babying: things to do

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You will most likely come home from the hospital or birthing center with the baby in an infant car seat.   Make sure to fasten the seatbelt in the car seat, and if you have a blanket put it on over the fastened belt.  A baby learns to regulate his or her own body temperature within 48 hours, so keep a light hat on the baby and a light blanket.

You can usually put your baby to your breast within 45 minutes of birth.  I believe that your baby needs a moment to adjust to the world and look in your eyes, feel your skin, and then nurse.  The instinct to suck is strong, and this feeding is one of the easiest.

The First 48 Hours
First your breasts make colostrum, which is sweet and thick and golden and has amazing immune protection for the baby.  If you are not planning on nursing long-term, nursing for these first two days will give your baby un-paralled immune system protection.

Day 3 and Forward
48-72 hours after giving birth your milk your “milk comes in” which means that your breasts fill up with breast milk and become very round and large-- almost Jessica--&nbsp Rabbit like.

I am a fan of single side nursing.  This means you offer the baby one breast at each feeding.  This allows the baby to suck the foremilk and then the hindmilk.  The foremilk is thinner and like an appetizer.  The hindmilk is richer and sweeter and a combined entrée and dessert.  The fats in the hindmilk supposedly trigger cues so the baby knows he is full.  There is no such thing as running out of milk in a breast.  Women with one breast can exclusively breastfeed twins.

Have water on hand, preferably in a water bottle with an easy pop open top that you can do with one hand.  When you nurse during the first few months the let—down reflex in your breasts brings an amazing thirst—and many women can tell you a story about sitting just out of reach of water—later you’ll learn to move around, but nursing a newborn (at least at the start) requires a fixed position.

Nursing isn’t hard for most women but it isn’t always easy—having support early on is key—the baby’s latch (how her mouth attaches to your nipple) can be the key to a successful nursing relationship.  Have the phone number of a lactation consultant on-hand—just in case you need to call, you don’t have to start the research when you are desperate.

Nursing on Your Side (Nursing Lying Down)

This is a great position to learn.  Nursing while you are lying on your side is a great way to relax with a baby or put your baby to sleep.

Shouldn’t I be afraid of nursing my baby to sleep?  Won’t this prevent him from learning to sleep on his own? 
No!  There are hormones in breast milk that are sleep inducing, and the sucking reflex is also a precursor to sleep.  Babies rely on us at first, they can’t be independent from the get-go.

Nursing in Public
The first time you nurse in public is always awkward—you can practice at home—after your baby is a week or two old, practice at home.  The next time you nurse, sit on a chair, and position your baby on your lap.  While holding your baby pull your shirt up from the bottom, click your bra open, and start nursing.  It’s that easy.  When you do it in front of other people at first, it’s a “moment”—you will remember (me: a crowded diner on 3rd avenue and 24th Street when my daughter was about 3 weeks old-- at first, I don’t know why, I tried to nurse standing up outside the bathroom!??  Then I went back to the table and did it—to the appreciative glances of an entire family having lunch behind us.)

La Leche League is always a good place for reference and support.

When you are thinking about weaning read more here.

Make sure you are eating and drinking—it can be easy for some women to forget.   Caffeine can be transferred into breast milk and most women avoid it because, hey, who wants to interfere with baby sleep? Remember, it’s important to drink to thirst when you nurse— drinking too much can actually interfere with your milk production.

Some foods you might avoid or be aware of your baby’s reaction to typical trigger foods-- dairy, broccoli, cabbage, onions, are the ones people suggest first, but it’s your body and your baby, you have to experiment if you think there is a problem.

Fill your refrigerator with bite size things to eat—hardboiled eggs, cut up fruit—these are things you can ask someone to do when they come over.  If you aren’t the kind of person that easily accepts help (which most of us don’t seem to be!) this is a good time to learn—many people are as eager to help you as you might be to help them.  If someone wants to wash your dishes, let him or her! 


