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Baby FAQs

As a brand-new mom, your baby's first year of life is full of unfamiliar experiences and challenges. For many parents, this creates some anxiety and a whole lot of questions. We've all been there, frantically Googling at 2 a.m. or posting pictures of an inexplicable rash in an online mommy group.

To help ease your minds, we've gathered the questions asked by almost all moms during their baby's first year and connected with top baby experts to find the answers.

MEET THE EXPERTS:

Dr. Jack Maypole is a pediatrician and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics for Boston University School of Medicine. He is also a member of The Goddard School Education Advisory Board and the Director of the 4C Program and the Comprehensive Care Program at Boston Medical Center. He has over 17 years of experience in pediatrics.

Dr. Stephanie Levine, DO, FAAP, is a board-certified general pediatric physician with over 20 years of experience in pediatrics and the pediatrician representing the nonprofit organization Keeping Babies Safe.

Autumn Norwood is a pediatric nurse practitioner at the Stillwater Medical Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Chaunie Brusie is an experienced Nurse of Obstetrics and mom of four. Brusie is a parenting writer and has been published with Mom.me, Babble and the New York Times Motherlode blog.

Hillary Melchiors is a postpartum doula with a certification from Doulas of North America (DONA). Melchiors also has her PhD in in Medical Anthropology, which includes the study of childbirth and child rearing practices and traditions around the world, and has her masters in Public Health.

1-month-old

How should I treat baby acne?

According to Dr. Maypole, time is the best cure for baby acne—a self-limited issue related to the hormones of pregnancy. "Few cases need treatment, and don't pop 'em!"

Is it OK to feed my baby formula and breast milk?

"Yes, absolutely!" says Melchiors. "Your breasts will adjust to make milk when you feed the baby." It may even take a week or more to even out production of breast milk by your body, and that's totally normal.

"A cranky mommy makes a cranky baby," answered Dr. Levine, stating that while breastfeeding is preferable, moms should be supported in whatever feeding choice they make and should feel empowered to use the approach that works best for their lifestyle and gets the baby the nutrition he or she needs. She also explained there is no concrete evidence that there is a risk of nipple confusion when switching baby from breast to bottle but that mom should pump anytime she chooses formula if she wishes to maintain her milk supply.

How often should my breastfed baby eat?

Newborns should eat 8–10 times a day, but sometimes even more. And, yes, sometimes it will seem as if they want to eat every hour; also known as cluster feeding, and that's not unusual. They don't adhere to schedules well, so feeding on demand is typically best. Watch for signals that baby is hungry, such as smacking their lips, sucking on their hands or rooting for the breast. As they get older, they will feed less often.

How often should I bathe my newborn?

"Honestly, they don't need baths very often," explains Melchiors. Giving them a bath once a week is most likely sufficient, though you will want to wipe any little rolls that get milk in them daily.

How much do newborns sleep?

According to Dr. Levine, newborns babies sleep a lot, often as much as 16 to 20 hours a day during the first several weeks of their life. She did clarify that three hours in a row is typically the maximum a brand new baby will sleep before waking to eat.

If baby is gaining weight, mom is free to let her baby sleep longer but she should wake a newborn baby to eat at least every four hours. Babies who sleep for longer stretches at night may cluster feed during the day, making up for missed overnight feedings by eating as often as each hour during certain times of day.

2-month-old

How much does a newborn poop?

"They can poo a lot or a little," says Dr. Maypole, further clarifying that often newborns will have a bowel movement between each feed but some may go a full day or more without a dirty diaper.

According to Dr. Levine, moms who have concerns about constipation should focus less on the frequency of poops, since a newborn can go multiple days without a bowel movement, and instead should watch for signs like difficulty having a bowel movement or hard or dry poops. If baby has gone a week without a dirty diaper, it's a good idea to consult with their pediatrician.

How long can my breastfed baby go between bowel movements?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it can be normal for a breastfed baby to only have one bowel movement a week.

What can I do to prevent SIDS?

"Shortest answer: back to sleep," says Dr. Maypole, advice in line with safe sleep guidelines given by the American Academy of Pediatrics which urge parents to always put their baby to sleep on their backs in an empty crib.

Melchiors further explains that there is no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS. However, some steps can be taken to prevent SIDS, including breastfeeding your baby exclusively for at least six months, placing them on their back to sleep, and keeping their crib as empty as possible.

Can my baby sleep on their stomach or their side?

According to Melchiors, research on SIDS and safe sleep practices by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Health and Child Development recommend that babies always be put to sleep on their backs.

My baby hates tummy time! Do we really have to do it?

Tummy time is great for babies, but not all babies like it, according to Melchiors. She suggests that if your baby fusses during tummy time, you pick them up and try again later. You should keep trying, and it does not need to be for extended periods of time. Even just five minutes counts! If they really hate it, check out these alternatives to traditional tummy time that can also strengthen those muscles.

