For those new to motherhood, life takes an interesting turn. The calmest, most laid-back woman can become transformed into a nervous wreck, seemingly overnight. The combination of raging hormones and a screaming infant can be strong enough to take out the toughest new mom.
I foolishly thought I would be immune; eight months ago I learned I was not. Almost immediately after having my baby James, I turned into a weepy bundle of nerves. Small things became monumental and I was panic-stricken. My pediatrician, Dr. Catherine Chidester, became my new best friend. I had her office number on speed dial and wasn't afraid to use it.
Here were my worries, and the advice that helped me regain my confidence:
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is probably the most terrifying scenario a new mother thinks about. I was horrified because it seemed out of my control. I wanted to what I could do to keep my baby safe.
Dr. Catherine says: The most important way to prevent SIDS is “back to sleep.” This means your child should sleep on his back, not his stomach or side. There should be no blanket or pillows in the bed with baby, though swaddling is okay. There should also be no smoking around your child (this includes secondhand smoke).
Feeding: Breast or bottle?
Whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed, you will probably be providing the main source of nourishment for you baby. This can feel overwhelming at first. Be patient with yourself. It takes time to learn how to nurse, and your baby needs time, too. If you decide to use formula instead of breastfeeding, cut yourself some slack. You have to do what works for you; don’t judge yourself harshly if you decide breastfeeding is not for you.
Dr. Catherine says: Breastfeeding is best for mom and baby. Try to stay calm, as breastfeeding is more beneficial if you are not stressed. Find a quiet place and relax; this will help your milk come down. Your baby receives antibodies for flu and RSV from your breast milk, which is important in the approaching winter months. Regardless of the method you choose, wake your baby up during the day to feed every 2.5 to 3 hours. Let him wake you up during the night. This helps to get his days and nights in order and ensures that you get 8 to 12 feedings a day.
With so many opinions in our culture about immunizations, it was hard for me to figure out what I thought. I ultimately decided to trust my doctor and her medical knowledge; she did, after all, go to medical school.
Dr. Catherine says: Immunizations do not cause autism. Vaccines prevent deadly bacteria and viruses and are commonly started at birth or 2 months.
At the hospital, nurses will tell you to count your baby’s diapers in order to get an accurate reading of whether your baby is getting enough food. As a new mom, I may have over-analyzed the poop situation (i.e. several calls to the pediatrician’s office to discuss things like color and frequency). Doesn’t every new mom?
Dr. Catherine says: Your baby’s poop will transition from the dark tarry meconium to a yellow mustard seed as your milk comes in, or as the baby drinks more formula. The frequency of dirty diapers will vary, breastfed babies may have a bowel movement after every feeding, while formula-fed infants may only poop once per day.
Baby Acne and Cradle Cap
Most moms-to-be have a mental picture of their baby before he arrives. This picture does not involve baby acne, cradle cap, or any other cosmetic blemishes. As a new mom, I was annoyed by my son’s acne and wanted to know what I could do about it. I was also slightly annoyed with the answer. (In other words, get over it.)
Dr. Catherine says: Baby acne is a result of your hormones and will go away with time. Cradle cap can be treated with oil (baby or olive) and a toothbrush to scrape away the scales. Both are harmless and cosmetic only.
Like most babies, James lost weight during the first week of his life. Because I was so unprepared for this initial weight loss, I completely overreacted and monitored his weight obsessively until he was back to his birth weight.
Dr. Catherine says: Most babies lose weight before they gain weight, especially when breastfed. Babies should be back up to birth weight by 2 weeks of age. After that, the average weight gain over the first few months is 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce per day.
The most important thing to remember as a new mother is to nurture your little one. Hold, talk to, and play with your baby. This will help the two of you bond. Encourage the same of Dad and siblings. Finally, take heart — the stressful, sleepless nights will soon pass, and in a few months, you may even be able to laugh with embarrassment at your former “new mom” worries.