the wrong idea that we had somehow improved on nature’s design, women for the first time had a choice concerning how to feed their infants.
Now don’t misunderstand, in general, choice is a good thing. In the case of breastfeeding, however, having the choice to feed your baby a different way has led to some challenges to be seen as somehow insurmountable when they aren’t. Here are some of the challenges commonly facing breastfeeding mothers today, and how to overcome them:
- Social stigma. Believe it or not, this is the number one reason why mothers give up on breastfeeding. A good deal of effort is going forward to educate the public concerning the importance of breastfeeding, but some people still view this very natural part of life as somehow socially unacceptable. In public, of course, it helps to be discreet, but there is nothing strange or unnatural about breastfeeding. Consider joining a support group such as those sponsored by La Leche League.
- Inverted nipples. The best time to catch and treat this common problem is before your baby is born, but even if you don’t realize your nipples are inverted until you’re trying to breastfeed your baby, there are things you can do. Your doctor or breastfeeding coach can teach you some simple exercises that will make feeding easier.
- Engorgement. If your breasts are swollen and sore, chances are they are engorged. This sometimes induces a slight fever as well. Engorgement also flattens the nipples, which can make it more difficult for baby to latch on. The best treatment, in most cases, is to empty your breasts regularly, either by feeding or by pumping. Massaging your breasts can also help reduce swelling and discomfort.
- Tongue tie. This is a condition, caused by the tissues that attach the tongue to the bottom of the mouth being too short, which makes it difficult for baby to suckle. It can cause damage to nipples while breastfeeding. Fortunately, it can be treated with a short doctor’s visit. Babies are usually able to breastfeed much better immediately after the procedure.
One of the most important things you will get for your baby is her crib. Be careful when choosing a crib, especially if you are getting a used one. Make sure you are aware of the current safety standards and that your baby’s crib meets them. When you consider just how much time the average baby will spend in her crib, it becomes clear why it’s so important to make it the safest, most comfortable place you can. Here’s an average of how much time babies will spend in their cribs:
- For the first two months, babies will average almost 16 hours of sleep per day. That’s 960 hours.
- From three to six months, your baby will average about 14 ½ hours of sleep per day. That’s another 1,305 hours.
- From seven months to one year, your baby will average about 14 hours of sleep. Chalk up another 2,520 hours of crib time for baby.
- For the second year of baby’s life, he will average just a bit over 13 hours of sleep per day (and hopefully at least six hours of it at a single stretch). Assuming your baby uses the crib until her second birthday, which is about average, she will spend 4,745 hours in her crib during her second year.
All told, that’s 9,530 hours spent in the crib, even if you don’t have your baby in the crib while he’s awake. That’s roughly 54% of baby’s life that’s spent in the crib. Obviously, we want to make it as safe as we can for her.
Here are some tips to ensure your baby’s safety in the crib:
- Mattress should be firm and fit snugly.
- Slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. If a soda can passes through the slats of the crib, so can baby’s head.
- No corner posts higher than 1/16 inch. Corner posts present a snag hazard with baby’s clothes and blankets.
- No cutout designs on head and foot boards.
- Drop side cribs should have at least two locking mechanisms to make sure older babies can’t release cribs accidentally.
- When baby starts trying to climb out of crib, use a crib net or consider moving baby to a toddler bed.
According to Dr. Sears, a renowned baby expert and proponent of attachment parenting, there are four basic things you can try to calm babies down. Of course, any frustrated parent will tell you that they’ve probably tried four hundred things, but chances are every one of them involved one or more of these four basic elements:
- Close physical contact and touching. More than anything else, the average baby craves close physical contact, preferably with mom or dad. Anything that you can do to put baby closer to you for longer periods will generally result in less fussiness from baby. One of the best ways to keep baby close while still being able to do other things is to use a baby sling. This holds baby right next to you, where she feels most secure, and gives you the freedom top use your hands for something else.
- Visual distractions and stimulation. If you’ve ever waved a toy or something else in front of a fussy baby, hoping to divert her attention from whatever she is fussing about, you’ve used a visual distraction. When babies are fussy this can be a great way to help them calm down, provided they’re not fussy because they’re tired. It a baby is already tired, stimulating her with more interesting things to see will only compound the problem.
- Soothing sounds. We’re all familiar with the lullaby. But soothing sounds for a baby, and especially a newborn, can go beyond this. Use white noise to help calm babies. This can come in the form of actual white noise machines or CDs/mp3s that you can play for baby, or you can simply turn on a fan or the vacuum cleaner to produce the monotone noises that help babies relax.
- Rhythmic motion. This is why so many babies fall asleep in swings (incidentally, not a good idea to leave them there long after they’ve fallen asleep) or on car rides. Other examples of rhythmic motion that babies respond well to are rocking and gently dancing with them.
You have to give it to the doctor on this one. He’s right. Everything we do to soothe our babies falls into one or more of these categories. And when they’re especially fussy, it isn’t unusual for us to try as many combinations as you can possibly squeeze out of four basic methods.
There is some debate over when it’s best to start introducing your baby to his first solid foods. For many years, it was assumed that four months was the time to start giving baby solid foods. These days, many recommend six months or even later, especially if you are breastfeeding your baby.
Whatever age you start spicing up your baby’s diet, however, there are some foods that are better than others when it comes to helping your baby sleep through the night. Here are some options that can help baby sleep better:
- Cereals. Grain cereals are admittedly not quite as nutrient heavy as many foods, and in some ways they’ve taken a bit of a bad rap in recent years. However, cereals are calorie rich, and will help your baby feel full longer. And that will allow her to sleep for longer stretches. A little cereal can even be added to a bottle before bedtime, providing a more filling meal.
- Unsweetened juices. Check the label before giving baby juice. Many juices (especially apple juices) have been sweetened with sugar. Recent studies have shown that babies sleep better when given unsweetened juice. White grape juice, in particular, is a good choice for helping baby sleep.
- Turkey. If your baby is eating meat purees at this stage, anything with turkey in it can help baby fall asleep. It’s not much different really than adults feeling drowsy after Thanksgiving dinner. The chemical tryptophan is naturally occurring in turkey, and it helps the body produce serotonin, which calms us down. It can do the same thing for baby.
Regardless of which foods you give baby, keep an eye on her after she’s tried something new, especially if you’ve fed her before bedtime. Different babies respond to foods differently, and this is especially true as it relates to their sleep. If baby has trouble sleeping after eating particular foods, don’t feed them to her before bedtime, whether they’re “supposed” to be good for baby sleep or not.
Ultimately, you know your baby better than anyone else. If a particular solid food is working for you and baby, use it. If it isn’t, don’t.