New Parent Guide: Expert Tips for Baby Care and Development

6/6/2024 | Brooke A. Crum, DO, FAAP

Becoming a new parent is an adventure filled with precious moments and a fair share of challenges. From sleepless nights to decoding your baby's cries, the learning curve can feel steep. It's natural to have questions and experience stress as you navigate the early stages of parenthood. Pediatrician Dr. Brooke Crum provides answers to some of the most common questions new parents ask.  

My Newborn Seems Gassy and Constipated. What Can I Do? 

It's very common for newborns to look gassy and constipated. They might turn red and strain when having a bowel movement, even if they have soft stools several times a day. This is part of their development as they learn how their bodies work. As long as their stools are soft and without blood, they’re likely not constipated. They’ll outgrow this in time. 

What is Colic, and How Do I Know If My Baby Has It? 

All newborns cry, and some cry a lot. Crying usually increases around two weeks of age and peaks around the sixth week. If your baby cries more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, they might have colic. It is possible to overfeed your baby as you try to soothe them, this can cause increased fussiness. There's no specific treatment, but some strategies can help, such as swaddling, rocking, or taking your baby for a walk or car ride. Remember, colic is not your fault. Here are more tips for coping with a colicky baby


How Much Sleep Does a Newborn Need? 

Newborns sleep a lot—about 16-20 hours a day. It takes a lot of energy to grow so quickly! 

What is "Tummy Time", and How Do I Help My Baby With It? 

Tummy time is when you place your baby on their stomach during supervised playtime. This helps them develop neck and core strength. Gradually increase the daily duration of tummy time to reach a total of 30 minutes each day by the time your baby is seven months old. You can start this with your newborn and make it fun by lying on the floor with them, showing them toys, or using a mirror. Always remember, a baby should only lay on its stomach to play and on its back to sleep.  

When Can I Start Feeding Solids? 

It’s recommended to start complementary foods at six months. This includes foods or drinks other than breast milk or formula, like infant cereals, soft fruits, and vegetables. Some babies may be ready earlier, if they have developed steady head control, normal growth, and they can sit up with support. Talk to your pediatrician about when your baby is ready.  

When Will My Baby Get Their First Tooth? 

Babies can get their first tooth as early as four months, with the average being six to eight months. Some babies may not get their first tooth until they approach their first birthday. They’ll eventually have 20 baby teeth by the time they are about two and a half years old. 

My Baby is Drooling a Lot. Is This Teething? 

While drooling is common when teething, all babies start to drool more around three months as their salivary glands develop. 

What Can I Use to Help My Baby With Teething Pain? 

In general, I recommend avoiding any topical preparations for teething because your baby will likely drool them away in minutes, making them ineffective. Additionally, oral over-the-counter benzocaine, or teething products treated with this pain reliever, has been labeled by the FDA as posing a harmful risk to infants and children. Instead, try teething toys or cold rags. If your baby is very fussy, a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help. Remember, ibuprofen should only be used if your baby is at least six months old. Avoid amber teething necklaces, as they can be a choking hazard. 

When Should I Start Brushing My Baby's Teeth? 

When your baby starts solids, wipe their gums with a soft washcloth before bedtime. Once their first tooth appears, you can start brushing with a fluoride toothpaste (less than a pea-sized amount). Avoid fruit juices until at least one year, and don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle. Or even better- don't introduce them to fruit juices at all! 

How Can I Ensure My Baby is Developing Well? 

You are the best teacher for your baby. Spend time with them and encourage active floor play. Limit time spent in swings, play stations, and bouncy seats. Simple toys like blocks, puzzles, and stacking cups are great. Avoid screen time for children under 18 months, as it can negatively affect their language development, short-term memory, and sleep.  

Help! My Baby Has Their First Cold. What Can I Do? 

As pediatricians, we do not recommend over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for children under the age of two as they can have serious side effects, like slowed breathing, which can be life-threatening, especially in infants and young children. Instead, you can use nasal saline and suction to treat your baby's congestion. For babies over one year old, I recommend you can use honey (about ½ teaspoon) to soothe a cough.  

When Can My Toddler Face Forward in the Car? 

Children should sit rear-facing until they outgrow the height and weight limits of their rear-facing car seat, which is often after their second birthday.  

Many parents tell me they worry about their legs hitting the back of the seat- this is nothing to worry about! Our kids are flexible and will find a comfortable position while riding in the car. Leg injuries while in a car seat are extremely rare in a car accident, and it's most important to protect the head and neck.  

For more information, visit the following helpful links: 

Remember, it's always important to ask your child's pediatrician any questions you have about their health or wellness. Your pediatrician is there to help guide you through your child's growth and development.  

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