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So you're getting ready to add a new member to your family. Congratulations! If this is your first child, you will probably have some apprehensions about the coming weeks—or, for that matter, about your baby's first days (and nights) at home. Will he get enough nourishment? How often should he be fed? Where should he sleep? Will you get any sleep? What if he starts crying—and won't stop? If there are other children at home, how will they respond to the new arrival?
Many of these questions may have already been addressed in a childbirth or parenting-preparation class. And if you have older children at home, you have already dealt with most of these concerns before and may not feel the need for any further "basic training." But just in case you didn't get all the bases covered, the second chapter will cover the ABCs of new baby care.
We begin, however, with a few important reminders about taking care of yourself, your newborn, and the other important people in your life before and after the baby's birth.
How can my spouse and I make our marriage a priority after the baby arrives?
With all the excitement and changes that come with the role of parenting, whether for the first time or with a new addition, it is extremely important that mother and father continuously reaffirm the importance of their own relationship.
Mom, make sure your husband knows that he hasn't been relegated to the back burner of your affection and interest. Beware of total and absolute preoccupation with your new baby, as normal as that desire might seem to you. If you nurse, carry, rock, caress, and sleep with your baby twenty-four hours a day without offering some attention to your mate, before long your marriage may be a shadow of its former self.
Whenever possible, try to give some attention to your own needs and appearance, even if you're feeling exhausted. It's important that you establish a pattern of taking care of yourself even in these early days of motherhood, because from now on it will be tempting to neglect yourself when there are so many needs and tasks surrounding you. Taking care of yourself, even in small ways, can help you avoid baby-care burnout—not only now but also in the days and seasons to come.
Your husband and others will appreciate seeing you take steps to maintain your health and appearance as well.
Encourage your husband to pay lots of attention to your newborn. Remind him that he can cuddle, rock, and change the baby, and encourage him to roll up his sleeves and pitch in around the house. Don't forget to express appreciation for any help he offers.
Patterns you establish now in your marriage may well continue as your new baby and other children at home grow to maturity. Ultimately their sense of security will rise or fall with the visible evidence of stability, mutual respect, and ongoing love of their mother and father for one another. Overt demonstrations of affection not only fulfill deep and abiding needs between husband and wife, but they also provide a strong, daily reassurance for children that their world will remain intact.
The same can be said of time set aside by parents for quiet conversation with one another before (and after) the children have gone to bed. Make it a point to start or maintain the habit of asking each other a few key "checking in" questions, on a regular basis (at least weekly), and then listening carefully to the answers. These attentive conversations are an important safeguard against losing track of your spouse's thoughts and emotions, and they can help prevent an alarming realization months or years later: I don't know my spouse anymore.
Equally significant is a regular date night for Mom and Dad, which should be instituted as soon as possible and maintained even after the kids are grown and gone. These time-outs need not be expensive, but they may require some ongoing creativity, planning, and dedication. Dedication is necessary because child-care needs, pangs of guilt, and complicated calendars will conspire to prevent those dates from happening. But the romance, renewal, and vitality they generate are well worth the effort.
How can I prepare myself for life as a single parent?
Taking care of a new baby is a major project for a couple in a stable marriage. For a single parent—who usually, but not always, is the mother—the twenty-four-hour care of a newborn may seem overwhelming from the first day. But even without a committed partner, you can take care of your baby and do it well. The job will be less difficult if you have some help.
Hopefully, before the baby was born, you found a few people who would be willing members of your support team. These might be your parents, other relatives, friends, members of your church, or volunteers from a pregnancy resource center. By all means, don't hesitate to seek their help, especially during the early weeks when you are getting acquainted with your new baby. If your parents offer room, board, and child-care assistance, and you are on good terms with them, you would be wise to accept. Or if a helpful and mature family member or friend offers to stay with you for a while after the birth, give the idea careful consideration. (Obviously, you should avoid situations in which there is likely to be more conflict than help.)
Even after you have a few weeks or months of parenting under your belt, at some point you may need a brief time-out to walk around the block or advice on how to calm a colicky baby. But no one will know unless you ask. Many churches and pregnancy resource centers offer ongoing single-parent groups in which you can relax for a few hours on a regular basis, swap ideas, and talk with others who know firsthand the challenges you face. You might also make a short list of the names and numbers of trusted friends or relatives who have offered to be "SOS" resources—people you can call at any hour if you feel you've reached the end of your rope. Keep this list in a handy spot where you can find it at a moment's notice.
How can I prepare my other children for the arrival of the new baby?
Parents often worry about how the arrival of a new baby will affect other children in the family. Children's responses are as different as the children themselves. Some siblings will struggle with jealousy for a while; others will welcome the new baby excitedly, eager to be "big sister" or "big brother." But most children, especially if they are younger than age six or seven, will experience a range of emotions: happiness, jealousy, possessiveness toward the baby, protectiveness, fear of being forgotten by the parents, fear that there won't be enough love in the family to go around. While parents can't prevent the onset of these emotions, they can do much to prepare children for an additional person in the family.
