The Learning Curve
Having a baby is an emotional and life-changing event. New moms sometimes feel down, even doubting their own ability to take good care of their infant. Remember, though, you're neither alone nor the first new mother to worry or fret. If you feel like you're overwhelmed, talk to your health care practitioner about your concerns. There are many resources to help you through these first ‑- sometimes bewildering ‑- weeks.
Starting out, you'll be both excited and nervous. You're sure to receive abundant advice from well-meaning friends, relatives and even strangers. Their advice may not always be the best for you and your baby, however, and you will soon learn to follow ‑- and trust ‑- your own instincts. Also, child development books can fill you in on what to expect. Early childhood and parenting classes, too, given through most communities' school districts, church groups and community colleges, can offer invaluable guidance, as well as offer a way to meet other new parents and share experiences.
If your baby's grandparents offer to visit to pitch in and help, take some time to think about how they might offer support, then talk to them about your expectations before they come to stay. Let them know that they are important in your life but that this is your special time to enjoy and learn about your unique new baby.
A Trusting Hand
Before your baby is born, ask other mothers or your health care provider for their recommendations for a health care practitioner. Decide on the kind of practice you'd like to use ‑- pediatric or family practice health care providers. Pediatric and family nurse practitioners can provide excellent care for your baby. If your baby has unusual or life-threatening health problems, a pediatrician or other medical specialist will need to be involved in your baby's care.
Make sure you feel satisfied that there is enough staff at the office or clinic you'll visit so that someone can always see your baby, even when you need to make an unscheduled visit. Visit the practice before your baby's birth to meet the health care professional. Bring along questions on issues that are important to you for your baby's care. Also locate, in case of emergencies, a nearby medical clinic or emergency room that can see you, even in the middle of the night.
Many of your baby's health care visits will be considered well-child visits. You should receive information during the course of these on infant development and care. In addition, you should expect to be given guidelines on what your baby will be doing at each age and stage of development. Along the way, whenever you have questions or concerns about your baby's progress, discuss them with your health care provider. Keep in mind that healthy babies mature at their own rate within a range of normal development. For example, while some may begin walking at 12 months, others might start a few months earlier or later.
You will get to know your new baby quite well and will know when he is "off." It's important to call your health care practitioner if you notice any significant changes in your baby's sleeping or eating patterns, if he isn't growing or gaining weight, if he is lethargic or sleeping more than usual, if he is awake all the time or if he has a fever (100.4 degrees F, or higher, on a rectal thermometer). In addition, don't be afraid to call if you have any other concerns. When dealing with your baby's health, there are no stupid questions!