Pediatricians, moms and authors, Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP offer a wealth of “parent-tested, pediatrician-approved” advice in Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, Second Edition (American Academy of Pediatrics, September 2010). Available on the American Academy of Pediatrics official Web site for parents, HealthyChildren.org. Also available in bookstores nationwide.
The following are excerpts to help you navigate those first crucial weeks of parenthood and caring for a newborn:
Following the Rules: Parenting by the Book
Nowadays it seems you can find well-defined rules about everything from feeding and sleeping schedules to dressing, diapering, and discipline. As convenient as it may seem to have someone write out for you an exact recipe for parenting success, we believe that there is not just one right way to do things. As with diapers and baby clothes, we are convinced that parenting techniques are not simply one size fits all. Our goal is to help famil- iarize you with the basics of baby care, and even more importantly to build your confidence as a parent right from the beginning during what many consider to be an overwhelming time–the newborn period. With a little knowledge and a positive attitude, you will find that you are very capable of anticipating and reasoning your way through even the most challenging aspects of what lies ahead. It’s a great feeling to find yourself comfortable enough in your parenting abilities that you don’t have to live life with a quick reference guide–ours or anyone else’s–tucked in your back pocket.
What’s “Natural” Doesn’t Always Come Naturally
Yes, the act of breastfeeding is “natural,” but the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t always come naturally. All too often, new parents expect to be handed a newborn who gracefully latches on, nurses no more than 15 minutes on each breast every 3 hours, and delights in a plentiful supply of breast milk within a few short days. While we can only wish this scenario on all of you, clinging to this idealistic picture of breastfeeding bliss is all but guaranteed to set most of you up for perceived failure. If, however, you prepare yourself for the distinct possibility that your newborn may lack interest or sucking stamina, that each feeding may be different, and your nipples may be a little worse for wear early on, well then you only stand to be pleasantly surprised. The most likely scenario: Breastfeeding may be natural, but expect it to be a learning process for you and your baby. Some babies are quick learners, while others take their own sweet time.
The changeover from colostrum to transitional and then mature milk is an important one. It gives you and your baby’s doctor reassurance that all is going well. Because the actual transition is not always so clear-cut, as some women notice very little change in their breasts as their milk supply increases, it is useful to be aware of several other clues that can help you figure out that everything is moving ahead as planned. They include:
* Your breast milk is white instead of yellow in color and appears thinner or clearer.
* Your baby makes more obvious gulping and swallowing noises when nursing.
* Your baby begins to pee and poop much more frequently
* Your baby no longer is losing weight or just holding steady, but instead has begun to gain weight relatively noticeably both on and off the scale.
Formula and Bottle Feeding Advice
We admit it. In many ways, feeding your baby formula may seem much easier than breastfeeding, especially in the beginning weeks. After all, you don’t have to worry about having enough of a supply, it’s rather painless (if you don’t count the sleep deprivation that comes with round-the-clock feeding), and it’s easy to monitor your baby’s intake. Granted, formula can be costly, you have to wash your supplies, and on occasion a baby will be finicky about which nipple and formula she is willing to accept, but at some point during their child’s first year, most of today’s parents end up using formula. With that in mind, we intend to give you a practical approach to formula, buying and cleaning bottles and nipples, and troubleshooting for newborns who don’t seem to play by the rules.
The Model Bottle: We’ve found that in reality, most babies go along with their parent’s taste in Bottles and there really isn’t such a thing as a single “model bottle” – one that outshines the rest. Nevertheless, we have found the following considerations to serve bottle-buying parents well:
* In general, a transparent (ie, not colored) 4-ounce bottle is the most practical choice for newborns.
* Larger (6 or 8 ounce) bottles are fine if you don’t mind using them half-full until your baby is bigger.
* Angled bottles and those with disposable nurser bags, built-in vents, or flow and control systems are said to help decrease the amount of air your baby swallows (although regular bottles held at the proper angle will also).
* Disposable bags have the added benefit of, well, being disposable; you only have to wash the nipples after each feeding.
A Bit About BPA
BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical used in many hard plastic products, including some baby bottles, and the plastic lining used in cans of ready- to-feed formula. What’s the concern? Studies have shown that this potentially toxic chemical can leach out into food and pose a potential health risk–especially to infants and young children. The likelihood of BPA contamination is thought to be greatest when BPA-containing plastics are scratched or heated, contain warm liquids or food, or are washed with harsh detergents. While the use of BPA is not yet banned in the United States, several cities and states are considering or have already prohibited its use.
The advice we have for parents? Minimize your baby’s exposure to BPA by purchasing baby bottles that are labelled “BPA-free” and consider avoid- ing plastics with a #3 or #7 recycling symbol on the bottom (since these recycling categories may sometimes include BPA-containing plastics). And lastly, check for labels that state “dishwasher safe” or “microwave safe” before placing plastic containers in the dishwasher or microwave.
*Book excerpts from Heading Home with Your Newborn (Second Edition/Copyright 2010/American Academy of Pediatrics).
The Heading Home with Your Newborn excerpts are sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer’s Network.