Getting out of the house is important when you have a baby.  Once you are out though, keep in mind that people will say lovely things to you as well as ridiculous things.  If your baby has a full face, and it’s all that is visible when you are walking, expect people to say, “Oh my, you’ve got a big one there!”  or “Was she that big when she was born?”  along with “How old is he?” (said to baby in pink flowered outfit) etc.

Cheesy as it sounds, make a list of the things you want to have with you when you are out—this is especially helpful when two people are getting ready to leave and you each think the other one is packing the diapers, wipes, burp cloth, etc.

Thinking about hiring a caregiver? Read more here.

When you first bring a baby home visitors can seem like a lot of work.  People really want to come see the baby, so:

  • if people ask what they can bring, tell them something you need: fruit, a sandwich, ice cream, vegetables, etc.
  • if people want to do something to help, allow them—washing dishes, sweeping up, arranging something, cooking something, washing and cutting vegetables for the refrigerator, anything—letting someone help makes them feel good.
  • remind people before they come that the baby may be sleeping, that when you need to nurse it might take a while
  • listen to what guests have to say—sometimes they have good advice
  • if someone says something ridiculous—you can say things like, “Right now we are doing ______,” ; ; “Oh really?” also goes a long way, as well as no response or just repeating back what the person says, “Ah, when you had a baby you swaddled it all the time.”
  • take a walk with people—it gives everyone something to do.

If it wasn’t for my mother I wouldn’t have found the best position to hold my first daughter (it was the same way my mom held me!).  When my second daughter was born my friends brought me food.  When I see someone with a newborn I’m so happy to see the baby but happier to help, wash dishes and straighten up—  it’s always easier in someone else’s space!

Some babies have periods during the day in which they don’t stop crying.  Possible reasons for colic include:  an immature digestive system, silent reflux, sensory overload. A crying baby isn’t happy and neither are the parents, so I always suggest trying these things before accepting that your baby is “colicky” and suffering (for it is suffering). 

  • Nurse on demand, single side, and let the baby stay on your breast for comfort (better a nursing baby then a crying baby)
  • Experiment with different ways and times to burp your baby—at the end of the feeding, halfway through
  • Use a sling to carry your baby at other times as well as his fussy times, so it becomes a source of comfort.  Have a friend or new aquaintance help you with the sling—there are many choices and many techniques and tricks to helping your baby get comfortable.
  • Bicycle your baby’s legs
  • If your baby loves the stroller or going for a walk, try to do these things during the colicky time (usually late in the day, early evening)
  • Try a baby swing for the colicky time (the ones that rock horizontally or vertically give you more options)
  • If you are nursing, experiment with eliminating foods from your diet one at a time—some babies react to certain foods.  Likely culprits are: caffeine, dairy, broccoli, cabbage, onions, but can be any food—keep your diet simple for 48 hours and then add in foods slowly if you can’t quite keep track of eliminating one at a time.
  • After a warm bath give your baby a massage with a neutral oil like grapeseed oil,
  • Discuss possible reflux issues with your pediatrician and keep your baby more upright if you think there might be reflux issues
  • If you are bottle feeding try different nipples to lessen the amount of air your baby might be taking in.

Know that you may not be able to solve the problem, and your baby will grow out of it.  Try to balance the people who are around during this time so you are not dealing with a crying baby alone.  This is another time having friends who are mothers will help—going to a new mothers group, etc.  If you don’t have a group or a network yet, go to the playground—there will be experienced moms and dads and nannies, as well as second children who are with their siblings at the park—you might not think to go, but you can!  People with second children don’t usually have the time to go to new parent groups, but you can still find them.

“Colic has been defined as an attack of crying and apparent abdominal pain in early infancy. It is a common condition characterised by extended and repeated periods of crying or fussing in an otherwise healthy infant. A commonly used criterion for defining colic is Wessel's 'rule of threes', which states that infantile colic involves crying lasting for at least 3 hours a day, for at least 3 days in any one week, for at least 3 weeks in the first 3 or 4 months of life. A colicky infant might exhibit symptoms including: excessive crying, high pitched screaming, paroxysms of irritability and fussing, flushed face, drawing up legs, arching the back, clenching fists, passing wind, the abdomen feeling rigid and difficulty settling. These episodes, while they can occur at any time of the day or night, typically begin during late afternoon or early evening. Overfeeding, undiluted juices, food allergies, and emotional stress can aggravate colic.”