3-month-old

When should my baby be able to raise their head while laying on their stomach?

According to Dr. Maypole, your baby will be able to raise their head while laying on their stomach within the first few days to weeks of their life and the duration will last longer as neck muscles develop.

I'm worried my baby is getting a flat head. Is there anything I can do to prevent it?

Flat heads are most common in babies that do not get enough time on their tummies and babies that are left in seats too often. Wearing your baby in a wrap or carrier instead of leaving them lying on their back is a great way to prevent a flat head. And don't forget tummy time!

How do I know if I have postpartum depression?

Feeling incessantly sad and upset is one symptom of postpartum depression. According to obstetrics nurse Chaunie Brusie, there is no easy way to tell for sure if you have it. She advised that any symptoms that interfere with your daily life is not normal, especially if you are having any thoughts of hurting yourself of your baby.

She also suggests educating people in your life about the signs and symptoms of PPD. When you are in the thick of postpartum depression, it can be impossible to recognize that it's happening to you.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most common symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Excessive crying, worrying or sadness
  • Mood swings or sadness that lasts for more than the first two weeks after birth and interferes with activities of daily living
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of harming self or baby
  • Hallucinations, paranoia, and suicidal or homicidal thoughts can also be symptoms of postpartum psychosis

PPD is not the only postpartum mood disorder, and there are many different treatment options available to mothers that fit their unique needs, so be sure to consult your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

How should I treat a baby yeast infection?

According to Dr. Maypole, a yeast infection can occur in the mouth—called thrush—or on the butt, which is called candida diaper dermatitis. There are oral drops for thrush, and a cream for the bum. But be careful not to confuse the wrong medicine for the wrong area.

When can I start using a baby carrier?

Using a carrier is safe as soon as a baby is born, as long as you are using it safely, according to Melchiors. The best carriers for newborns are typically wraps and slings.

How much should a three-month-old be sleeping during the day?

Although babies are typically more wakeful at this age, and will remain awake for longer periods of time, moms can still expect short naps throughout the day, according to Dr. Levine. It isn't uncommon for a three-month-old baby to take "cat naps" between each feeding and then sleep for longer stretches at night, sometimes for as long as six hours.

4-month-old

When will my baby start teething?

"Teething" can refer to the behavior of mouthing and chewing stuff, as well as the constellation of symptoms seen as teeth erupt. According to Dr. Maypole, tooth eruption can happen between 4–15 months. The average time to first tooth, about 6–9 months.

My baby is teething. How can I make them more comfortable?

"Mothers can begin with cool and moist cloths to gums," suggests Dr. Maypole. He also suggests infant Tylenol dosed appropriately for real pain. And in case you're wondering about those rub on anesthetic gels, Dr. Maypole warns that they tend to only work for a few minutes.

I think my baby has a belly button hernia. What should I do?

According to Dr. Maypole, umbilical hernias are a common occurrence related to the junction of where the umbilical cord plugs into the growing fetus. Most umbilical hernias get better with time. As the child grows, muscles develop and the tissue sheaths close and the hernia goes away. However, if you can insert the tip of your thumb into the defect (and "reduce" or collapse the bulge), then it is more at risk of needing a surgical repair one day.

The risk or concern of an umbilical hernia is that a loop of bowel can get trapped or incarcerated. If the belly button bulge ever appears tender, or is unable to be easily collapsed, then prompt attention is called for. Slings, trusses, belts or taped coins over the defect do NOT help them resolve any faster. These remedies aren't dangerous, but save yourselves the worry or trouble. For any worried parent, a single consult with their child's doctor can assess and resolve most concerns quickly.

5-month-old

When will my baby sleep through the night?

"Later than five months, usually," says Dr. Maypole. "And 'through the night' is relative, right? Five hours straight can feel like 'through the night.'" Babies are usually consistently sleeping through the 2 a.m. feed, and getting some number of hours in a row of sleep by 8–10 months. Kids under five months will usually not make it much past five hours straight.

When should my baby be able to sit up on their own?

According to Dr. Maypole, babies will start to sit with support around four months, as trunk muscles firm up. Sitting unassisted happens around six months, after several weeks of slumping and sliding sideways.

When should my baby start rolling over?

Most babies roll over from their stomach onto their back around four months or so, according to Dr. Maypole. Within a month of this, most babies will be able to roll from lying on their back into a tummy-down position.

Will introducing rice cereal help my baby sleep through the night?

"Generally, no," says Dr. Maypole. "It will make a baby fat, however. Research confirms it: Carbs overload without the sleep benefit!"

