Answers to All the Questions That Worry New Parents
New parents have to grapple with the endless questions that come with being a new, worried parent. (Trust us, we’ve been there!)
35 Common Questions New Parents Ask — Answered
Welcoming a new baby into a family is an exciting, yet challenging time for parents. Not only do new moms and dads have to traverse the unknown road of parenthood — filled with doctor’s appointments, endless laundry and diaper changes aplenty — but they also have to find answers to all the questions that come with being a new, worried parent. (Trust us, we’ve been there!)
That's why we went to the experts to help answer some of the 35 most common questions new parents ask pediatricians.
How can I keep my baby safe during this pandemic?
Of course, COVID is on every new parent's mind right now, but this question could apply to really any airborne illness. First, limit your visitors and practice social distancing. While your family and friends may all want to meet the new baby, it’s OK to say no. Second, while we’re all accustomed to wearing masks, do not put one on your baby. This could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental suffocation.
Third, current evidence suggests that breast milk isn’t likely to spread the virus to babies — in fact, breast milk provides protection against many illnesses like the common cold or flu. Finally, continue bringing your baby in for regular newborn visits, or see if your pediatrician offers home visits — it's very important to stay up-to-date on your baby's health and development progress.
Should I allow my infant to sleep in my bedroom, and how do I make sure the baby is safe in their crib?
All new parents are worried about sleep — their baby’s and theirs. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends your baby sleep in your room for the first six months and ideally the first year, but it really comes down to what works best for your family.
When your infant sleeps alone, be sure to remove loose bedding, toys, pillows, you get it, as those are items that can lead to accidental suffocation. And if your baby does sleep in their own room, be sure to invest in a baby monitor that works.
What is the best way to ensure that the infant car seat I'm using is safe and properly installed?
According to Dr. Molly O'Shea of Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center, an American Academy of Pediatrics journal editor, water safety and drowning prevention advocate, three out of four car seats are used incorrectly. New parents should practice getting the harness straps nice and snug and the chest clip up to armpit level.
Parents can also seek out fitting stations in the area and have their car seat checked by a certified child passenger safety technician. A properly used car seat can reduce an infant’s risk of injury or death by 71 percent.
What should I know about swimming safety for infants and young children?
The one thing on every parent’s mind when it comes to swimming is drowning prevention. “Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 4 and children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water — from toilets to bathtubs to buckets and backyard pools,” says Dr. O'Shea. “Prioritize water safety and swim lessons for your child, as early as 4 months old, by seeking out a reputable learn-to-swim facility in your area.”
Many swim schools will have mini programs that invite you to be in the water with your baby to bond and help build important water safety skills, like rolling on their backs.
What is the best way to babyproof my home?
At-home safety precautions include things like installing safety gates to protect your children from harm such as electrical cords, stairs and off-limit areas throughout the home. Also be cautious of choking hazards by putting away all small items such as coins, marbles, keys, jewelry, water bottle tops and safety pins that are typically located on desks, tables or other “reachable” areas.
Be sure to use locks to prevent access to cabinets that may be storing poisonous chemicals or cleaning supplies. And make use of baby monitors to help keep eyes on your infant at all times.
How do I know my baby is getting enough to eat?
This is probably the most common question new parents have! It is normal for a woman’s breast milk to not fully arrive until about three days after giving birth (on average). All newborns also lose weight after being born and generally for the first three to five days of age.
After that time, your pediatrician will be looking for your baby to gain about 1 ounce per day and be back to birth weight by two weeks of age. “As long as your baby is gaining weight and having the appropriate number of wet and soiled diapers, you can be confident he or she is getting enough milk,” says Dr. Ariana Witkin, a Boston-based pediatrician.
What are some strategies for helping my newborn get to sleep?
Newborn babies have no sense of day or night. This is because the circadian rhythm in their brain is not yet developed. To help your baby learn to sleep at night, put them in a room with room-darkening shades, use white noise or a fan, and keep the room cool with a cool-mist humidifier.
When your baby wakes up at night to feed, keep things as calm and quiet as possible. Swaddling your baby is also helpful for sleep, as it suppresses the startle reflex, a motion that can wake your baby from rest.