If you ever feel especially angry or despondent, call someone who will help you immediately. 

Living Space
Feeling calm when you look around your apartment or house goes a long way.  If you have the resources to hire someone to help you clean and straighten up, this is the time to hire someone.  It’s easier to outsource the house than the baby.  Otherwise, keeping a checklist of things that need to be done around the house by, let’s say, every Friday, can again help you (and your partner) focus and allows you to avoid asking each other to do things.  You can always say, “Before bed tonight we should both check the list and do one thing,” or something like that.

Gift/Thank-You Note Space
When you receive a gift, keep the gift card or the envelope with the address of the sender in the same box, so when you have a chance to write one out everything is in one place.

Nursing Basket/Nursing Space
When you sit down to nurse you usually need one-hand drinkable water, the phone, and a book or the remote control (though the television can be a strange nursing companion at times, and eventually distracting for the baby).  If you move around the apartment or house when you nurse, try to get something with a handle (shower caddy, basket) to keep things in.  It can be incredibly frustrating to be just out of reach of a water bottle those first few weeks of nursing.

Using Your Sling
It’s great to have someone demonstrate how to use a sling.  If your sling comes with a dvd definitely watch it—and don’t be scared off!  We need dvds because we aren’t living in close communities for the most part with people to demonstrate—it’s not because the products are complicated!  We don’t have to re-invent the wheel, learn from scratch.

Using Your Bjorn
When your baby is older, 12 weeks or so, you can add the Baby Bjorn to your mix.  Some people use it from the start, but technically the upright position of the spine isn’t good for a newborn, there is compression, rather than the full support of a sling.

The Baby Bjorn is more obviously user friendly.  Make sure it is on properly, that the part where it crosses in the back is centered and the straps are pulled tight.

When you were expecting (link to expecting page) you bought an infant car seat.  Around the time your child is 6 months you will need to switch next to a rear-facing baby/toddler car seat.  Again, the proper installation of this seat is essential.

The highest rated seats in terms of safety and comfort are usually the Britax seats.  Rear-facing is the safest even when your child’s feet pressed up against the back seat.  Rear-facing is incredibly safer in the event of an accident than front facing.  I always put car seats in the middle, first, and then behind the driver. 

If you are in New York City or Baltimore, you can call The Car Seat Lady to teach you how to install your seat.  My lesson with Emily, one of three Car Seat Ladies was amazing—our car seats are now attached and don’t budge

One more note about keeping your child rear-facing in her car seat after the law allows you to switch to front-facing:   We all know it’s easier for you and your child to face forward. I would encourage people to be as thoughtful and clever as they can be to help their child ride rear facing as long as possible.

At 6 months you can start to give your baby other food besides breast milk or formula.  “Solids” is a bit of a misnomer because the food is far from solid.  Feeding is another milestone that seems like a lot of fun to rush towards—it is fun.  It’s also messy and gives you one more thing to do, so unless your baby has a certain kind of reflux or another medical condition that warrants starting solid food earlier, 6 months is the time to start.

Your child’s primary nutrition for the first YEAR of his life should come from breast milk or formula.  The food is for practice, for texture, not for nutrients.

What foods can I give first?

Most likely you will have discussed this with your pediatrician.  There are two directions you can take.  Some people give avocado or sweet potatoes first, some give iron-fortified cereal. 

Iron fortified is important because breast milk has only stored enough iron for the first 6 months of your baby’s life.  When you give vegetables first you can ask your pediatrician about an iron supplement (such as Tri-Vi-Sol).

