These days, parenting tips are a dime a dozen. How do you get your baby to sleep? There’s a book for that. Why is your baby crying? An online forum has an opinion. Is this color normal? Your friend will tell you.
Well-meaning people have well-meaning advice, but the truth is babies don’t come with their own starter manual and every model is different. So says Martha McCarty, MD, a pediatrician at Alewife Brook Community Pediatrics who hears these common questions from new parents every day.
“Every baby and every family is different,” she said. “What works in one family might not work in another family, and what works in one baby might not work on [his or her] sibling.”
Ask the Doctor, Not the Internet
One thing’s for sure: “Babies don’t read the books, so if a parent has a question or concern, I tell them to just call and ask me. Don’t go online to find the answer.”
That goes for even those middle-of-the-night questions. That’s why parents-to-be should always check with their pediatrician’s office to make sure they have a 24-hour hotline when the time inevitably comes to ask for help.
So what are the common questions from new parents that pediatricians hear every day? Dr. McCarty says she’s heard the gamut, but a few she gets most often include these:
1. What Should I Keep in My Baby First Aid Kit?
No need to go crazy with medical supplies — a few essentials will do just fine:
- Diaper cream
- Hypoallergenic baby shampoo and moisturizer
Why no medicines? “Babies don’t need fever, pain relievers or antihistamines until they’re older than 2 months,” Dr. McCarty said. “When they get sick, they get sick very fast, so we don’t want parents using a medicine that could mask a symptom that could be life-threatening.”
2. What Color Should My Baby’s Poop Be?
“They can be all sorts of colors: yellow, orange, brown and green. The color you do not want to see is red. If you see red, you should call your doctor immediately as this could be serious. Other than that, newborn poops (especially those who breastfeed) can be very diverse.”
3. How Often Should I Feed My Baby?
“Nothing is set in stone. If the baby is gaining weight, that’s the goal. Many experts say nine feedings a day, but on the other hand, some babies only feed seven times a day and sleep for five hours at night, and they’re gaining weight perfectly.”
4. Breastfeeding Is Way Harder Than I Thought It’d Be. What Can I Do?
“Make sure the doctor’s office is supportive of breastfeeding (hopefully this is something you asked when picking a pediatrician). That usually means having a provider willing to do more frequent visits to help the family and to do weight checks. After all, there’s no gauge on the breast, so you don’t know how much breast milk babies eat. We will also refer our patients to lactation specialists, some of whom can do home visits to help.”
5. What If My Baby Doesn’t Burp After Every Feeding?
“Some parents think they have to burp babies until they burp, but not every baby burps every time. Try burping for two or three minutes, and change your baby’s position if they haven’t burped by then. So, if your baby was upright, lay them down for a couple of minutes and then bring them back up. Sometimes, the burp will come naturally from that movement.”
6. How Do I Get My Baby to Sleep?
“For the first couple of weeks, sleep is tricky. Babies don’t know the difference between night and day, so feeding more during the daytime is key. During the daytime, you want to feed every two to three hours. Make the nighttime meant for sleep. Of course, you need to feed at night, but if they can sleep for a three-hour chunk, all the better.”
7. How Do I Get My Baby to Stop Crying?
“It can vary from baby to baby. With some babies, swaddling, rocking and cuddling can quiet them down. Other babies need to be left alone for a few minutes because they’re overstimulated. If that’s the case, they may settle down and fall asleep on their own.”
8. My Baby Scratched Herself With Her Fingernails. What Should I Do?
“In newborns, if it’s just a little scratch, just clean it with water. If it’s significant, the doctor should look at it. That’s because babies don’t respond to infections the same way when they’re under 2 months.”
9. When Should I See the Doctor for a Diaper Rash?
“The majority of diaper rashes can be cared for at home. But if it’s not going away in five to seven days or if it’s getting worse, you should call the doctor to get it checked out.”
10. My Baby Hiccups All the Time. Is Something Wrong?
“Some babies hiccup very rarely, and others hiccup every time they feed. It may drive parents crazy, but it doesn’t hurt the baby, even if they hiccup while sleeping. Sometimes, feeding a little extra will quiet their hiccups.”
Honestly, nothing can really prepare a new mom or dad for that first day home with their brand-new baby. It’s there that they realize it’s really on them to keep this real-life human alive. In that moment, being afraid is OK!
“Nervousness is normal,” Dr. McCarty said. “But even so, being a parent is one of the toughest and most rewarding jobs you can have. If you can have a sense of humor and laugh about the funny or tough things, it will help you get through what’s really an amazing journey.”
Are you expecting a bundle of joy soon? Take some baby-care classes at Winchester Hospital to prepare for your new arrival.