5 Things You Need to Know about Infants
| Posted On Jul 07, 2016 | By: Melissa DuBois, RN, BSN, CCE, CLC
In the summer of 2013 when my first child was about 6 months old, I was back to work and finally starting to feel like I had a handle on this “parenting thing.” And then it happened – he got sick. My husband and I were up all night with a vomiting, feverish infant. When 6am rolled around, we found ourselves at a decision point as to who was going to call out of work to stay home – I volunteered. But the next week it happened again, this time a full body rash, high fever and vomiting. A few weeks later, another fever, this time with coughing and congestion. I was beside myself. I found myself at the pediatrician’s office, this time in tears. “Don’t worry,” my doctor quite calmly pronounced, “this is totally normal!”
The first year of parenting was definitely an eye-opening experience for me. Here are 5 things I wish I had known in advance:
#1: Babies get sick…a lot
- My experience aside, when you think about it, it makes sense. While breastfed babies can get some germ-fighting power from mother’s milk, all babies are essentially building their immune system from scratch. So this means they need to get sick…a lot. In fact, the average child has four to eight respiratory infections per year, and babies who have older siblings or attend daycare can have more. Babies and children are also more prone to rashes, the stomach bug, fevers and ear infections than their adult caretakers.
- Helpful Hints: Vaccinate your baby on schedule. Get the flu shot. Use good hand hygiene. If you smoke, quit (we can help). If you can’t quit, don’t smoke around the baby and don’t allow anyone else to because it puts babies at higher risk for respiratory infections. Learn the warning signs of when to call the pediatrician. And in the end, accept the fact that your baby will get sick and you and your partner will have to take turns missing work to care for the baby.
#2: What looks like baby “regression” may actually be growth
- True, sometimes children have “regressions.” For example, a previously potty-trained toddler who starts having accidents after his new sibling is born is having a normal regression. But too often I hear parents describe – accompanied by bafflement or even concern – their normally developing babies as “regressing,” especially around sleep. The reality is that every developmental stage comes with its own challenges. For example, babies who were recently sleeping long stretches at night might suddenly start frequent night-waking if they are teething, sick or experiencing a major cognitive milestone (and a greater curiosity of the world). A baby that was recently predictable in their feeding schedule might suddenly start cluster feeding or waking at night to feed when they are having a growth spurt or gaining new gross motor skills (like rolling, crawling, standing and walking).
- Helpful Hint: If you are truly concerned about your baby’s development or if she seems far behind most other children her age, please notify your pediatrician. Otherwise, look beyond the “regression” to see the positive side of your baby’s changes and adapt to them as the normal infant development they are. But speaking of change…
#3: Once you have your baby figured out, he or she will change.
- My son’s first tooth erupted from his gums at 4 months old, and it seemed like every day after he was either sick or teething; we couldn’t catch a break. Then one day at his 18-month well baby checkup, the pediatrician made a small but significant passing comment: “I see he’s got all his baby teeth, even his two year molars.” I seriously could not believe it; as silly as it sounds, I had seriously started to think he would be teething forever! But then it was done. The reality is your baby will change (likes, dislikes, abilities and experiences), sometimes all in the blink of an eye. The only thing you can count on is that you can’t count on anything!
- Helpful Hint: While the inevitable realization of “change” can bring some tears of nostalgia, it is also comforting to remember that when you are in the thick of the unpleasantries of parenting (teething, illness, sleepless nights, frustrating behaviors), this too shall pass! One more thing: think twice about buying a lot of whatever your baby is most into in this moment, a certain toy, character, type of clothing etc. You may find that the interest ends just as abruptly as it started.
#4 Some skills come with time.
- Babies need to be allowed to experiment, practice and explore their world in their way in order to meet normal developmental milestones. But many parents, overly anxious about “timelines,” put too much pressure on themselves to orchestrate and foster every single skill. I know, because I did it, too. I was at a restaurant with my 9 month old who was happily pawing at some fruit when a woman walked by and said, “Looks like someone needs a fork!” While it was likely an innocent comment, the first-time mom in me took it as criticism. I started giving him baby silverware at every meal and stressing out when I saw other babies using forks while my little guy threw his on the floor. But one day, around 14 months or so, he grabbed my fork and started eating off my plate. I realized then that I had to relax!
- Helpful Hint: The range of “normal” is wide and all babies will meet different milestones at different times. Remember that unstructured play and exploration is a baby’s work; it builds the strength and coordination they’ll need to meet those milestones when they are ready!
#5: Babies have MANY well baby checkups in the first year of life
- At Atrius Health, our pediatricians generally recommend the following well-baby visit schedule: 3-4 days after birth, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 14½ months, 18 months, 2 years, and then yearly thereafter. Add the sick visits on top and I personally felt like I was always at the pediatrician’s office! I didn’t fully realize the time commitment of this schedule when I had my son.
- Helpful Hint: When choosing a pediatrician, focus not only on practice philosophy, but also on practical matters like where the office is located in relation to home or daycare, convenience of hours, and availability of after-hours advice and urgent care. Because, after all, babies seem to never get sick when it’s convenient – or when it’s daytime! Consider checking out one of our pediatric practices: we have experienced clinicians, leading hospital affiliations, electronic medical records, convenient locations, 24/7 telephone support and ample weekend and holiday urgent care hours at several locations.
What about you? What do you wish someone had told you about babies before you had your own?