Dr. Levine agreed, adding that rice cereal should never be added to a bottle unless mother has been given specific directions to thicken bottles because of severe reflux in their baby. Adding rice cereal to a bottle doesn't hold any benefit to the baby and can increase their risk of developing an ear infection. She explains that when the baby is truly ready for solids, parents should introduce rice cereal in a bowl with a spoon.

6-month-old

When can I introduce solids to my baby?

Solids can be started between four to six months, as long as the baby has reached 15 pounds, according to Dr. Levine. Typically, babies begin to show signs they are ready by drooling and thrusting their tongue, indicating they are ready to learn to swallow purees and cereals.

What schedule should I follow when introducing solids?

Generally, introduce one new food every 3–4 days, one at a time. Avoid introducing more foods at once or more closely together because the delay allows one to see if allergic symptoms arise. While introducing solids, parents should watch for skin or oral rashes, wheezing, gas, vomiting, bloating or diarrhea.

When can I introduce water to my baby?

According to Dr. Maypole, babies don't need water if they are bottle- or breastfeeding. Any liquid a child needs before then can be obtained from breast milk or infant formula. There is all the water they need in that and the essential calories needed for growth. Most experts will recommend that babies don't need to introduced to water until six months of age.

Is Baby-Led Weaning Safe?

Baby-led weaning allows babies to try table foods as they show interest and wean on their own terms by offering pieces of solids rather than purees. According to Melchiors, baby-led weaning is absolutely safe, and is a great way to build attachment and trust between mom and baby.

However, pediatrician Dr. Levine feels that introducing table foods could introduce a risk for choking and suggested moms stick with purees until baby is nine months of age. At this time, she believes it's important for parents to take a child safety class that includes teaching the Heimlich maneuver.

When can my baby take pain relievers?

Babies can have acetaminophen after 2 weeks old and ibuprofen after 6 months old. Parents must be sure they always dose based on weight and follow all recommended guidelines.

When can I introduce a straw or sippy cup? Is one better than the other?

It's best to wait for your baby to be able to properly grip a cup and bring it to their mouths. Most babies can do this by six months. Using a straw can come more naturally for many babies and is better for mouth motor development as well.

7-month-old

My baby has a cold, how can I treat it?

Colds are usually viral and babies get an average of seven a year. Generally, these will run their course and antibiotics are not necessary. Just make sure the baby is getting plenty of fluids and rest. If they're running a fever, you can help cool them down with a wet washcloth or by giving them a lukewarm bath. You can help clear congestion by running the shower and sitting with them in the steamy bathroom for 10-15 minutes. Running a humidifier overnight can also help with congestion and coughing. Always call the doctor's office if the baby is extremely lethargic or running a consistent high fever.

How can I make my baby more comfortable when they have a cold?

Pediatric nurse Autumn Norwood suggests nasal saline flushes with an over-the-counter nasal spray followed by a nasal lavage with a bulb syringe. Also keep the baby elevated when they sleep (a small stack of books under one end of the crib works well) and run a humidifier in their bedroom. Parents should see a doctor if symptoms persist beyond a week, if the baby begins to run a fever greater than 100 degrees, or if they have too few wet or dirty diapers.

My baby is running a fever. When should I call the doctor?

According to Norwood, you should call your doctor if the fever doesn't go down with use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, if the fever is greater than 100 degrees for more than 48 hours, if the baby becomes lethargic, is not having wet or dirty diapers, or is not eating or drinking. Ibuprofen should only be used if the baby is six months of age or older.

How can I treat my baby's diaper rash?

"Apply an over-the-counter barrier cream with each diaper change, change diapers frequently, and allow the baby to go for periods of time without a diaper to allow the area to air out," suggests Norwood. If the area becomes very red and irritated and doesn't improve, see your pediatrician—your baby may have a secondary infection or fungal rash associated with it and need some prescription ointment.

My baby is eating solids. Should I cut back on formula or breastfeeding?

Babies will naturally cut back by themselves, so there is not necessarily a need to limit formula or breastfeeding while they are eating solids.

8-month-old

My baby keeps rolling onto their stomach to sleep. Is this OK?

Babies should always be put on their backs to sleep, according to Norwood. If they are persistently rolling to their stomach, repositioning them may be helpful to put them on their back, but always make sure there are no pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, bumpers or anything in the crib that they could roll up against and be unable to breathe through.

When should my baby start talking?

Speech development varies greatly from baby to baby. They generally start babbling around one to two months; words such as "mama" and "dada" come later, around six to eight months. If you ever have any concerns, check with your pediatrician. Don't worry about feeling silly—they're used to it!

Can my baby watch TV? If so, how much TV is acceptable?

"Screen time is not really encouraged or necessary," answered Norwood. "If parents choose to allow their child to watch TV, their screen time should be limited to an hour or less a day." Her recommendation is in line with the guidelines provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which suggest parents avoid screen time before two and then limit their child to an hour a day once the TV is introduced.

