For parents of newborns, those first months can be exciting, challenging and even a little frightening. While your instincts will kick in to guide you through many parenting challenges, when certain issues arise, it’s important to seek help from your best-informed resource: your pediatrician.
“Whether you’re having difficulty breastfeeding or have questions about vaccinations, your pediatrician is the best person you can turn to for answers,” says Dr. Thomas McInerny, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “Certain problems can worsen if they aren’t addressed quickly, so keep your pediatrician’s number accessible.”
Feeding and Nutrition
Breastfeeding is a great step mothers can take to safeguard their baby’s health. Human milk benefits the immune system and protects your baby from infections. Research suggests that breastfeeding may help protect against obesity, sudden infant death syndrome, and some cancers.
To ensure a successful start, McInerny advises:
• Take breastfeeding classes before giving birth.
• Place your newborn skin-to-skin against your chest or abdomen within an hour after birth.
• Sleep in the same room as your newborn.
• Breastfeed eight to 12 times a day.
• Monitor urine and stool output.
If you’re having problems, find a lactation consultant or talk with your pediatrician. Waiting to seek help could interfere with your ability to produce milk or your baby’s ability to get crucial nutrition. And dehydration can be dangerous or even life-threatening.
McInerny advises new mothers experiencing any of the following symptoms to call their pediatricians right away:
• Nursing sessions are consistently briefer than about 10 minutes or longer than about 50 minutes during the first few months.
• Your baby still seems hungry after most feedings or is not gaining weight on the recommended schedule.
• Your newborn frequently misses nursing sessions or sleeps through the night.
• You’re experiencing pain that prevents you from breastfeeding.
• You think you’re not producing enough milk.
“Pay attention to your baby’s pattern of feeding,” advises McInerny. “Don’t stop asking for one-on-one guidance from your pediatrician or lactation specialist until you get the help you need.”
At your appointment, your pediatrician will weigh your baby to make sure he or she is on track nutritionally and can observe your feeding technique and offer guidance.
Newborns need vaccinations in those first months to protect against potentially dangerous diseases, including hepatitis B, polio, whooping cough (also known as pertussis), tetanus, diphtheria, Hib, pneumococcal and rotavirus. The pediatrician can discuss recommended immunizations at each visit.
A new report from the Institute of Medicine confirms the vaccine schedule is safe and significantly reduces your child’s risk of disease.
“Talk with your doctor about whether you need a whooping cough booster or flu shot yourself,” says McInerny. “Whooping cough can be deadly to young infants. Immunizing family members creates a ‘cocoon’ of protection around them.”
Mothers should receive whooping cough vaccine and flu shots during pregnancy. Anyone who will be around the baby should also be immunized.
More information on keeping newborns happy and healthy can be found at www.HealthyChildren.org.
When in doubt, call your pediatrician sooner rather than later.