Welcome to parenthood – and your lifetime membership to the Worry Club! Your first child is your inauguration.
Rest assured that you are in excellent company as generations of parents have spent countless hours asking themselves, “What am I doing?” The good news is that babies are resilient, parental intuition is strong and there is a wealth of knowledge at your disposal. How do you manage the inevitable questions you will have along the way? First, find yourself a great pediatrician.
We asked two local experts to weigh in on some of the most common concerns parents have. James G. Cumming, D.O., (better known to his patients as “Dr. Jim”) is a father of three children himself. Dr. Jim practices at Meridian Pediatrics in Carmel. Ashley Keim, CPNP, is a Certified Nurse Practitioner at Open Door in Muncie. A mother of two children, Ashley formerly worked for eight years as a nurse at Riley Children’s Hospital. Here are the questions they often hear from new parents.
How can I tell if my baby is eating enough?
“If your baby is feeding, peeing and pooping well, 99 times out of 100 life is good and the baby is healthy,” says Dr. Jim.
Worried about your baby spitting up? According to Keim, “All babies spit up due to weak neck muscles. We only worry if they are losing weight or are in pain.”
When will my baby sleep through the night?
“Lower your expectations of a restful night,” says Keim. Babies who sleep through the night at a very young age are at risk of malnourishment, as their stomachs only hold so much, which is why they wake to eat frequently. It isn’t until they hit that magic mark, weighing about 10 pounds, that they will really sleep for longer stretches. Keim also warns that giving formula or rice cereal to make your baby sleep longer is a myth, and can even be dangerous.
And yes, sleeping on their back really is best for babies. “We know that it is uncomfortable, and we know that babies probably prefer to sleep on their stomach or side, but it is really important and the safest way,” Keim says.
Looking to pave the way for more restful nights in the future? “Whenever possible, put a baby down to sleep while he or she is still awake,” says Dr. Jim. “This will allow them to learn to transition to sleep by themselves and to self-soothe.”
Germs are everywhere – how can I protect my child?
“The baby’s home environment should be clean, but NOT sterile. Data collected over the past years has shown us that children raised in ‘non-germaphobic’ homes have lower rates of asthma and allergies and better balanced immunity,” says Dr. Jim.
“Ninety percent of what your child has is a virus,” adds Keim. She advises parents not to reach for the medication right away. To ease symptoms in newborns and children under one year of age, she recommends a humidifier at night, a towel rolled under the crib mattress to provide slight elevation and lots of fluids.
When will my baby not cry so much?
All babies cry, and some do it more than others, leaving many new parents feeling helpless and wondering if something is wrong. “It won’t last forever,” says Keim, who states that crying typically reduces significantly around 3-4 months of age.
Keim urges parents who are feeling frustrated to put the baby down in a safe space, such as a crib or pack and play, and take a break, saying “No baby ever died from crying for a few minutes.”
How important is it to reach developmental milestones on time?
Watching children grow and develop is exciting, and it can be easy to compare your baby to what other babies are doing. New parents are often eager for their child to reach the next milestone, but rushing things can have negative consequences down the road. A good example? Potty training too early. “Don’t try to potty train before your child is two years old. It will just end in disaster,” says Keim. Children do not possess the fine motor skills or control to be able to master this feat, and kids who are pushed to potty train too early are likely to suffer chronic constipation.
Am I bothering my pediatrician with all my calls?
“When in doubt, call me,” Keim says, reinforcing that on-call numbers at pediatrician’s offices are created for new parents and new babies. Although she is a medical professional herself, Keim says she calls her pediatrician when she has questions about her own children.
Although new parents often deliberate about whether or not to call their pediatrician, most medical professionals will say make the call and put your mind at ease.
How do I know if I’m doing this right?
Parenting is the biggest job you will ever have – and everyone has an opinion about how you should be doing it. “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself,” says Keim. “All you have to do is talk to your baby, play with your baby and stay off of your phone,” says Keim.
Others have walked this path before and made the same mistakes. As Dr. Jim says, “Children are not perfect, and neither are their parents. You will do your best as a parent, but accidents will inevitably happen, and that is okay.”
Remember that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint! Ask for help and guidance from those around you and remember that your pediatrician expects to be an important source of support for you throughout your child’s development. Congratulations on your new baby – enjoy the ride!