Baby Care Questions - 3
Baby Skincare ?
Don’t go too crazy with the baths
Sure, you take a shower every day, but baby really shouldn’t get a daily bath. “Two or three times a week is plenty,” says Karl Neumann, MD, a pediatrician at Forest Hills Pediatric Associates and contributor to Kids Travel Doc. “Of course, clean the diaper area as often as necessary. Frequent bathing may dry out the skin and remove oils and other substances that protect against infections and other irritants.” Not sure what to do once you get her in there? Get the step-by-step on how to give baby a bath here.
Choose gentle products
You probably already know this, but you don’t want to use your adult shampoo and soap on baby. “Until infants are about one year old, it’s best to use soaps and shampoos that are specifically formulated for this age group,” says Dr. Neumann. “Generally, these products are ‘nontoxic,’ containing no or few dyes, deodorants, alcohols and other ingredients that can be harmful to your infant’s skin.” Staring at the aisle, stumped as to which baby products to buy? We suggest taking a look at the label and choosing the ones with the fewest weird chemicals. Tear-free formulas are less likely to irritate baby’s eyes. When you bathe baby, know that some baby soaps don’t provide a ton of lather like your usual soap does, but that doesn’t mean you need to add more -- baby’s still getting clean sans suds.
Forget the baby powder
We know it comes in those “baby care essentials” kits, but stay away from baby powder. Experts say to avoid using it, as baby could inhale the powder into his lungs, and that could cause damage. “If you have to use powder, shake the powder into your hands far away from the baby, clap your hands together to remove excess powder, and apply a thin layer to your baby’s skin,” says Dr. Neumann. For a dry bum, a pat with a clean towel works just fine.
Lotion is your friend
Your baby’s skin is prone to dryness, so you want to keep it as moisturized as possible. When you get baby out of the tub, gently pat her dry and apply moisturizer immediately. You’ll probably be moisturizing plenty in between baths too. “Moisturizers do not add moisture to the skin; they prevent moisture already in the skin from evaporating,” says Dr. Neumann. “Apply moisturizers as often as necessary. It’s okay to put thick layers on baby.” You can also invest in a humidifier to prevent the air in baby’s room from being too dry, which can help baby’s dry skin.
Go easy on sun exposure
Sunscreen isn’t recommended for babies under six months old. “Sunscreens are not approved for infants under the age of six months because they haven’t been tested for this age group yet,” says Dr. Neumann. “But most experts believe that in the rare situation where sun exposure is needed for an infant, using sunscreen is safer than not using a sunscreen.”
But you and baby can’t stay cooped up at home forever. (Yep, it’s not just okay to take baby out for walks or to the park or beach before she hits the six-month mark -- it's good for you both to be active and get fresh air.) Just try not to let sun directly hit baby’s skin -- open the sun cover on her stroller, dress her in hats with brims, and cover her body. You may also want to get sunshades for the backseat windows of your car. When you’re hanging at the park or at the beach, chill under an umbrella or shady tree.
Once baby hits the six-month mark, look for sunscreen with inorganic filters (like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), because they won’t irritate baby’s skin and eyes.
Be prepared for weird stuff
It’s normal for baby to have rashes, so don’t freak out too much if you spot some on your baby’s skin. “In the newborn period, most rashes come and go frequently,” says Dr. Neumann. “The most common are acne-type rashes on the face; ‘flea bite’ type spots all over the body; and dry, peeling skin similar to sunburns.”
Talk to baby’s pediatrician about skin changes and rashes. Chances are, it’s no big deal, but you want to get to the root of the problem to know the best way to treat it. Find out more about baby rashes and skin changes here. For advice on acne, check out our baby acne guide.
And always look out for signs of infection -- when you see them you must call the doctor. “Symptoms of infection include pustules and boils and very red, raw areas on diaper rashes (especially when the skin is cracked and bleeding),” says Dr. Neumann. “Contact your pediatrician if your infant has a rash accompanied by fever and is excessively cranky.”
Know the difference between diaper rashes
We don’t know any babies who never got a diaper rash, so (sorry!) you’ll probably have to deal with those too. Diaper rashes usually aren’t serious and disappear within a few days with some diaper rash cream or gentle moisturizing lotion and keeping the area dry. The key is to know the difference between a plain old diaper rash and a yeast diaper rash. The plain old kind usually clears up with over-the-counter cream -- different ones tend to work on different babies, so you may have to experiment. The yeast kind needs some extra help from a prescription cream. Most moms find that going diaperless for a while will air out baby’s bum to help either kind of diaper rash heal.
Extra help for super-dry skin
“Another common rash in infants is eczema, a dry, itchy skin rash that often appears on baby’s cheeks and forehead, but can also occur anywhere,” says Dr. Neumann. “The first signs of eczema are red, scaly itchy patches of dry skin. Eczema is common in infants but does not appear until four or five months of age, and sometimes, much later.” Most eczema cases can be treated with over-the-counter medications, but if they don’t work on the problem, you’ll need to get a prescription cream from baby’s pediatrician. If you suspect eczema, get baby checked out.
