The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Rare is the woman who wants her child to be average or unremarkable, but when it comes to birth weight, average and unremarkable earn an A-plus.
If you’ve just had your baby or are nearing your due date, you’ve probably already done the hard work of choosing a pediatrician. Now it’s time to think about how you will forge a working relationship with her.
It’s an exhilarating and frightening time: your first week at home with your first baby. Although you might be amazed that your doctor has discharged you with the authority to care for this tiny bundle, you’re actually equipped with better instincts than you might think. After all, with even a few days under your belt, who knows your baby better than you? But caring for a newborn must include caring for yourself as well, since a healthy and happy mother is better able to tend to — and bond with — her baby.
As the old saying goes, babies don’t come with instruction manuals. Nor does childbirth automatically give a mom insight into what’s happening to her own body. But that doesn’t mean new parents have to be totally on their own.
From Web sites to books, there’s more information available than ever before; you just have to know where to look. To help you get through the first six weeks after giving birth, here’s some expert obstetric and pediatric advice, as well as a guide to the best information and support sources out there.
It isn’t easy to listen to a baby — especially your baby — cry. But understanding that crying is something every healthy newborn does (sometimes for as many as four or five hours a day) makes it more bearable. And learning what her cries mean can help more than anything.
“Crying is sometimes the end result of a series of miscues,” explains Tracy Hogg, a registered nurse, newborn consultant and author of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer (Ballantine Books, 2001). Babies often try to “speak” using body language first and resort to crying when that doesn’t work, she says.
“It was much harder than I expected.” This is a common refrain among new mothers, whose lives are often a blur of feedings, diaper changes, dirty dishes, smelly laundry and crying. (The crying baby and the crying mommy, that is.) But you will get through it.
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.
The first meeting of mother and child can only be described as magical. Both stranger and close confidant, your baby blinks and stares at you as though he’s surprised to finally meet you, as you are to meet him. After waiting 40 weeks for this moment, you’ll be understandably anxious for some quality time together. But your baby’s caregivers will be equally eager to make sure your child is healthy. Luckily, doctors have found a way to make everyone happy.
For many women, pregnancy and delivery are small potatoes compared with the sheer panic that sets in once their baby enters the world. While it’s natural to be anxious about mastering your new responsibility, the hospital is not making a mistake by sending you home with your newborn, says New York pediatrician Michel Cohen, M.D., author of The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent (ReganBooks, 2004).
Your son has a blocked tear duct. The first line of therapy is to massage the duct five to 10 times each day (use your little finger to gently stroke the inside corner of the eye, right next to the nose, using a circular motion). You'll also need to flush the eye several times a day. If possible, use expressed breast milk, as it contains antibodies to ward off infection. You also can use saline solution (make sure it has no thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative). If infection does set in--usually characterized by a red or swollen lower eyelid--call your pediatrician.
No! It's true that if you smoke, nicotine and other garbage will end up in your milk and may cause harm to your baby, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. (Secondhand smoke isn't good for your child, either, so if you're going to smoke, make sure you do it when you're not around her.) Also, do not smoke two hours prior to breastfeeding, if possible. But the benefits of breastfeeding--higher IQ and reduced risk of ear infections, diarrhea and some childhood cancers, to name just a few--far outweigh the negative aspects of smoking while nursing.
Absolutely not. Granted, breast milk does contain trace amounts of the same chemicals found in cow's milk; our air, food and water supply; our very own bodies; and, yes, in formula. Yet it is still the "cleanest," best food you can feed your baby. And because of its newest additives, while formula may seem better for your baby than breast milk, it's not. So don't let your concern keep you from breastfeeding. Just eat the healthiest foods possible and drink clean water (bottled or filtered, if necessary).
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.