Deborah Blum was worried. Already she had soothed her screaming 6-month-old child, Marcus, back to bed — twice. At 3 a.m., when Marcus woke a third time, that was it. With dad, baby and diaper bag in tow, she sped off to the hospital. Within an hour, they had the diagnosis: an ear infection.
During her amphibious life in my pregnant belly, I didn’t obsess about whether my first little girl (or my second) would come out healthy. Secretly, I knew my babies would be fine. But the task of raising good, decent human beings — that scared me. Without sounding preachy, how would I teach my children to be empathetic, honest, respectful of others, generous and kind — at least most of the time?
How do babies learn? From play, experts say--interacting with their father, mother and siblings; feeling the texture of a simple piece of fabric; watching shadows on the wall. A baby doesn't necessarily need a lot of toys to activate his mind, but he does need to be engaged with his family members to reach his potential.
Croup is a viral illness that causes inflammation and narrowing of the respiratory passages, usually in babies and toddlers. Children with croup generally can inhale with no problem, but exhaling causes a barking, seallike cough, which can sound a lot scarier than it really is.
Start solids at no earlier than 6 months old. Giving your baby breast milk exclusively is not just adequate for six to nine months--it's optimal. Formula is a second-best option, but either way, no solid foods need to be added during the first six months. (Pediatricians used to recommend starting solids at age 4 months, but we now know that introducing them this early may increase a child's tendencies toward allergies and obesity.) Fruits and vegetables are easier to digest than cereal and thus make excellent first foods. Cook a sweet potato, mash it and feed it to your baby.
Caused by hormones that pass through the placenta before birth, cradle cap is a common skin condition in which excess oil secretions lead to a scaly rash on the scalp. It's not pretty, but it presents no health problems. To treat it, massage your baby's scalp with jojoba oil (available at health-food stores) and use your fingernails or a baby hairbrush to gently remove the scales. Getting rid of cradle cap is a slow process, but if you're persistent, it will go away.
I think some people can be amazingly pushy when it comes to other people's babies and that you should stick to your guns. Brain growth at this age is too rapid for virtually any baby to sleep through the night (some aren't even able to do it until the end of the first year). Even adults wake up several times each night (we just may not remember doing it). But we have commitments in the morning, so we push ourselves to go back to sleep. Your baby, on the other hand, has no appointments.
No. Some doctors believe that diets very high in soy (as many vegetarian diets are) can lead to such problems as attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity because of phytoestrogens in the soy. Not only are these dire predictions not supported by science, but millions of people worldwide are vegetarians (myself included) and have no behavioral problems whatsoever.
Yes, it is. Your daughter is eating perfect food, one that has been custom-made just for her. As her intestines mature and she is able to digest your breast milk more completely, the amount of waste your baby produces is naturally decreasing--which means she now can go for days without having to poop. This pattern often begins at about 6 weeks of age and can continue for the entire time a baby is exclusively breastfed, which is until the age of about 6 months in many families.
If you deliver vaginally at 38 weeks-plus and your baby looks great and is nursing well--assuming you're breastfeeding--both of you can leave the hospital within six to 12 hours of delivery (depending on your hospital's policy and your own health, of course). One caveat: Since you probably won't have the benefit of a visit by the hospital's lactation consultant, I believe an early discharge mandates a follow-up house call by a consultant on the second or third day to make sure you and your baby are doing well.
Don't wait. A good occupational therapy evaluation, preferably with someone who specializes in babies, will give you a lot of information and will be fun for your son. As often as not, this type of visit is 100 percent reassuring--you'll get tips for encouraging and recognizing normal growth and development. If there is a problem with your son's motor skills, early diagnosis and therapy can make a huge difference.
I feel the same way when it comes to questions about a child's hearing, vision, language and more: Trust your doctor, but trust your instincts more.
No. I'd like to make three important points: First, children grow at different rates. Second, my impression is that most babies start to "resemble" the family's body type in the first year of life. Third, studies show that breastfed babies tend to be leaner than their formula-fed counterparts.
Breast milk is enough for babies even in the hottest weather, but if you're not convinced, monitor the color and quantity of your daughter's urine. It should be pale yellow or clear, and she should produce her normal amount. If it's dark or there's less than usual, she needs more fluids. (You, however, definitely need more, especially since you're breastfeeding.)