The deal with birthmarks
So what’s up with those birthmarks on baby’s skin? Birthmarks are pretty common for babies to have and are usually harmless, but you should keep an eye on them for any changes. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends consulting baby’s pediatrician if the birthmark develops “knots” (gets bumpy and looks twisted) or is growing quickly. Point out any red or pink birthmarks, especially if they are raised, such as hemangiomas, so baby’s doctor can check and watch it to make sure everything’s A-OK.
Baby Care Questions - 2
How to Raise a Happy Baby ?
Respond to Her Cries
Sounds obvious, right? The trick is to create a pattern so baby knows you’re predictable and reliable. This doesn’t mean you have to jump up every time baby makes a peep -- there are going to be times when she cries and cries and cries, or when she soothes herself -- but it does mean attending to her needs more than the majority of the time.
“Babies go through these tsunamis of emotion,” says Harvey Karp, MD, professor of pediatrics at the USC School of Medicine and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block. “For babies, it’s contentedness, serenity and security that make them happy. Twenty times a day, something upsets them, and magically, arms pick them up and they’re fed, or someone comes and rocks them.” (So, um, we can relate. It sounds a little like PMS.)
“Babies quickly learn, ‘I like this place and these people. I trust them. People take care of me,’” says Karp. “You’re building a sense of confidence in your baby that things will work out. There’s optimism in predictability for them.” And that can pay off for life.
“It becomes the basis for the other relationships they’ll have -- they'll build on that intimacy from the first nine months of their life,” he says. “It’s not to say a child can’t have a happy life if they didn’t have that. It would just be a whole lot harder.”
Learn How to Swaddle
Invest in some easy-to-wrap swaddling blankets -- you're going to need them. That’s because, for most babies, being wrapped up snugly is comfy, reminding them of their time in utero, and triggers what Karp calls “the calming reflex.”
“For at least the first four months, all babies need to be swaddled,” he says. “For some, that’s all they need. Others will need [some other soothing method too]. If they’re colicky, they may need three or four or five at the same time to trigger the calming reflex.” (They don’t call moms multitaskers for nothing!) Other soothing methods include shushing sounds, swinging and sucking.
Invest in a White Noise Machine
To create that shushing sound, you’ll want some sort of “white noise” maker. Which is best? Karp says high-pitched noises (think: vacuum cleaner, blow-dryer) can calm a crying baby, while more lower-pitched, rumbling sounds (lawn mower, car engine) mimic what babies hear in utero and can be used to calm them down to sleep.
Embrace the Pacifier or Thumb-Sucking
Karp says sucking also triggers the calming reflex. So as much as you’re tempted to have a life without cleaning binkies or to pull your baby’s thumb out of her mouth, let it go for now -- it makes her happy. You can worry about giving it up later.
Develop a Ton of Patience
Around eight or nine months, you might look around and realize your baby is a completely different person than she was a few months ago. She’s on her way to toddlerhood. “At eight or nine months old, they will rub or pat your knee when you’re crying. They understand that people have emotions and understand that emotional connection,” says Karp.
Of course, this is also the time when tantrums start. Karp explains that adults use the left side of their brain to control their emotions, but toddlers’ left brains aren’t developed enough to do that just yet. Instead, they’re liable to scream, throw things, hit, spit or scratch -- or (if you’re really lucky) all of the above.
Don’t Give In
In order to keep public embarrassment to a minimum -- and to teach your toddler better communication skills and emotional regulation -- it's important to not give in to her demands when she has a tantrum. Sure, giving her that cookie would get her to stop screaming, but then she’ll just learn that screaming gets her what she wants, and she’ll keep doing it.
Grow a Longer Temper
Another no-no? Flipping out yourself. You want to set a good example for how people communicate and behave.
This may actually take a bit (or if you’re like us, a lot!) of work on your own communication and emotional regulation skills. Find ways to talk to your tantruming child that don’t patronize her or make light of her feelings, but rather acknowledge them. And explain to her once she’s calmed down why she can’t have her way right at that moment. Read on for strategies on how to do it.
Abide by the Fast-Food Rule
Okay, so your toddler is completely wigging out, and you’ve resisted the urge to flip out right back (good for you!). Now what? “Use the fast-food rule,” says Karp. “It’s a way of acknowledging their feelings. Whoever’s hungriest for attention goes first.” In other words, before you say anything, suck up your embarrassment and let her have her tantrum -- you're probably not going to get her to calm down right away. Karp explains that telling your child to calm down right off the bat sends her the message that having feelings isn’t okay.
Acknowledge Your Toddler’s Feelings
Resist the urge to lecture your toddler for 20 minutes about why she shouldn’t have a cookie before dinner because it will spoil her dinner, which you spent an hour making, which no one appreciates, but you keep doing it day after day after day...(okay can you tell we’ve been here?) and instead, acknowledge what she’s feeling and say it back to her.
Speak Your Toddler’s Language
This is where what Karp calls “toddlerese” comes in. During an outburst, speak to your child in simple terms she’ll understand -- use one- to two-word phrases the way she would, repetition and all.