How often should I bathe my baby?
Newborn skin is sensitive and full of natural moisturizers. Newborns do not need to be bathed more than one to two times per week with a mild soap. Studies indicate that many parents bathe their babies too often, resulting in irritated skin conditions.
One of the most common skin conditions that result because of babies being bathed too often is eczema, patches of dry, itchy, inflamed skin that usually starts in childhood.
What should I consider when choosing a formula brand?
The most important thing to consider when choosing formula is to choose an iron-fortified, milk-based infant formula. Formula in the United States is highly regulated by the Food & Drug Administration for safety and nutritional content.
For this reason, name-brand formula and store-brand formula are largely the same. Dr. Witkin recommends families choose whatever formula is within their budget and widely available.
Is it OK if my baby seems to have forceful poops?
It is normal for babies to squirm or look red when pooping. This is due to the baby bearing down and increasing pressure in their belly to poop. Like everything else in a baby’s body, the intestines are immature.
This means that, as your baby’s intestines learn to digest milk and the body learns to poop, it can sometimes seem like they are straining or forcing when going to the bathroom.
Is it normal if my baby seems to be choking on my breast milk?
Sometimes, babies can look like they are choking on breast milk while they are eating. This can be normal if it happens occasionally. Babies can choke on breast milk when it is released from the breast at a faster rate than a baby can swallow. Dr. Witkin says feeding your baby in a laid-back position can help. If your baby coughs or sputters with every feed, make sure to talk to your pediatrician. If your baby is not breathing or turns blue, call 911 immediately.
That said, most cases are not that dire and can actually spark some rather humorous commentary. Just check out this if you need a good chuckle.
How long do you swaddle, especially as my baby gets older and starts to roll over?
Newborns typically like to be swaddled because it reminds them of the compact environment in the womb. But every baby is different, and some babies don’t like the constricted feel of being swaddled.
Once newborns start to show signs of rolling over, typically around 4 months old, they should stop being swaddled. This is to ensure that, if your baby rolled over, they could use their hands to move around and breathe.
Is it normal for my baby to have a bald spot?
According to Dr. Whitney Casares, private practice pediatrician in Portland, Oregon, babies often develop bald spots when they spend an extended amount of time with pressure on that particular area of their head. This can also contribute to flattening in the same area.
Parents can prevent bald spots and flattening by varying the position of their baby’s head when sleeping (while adhering to Back to Sleep guidelines) or in a car seat or bouncer chair, creating opportunities for pressure to be distributed evenly over time.
How do I set my infant up with a sleep routine?
The sleeping patterns of infants can be exhausting for parents. And while each baby’s sleeping pattern is unique, there are some key steps parents can take when trying to get their infant to sleep through the night.
Establishing a consistent sleep routine is vital. Rituals including reading, bath time and rocking can be used to set a nighttime pattern. Sleep training is another option if a family is ready for this, but discuss sleep-training options with your pediatrician, which leads us to our next question...
When should I try to start sleep training my baby?
All babies sleep differently. Parents should wait to consider sleep training until their baby’s feeding patterns are well established and they’re growing and gaining weight steadily (a weight of 11-14 pounds is typically recommended since they don’t necessarily need to eat at night anymore).
Look to your child’s pediatrician to guide you on your individual child’s sleep needs. That said, Dr. Casares says you can establish healthy sleep hygiene for your infant right at birth by using a safe environment and soothing techniques that mimic the womb.
What's the safest way to get rid of my baby's ear wax?
It’s best to leave a baby’s ear wax alone. When parents use devices like Q-tips to remove wax in the ear canal, there’s a risk of causing significant injury to the eardrum if it’s inserted too deeply.
Parents can clean superficial ear wax on the outside of the ear canal by gently wiping with a soft, damp cloth. Your baby’s pediatrician will be examining your baby’s ears during well visits, and they can determine if your child has an abnormal amount of ear wax.
What are the most common signs of teething?
Babies often drool and gnaw or bite on their own hands or objects when they’re teething. Some babies will also act fussy or have more difficulty sleeping when a tooth is emerging.