Talk about the baby's coming well in advance. Include your other children in discussions about the baby. Be careful about how much the arrangements for the baby will impinge on other children's space in the house and schedule. Make plans for other relatives to pay attention to the other children. Pay attention to signs of jealousy or other forms of upset. Direct visitors' attention to the other children.
How should I choose a health-care provider for my baby?
Your options for the baby's health-care provider may include a pediatrician, who has a medical degree and at least three years of residency training in the care of infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatricians are considered primary-care physicians—that is, they serve as the point of entry into the health-care system. They provide routine checkups and manage the vast majority of illnesses and other children's health problems. A neonatologist specializes in the care of premature infants and sick newborns, usually in an intensive-care unit.
Family practitioners (whether holding M.D. or D.O. degrees) care for all age-groups, including infants and children. Family practitioners may request consultation from pediatricians or subspecialists when dealing with more difficult cases.
Pediatricians and family physicians may also employ nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who are trained to provide basic services in an office setting. They are often more readily accessible, particularly for same-day appointments, and may be able to spend more time answering questions and working through common problems.
Your insurance company, local hospital, or—even better—your family doctor, family members, or friends may be good sources of physician recommendations. Once you've narrowed your list, you might consider setting a brief meet-the-doctor session with a few health-care providers at the top of the list. That will give you an opportunity to judge the friendliness and helpfulness of the office staff, meet the physician, and check payment policies.
What basic clothing and equipment should I invest in before bringing my baby home?
Clothing. Your baby's wardrobe, commonly referred to as a layette, should include several lightweight receiving blankets, sleeper sets, light tops, undershirts, socks, sweaters, hats or bonnets, and one or two sets of baby washcloths and towels.
Consider safety issues when buying clothes—snaps are safer than buttons that could be pulled off and swallowed; material should be flame-retardant.
Diapers. Whether you choose disposable for their convenience or cloth for their lower cost over time, be sure to stock up before baby's arrival.
Furniture. A cradle or bassinet offers convenience for the newborn's parents; a crib will serve your baby for the first two or three years. Be sure the slats in a crib are no wider than two and three-eighths inches (six centimeters) apart. A changing table provides a convenient place for diaper duties. Look for one with a two-inch guardrail around its edge and a safety strap to help you secure the baby. (These, however, should never be considered a substitute to a caregiver's undivided attention when your infant is on the changing table.)
Car seat. Every infant, toddler, and young child must be properly secured into an appropriate car seat every time she rides in a car. In fact, hospitals will not even allow parents to leave their facility with their newborns if they don't have one. The car seat for a newborn should be either an infant-only or convertible model manufactured within the last ten years. An infant-only carrier will double as a carrier; a convertible seat can be reconfigured to face forward when the baby reaches her first birthday and weighs twenty pounds (just over nine kilograms).
Because the newborn has no head control, she must face backward in the car to prevent dangerous, rapid forward movement of the head during sudden stops. To help reduce the chance of injury further:
Don't use a seat that is the wrong size for the infant or child. Don't use an outdated car seat. Be sure to secure the seat properly in the vehicle and the child correctly in the seat. (Local law-enforcement agencies, fire stations, and health departments will often conduct free safety checks.) Learn how to adjust the shoulder harnesses correctly. Do not put a rear-facing car seat in front of an air bag.
Why should I consider breastfeeding?
Human milk is uniquely suited to human babies. It is not only nutritionally complete and properly balanced, but it is also constantly changing to meet the needs of a growing infant. The fat content of breast milk increases as a feeding progresses, creating a sense of satisfied fullness that tends to prevent overeating. Indeed, a number of studies indicate that being breastfed as an infant may offer modest protection against becoming overweight and developing diabetes later in life.
Furthermore, the fat and cholesterol content of breast milk is higher in the early months, when these compounds are most needed in a baby's rapidly growing brain and nervous system. The primary proteins in all forms of milk are whey and casein, but in human milk, whey, which is easier to absorb, predominates. Compared to cow's milk, the carbohydrate component of breast milk contains a higher percentage of lactose, which appears to play an important role in both brain development and calcium absorption.
Vitamins and minerals are adequately supplied in mother's milk. Vitamins and minerals (including trace elements such as copper and zinc) are present in the right amounts, and iron is present in breast milk in a form that is easier for the baby to absorb than that found in any other type of milk. As a result, no supplements are needed for the normal breastfed infant—with one exception.
Breast milk alone does not contain enough vitamin D to ensure proper bone development. This vitamin is manufactured in the skin in response to exposure to sunlight. But since direct exposure to sunlight can pose potential hazards to the sensitive skin of a young infant (see page 76), professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend routine use of sunscreen.
In order to provide adequate vitamin D without risking sun damage to an infant's skin, the AAP recommends that an infant who is fed only breast milk also receive 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D every day by dropper, beginning in the first few days after birth. This amount of vitamin D should also be given to formula-fed infants who are taking less than 34 ounces (about 1000 cc, a little more than a quart) per day. Infant formula contains vitamin D, but a baby needs to consume 34 ounces or more per day to receive an adequate amount of this vitamin.
