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

        Health | Baby Care

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

Those baby nails can become a nightmare.

There are few things that can make my husband cry, but he was pretty darn close the day he trimmed a little skin off our son's finger while clipping his nails (not on purpose, obviously). The baby screamed, Mommy winced and Daddy felt guilty for days. Having already drawn blood myself (that was the reason I'd passed the duty along to my steady-handed husband), I totally understood the level of trauma that was unfolding and the ease with which disaster could strike. It's not just that babies have tiny little fingers, but those nails are paper thin and babies tend to squirm the most just as you're about to clip away. Although it's tempting to just blow the whole thing off and let those little suckers grow, that's not a good answer either. As innocent as they look, baby nails are surprisingly sharp! I was pretty convinced for a while that my son had a hidden nail file in his crib and spent the nighttime hours filing his claws until they were dagger sharp. More likely, they're just so thin that they snag easily, leaving lots of jagged edges that are good for scratching delicate baby skin. It wasn't until we'd gone through two nail-related injuries that I read it's best to clip baby's nails while he is asleep (of course, then you risk waking a sleeping infant, which may bring on another type of disaster, but at least you avoid the danger of clipping baby's finger).

Bathing time can be fun, but it can be scary, too.

This one is right up there on the parental trauma scale with clipping nails and taking baby's temperature with a rectal thermometer. The prospect of submerging your tiny little peanut of a baby in a tub/sink/other container of some sort is not so bad. It's the thought of keeping his little head out of the drink and then picking up that soaking wet squirming bundle and re-dressing him without letting him slip out of your hands. It's enough to make you want to put away the rubber duckies for good. By about 2 months, however, baby will probably enjoy baths much more and you'll be so skilled that a slimy baby won't be nearly as frightening as it once was. Although some parents find the kitchen sink is the perfect height and size for baby bathing, I bathed my son in a plastic baby tub perched on the kitchen counter or dining room table. The tub is nicely angled to keep baby upright, although in the first two months keeping baby from slumping over isn't easy. I always enlisted the help of my husband, who propped our son up while I soaped him up.

Dressing dilemmas can be a challenge.

Now here's an easy one, right? It's finally time to use all those cute clothes you've stockpiled since the pregnancy test came back positive. Yes, dressing up baby can be fun, but deciding how bundled — or unbundled — he needs to be is the tough part. I found it took at least three months until I could determine how much or how little baby needed in the way of clothing. Fearing he'd be cold, I usually ended up overdressing him, only to worry then that he was too hot. The solution: layers. And a quick feel of baby's skin should tell you if he's too warm or too cold, as will any obvious signs of discomfort (crying or fussing) he is sure to give.

It may be hard to stay sane when sickness strikes.

When my son was just an infant, I frequently worried that he would come into contact with some nasty germ that would wreak havoc on his immature immune system. With all the people who wanted to hold, kiss and cuddle him, it seemed almost inevitable that he'd catch something. Miraculously he didn't, or at least nothing more than a minor cold that left him a bit congested (and turned me into an aspirator-wielding maniac, constantly trying to suck the mucous from my son's nose). By 6 months, when everything he encountered went right into his mouth, I was pretty convinced that something unpleasant would strike. So far, despite gumming toys that have fallen on nasty restaurant floors and gobbling up god knows how much carpet fuzz, my son seems remarkably healthy — which just goes to show that babies hardier are than you might think. Or maybe it's just that, despite a little guesswork and a lot of doubt, you're better at this parenting thing than you thought. Click here for more information on baby care from a true expert (one with a medical degree, no less).

Christina Breda Antoniades is a freelance writer and mother of 9-month-old Vasili. She has written extensively for Discovery.com including the Travel Channel Online and Discovery Health Online. In her nine months as a new mommy, Christina has come to learn the joys and pains of parenthood.


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