New Moms' FAQs

Sleeping and Diaper Duty

How can I get my newborn to sleep through the night?
At first, you can't, so don't bother trying. A newborn wakes up frequently to eat, sometimes as often as every two to three hours. "If she's sleeping too much, she's not eating enough," says Laura Jana, MD, coauthor of Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. Over time, your baby will be able to go longer stretches without food. Meanwhile, you can help her learn to fall asleep on her own by laying her down when she's sleepy but still awake. Try to avoid nursing her to sleep after the first month or two so she doesn't get into the habit of needing milk to drift off. "You'd think that falling asleep is just something people do automatically, like breathing, but it can involve more of a learning process than most parents realize," says Dr. Jana. By 4 to 6 months, babies are usually able to sleep for longer stretches, with just one or two nighttime feedings. It usually isn't until somewhere between 9 and 12 months that most babies truly sleep through the night.

My baby's skin looks yellow. Is that serious?
It depends on his age. Jaundice is a common problem in newborns. "If your infant's skin seems yellow and he's very sleepy, not feeding well, or losing weight, he needs to see a doctor right away," Dr. Hiramatsu says. Fortunately, jaundice is usually easy to treat. When an older baby has yellow skin, however, it's often a sign of a harmless condition called carotenemia, which comes from eating foods with a lot of beta-carotene, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and, sometimes, less obvious foods like chicken. "You don't need to change your baby's diet; it's nothing to worry about," says Dr. Hiramatsu. The easiest way to tell them apart: With jaundice, the whites of the eyes also look yellow.

How many dirty diapers should my baby have each day?
"There's an incredible range of normal, especially with breastfed babies," says Dr. Frankowski. It also changes over time. "A newborn might have a small bowel movement every time she nurses, while an older, breastfed baby who isn't eating solids yet may have only one a week." Bottle-fed babies tend to be more regular -- going more than two or three days without a stool is unusual. Parents often worry that their infant is constipated because she strains, grunts, and turns red, but that's typical even with a normal, soft bowel movement. (It just takes more work when you can't sit upright.) Think your baby is pooping too much? If she's started to drink juice, limit her to four ounces a day; more than that can cause frequent, loose stools. And if you're still worried, check with your doctor.

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