Having a new baby at home can be overwhelming even for the most prepared parents – especially if it is your first child. You may not be getting enough sleep and may be wondering if you are giving your baby all that she needs to be healthy. Some parents may also feel confused by mixed messages in parenting books and magazines and ask – what is really best for the safety of my child?
The good news is that your baby’s basic needs are simple. In early weeks and months of life, nourishment and protection are most important. First, I recommend that all new mothers breastfeed if they can. Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. It is always ready (no bottles to clean!) and it is free. I know that it is not easy (work demands, sore nipples…) – but if you can, keep it up for six months. The benefits are long-lasting; breastfeeding prevents allergies, protects against infection and helps you and your baby bond. And there is good news for you too, Mom. Breastfeeding burns 500 calories a day and will help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight. It also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Making sure your baby sleeps safely is also essential. Babies should sleep alone in a crib – not on a couch, in a stroller or in bed with you or your other children. Infants are very vulnerable to becoming wedged or smothered, but these tragedies can be avoided by placing them to sleep on their backs without any pillows, bumpers or stuffed animals. Many moms may be thinking: how can I breastfeed all night if I can’t sleep with my baby? This is an understandable concern, but placing a baby’s bassinet right next to the bed allows you to reach your baby easily throughout the night without the worry of hurting her. If you are concerned your baby may get cold without a blanket, try a sleep sack.
I encourage parents, grandparents or other caregivers to post questions they have about safe sleep and or feeding this week. I will be posting other baby safety basics in the coming days.