Helpful Tips for New Parents

Parents holding new baby

CHaD Pediatricians Rebecca H. Murphy, MD, D-H Manchester, and Heather Wright Williams, MD, D-H Bedford, offer these tips for new parents.

Immunizations and illness

  • When you start with a pediatric practice, ask about office hours and what number to call with after-hour concerns. If you are worried about your baby, we want you to call.
  • All family members and caregivers (including grandparents) should be up-to-date on Tdap booster shots to protect newborns from pertussis (whooping cough). As flu season starts, make sure to get your influenza vaccine.
  • Bring your baby to regular check-ups and follow recommended vaccine schedules. Immunizations are the most effective thing we can do to keep your child safe. We would never recommend anything to hurt your child.
  • If your baby isn’t feeding, is inconsolable and/or feels hot, it may be a sign that they are sick. Check their rectal temperature. If your baby is less than two to three months old, and if their temperature is 100.4 degrees or higher, call your pediatrician immediately—even in the middle of the night.
  • Babies’ normal stool patterns can vary quite a bit, and they can go days without a bowel movement. If your baby’s stool is white, bloody, has mucous or is hard, call your pediatrician.

Feeding

  • Breastfeeding provides many medical benefits to babies and mothers. It is a hard job—make sure you have support. If you have concerns or experience pain after the first two weeks, talk with your pediatrician or contact a lactation consultant.
  • Feed only breast milk or formula for the first four-to-six months. No plain water until six months of age. And no honey until one year (babies are at risk of getting botulism).
  • Give once daily vitamin D drops (400 units) as long as your baby is breastfed to promote healthy bone growth. Vitamin D is added to formula. If your baby takes 30 ounces of formula a day, it is not necessary to supplement.
  • Follow your baby’s early feeding cues to guide feeding schedules and amounts. Hungry babies move their mouths or touch their faces, and will turn away when full.

Sleep

  • Practice safe sleep: place your baby on their back alone in a crib on a flat sheet, dress them only in their pajamas and a sleep sack or swaddler. Don’t include anything else in the crib, such as bumpers, blankets, stuffed animals, etc.
  • Don’t let your baby sleep in swings, car seats, couches or chairs.
  • Keep your baby in your room with you for the first few months to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Place your baby to sleep when they are drowsy but still awake. This can help your baby to drift to sleep on their own, even at an early age. Don’t try sleep training until your baby is six months.
  • Start a bedtime routine early (even around two months). A brief routine in the same order each time helps your baby transition to bedtime.

Development

  • Start tummy time (always supervised) right away on your chest or on a play mat, even if it is only for a minute multiple times a day. As your baby gets stronger, gradually increase this time. Tummy time strengthens your baby’s muscles to roll, sit, crawl, etc. Keep it positive, and give your baby a break when they get frustrated.
  • Limit time in seats with hard plastic backs (like car seats and swings), which can cause head flattening. Also, limit time in jumpers or activity stands, which can cause hip problems.
  • Talk, sing and read to your baby to develop their language.
  • Hold off on any screen time until two years of age (except video chat like Facetime, which can keep your baby connected with family and friends).
  • Babywearing can be a helpful tool for parents to free up hands and as a way to bond with your baby. If you are using a baby carrier or wrap, make sure to follow your model’s instructions to ensure safe and comfortable positioning. There are great videos online to show you how.

Postpartum depression and anxiety

  • This can happen anytime within six months after giving birth. Moms can be at an even higher risk with the extra stressors and isolation caused by COVID-19. Watch for increased crying, extra safety concerns, and impacts on your relationships and bonding with your baby.
  • Share feelings with your OB/GYN, primary care provider or your baby’s pediatrician. Resources are available online and in-person.
  • Family and friends want to help. Delegate tasks like meal preparation, grocery shopping or other household tasks so you can focus on your baby.
  • Sleep when your baby sleeps.