As a new parent, you will get advice on everything from how to get your baby to sleep through the night to when she needs her first pair of shoes. It might not all be constructive counsel, however. “There is so much information out there, so many people telling parents about the right and wrong ways to do everything, but in most cases, if parents just trust their instincts, things are fine,” says David S. Geller, M.D., a pediatrician in Bedford, Mass., and a clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“When it comes to raising a healthy infant,” he adds, “there is a little that’s very right and a little that is completely wrong, but most of what we need to do is somewhere in between.” That said, here are answers to some of the questions new parents most often ask.
My baby cries a lot. Could it be colic?
Colic has no definitive cause and is diagnosed when everything else is ruled out, Geller says. It is defined as repeated crying bouts that last for about three hours, for at least three days in a row, in a healthy, well-fed baby. The episodes can begin as early as age 3 weeks and usually end by 3 or 4 months. “Colicky babies often start crying at around 5 or 6 p.m., but they also can cry at any time,” Geller says. Colic may be the result of an immature intestinal system, a way some babies relieve stress or just a normal phase some infants go through, he adds. For tips on soothing, read on.
How can I comfort my crying newborn? Or should I just let her cry?
At this age, there is no reason to let your baby cry for more than a minute or two before you go to her, Geller says. However, if you can’t respond immediately—say, you are in the shower—letting her cry until you can get to her won’t do any harm. Time-tested fuss-busters include swaddling a baby tightly, gently bouncing or walking around with her snuggled in your arms or a sling, and singing or talking softly to her.
Won’t I spoil my new baby by holding her all the time?
No. “Holding your baby helps you bond with her and reassures her that someone is there to comfort her when she needs it,” Geller says. After the first month or so, though, you will want to start putting your baby down in her bassinet or crib for naps so she learns to soothe herself and fall asleep on her own, he says.