For some babies, teething results in mild symptoms and signs that last a few days. Other babies experience these symptoms for weeks. Some additional symptoms of teething include rubbing their ears on the same side of the head as the tooth that’s coming through the gums, red flushed cheeks or face, or red and swollen gums.
What are the best cures for teething?
Dr. Casares’ best tip for teething woes is to freeze breastmilk or prepared formula in an ice cube tray, then offer the frozen cube of milk or formula to your baby in a mesh feeder.
The cold, soothing treat is safe and nutritious. BPA-free and PVC-free silicone teething rings or toys with a variety of textures can also help ease teething pain.
How much is my baby supposed to be eating when they’re initially introduced to food?
When a baby first starts solid foods, he or she does not need much at all. Early feeding is more about exposing babies to a variety of tastes and textures than it is about providing nutrition. Some babies might only take 1 to 2 teaspoons of solid food at each setting when they’re first starting out between 4 to 6 months of age.
Solid food needs ramp up quickly, though: At 9 months old, solid foods become an important source of calories and nutrients for babies.
What's the best diaper rash cream?
The best diaper rash creams work by providing a barrier to urine and stool, protecting a baby’s delicate skin from potential irritants. Most parents err on the side of applying too thin a layer of cream when treating their baby’s rashes. Often the specific cream itself is less important than the amount applied. (That said, Triple Paste is one of our editor’s favorites for heavy-duty rashes.)
While diaper creams usually can provide effective results, occasionally a diaper rash can turn into a bacteria infection. If you see the rash getting worse or spreading to your baby’s thighs or lower belly, call their pediatrician.
What do I do if my baby seems to be choking every time they drink water?
If your baby chokes every time she drinks water, consider first slowing down the flow of liquid by choosing a smaller nipple size on a bottle or a different sippy cup. Dr. Casares also suggests offering smaller amounts of water at a time since water is a thinner texture of liquid than breast milk or formula and can be more difficult for a baby to handle.
If your baby continues choking on water as they grow older, talk to their pediatrician.
How often should my infant be eating?
This can vary baby to baby, but once a rhythm is established, a baby can feed anywhere from every two to three hours. Most babies will breastfeed eight to 12 times in 24 hours, from their second or third day after birth. This level of feeding can last until they are 3 to 6 months old.
Breastfed infants do cluster feed at times, which explains the frequency of feeding. The amount of formula or pumped milk can vary baby to baby, feeding to feeding.
What’s the best way to burp my infant?
Properly burping your baby is important for their comfort. Dr. Mona Amin, D.O, board certified pediatrician and host of the “Pedsdoctalk Podcasts,” says her two favorite methods are over your shoulder (with pats to the back) or leaning them forward with their chin in your hand (make a “c” with your finger and thumb and rest their chin there and pat the back).
Always have a burp cloth handy for those major spit-ups.
Can I give my infant vitamin supplements?
While many adults take vitamin supplements throughout the years, Dr. Amin says there is no need for vitamin supplements for babies. The only supplement your doctor may recommend is vitamin D drops if solely breastfeeding or if your baby is taking less than 30 ounces of formula a day.
Some doctors do recommend probiotics for gassy or colicky babies, but be sure to discuss vitamin supplements as well as the use of probiotics with your pediatrician.
How can I make vaccination shots easier on my baby?
One of most difficult appointments for parents is those that involve shots. It can be upsetting for both the parent and child, especially because parents can’t explain why the shots are needed. The best thing is making the time “before and after” the vaccinations enjoyable. Give cuddles, breastfeed and/or offer a pacifier before the vaccines are given.
After the vaccines, make sure to give them a big hug, and you can offer them a feeding if desired. “Remember, this is something to keep them safe, and it will be completed before you know it,” Dr. Amin says.
How do I take care of my baby’s umbilical cord?
When babies are born, their umbilical cord is cut, and a small stump is left. Eventually, by the time your baby is five to 15 days old, the umbilical cord stump should dry and fall off. The most important aspect of caring for your baby’s umbilical cord is keeping the cord clean and dry at all times.
Be gentle, keep your hands off of it, and don't ever pull on it, according to Grow by WebMD. Also, parents should not use water or ointment on it. Simply keep the area dry, and roll down the diaper so there is less friction. If the umbilical cord area gets wet, gently pat dry the area.
