Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Caring for Baby: From Clueless to Credible in 365 Days or Less

        Health | Baby Care

Caring for Baby (<i>cont'd</i>)

You'd think life would get easier when your baby moves on to cereal and solid (well, puréed) food. But that's where you're wrong. Solid food just means more questions: How much food does the kid need? How much variety? When can he start eating what we eat, and how can I get over my paralyzing fear that he'll choke on something? My son's pediatrician had him start on jar food at 4 months, but some doctors advocate waiting until baby is 6 months old and his system can better handle it. I was, however, told to wait until 8 months to give my son meat because he would have a hard time digesting the protein (of course, this was after I'd gamely tried a little chicken out on the poor boy). The American Academy of Pediatrics has guidelines on feeding baby (in the form of books you can order), as do many baby books, but any guidelines must also come with a dose of flexibility. Ultimately, babies vary so much in how much they eat and when they eat it, that a certain amount of winging it is required.

Getting a baby to sleep may keep you up at night.

If you've done any reading at all on the subject of baby care, you know that most experts advise against getting baby in the habit of being rocked, nursed, cuddled or otherwise induced into sleep. Break the rule and baby may end up forever demanding whatever crutch you've gotten him hooked on. Well, not forever, but it will feel like forever when you're pacing the floor at 2 a.m. with a 20-pound 10-month-old in your arms.

I understood the concept, and yet I fell into the trap all the same. Before I knew it, I had an 8-month-old who woke up every two hours to nurse and couldn't get back to sleep on his own to save his life. By then I'd had enough and I finally had to face the fact that my son would have to learn to get himself to sleep, which would involve some crying (and some sleeplessness — and heartache — for my husband and me). Although there are a host of different methods out there, my husband and I chose one that involved instituting a "no picking up" policy once we put him down for bed (we did go into his room every 10 to 15 minutes to quiet his crying with a pat on the back, but honestly that just seemed to enrage him). The first night he cried initially for an hour and then for 15 to 20 minutes the two or three times he woke up during the rest of the night. The second night he cried for about 20 minutes when I first put him down and then only for a few minutes when he woke up in the middle of the night. By the third night, he cried for just a few minutes at bedtime and woke up very infrequently the rest of the night. It was torture (on us probably more than on him) for the first two nights, but it worked. Well, sort of. Weeks later, he sleeps like an angel some nights and wakes up crying other nights. Even so, we are finally sleeping for longer than two hours at a time, which is heavenly.