Babies, The Care and Handling of (cont.)

MEMBER QUESTION:
My husband and I will be moving cross country shortly after the baby is born. When can babies fly? What precautions need to be taken?

DOUGLAS:
You can fly with a baby right from day one. Some airlines will want you to fly with an infant seat, so be sure to check with the airlines about regulations regarding the use of infant car seats on airline flights. Even if the airline doesn't insist upon this, you may want to purchase a separate seat for your baby so you can have use of an infant seat for your baby during the flight. This is important, both for safety reasons and because it can give your arms a much needed break during the flight. You know how heavy a baby can be. Imagine holding on to your baby on a five-hour flight, plus the waiting time in the airport and so on.

When you are flying with a baby you will also want to bear these other tips in mind:

  • See if you can reserve a seat at the front of the economy area of the airplane, because there is a bank of seats where there is a lot of extra foot room. This will give you some added space to move around or to stow a diaper bag after takeoff.
  • If the flight is relatively smooth, you may be able to get up and walk around a little bit with your baby during the flight.
  • During takeoff and landing, you may find that breastfeeding your baby or offering your baby a bottle helps to deal with the pressure change problems that will otherwise cause your baby discomfort in the ears.
  • If you're wondering how you're going to get your baby and luggage through the airport, plan to take your stroller with you. You can stow your stroller with the flight attendant at the very last second as you board the plane. Naturally, you'll want to check with the individual airline regarding carry-on baggage limits in case your baby's stroller counts towards your number of pieces of carryon baggage.
  • You may want to plan your flight to coincide with your baby's sleepiest times of day, assuming your baby has some sort of predictable pattern at this point.
  • If your baby cries during the flight don't be freaked out; other parents with children have been in your shoes in the past and no one has the right to judge. Enjoy the flight.

MODERATOR:
What are the essential pieces of equipment you really need for your new baby? And what is being sold out there that you say we really don't need/want?

DOUGLAS:
It is so important to learn to distinguish between the necessities and frills before you step foot in a baby store; otherwise I can practically guarantee you will spend 10 times as much on your new baby. Let's run through a list of the bare basics, bearing in mind even some of these items may be given to you by friends and family members before your baby even arrives:

  • An infant car seat. Even if you yourself don't drive, chances are you will need an infant car seat to get around town. Whether you take taxis, rely on car rides from friends and relatives, or just have occasion when you may be taking your baby on an airplane or other mode of transportation, such as a bus, this is definitely one of the most essential items you will need to purchase.
  • A baby carrier. Either a front style or a baby sling works, depending on your preference. What I suggest you do in this case is visit friends who have babies and ask if you can try on various types, perhaps actually holding their baby in the carrier, or if they aren't willing to share their baby, a stuffed animal instead, just to get a sense of how the carrier or baby sling works and how complicated it is to get the baby in and out.

    You'll also want to consider how easy it would be to clean this particular product. Obviously you want an item that is totally machine washable and can be reassembled quickly and easily without having to spend hours pouring over the manual trying to figure out which snap goes where.

    When your baby gets a little older, you may want to pick up a backpack style carrier, but these are for much older babies and toddlers, not newborns. So don't worry about picking up one of these quite yet.
  • A stroller or carriage. You'll want to pick one up right away. While umbrella strollers are your cheapest option, they don't provide babies with a lot of support, so they're best used as a supplementary stroller that you keep in the trunk of the car for times when you need a stroller on the run. More traditional foldup strollers are what most people tend to buy (other than people who purchase jogging strollers because they know they will be jogging or running on a regular basis with their baby).

    While the foldup style strollers are a lot heavier and can take a little bit of fiddling to unfold and fold, they tend to be sturdier and provide better back support to babies. Many can also be used in a flat position, which allows them to serve as carriages for very young babies.

    Again, you'll want to look at how easily they can be cleaned, and when you're purchasing a stroller you'll also want to consider how easily you can buy replacement parts such as wheels. A stroller can be an expensive piece of equipment, so you may want to pick up a wheel or two for when baby No. 2 comes along.
  • A safe place for baby to sleep. Last week we talked about the pros and cons of co-sleeping, so I won't repeat that here, but if you are going to have a bassinet or crib you need to make sure the bassinet or crib conforms to current product safety standards. The best way to do that is to visit the consumer product safety commission web site at www.cpsc.gov. You can find out what the current government standards are for cribs and make sure any cribs you are considering meet the safety standards.

    You will also want to read up on safe sleep standards regarding bed linens in a baby's bed. Again I want to refer you to the American Academy of Pediatrics web site, www.aap.org.
  • A plastic bathtub. You can bathe your baby in the kitchen sink or big tub, but it's a lot easier to have a plastic bath or tub.
  • A high chair. You won't need it right away but you will want one before baby's first birthday.
  • A baby gate. Depending on the layout of your house you may need more than one, so start checking out the safety products aisle at your local baby store to see what kind of baby gates best suit your home environment.

