The first few weeks

0 -3 months

When parents come to the hospital to have a baby these days, they know all about car seats, baby monitors and onesies.

But, one newborn expert noticed, they’re not nearly as clued in when it comes to burps and breasts and baby body parts.

“Over the years, I have been amazed at how many parents are very knowledgeable and prepared with regard to baby equipment and brand-name accessories, but not well informed about the baby itself and the baby’s basic needs,” says Janet Stockheim, who trained at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and now is a practicing pediatrician and assistant professor in New York.

Over two decades of caring for babies, moms and dads, Stockheim kept getting the same questions. She started penning answers that she planned to put in a pamphlet about baby’s first month to hand out during her nursery rounds in the hospital or at the baby’s first office visit.

But her how-to got too big and grew into a book, Nothing but Newborns, a primer for taking care of baby in the first weeks.

Because mothers leave the hospital after only two or three days, parents often get minimal guidance on the basics of baby care, she says. When they turn to self-education, many books make baby care sound too complicated or bury the information about newborns within the baby’s entire first year, Stockheim says.

“The newborn period goes by so quickly, parents really need to get that information in a book focused on newborns that is quick and easy to read,” she says.

The first thing new moms need to know is to sleep when baby sleeps. “Mental fatigue is often the hardest part of parenting,” Stockheim says.

After that, the baby doc offers these tips to keeping infants in the pink through their first few weeks:

•A newborn skull is soft and needs to rest in different positions to avoid flattening in one area. Tummy time while awake is a great way to take pressure off the skull.

•Babies cannot be vaccinated for influenza until 6 months of age. Therefore, everyone who cares for the baby should be vaccinated to prevent the spread of influenza to the baby, especially in the fall/winter season.

•Caretakers of infants should learn infant CPR. Formal classes or at-home kits (available through the American Heart Association) will teach skills that could be lifesaving.

•Babies signal hunger with early cues such as increased alertness, mouthing/sucking motions and rooting (turning the head with an open mouth, looking for a nipple). Crying is a late sign of hunger. Feeding on early cues is a great way to develop your baby’s trust and a strong bond.

•Wet burps and spit-ups leave milk deposits (proteins and fats) coating the back of the baby’s nose, which may cause congestion. Flushing the baby’s nasal passages with saline nose drops, with or without suctioning, may help to clear noisy, congested nasal passages.

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