By Kortney West, MD, FAAP
Founder/Pediatrician of West Pediatrics
1. Breast is best!
There are several advantages to breastfeeding. For starters, it helps your baby fight off illness by transferring antibodies through the milk from momma to baby. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the number of ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and also reduce the rate of allergies/asthma, which we all know is very common in Louisiana!
Breastfeeding also establishes an indescribable bond between you and your baby. Not to mention, breastfeeding can help mom lose weight and even reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Most pediatricians are sensitive to the fact that breastfeeding can be very challenging. Your baby may not latch well, you might have trouble with establishing a good supply, and pumping will definitely get old. But it is strongly encouraged that you try breastfeeding and make it last as long as you can. To reduce the pressure on you as a mom, think of it this way: one week is better than no weeks; two months is better than one month, and so on. There are many support systems online and in the community that your pediatrician can guide you to in order to ensure your breastfeeding experience is as enjoyable and successful as possible. In fact, Woman’s has a breastfeeding support group that you can join.
2. Always put your baby on his back to sleep.
There is significant evidence that placing an infant on his back to sleep drastically reduces the risk of Sudden Unexplained Infant Death. This is a different recommendation from when I was young, as my mom frequently tells me she put me on my stomach to sleep. Thankfully, I made it. But more and more research is showing that “back to sleep” is the best way to reduce the risk of an unexplained death. There are other ways to reduce SUID, which are detailed in another of my blog posts that you can find on my website, www.westpediatrics.com.
3. It is normal for babies to cry.
Obviously babies cannot talk, but they have to communicate their needs to us somehow – through crying! A baby’s thought process goes a little something like this:
Hungry? Cry until someone feeds me.
Dirty diaper? Cry until someone changes me.
Cold? Cry until I get warm.
Scared? Cry until someone holds me.
Try to learn the subtle differences between your baby’s cries so you can figure out what he needs or wants. Sometimes babies just want to snuggle, and that’s okay too! Your infant cannot be spoiled…yet!
Now it should be said that if your baby is screaming in pain and is unable to calm down, you should call your pediatrician for advice because, again, babies cannot talk and crying can mean something more serious. You will get to know your baby and will likely be able to tell the difference between a hungry cry and a more serious cry. At West Pediatrics, my patients have my direct cell phone number and I encourage them to call me early and often as they learn what their babies are trying to communicate.
4. Fever in a newborn is serious and requires immediate evaluation.
Yep, you read that correctly. SERIOUS. IMMEDIATE. First and foremost, we must define “fever.” Fever, which is best measured rectally in a newborn, is anything equal to or higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower than that is not considered a fever.
Now why is fever so serious in a baby? Babies haven’t had the time or exposure to develop their immune systems when they enter our big scary world. It takes time for their little bodies to learn how to fight off infections. Therefore, before your baby is two months old, he is more likely to have a serious bacterial infection. That means when your one month old has a fever, at a minimum, he needs a physical exam by a doctor and often times will require blood work, urine and spinal fluid evaluation.
Here are a few tips for how to avoid a fever in the first place:
- Limit contact with sick people: this might be difficult if you have an older sibling or toddler in the house (because we all know they have a constant snotty nose!) but if a cousin has RSV, the flu or a fever – keep baby away for a little while. Also, keep a large bottle of hand sanitizer at the door, and make everyone use it every time before holding your baby.
- Minimize excursions: It’s cool if you have to go to the doctor’s office or the store with your little bundle in tow. However, it is best to wait until baby is a little older before heading to places with large crowds of people where germs easily spread. And when you do take him in public, don’t let any strangers pinch on those cute cheeks!
- Breastfeed! Remember the whole antibody thing? This is why it’s important!
5. Taking care of yourself is JUST as important as taking care of your baby.
You, new mom, are a total ROCKSTAR. You just grew an entire human being, in your body, for 10 months, then spent an exhaustive number of hours pushing that being out or underwent a very serious surgery, or perhaps both! You are now spending a large amount of energy producing breast milk to sustain that being, all on a very limited amount of sleep. And as if that’s not enough, you have an incredible number of hormones circling around in your brain and body making you feel like a totally different person! Dad, you are undoubtedly sleep deprived, your partner may be bedridden, and your obligations just quadrupled. If you two don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be in your best shape to take care of your baby.
But how are you supposed to rest and do everything else you need to do? The answer is you shouldn’t have to do it all! Hopefully, you have a lot of family and friends asking how they can help. You should be honest with them! Haven’t seen the bottom of your sink in a week? Ask them to do the dishes. Or ask them to fold the laundry or hold the baby while you take a shower… whatever you need, you should ask for. I know it can be hard to ask for help, but sometimes well meaning friends or family just don’t want overstep boundaries and so they won’t do those little tasks unless you ask. To make things a bit easier, at West Pediatrics, those newborn wellness checks? Do not worry about piling in the car, I’m coming to you! Plus, I am available 24/7 to answer any questions you will undoubtedly have!
Your pediatrician will have a lot more than five things they will want you to know. But this is a solid starting point and a good reminder for all of us parents. I strongly encourage you to meet with your pediatrician before your baby’s birth and get comfortable with him or her. Let them help you get ready for this life-altering event, whether it’s your first child or your 7th!