Although a baby's constant crying might alarm you, it's important to remember that crying in newborns and infants is normal. "Children under age one cry for many reasons: hunger, sleep, dirty diapers, and being over or under stimulated," explains Michelle Haley, M.D., pediatrician at Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri. "And parents should realize that crying will not hurt an infant."
Dr. Haley also points out that a baby who cries a lot is not an indication of poor parenting skills -- some babies simply cry more than others. Erika Landau, M.D., co-author of The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year, agrees. "If you respond immediately and the crying stops, there is no reason to worry."
If your infant is inconsolable, you may want to ask your pediatrician about colic. "Colic is usually a symptom of pain in the gut, so the task is to determine what is causing the stomach issues," says Bob Sears, M.D., co-author of The Portable Pediatrician. "The two most common causes of colic are allergy to cow's milk protein and a sensitivity to milk sugar called transient lactase deficiency."
You bring your little one home from the hospital and suddenly he starts sneezing. Before you rush him back to the doctor's office or start taking his temperature frequently, keep in mind that a newborn's sneezing is simply how he clears his nasal and respiratory passages of congestion and airborne particles.
Sneezing also helps reopen a temporarily closed nostril that can occur when a baby presses up against you while nursing (if his nose is flattened or one nostril is pushed shut). After feeding, the baby will take a breath or sneeze to open his nose again.
When should sneezing worry you? If your baby is running a fever, has a runny nose, seems congested, or has difficulty breathing.
Many new moms put a lot of pressure on themselves to breastfeed like a pro right after giving birth but it is a learned skill for both mom and Baby. "Many new moms who are breastfeeding often worry that their babies aren't getting enough food because they always seem hungry," says Gina Ciagne, a certified lactation counselor and senior director of health care and media relations at Lansinoh Laboratories. "The early days may be the hardest, as it seems like baby is eating round the clock. Rest easy -- this is very normal. It takes some time to establish a steady supply and schedule, but both mom and Baby will get there by nursing frequently. Just allow yourself time and trust your body and your baby's cues."
There's no need to lose sleep about supplementing with formula -- or switching to it entirely, either. "I daydreamed about the moment my baby would breastfeed for the first time, and you know what? It was a nightmare. He wouldn't latch on; my nipples were raw, cracked, and bleeding after the first few days; and the poor little guy was seemingly starving," says Cheryl Butler, a family columnist for Mighty Mommy and mother of eight. "As much as I longed to breastfeed, it wasn't for me. It took me over two months to let go of the guilt, but my son thrived and did just fine with formula."
Even if you've dreamed about meeting your baby for nine months, after hours of labor you might just look at your newborn and feel more tired than in love. That's normal, Butler says. "In some instances, moms do connect and bond right away, but there is nothing to worry about if that's not the case for you. Getting to know your baby through feedings, cuddling, even simply observing the interactions between your spouse and the baby will all help with this process. Bonding is a growing process -- it doesn't happen immediately -- and it deepens over time."
If you have friends or family members with babies around the same age as yours, it can be easy to worry that your little one isn't progressing at the same pace as her peers. Don't worry about comparing your child to all the other infants on the block, says Gigi Schweikert, early childhood and parenting expert and author of I'm a Good Mother. "Children develop at different rates. Although there is a sequence of developmental milestones and an approximate age at which babies master new skills, rely on your regular appointments with your pediatrician and on your own maternal instincts, even though they are new, to assess if your child is growing and developing as he should."
According to Sujatha Ramakrishna, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist, even if a baby is going to be developmentally delayed, it doesn't make a lot of sense to get anxious about it before he is a year old. "Of course, parents can and should still do things to help their babies along, by encouraging them to walk, talk, and so forth, and let their pediatrician know what's going on too, during regular appointments."
Yes, creating an eating and sleeping schedule for your baby is important -- but attempting this in the first few weeks or even months of his life is going to be stressful for both of you. "Babies, especially newborns, are adjusting to so many new things," says Nicole Keck, a mom of three from Northville, Michigan. "They will eventually get their days and nights figured out, so don't manipulate their naps; just let them eat and sleep when they want."
When is the right time to start getting on a schedule? After the first few weeks, families that follow the cues of their baby usually have a regular sleep and feeding schedule, Dr. Haley says. "Generally, after the first couple of months parents may gradually try to feed more during the day and shorten naps to encourage fewer nighttime awakenings and feedings. Between 4 and 6 months most babies should be sleeping through the night with no feedings."
It seems as though everyone wants to add in her two cents about how to take care of your baby. Although you might actually hear some good advice, some of it might have you doubting your abilities as a mom. "Don't worry about what everyone else thinks about your parenting style," Schweikert says. "You're the mom and you get to decide what's best for you and your child."
The same goes for heeding advice in parenting books. Books are excellent resources to learn what's normal and what's outside the norm, says Holly Klaassen, editor of The Fussy Baby Site. "But every baby is unique, and what works for one baby may not work for the next. Moms shouldn't feel guilty for doing what works, and what they feel good about -- even if it goes against the mainstream."
Once your baby arrives, it might feel as though everyone you know wants to swing by to sneak a peek at the new addition. But you need time to rest, so don't give a second thought to saying no. "Do not worry about upsetting anyone, or hurting people's feelings by telling them to stay away, as you need some downtime," says Lindsay de Swart, a life coach who has a website called HappyMotherCoach.
Of course, if someone wants to come over to help with some laundry, cooking, or cleaning, that's another story. Don't be ashamed about accepting (or even asking for) the help. "Mommyhood demands so much of your physical and mental energy, recharging when you can is actually a gift to your baby," Keck says. "Take help whenever it's offered. It shows what a good mom you are, not the opposite."
We've all heard it before: No one is perfect. Yet new moms worry that if they don't do things perfectly right off the bat, they'll be scarring their baby for life. "New moms often compare themselves to others, forgetting that they are unique," says Judy Christie, author of Hurry Less, Worry Less for Moms. "Instead, spend time deciding what works for you and your family. Don't waste precious time and energy trying to do everything, fretting when you fall short. You can't do everything, no matter how terrific a mom you are."
Celebrities seemingly lose those pregnancy pounds seconds after giving birth, so many new moms feel pressured by those images to shed the weight -- stat. In fact, a 2010 survey by the Royal College of Midwives revealed that almost two thirds of new mothers said they felt compelled to slim to their original size as soon as possible because celebrities do.
But new moms need to realize that it's completely unrealistic, as well as unhealthy, to think they can get back to prepregnancy shapes overnight, Butler says. "Focus on the baby -- not your stomach, butt and thighs!" That doesn't mean you shouldn't take time out for yourself, though. Eat healthy, sleep when you can (studies show that getting enough shut-eye will help you lose some weight), and when you feel up to it (and your OB gives you the thumbs up), start walking. "Walking is also great to clear your head and kick your energy levels up a notch, and it's great for Baby to get some fresh air every day," Butler says.
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