The next two items are not necessities but qualify as nice to have:

  • A baby swing. Not every baby will even want to go in a baby swing, but if they like it they can give your arms a break if your baby likes to be rocked over and over again.
  • A playpen. Unlike in generations past when playpens were used to keep babies from touching the rest of the world, playpens today are often used to keep babies safe if mum has to go out of the room for a minute or if you're visiting someone and you simply can't adequately babyproof a particular room. Some of them are designed to double as changing tables or portable beds, so they can be very useful to have on hand. You need to check however, to ensure that the playpen in question will be SIDS friendly.

You're going to probably end up with a long list of baby clothes, diapering supplies, blankets, and health care items, such as thermometers and various diapering lotions. There is an extensive list of these items in both The Mother of All Baby Books and the brand-new Mother of All Pregnancy Organizers , so I won't go into an exhaustive list here, but again, use your common sense and don't over buy. Remember, everyone in your life is going to drop by with a baby present for the new arrival so you don't want to have too much ahead of time.

On the other hand you don't want to come home from the hospital or have the midwife leave to only have one baby outfit on hand. It's a matter of balance, I suppose!

MODERATOR:
In some states you must have a car seat to take your baby home from the hospital. I recall having a nurse come to the car, inspect the car seat, and make sure it was installed properly before I could take my newborn home.

DOUGLAS:
That's an excellent point and another excellent reason to make your car seat your first purchase.


MEMBER QUESTION:
What is colic? How can I tell if it is colic or something else? Can colic be prevented? How is it treated? I think this is the thing I am most worried about.

DOUGLAS:
I'm going to start by giving out the official definition of colic so we're talking about the same thing. It refers to sustained periods of crying that lasts for at least three hours a day and occur at least three times a week. We're talking about one very unhappy baby here!

There are also some other characteristics about colicky babies:

  • They tend to experience very abrupt shifts from calmness to frantic screaming.
  • They have trouble sleeping.
  • They are more likely to have problems with constipation than other babies.
  • They're often described as being uncuddly and they can be extremely difficult to soothe.

About 15% to 20% of babies can be described as colicky and certain babies are more likely to be colicky as others, namely babies whose mothers had a prolonged labor, had an epidural, and/or required a forceps delivery, or babies whose mothers smoke. Colic is most likely to occur at some point between the second to sixth weeks of life and tends to taper off dramatically by the second month of life. So it doesn't last very long, but while it is happening it can make the baby's and parents' lives miserable.

Just in case you do end up with a colicky baby, let me suggest a few techniques for soothing a colicky baby:

  • Try to recreate the uterine environment as much as possible. It sounds strange, but babies respond well to subdued lighting, white noise such as dishwasher sounds, and being wrapped tightly in a blanket or otherwise bundled up. Of course, some colicky babies hate being swaddled, so you'll have to experiment with this particular technique.
  • Babies also tend to be soothed by motion, so walking, taking a stroller ride, or taking a drive around the block are all tried-and-true methods for soothing a baby.
  • Skin-to-skin contact works well, so take off your shirt and lay your baby across your chest or lie your baby down on a towel and give your baby a full body massage.
  • Some parents find that taking a warm bath with their baby helps to soothe them and their baby, and anything that can help to soothe the frazzled nerves of parents and babies is something you want to consider doing during this challenging time.

I hope these tips help with your colicky baby, but try not to worry about this possibility. If you end up with a colicky baby, you, as generations of parents before you, will find the patience and creative resources necessary to weather this particular challenge.

"What you want to give your baby is a toy that can be played with in infinite number of ways, and can therefore stimulate your child's creativity and imagination in all kinds of wonderful directions."

MEMBER QUESTION:
What are some toys, either bought or homemade, that you think are great for interacting with a baby?

DOUGLAS:
I'm just going to name a few of my perennial favorites for playing with babies:

What could be more basic than blocks , or more fun? Obviously they are better for older babies, but they are versatile when they start to enjoy dump and fill play. You put all the blocks in a container and they dump them out all over the floor.

I also used to enjoy playing with those stackable plastic donut rings that Fisher-Price probably still makes and probably will still be making when I'm a grandma, because young babies can chew on them, older babies can stack them, and toddlers use them as plastic food.

Other toys my kids enjoyed during the baby stage include shape sorters , all kinds of water toys , and of course, anything from my pots and pans and plastic container cupboards. Funny how anything belonging to mum is 100 times more interesting than a toy!

One thing we don't want to do is buy into the trap of thinking babies need electronic gizmos. The problem is they can only be played with in a particular way. What you want to give your baby is a toy that can be played with in infinite number of ways, and can therefore stimulate your child's creativity and imagination in all kinds of wonderful directions. I guess I'll get off my soapbox, because it's almost time to wrap up, but I'll leave you with that thought.

MODERATOR:
Ann, do you have any final words for us?

DOUGLAS:
I just want to stress that sometimes we worry so much about our ability to cope with parenting challenges, like the colic that our baby may have or a particular sleep challenge. I just want to remind everyone that we are so creative and so capable and we really do know our own kids best.


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