Karp demonstrates: “‘You really want a cookie. You love cookies. You say cookie now! Cookie now!’ Then once she calms down a bit say, ‘No, no cookies. You’re not allowed to have cookies before dinner.’”
“Say it with emotion in your voice,” he adds. “That makes them feel like you get it. Reflect about one-third of their emotion. People often make the big mistake of speaking in a calmer voice.” But stay away from the sarcastic, angry mom voice -- we know it’s there; we have it too! Kids this young really respond to the tone of your voice, perhaps more so than your actual words. Showing your child that you understand the emotions she’s experiencing is likely to prevent the situation from escalating into in an even more blown-out tantrum.
It may seem a little weird to talk this way at first, but give it some practice, and you just might find it works to calm your toddler down when she’s in the thick of a tantrum. Once your child is calm, you can start into your explanation for why she can’t do whatever it is she wanted to do that started the commotion.
The idea is that you won’t be speaking to her this way when she’s 16 (though you might be tempted), and this tactic won’t last forever. You’re giving your child better skills to cope with her emotions and to handle them, rather than letting them take over and explode all the time.
“And they learn to acknowledge other people’s feelings when they’re upset,” says Karp. “They’ll do it with you. And they’ll do it later with their friends. They learn to be better friends and better husbands and wives later in life. They learn to deal with people when they’re upset.”
Now go forth and shush, swaddle and toddlerese your baby into a happy childhood!
Baby Care Questions - 1
How do I take care of the umbilical cord after birth ?
Umbilical cord care has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, with a less-is-more attitude adopted by most hospitals. Originally, a triple dye solution was painted onto the cord at birth, which dried it quickly and allowed it to fall off within a week. This was replaced with the equally effective (and less staining) alcohol, which dried the cord in a week or two.
Now, many hospitals recommend doing nothing but keeping the cord dry. The one problem is babies can’t take a real bath until the cord is off and healed -- sponge baths are okay as long as the cord is kept dry. The problem with this is it may take up to a month for the cord to fall off -- a long time not to bathe baby! That’s why I personally recommend using alcohol on the cord with each diaper change to see a complete healing in less than two weeks.
When to start solid foods?
Introducing solids is a very exciting time for both you and your baby. Sometimes it is more exciting for us as parents -> we get caught up in the moment of the cute spoons and bowls and other fancy gadgets! Introducing solids can be a very pleasurable experience for a baby but it can also be quite scary, if your baby is not developmentally ready. It is very important to start feeding your baby solid foods when she is developmentally ready -- go by what she can do and not by how old she is.
Typically, your baby will start giving you signs that she is ready for solid foods around six months of age. At this time she will be able to play an active part in the feeding process. Here are some general indicators that your baby is developmentally ready to start tasting the delicious world around her:
- She is sitting up (either assisted or unassisted) and holding her head up straight
- She opens her mouth for a spoon and closes her lips over spoon
- She is able to let you know that she is either full or hungry (turns head away from spoon if full or keeps mouth open if still hungry). This is important so that baby learns to self regulate the amount of food that she eats.
- She keeps her tongue low and flat when you put the spoon in her mouth
- She is showing an interest in food that others around her are eating
In addition, when a baby approaches six months of age, the enzymes in her digestive track are becoming mature enough to break down and digest solid foods. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, six months can be an important time for baby's nutritional needs. A baby may need additional iron that can be extracted from the nutrients in various solid foods, like the iron fortified cereals. Make sure to wait at least four to seven days in between new foods for signs/symptoms of any allergies. Remember, breastfeeding or formula feeding should remain the main source of nutrition throughout the majority of the first year.
Tricks for giving baby medicine?
This question went straight to our users. Here's what you had to say...
"Have your pharmacist flavor it. Or, put some on your finger first and let her taste it. She'll see it tastes good and gobble it up (theoretically). Also, try giving it to her just before a meal. After all, she's hungry, right? And, put her in a high chair while giving medicine." - Beachlover
"Flavor the medication. We use the dropper with my DD and she sucks it right down. Just put the dropper in DC's mouth, towards the side (cheek) and squirt it out slowly. Works like a charm with my DD. She also helps to hold the dropper so she feels involved." - Jlw2505
"We get medicine syringes from the pharmacy whenever we get an Rx filled. With my one-year-old, I lay him on my lap with his head on my knees and give him his medicine laying down. I can hold his head still with one hand and put the dropper in the side of his mouth with the other. Or, my husband sits on the floor with his legs stretched out and puts our son in between his legs so he can't wiggle away. They also make pacifiers that you can dispense meds through." - Jack & Masonsmom
"Shove it in and blow on their face (it makes them swallow). Or, put in a spoon with yogurt or cottage cheese (whatever DC gobbles up). Also, try putting it in a bottle or sippy cup with a small amount of milk, etc." - Coronalime
"We discovered a miraculous new product by Triaminic. They're infant decongestant strips -- they stick to the baby's tongue and melt instantly and they taste great." - Jan 2005