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

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

If you just can't stand the thought of standing by while baby cries, there are some methods that don't involve the dreaded "cry it out" routine (the book The Secrets of The Baby Whisperer, Ballantine Books, 2002, by Tracey Hogg and Melinda Blau offers such tactics).

Worrying about a sleeping baby may keep you up at night.

As if getting baby off to sleep soundly isn't hard enough, once he's snoozing away new parents are confronted with a new problem: How to deal with the fear that something horrible will happen to him while he sleeps. For the first two months of my son's life, I spent far too many hours hovering over his cradle, straining to hear him breathe, watching to see his chest rise and fall, or his little fingers twitch — anything to reassure me that he was OK. While it's probably a very natural fear and one that most parents have to some degree, it can be stressful and can keep you awake during those precious minutes you should be catching up on much needed sleep.

Even though I worried, I was comforted by knowing that I wasn't breaking any of the rules for safe sleeping. Having baby sleep on his back, in his crib and without pillows, thick blankets or stuffed animals, at least gave me peace of mind that I was doing what I could to reduce any risk to my baby (as did reminding myself that the risk of something happening to my baby while he sleeps is small to begin with). New moms and dads, keep in mind that there will come a day when these sleeping fears will subside, only to be replaced by other fears. But at least you won't fear the worst, worrying that baby might not wake up from his sound slumber.

Calming a crying baby may require more patience than you knew you had.

Because newborns have a pretty limited repertoire of activities, the crying issue often goes hand-in-hand with sleep and feeding issues. I never expected there to be any conflict about what to do when my baby cried. I would pick him up, change his diaper, feed him, or some combination of the three, and he would stop, right? Well, yes. And no. Ultimately, it depends. As with sleep and with feeding, there are varying schools of thought on what to do with a crying baby, ranging from the "attachment parenting" folks — who feel that parents should respond to baby promptly and do whatever consoling is needed — to those on the other end of the spectrum who advocate following a strict time schedule dictating when to feed baby and when to let baby sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it's unlikely that a baby can be "spoiled" before the age of 6 months simply by responding immediately to his cries. But opinions on just how you should respond vary. Although I personally prefer responding pretty promptly to a child's needs, at least until the child is 6 months old, I'm not going to argue for one side or the other here. Just be aware that there are a variety of approaches, and use the one you feel most comfortable with (but also know that well-meaning people will insist that you are spoiling your baby if you always respond quickly, and others will tell you you're neglecting him if you don't step in with bottle, breast or a cuddle right away).

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