Should I continue breastfeeding once my baby starts eating solid foods?
Yes! When starting solids, breastfeeding and formula is still the primary source of nutrition. However, solid foods provide nutrients and textures needed for your baby’s healthy growth and development.
Dr. Amin says that around 9 months of age, as the baby begins to eat more, you may start to see a reduction in the amount of breastfeeding that is required to satiate the baby, but breastfeeding can be continued as long as desired by the mother.
Is it OK for me to supplement breast milk with formula if breastfeeding is difficult for me?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age. According to pediatrician Dr. Stephen Lee at Utah Valley Pediatrics, benefits for mothers include decreasing the risk of maternal ovarian cancer, breast cancer and the development of Type 2 diabetes. Benefits for babies include decreased respiratory/GI infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and is associated with improved neurocognitive development.
With the right support, an estimated 95 percent of women can successfully breastfeed. If you encounter difficulty feeding, speak with your pediatrician or contact an IBCLC certified lactation specialist. After all, there are a variety of reasons a mother may not be able to directly breastfeed, in which case pumping breastmilk and offering by bottle is a great option. Unless medically warranted, supplementation with formula should be avoided as it decreases the duration of breastfeeding.
Note: Frustrated mamas should never feel bad about themselves, though, if they can’t breastfeed. The whole “breast is best” argument is never true if it’s not the best choice for the mom and her family.
Is green poop normal?
Stools that appear green and frothy often occur in babies whose mothers produce a lot of breastmilk and switch their baby from one breast to the other before the hindmilk is consumed.
Mothers should allow their baby to finish nursing on one breast before switching to the other side.
Can I give my baby a pacifier if I’m breastfeeding?
For breastfed infants, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a pacifier be delayed until breastfeeding is well established, usually at 2 to 4 weeks of age. Pacifiers are helpful when a fussy baby needs to be soothed, and they can also help babies fall asleep.
In addition, they can act as a temporary distraction while a baby is getting shots or blood tests.
What is the best baby bath soap to use?
Because there are so many soaps out there that claim to be safe for babies, it can be confusing to understand which ingredients to look for and which to avoid. Dr. Lee recommends using a gentle cleanser such as Dove Sensitive soap or Cetaphil Gentle Skin cleanser, patting dry afterward and quickly applying a bland, non-fragranced moisturizing lotion or cream.
Avoid any soaps that have parabens, fragrance or alcohol because they can irritate a baby’s skin. Some safe ingredients to look for include aloe, shea butter and coconut oil, which are soothing to delicate skin.
How should I position my baby for sleep?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be placed on their backs to sleep without using positioners. “When babies sleep with pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, bumper guards or on soft surfaces or by sleep positioners, they are at a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome,” says Dr. Lee, a pediatrician at Utah Valley Pediatrics. “Babies that sleep in the same bed as their parents are at additional risk of suffocation.”
When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should begin to brush a baby’s teeth as soon as they emerge with fluoridated toothpaste.
The pediatricians at Utah Valley Pediatrics recommend using a soft toothbrush and a small rice-sized smear of children’s fluoridated toothpaste twice daily to promote healthy teeth and avoid tooth decay later in life.
How much average weight should my baby gain in a week?
On average, babies gain 20 to 30 grams per day or 4.5 to 7 ounces per week in the first weeks of life. Many factors play a part in how much weight your baby gains, including genetics. Usually, babies gain weight most rapidly during the first six to nine months, with their weight gain and growth slowing down as they enter toddlerhood and become more active.
If you are concerned that your baby is losing weight or suddenly stops having an interest in eating, contact your pediatrician.
What other things should I be concerned about, and when should I call my baby’s doctor?
You should call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your baby. Remember, trust your gut because you are the expert in your child (and you are not annoying!). A fever in a newborn is an emergency if it reaches 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). If your baby has a fever, you should call your pediatrician and go to the nearest emergency room.
Other reasons to call your pediatrician include if feeding is not going well, if your baby is lethargic or more sleepy than usual or if your baby’s face looks yellow or orange, which can be a sign of jaundice.