Are you anxious about becoming a new parent? It’s a tall order for such an itty-bitty bundle.
Think small: Smile when your baby smiles; coo and she’ll learn to coo back; take her on tours of her new home; talk in a warm, calm voice even though she has no idea what you’re talking about; and don’t shuffle her lullaby playlist every night.
Baby has lots to teach you, including that she’ll probably scream through her first baths, then come to love them. What’s key: learning to tune into her different cries that tell you when she’s hungry, has a dirty diaper, has gas or tummy pains, is tired or wants to be cuddled.
These common-sense tips are in the new book “Cherish the First 6 Weeks” (Three Rivers Press, 2013, $15) by Helen Moon, a baby nurse and nanny who has worked with hundreds of families over the last 25 years to get babies on eating and sleeping schedules.
Sleep-related behavior is one of the most common problems seen by health care providers in children ages 1 to 5. But with infants, parents can avoid getting into habits that will need to be broken, Moon suggests. She offers specific schedules, as well as more general observations about sleep. These include:
• A rested baby is a happy baby. If your baby becomes overtired, she becomes more irritable and will have a harder time settling down to sleep.
• When you put your baby in her crib before she falls asleep, you’re telling her that it’s safe to go to sleep. If you hold your baby until she’s sound asleep, you may take away her ability to put herself to sleep. She also may get used to falling asleep in a vertical position.
• Beware the witching hour. Many babies are irritable between about 5 and 7 p.m. Maybe your baby is tired and trying to transition from day to night, or maybe she needs to be snuggled a little more.
• Your baby looks to you for signs of how to react to situations. When you arrive at his crib calmly and with a smile, instead of rushing in when he wakes up, you signal that all is right with his little world.
• If you rush in too quickly to check on your baby whenever he makes a peep during the night, it will wake him unnecessarily. Let him go naturally through his light and deep sleep cycles.
• It’s not a good idea to keep your baby awake too long. Signs at about five weeks that he is ready for a nap: He will start to yawn. His eyes will look a bit glazed. He will seem extra fussy, and he will lose interest in people and toys.
Other tips from “Cherish the First 6 Weeks”:
• For a few minutes of playtime, lay your baby on his back on top of a blanket on the floor. Talk to him, sing to him, maybe show him one little toy at a time for his eyes to follow. At about three weeks, start “tummy time” for just a couple of minutes. But don’t put baby on his tummy until at least 20 minutes after his feeding is over.
• Remember that whenever you feed, hold, change or talk to your baby, you help him adjust to his new world. All these interactions build the bond between you. And from there, everything else grows.
It’s important for your baby to learn to fall asleep without a bottle. The American Dental Association says tooth decay can occur when a baby is put to bed with a bottle or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby.
Email Betsy Flagler at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 704-236-9510.