Parenthood, as we know, doesn’t come with a manual. New parents in particular aren’t sure about the basics of looking after a baby and may perhaps be reticent about asking for advice. Here’s Modern Mum’s guide to all you need to know from day one..
Best position for baby to sleep
Most new parents are heart scared of cot death, but, thanks to initiatives such as Back to Sleep, the numbers of fatalities have fallen dramatically over the last decade or so.
The good news is that, thanks to oodles of modern research, there are steps that you can take to cut the risk of your baby dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The safest place for your baby to sleep is obviously in a cot. For the first six months, it’s best for her cot to be in a room with you, but if there isn’t enough space, you should have her in the next nearest room, with the doors left open.
Over the last few years, sleeping with a baby has become something of a contentious issue. The basic rule of thumb is that you should avoid having your baby in bed with you if:
- either parent is a smoker (even if you don’t smoke at home)
- either of you have been drinking alcohol, or have taken drugs or medication which might cause drowsiness
- either of you is very tired
- your baby was premature or low birth weight (less than two and a half kilograms or five and half pounds)
- your baby is under three months old
The safest position for your baby to sleep is on her back, not on her front or side. Her feet should be placed at the foot of the cot, with the bedding tucked in and should come up no higher than her shoulders. This will ensure that she can’t wriggle down under her blankets.
Duvets and pillows aren’t recommended for babies under one year. It’s much safer to use a cotton sheet and light layers of cotton blankets. Electric blankets and hot water bottles should never be used. Baby sleeping bags are great for keeping baby cosy, but they need to be cotton, lightweight and should not have a hood.
The recommended room temperature for a baby is 16-20°C (61-68°F). You may think this is a bit cool, but research has shown that this is the optimum temperature for a baby to sleep in, both from a safety and a comfort point of view. To check if your baby is too hot, or too cold, feel her tummy or neck – not her hands and feet – as they often feel cool.
When to wean
Weaning is the process of introducing your baby to solids after being totally dependent on breast milk or formula for her nutritional needs for the first six months of life.
After the first few months of life, your baby’s needs are no longer met entirely by either breast milk or formula, so you need to introduce solid food, which has been chopped into small pieces.
Baby weaning tends to begin with the introduction of various solid foods, such as baby rice or vegetables. Although we talk about starting a baby on solids, weaning foods are actually smooth purées, which are not much thicker than milk. To begin with, these foods are given in addition to breast milk or formula, but babies can gradually reduce their milk intake and eat larger amounts of food.
When to start weaning is an absolute minefield! It used to be recommended that babies were started on solids between the ages of four and six months. Recent health recommendations have, however, come down in favour of six months as the cut-off point. Many mothers do, however, feel that their baby needs to start solids before this, so, if you fall into this camp, speak to your GP or health visitor, who’ll be able to advise you.
There are plenty of good reasons to wait until your baby reaches six months of age. Breast milk and formula milk are easy for your baby to digest and these provide all the calories and nutrients she needs for healthy growth and development. It’s also thought that the chances of developing allergies are greatest during infancy, so feeding your baby a diet of breast milk or formula until this time will help to reduce the risk of introducing allergens. As your baby’s digestive system matures, she’ll be better able to handle different foods without an allergic reaction.
Comes out in the wash
You obviously need to keep your baby clean, but it’s not necessary to bath her every day. Until she starts to crawl, it’s enough to bath her two or three times a week. You will, however, need to wash her face, neck, hands and bottom daily. To wash baby’s skin you only need to use mild soap once or twice a week – daily use of soap is only necessary on her hands and bottom. The rest of her body can just be washed with water on most days, unless it’s particularly dirty.
Before you pop baby into the bath (holding on to her of course!), make sure that you have everything on hand, including soap, shampoo and towel. This ensures that you don’t have to leave baby down to go and get something.
Use warm water, never hot, as it may scald her sensitive skin. Dip your elbow into the water and check that it isn’t too warm. When you’re washing her, start with the cleanest areas first, and work toward the dirtiest, so that the flannel and the water remain clean for as long as possible. After washing each area, rinse thoroughly. Take special care when washing your baby’s face, neck, ears, buttocks, genitals, and folds of skin.
Your baby’s hair will only need shampooing once or twice a week. Just rinse her hair with water on days between shampooing.
To wash her ears, you should only wash the outside of the ear. Never ever put anything (such as a cotton bud) into your baby’s ear.