Breast milk is absorbed extremely efficiently, with little undigested material passing into stool. Experienced diaper changers are well aware that formula-fed infants tend to have smellier stools, a by-product of the nutritional odds and ends (especially certain fats and proteins) that are not thoroughly absorbed on their trip through the bowel.
From day one, breast milk contains antibodies that help protect babies from infections. The first product of the breast after birth, known as colostrum, is particularly rich in antibodies known as immunoglobulin A, which help protect the lining of the intestine from microscopic invaders. As the mother comes in contact with new viruses and bacteria, her immune system generates the appropriate microbe-fighting antibodies and passes them on to her baby, thus reducing—but by no means eliminating—the newborn's risk of becoming infected. This is particularly important in the first several months, when the newborn's immune system is less effective at mounting a defense against microscopic invaders.
While formula manufacturers have labored mightily to duplicate the nutritional mixture of breast milk, they cannot hope to supply any of these complex immune factors. Current research has provided strong evidence that feeding infants with human milk decreases the incidence (number of cases) and severity of a wide range of infectious diseases, including otitis media (middle ear infections), diarrhea, respiratory infections, bacterial meningitis, and urinary tract (bladder and kidney) infections.
Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of a variety of serious health problems. Some research indicates a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) among breastfed infants. Older children and adults who were breastfed as infants may be less likely to develop diabetes, obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, asthma, and certain types of cancer (specifically leukemia, lymphoma, and Hodgkin's disease).
Breast milk is free. It is clean, fresh, warm, and ready to feed, anytime and virtually anyplace. It does not need to be purchased, stored (although it can be expressed into bottles and frozen for later use), mixed, or heated.
Breastfeeding offers several health benefits for Mom. Stimulation of a mother's nipples by a nursing infant releases a hormone called oxytocin, which helps her uterus to contract toward what will become its nonpregnant size. The hormonal response to nursing also postpones the onset of ovulation and the menstrual cycle, providing a natural—although not foolproof—spacing of children. Nursing mothers also tend to reach their prepregnancy weight more quickly. In addition, some research indicates that breastfeeding may reduce a woman's chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, and hip fractures later in life.
Breastfeeding lends itself to a sense of closeness, intimacy, and mutual satisfaction. The skin-to-skin contact, the increased sensory input for the baby, and the mother's satisfaction in being able to provide her child's most basic needs can help establish strong bonds between them.
Excerpted from Busy Mom's GUIDE to Parenting Young Children by PAUL C. REISSER Copyright © 2012 by Focus on the Family. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Chapter 1 Preparing Yourself and Your Family 1
Chapter 2 The First Three Months 15
Chapter 3 Three to Six Months 63
Chapter 4 Six to Twelve Months 81
Chapter 5 Twelve to Twenty-Four Months 107
Chapter 6 Two-Year-Olds 131
Chapter 7 Three-and Four-Year-Olds 163
About the Author 193
Posted May 11, 2012
In the intro to Busy Mom's Guide to Parenting Young Children, Paul Reisser, MD, writes: "Several years ago Focus on the Family's Physician Resource Council prepared the Complete Guide to Baby and Child Care, and in 2007, a revised and expanded edition of the book was released. I had the pleasure of serving as the primary author for both editions and can say without hesitation that the book was definitely complete, weighing in on virtually every topic related to parenting and the health of infants, children, and teens. At nine hundred pages, this was not a book to tuck into a handbag for a casual read over lunch."
I can't agree more! I own the nine hundred page book Dr. Reisser refers to. It is fantastic and definitely thorough. But let's be real. While we need thorough on many topics, sometimes all we need is quick and easy.
And that's what Busy Mom's Guide provides. As Reisser continues, "Young children never fail to give parents plenty to think about (or lose sleep over), and busy schedules aren't always compatible with the task of sifting through the good and bad parenting advice on the Internet, or wading through the contents of a large book. We thus thought it would be helpful to distill the Complete Guide's core concepts about parenting infants and young children into a smaller volume.
What a great idea! Having a Complete Guide on your shelf is still important, but this smaller (under two hundred pages) book framed in a form of questions and answers, is incredibly helpful to a busy mom. There is an index which makes finding what you need painless and prompt.
I've yet to read a book from Focus on the Family that wasn't spot-on. And this is no exception. I actually ordered a few of these to give as presents for new moms. I think it is an incredibly valuable gift.
*Tyndale Publishers provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Posted April 23, 2012
This book reminded me very much to the 'What to Expect' series but this guide is a Christian world view to these issues which is what I am seeking. It also doesn't have the emphasis on all the medical concerns that could arrise but more behavior, sleeping, eating and other growth milestones. I appreciated the organization and breakdown of each section and new topic making it an easy to access quick reference guide. Key concepts/questions are highlighted throughout the text as it moves from one area to the next. This covers primarily the first two years and has one chapter that touches on both 3 & 4 years old. So this is about very young pre-school aged children. I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Publishing for the purpose of this review.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.