My baby is experiencing a lot of anxiety at daycare drop off. How I can ease their worries during this transition?

"Daycare drop off can be really difficult, especially when babies are going through periods of intense stranger danger and attachment," said Melchiors. "The best way to ease the transition, according to the many daycare providers I have spoken with, is to rip the bandage off and get it over with as quickly as possible. They, and you, will get through this!"

I want to start baby sign language, but I'm worried it will delay her speaking. Is this true?

Baby sign language can be a great way to communicate with a preverbal infant, according to Melchiors. Using sign language to communicate should not significantly impact the onset of speaking in an infant. "Don't worry, your baby will speak when they are ready!"

My baby has four teeth now. When do I need to start taking my baby to the dentist?

According to Melchiors, you can take care of your baby's teeth by brushing them. There are even baby toothbrushes that will fit on your finger which can make the process easier. Dentists and pediatricians might recommend bringing baby in for a checkup as soon as they have teeth, but many parents wait until a child is three before taking them to the dentist.

9-month-old

When will my baby drop from two naps to one?

As we should all know by now, each child is very different and the answer varies based on how much they sleep through the night and how long their naps are. But, generally, by at a year old, they are down to one nap.

How can I help my baby develop their vocabulary?

Speaking and interacting with your baby helps develop vocabulary. As mundane as it may seem, try narrating your daily happenings to the baby: "Mommy is putting the red dish in the sink." Reading to your baby from an early age also helps develop vocabulary and language skills.

How can I encourage my baby to develop healthy eating habits?

"It's really simple: moms are in charge," asserts Dr. Levine. She suggests that moms introduced a wide variety of foods and continuing offering healthy options, even if the baby doesn't take to them right a way. If your baby reacts with a strange face, that isn't an indication that they don't like what has been offered, it's just a common response to tasting a flavor for the first time. Sometimes a baby has to be introduced to a food upwards of ten times before deciding whether they really like it or not, so don't give up!

10-month-old

My baby has lost interest in solid food. Should I be concerned?

According to Norwood, there is no reason to be concerned. She advises parents to continue to reintroduce a variety of foods—they should eventually get interested again.

When should my baby start playing with and interacting with other babies?

Babies really don't play and interact for long periods of time with other babies until after age two. Playdates and introducing them to other people as early as a month old is helpful for their development. It's also helpful for parents to have interaction with other adults with children of the same age.

My baby still isn't crawling. Should we see a doctor?

According to Dr. Levine, the average age for crawling is nine months. However, this is just an average and some babies may take longer, crawling closer to 12 or 13 months or skipping crawling altogether. If mom has concerns, she should attention to their trunk strength to see if they can hold themselves up on all fours and if they have leg strength when mom holds them up to stand.

My baby has started biting. What should I do?

According to Norwood, you should always tell the baby "no" and separate them from who they are biting. She also suggests giving teethers or other things to chew on to help with discomfort during teething.

11-month-old

My baby is grinding their teeth. Should I be concerned?

According to Dr. Levine, this is an incredibly normal behavior and often parents will notice all of their children pick up this habit at some point, since this is a behavior that often runs in families. The only reason for concern is if this habit continues for a long time or becomes severe enough that the teeth are wearing down.

When will my baby start walking?

Like all milestones, this really varies from baby to baby. Some start as early as nine months and others don't walk until age one or older. She advised keeping up with regular follow-up during your well-child checks with your pediatrician. If your baby is not pulling up or attempting to walk by 14–15 months, they may have further recommendations.

1-year-old

What are the best shoes for my newly walking baby?

The best footgear for the infant or toddler just starting to walk is lightweight (ditch the Timberland Jr. boots!), made of breathable materials (leather or mesh) and has a rubber, non-skid sole.

What time should my one-year-old be going to bed?

According to Dr. Maypole, rather than when they go to bed, the more important issue is how many hours a day they sleep. On average, a one-year-old will sleep from 10–12 hours overnight, and will further nap for 1–2 additional hours over the day. A one-year-old's bedtime may matter more if she attends a group care program, and thus should be pegged approximately 10–12 hours prior to the time they need to get up to get there at the desired time. If they are still cranky and sleepy when they arrive at school, he advises tweaking the bedtime until you find they are brighter-eyed and more bushy-tailed.

When can I introduce cow's milk?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the introduction of cow's milk at one year of age.

When should I wean my baby?

You should wean your baby whenever you feel it's right, according to Melchior. That being said, most babies in the United States are weaned far earlier than is optimal for their health. The global average age of weaning is four years, while most American women wean before six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be weaned around one year, while the World Health Organization recommends two years.

When should I switch my baby's car seat to forward-facing?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants and toddlers should remain rear-facing in their car seats until age two, or until they have met the maximum height and weight requirements for their seat.

Photograph by: Getty Images

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