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Being a parent is a special and important role. You enjoy it but sometimes you may think it’s more of a challenge than you first expected. There are many changes taking place in your life now and many new things to learn. Take pride in what you’ve accomplished. Use the community resources available to you. Keep up the good work!
There are good reasons for waiting to introduce solid foods. Your baby’s digestive system is not yet ready to handle foods other than breast milk or infant formula. If solids are introduced too early she might develop allergies to foods that she may be able to eat when she is a little older. Her tongue and swallowing movements won’t develop until she’s about four to six months old. Until then breast milk or formula provide all the nourishment she needs. During her first year of life, don’t give your baby whole milk, low fat or skim milk, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, acidophilus milk, or milk substitutes. Your baby’s appetite will increase and decrease with growth spurts, so let her decide how much breast milk or formula she wants. If she has six to eight wet diapers a day and is gaining weight at a good rate, she is getting enough to eat.
Parents used to think that feeding solid foods at bedtime would help their babies sleep through the night. Now we know that’s not true. Your baby will sleep through the night when she’s ready (usually when she weighs about 11 pounds), not because you feed her solid foods.
An important thing you can do for your baby is to keep accurate records. Ask the doctor or nurse to show you how to record your baby’s weight and length on a growth chart. On a calendar, or on these newsletters, record immunizations, clinic appointments, and events such as when your baby first smiles, rolls over, or sleeps through the night. Regular visits to the doctor during your child’s first few years of life should be made even when there are no symptoms of sickness. This is the time to ask questions or talk about any of your concerns. You and your health professionals are partners in your baby’s health.
Check your baby’s hearing. Stand where she can’t see you. Call her name. Shake a rattle or ring a bell. See if she turns her head toward the sound. Don’t make a loud noise to check her hearing. You could injure her ears. If you have concerns, check with your doctor.
At birth, the brain weighs only 25% of its adult weight. It TRIPLES in size during the first year after birth and grows to full size around age 5. These early years influence the structure and content of your child’s brain. Your child depends on you for this good start. When you talk, sing, hug, play and read to a child, what you are doing is helping your baby’s brain grow. You can play music and dance with your baby, or go to the park or beach. You can talk to her about everything you are seeing and doing, and she can touch and explore things of different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. Don’t overdo it with flash cards and super duper toys and activities. You don’t want to confuse instead of enrich. Everyday activities such as reading, talking and singing can help stretch and stimulate her mind. Things that are interactive with you are the best. They can be fun for you too.
Especially in Hawai‘i’s warm weather, bacteria grows rapidly in infant formula that is not refrigerated. If you take your baby’s bottle of formula with you when you go out, be certain that it will remain cold for the entire time. Regular cleaning of your baby’s bottle is also important. Do not microwave your baby’s bottle. The milk can heat unevenly and burn your baby’s mouth.
Your baby is stronger now and may twist, roll, arch or tip her body right out of the baby carrier. Use the safety strap and keep the carrier on the floor, away from steps and other hazards. Do not leave your baby alone on abed, table or chair. Your baby may surprise you and turn over at the wrong time.
Today, most baby toys, rattles, and pacifiers meet federal safety requirements. They must be large enough so that they cannot lodge in an infant’s throat and must be constructed so they cannot be taken apart. To avoid strangulation, do not put a pacifier or a toy on a ribbon around your baby’s neck. Be sure to keep all toys, rattles, and pacifiers clean. If you have questions about baby products, check the Parent Resource Directory for the numbers to call.
You are not spoiling your baby when you pay attention to her cries. A baby’s needs are usually immediate. If she is hungry she wants to be fed; if she is uncomfortable or scared she wants to be held. Paying attention to a child’s needs makes her feel safe, loved, and worthwhile. Ignoring her may teach her that the world is not to be trusted. Studies have shown that babies who are given attention when they cry actually cry less often than babies who are ignored.
In spite of everything, you may not always be able to calm your baby. Sometimes babies cry when nothing is wrong. This may be the time to give yourself a break. Go into another room, take a shower, listen to some music, or call a relative or friend to give you a break.
Sucking is normal and may occur even before your baby is born. The need to suck is very strong, especially during the first four months, and your baby may quickly discover her own fingers or fists. Sucking is not always a sign of hunger. It is the way your baby uses her mouth to learn about her world. Babies also use sucking to calm themselves when they are upset. When your baby cries, first check to see if she needs feeding, a diaper change, or a change of position in the crib. Sometimes she just needs to be held. Try all of these things before offering a pacifier. Whether your infant sucks her thumb or uses a pacifier, let her decide when to stop. If you do not draw too much attention to it or try to stop your baby’s need to suck, she usually will stop some time in the first five years of life.
Where your baby sleeps is a decision you and your partner need to make. Some questions to ask in making your decision include:
Q – I’m going back to work in a couple of months. How can I find a childcare provider I can trust? A – Most parents find caregivers by talking with friends or relatives who have been in a similar situation. Some use the classified section of the newspaper. Many parents join organizations which put them in touch with licensed child care providers. Those agencies can furnish you with guidelines for choosing a caregiver. Parents have found that the best way to find someone they can trust is to visit the home and talk with the caregiver. Selecting a competent, caring childcare provider will help your peace of mind when you return to work. The process may take awhile, so allow yourself plenty of time.