Some things in life have higher stakes than others. For example, choosing Coca-Cola versus Pepsi is trivial, while knowing how to prepare your home to sell is more important. But perhaps the most important thing you’re ever going to do is take care of your baby. Those first few months are the most important in their development.
Because this is such a significant time, it’s easy to understand why new parents can become overwhelmed. Now, we’re not saying a simple internet guide can solve all your problems. But we can at least give you a few tips to make those first weeks and months easier. Let’s get started!
Don’t Worry About When Your Baby Sleeps
As a new parent, one of the hardest things to get used to is a newborn’s sleep schedule – or lack thereof. Depending on your baby, sleep may come easier or harder. Some infants fall asleep at any opportunity. Others require lots of rocking and holding in order to doze off for a few minutes. No matter what, it’s going to be a few months before they sleep through the night without a feeding.
First off, don’t worry about this. Babies are not adults, and they have different sleeping requirements. As your child develops, they’ll naturally start sleeping through the night. During these first few months, the best thing is just to sleep whenever you can, which means sleeping whenever the baby sleeps.
Use White Noise or Soothing Music
When your baby finally falls asleep, you probably want them to stay that way. A white noisemaker is a great way to keep babies asleep. If the machine has a lower, rumbling setting, this is even better. That sound is similar to what they heard in the womb, and can easily soothe them to sleep.
Alternatively, you could try music. Many babies love light classical music. Opera, like Nessun Dorma, is another favorite of many infants. Try experimenting with a few different things to see what works best. Whatever your child prefers, make sure not to play it too loudly. You don’t want to damage their delicate hearing.
Pay Attention to Your Baby’s Cries
Babies only have one way of communicating: crying. It’s a sound that we’re wired to respond to. But how often and how quickly should you respond? In most cases, you should err on the side of being attentive.
This is important for two reasons. To begin with, you want to make sure your baby is okay and doesn’t need to be fed or changed. Moreover, you want your child to grow up feeling safe, secure, and loved by their parents. That said, there are times, particularly with colicky babies, where you may need to let them “cry it out” in their crib. But at the very least, make sure to hold them and rock them first.
Keep an Eye on Nutrition
Your child’s nutritional needs will change dramatically during the first year of their life. For the first six months, it’s simple. You just feed them breast milk or a quality formula. If your child has certain health conditions, your doctor may recommend a supplement. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to take supplements yourself, such as the organic ones from Hope Health. The more vitamins you’re getting, the more you can pass on to your child.
Starting at around six months, you can start introducing soft foods like sweet potatoes, bananas, and avocados. You can even blend them into a smoothie with juice, in order to make the mixture easier to consume. For quick, on-the-go meals, choose quality organic baby food that comes in a single-serving container.
Avoid chewy foods like meats until your child’s front teeth have come in. Avoid cow’s milk and honey until their first birthday, since they can cause indigestion.
Be Patient on Public Outings
Taking your baby in public can be an interesting experience. Even the best baby strollers won’t prepare you for all the things that might come up the first time you take your child out and about. So the first time you go, take a friend who’s already had one or two kids. Let them know what’s up, and that you might need a hand.
When you go out, bring plenty of supplies. Keep a diaper bag packed at all times, and keep it near your door. Keep an extra bottle in the fridge, and you’ll be good to go. When you pack for outings, don’t forget to bring a change of clothes for yourself as well as your baby. The last thing you want is to have a clean baby, but for your own clothes to be covered in green baby poop.
Keep your plans simple. Babies are unpredictable, and complex plans are easier to foul up. Don’t commit to anything that lasts for a long time. You want to be able to leave at any time if your baby needs to. Along the same lines, choose a venue that’s kid-friendly. Library story hours and children’s restaurants like Chuck-e Cheese are great choices. Movie theaters and fancy restaurants are not.
Whatever you do, avoid very large venues like concerts and sporting events. No, your baby isn’t going to bother anybody at such a loud event. But all the noise and crowding will stress out a very young baby.
Play With Your Baby
Toys, mobiles, and squeaky objects can keep your baby occupied for a few minutes. But there’s no replacement for their most important source of interaction: their parents. If you want to have a happy baby, the most important thing is to spend time with them and provide them with human connection.
Play isn’t just for making your baby happy. It’s about how they learn essential life skills. First, they learn to identify faces and emotions. This is the key to early social development. They also learn shapes, colors, and textures. These are the basic building blocks for interacting with the physical world. Older children will engage in more complex play, where they learn more advanced skills. But it all starts with their parents.
Spend Time on Skin-to-Skin Contact
Play isn’t the only kind of human connection that’s important. Equally important is physical touch. Gentle stroking and holding your baby makes them feel safe and protected. As a result, their body produces less cortisol, which is a stress hormone. At the same time, they’ll produce more oxytocin, which is a hormone that makes you feel calm and happy.
Physical contact is the most important during the early months of infancy. If you’re breastfeeding, you have a bit of advantage here because it’s an inherently skin-to-skin activity. But even if you’re strictly a bottle feeder, there are plenty of opportunities. For example, you can hold your baby and stroke their skin while you’re feeding.
Swaddle Your Baby
Skin-to-skin contact is important. But even the most attentive parents can’t hold their baby 24/7. Sometimes, you need to do work around the house, or attend to your own personal hygiene. Even so, your baby doesn’t have to lose all the benefits of physical contact.
Swaddling your baby – wrapping them closely in blankets – replicates the feeling they experienced in the womb. It has a calming effect, and helps to keep them from crying. This isn’t to say that swaddling your baby will automatically calm them down under all circumstances. But along with other soothing methods, it can be highly effective.