By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Bringing home a new bundle of joy is an overwhelming task! New parents are hoping to do their very best to keep this precious life as well cared for as possible, all the while learning as they go. Babies do not come with instruction manuals. Each kiddo comes with unique preferences, temperaments, and challenges. Most parents of multiple kids quickly learn what you did with the first kiddo may not work with the next one!
Nonetheless, a whole world of other parents has walked this journey ahead of you. In our information-saturated world, experts are also sharing new insights on the best parenting practices for our children. We can draw on their wisdom in our moments of uncertainty and improvise when we still can't find the answers we need.
Here are some top questions that new parents ask and some answers:
1. Is my baby nursing correctly?
First of all, nursing my friends can be tricky! Some babies seem to come out just knowing what is up. Others have medical issues such as being tongue-tied that make it really painful for Momma when they nurse. Other times it can take several weeks for a Mom's milk to come in, making supplementing necessary. All that to say, if you feel like nursing is really painful, or you are just struggling to get the hang of it, reach out to a lactation consultant. They will help give you tips, positions, and other advice that can make this journey easier. Also, get a second opinion if your first consultant does not give you encouraging advice.
2. How long should I continue nursing?
Well, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. I nursed each of my three biological babies for different durations with different levels of supplementation. This was due to my kid's unique personalities and also my life circumstances. My oldest, I nursed, pumped, and gave him formula because I was working full-time when he was an infant. I couldn't keep up with the milk demand by pumping alone. I nursed him until he was 14 months old. At that point, I was 20 weeks pregnant with my second son and needed a break.
I did all I could for my second son to get to his first birthday because a year is like a magic number, but at 11 months old, he would only nurse in the dead of night. I tried everything to nurse that boy during the day, but he was too busy. The lack of sleep significantly impacted my mental health, and I had to let my one-year goal go. With my third baby and daughter, I nursed her until two and a half! She loved nursing! She also was the baby, and I wasn't eager to move on. She had some allergies, so I felt nursing longer would help her immune system, so we stuck with it for way longer than I expected.
We also have a son we are adopting that came at five days old, and he was only nursed by his birth mom for those first few days. He is healthy and thriving. Formula kept him well nourished and alive. Don't feel bad if your nursing career lasts two days or five years. Do what works best for your family.
3. Is my baby growing properly?
The answer is you always go to the doctor when you have a little one. They will continue to weigh your baby regularly in order to monitor your child's growth. Generally, babies need to gain one ounce per day for the first three months, but that can vary greatly! Keep up on those checkups with a pediatrician you trust. They will help you keep a watchful eye on your baby's development.
4. When do I start offering my baby solid foods?
Well, the answer is…this varies quite a bit too! The general consensus is around 4 to 6 months or when your baby begins to hold its head up and show interest in food. But there is a lot of different advice out there when it comes to introducing solid food to your little one. For my nursing babies, I waited until closer to 9 months to make solids a regular part of their diet. They had food from about 4 months, but it took till about 9 months for them to grow regularly interested in eating meals. With my bottle-fed baby, he was interested in food at 4 months and ate like a champ! I'm not sure if that was because of the bottle or just because he loves food. Either way, my kids really caught onto solids at different times. I just had to keep offering, and eventually, they were ready. Now they never stop eating!
5. Why do babies need human touch, and how does it aid in their development?
We all love to snuggle babies! Their smell, velvet skin, and little sleeping cocoon are just perfection. But why do babies need us to hold them? According to the National Library of Medicine, touch is a primary sense and one of the most significant ones in infancy! Research has found that babywearing leads to more secure attachment in later years. Allow mothers to be more responsive to their child's needs. Skin to Skin contact aids in social development for an infant. Babies watch and hear their mothers, prompting more engagement. Contact also aids in the release of oxycontin for parents and the baby, aiding in bonding and development. Human touch is powerful and something our kids need from us from infancy.
6. Will I ever sleep again?
Well, the honest answer? It could be a while! Newborns sleep a lot at all kinds of times that make no sense. They tend to sleep more during the day than at night. Making it really tough for Mom and Dad to feel like humans again! They are also growing like crazy, so they will do a fun thing called cluster feeding, which really seems to make getting any sleep tough. Overall, babies should sleep 16-18 hours a day, waking every few hours to eat.
In my experience, sometime around the 3 to 4-month mark, things get a little easier. You can get longer stretches of sleep, and they start to get night and day figured out. Each of my kids has had very different sleeping habits. Some still wake up often at 6 years old and must sleep with someone in the house. Others started sleeping at 12 hours at 4 months old but needed to be in their bed for this to occur. My oldest started sleeping through the night at about 9 months old. My middle son only slept through the night when I moved him out of my room and stopped nursing him at 11 months old. Basically, sleep is crazy with babies! But you will figure this out, I promise.
7. What is shaping my baby as they grow in utero?
Science is wild! We know so much more than ever before about what is happening inside that growing bump than ever before. We even know that attachment starts in utero. A connection grows between mother and baby the moment the Mom finds out she is pregnant. The feelings of attachment to the baby set the stage for proper connection, growth, and development once the baby is born.
Everything you do, feel, eat, and more impacts the growing life inside your body. Researchers found that food memories and preferences begin happening while the baby is growing in utero. The baby can taste the amniotic fluid they are growing and begin to develop food preferences. Babies begin to hear your heartbeat and organs at 18 weeks; by full term, they will learn to recognize your voice. Your love, nutrition, stress levels, voice, and more are connected to your baby in the womb.
What is the most important thing I can do for my child as a new parent?
According to Dr. Ayelet Talmi, a pediatric psychologist, the most important thing we can do for our kids is to be present. As a parent of kids that vary in age, this never stops being true! As we do the simple things to keep our babies cared for and comfortable, we are helping let their brains know they are safe, and they begin to connect with the world around them. Changing diapers, giving snuggles, feeding, baths, changing clothes, and more all help let that baby know they are loved and teach them about how to build a strong connection with their parents. The good news is that nothing sophisticated is required to grow a happy, healthy baby. What they need most is you and your care.
Parenthood is such a gift but it can often feel complicated. We hear mixed messages about what is the very best or most right way to do this job. Truly good parents come in so many different shapes and sizes. My best advice: be available to your child, always keep learning, love and guide them through each new stage, and rely on your village and God's word when you feel lost.