Whatever food you choose to give first, the consistency should be that of “pea soup” and given only once a day for the first month.

important things to remember when you start feeding your baby “solids”

  • They really aren’t that solid
  • Start with avocado or sweet potato (mashed or puréed with water or breastmilk) or iron-fortified rice cereal (rice is one of the least likely allergens, as opposed to oatmeal or wheat, so it’s a good first choice)
  • Give one meal a day for the first month (food is not where your baby’s nutrition is coming from until after 12 months)
  • Introduce one food at a time, (ie. single foods: applesauce, rather applesauce and apricots)
  • Wait three days before introducing another so you can identify any allergies. If you start to get casual about this, which many people do, just make sure to identify signs of allergy which can be anything from obvious (swelling, hives) to skin irritations, stomach upset, and vomiting.
  • Remember even if feeding is exciting, be patient—you have a long way to go and your baby’s digestive system is in no rush

Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron is a great book about feeding your baby.  It has many recipes for very healthy foods—none of which I ever managed to make—but all of which I read with interest.  She also has good guidance about when to start different kinds of food.  This book is an incredibly handy reference to have around. 

There is also something called Baby-Led Weaning. which sends your baby straight to regular food (which is the norm in many countries). 

Over the next months you will be able to introduce yogurt (which is fun to mix with vegtables and fruit) some kind of O type cereal for finger foods, and other mashed fruits.  Proteins (meats, certain kinds of fish, etc.) can easily wait until 10 months.  By 10 months your baby will be chewing more, even without many teeth, which is important because there seems to be some kind of a first-chewing-window—if you miss it, your child may not be into chewing until a few months later.

Babies don’t need to drink water until they start solids, and even then not much.  You can give a baby a few sips of water from a regular cup—this takes care of his need for water and gives practice with a cup.  Even when it’s very hot you don’t need to give your 0-6 month old baby extra water.  In addition, your breastmilk may be more watery in the warmer months to compensate for the heat. For more details see

What kind of cup do I use next?
While the world talks about “sippy cups” it’s actually better to transition to a regular cup and straw cup instead. Sippy cups inhibit tongue movement.  Your child can practice with a regular cup (it may be messier but they need to learn!) at home and you can use a straw cup on the go. Many companies make straw cups that are (supposed to be and usually are) spill-proof.  You can see some here.

Even if people tell you “not to write a note” I always wonder, “How will they know I received the gift?”

My friend Gigi introduced me to Dutch custom, which I love and try to encourage others to adapt:  if you open the gift in front of the giver, and you thank them in person, you don’t have to write a note.  This feels more personal—and you can both see each others faces when you open it.  With baby gifts, if you happen to take a photo of your child using/wearing/eating/drooling on the gift, you can send it in an email with a note.

For the written notes, you can take a photo of your baby, and visit an on-line site such as (which has great prices and custom options but may annoy you endlessly with emails about “specials”).  You can make a simple card, flat or folded, glossy or matte.  When you receive a gift, keep the gift card or the envelope with the address of the sender in the same box, so when you have a chance to write one out everything is in one place.

A thank you note with a true description of how you are using or appreciating the gift, even a few words, is always the best.  We just got a great note about how my daughter’s friend has been carrying the ballerina jewelry box we bought her around the house and dancing— simple, to the point, and it made us feel good. (And reading it aloud is a nice model for the future thank you notes to be written.)

At this point, I would also encourage you to slowly, one at a time, enter all the addresses of your friends and family into a new spreadsheet or word document so when you decide to send a holiday card, or birthday invitations all your addresses will be in one place.

After your baby is past infancy you may want to buy what’s called an umbrella stroller-- a lightweight stroller that folds easily.  If you live in a city this is the kind of stroller you need for public transportation.

The features I find the most helpful for this kind of stroller is the ability to recline the seat, and ease of fold.  If you cannot fold it easily it’s pointless-- I spent an hour at a Babies-r-Us a few months ago trying to easily fold the Chicco strollers-- and trying to fold the Chicco strollers wearing sandals--  I seriously questions how they actually have that stroller on the market. 

Personally I find Maclaren are the best of these types of strollers.  The Maclaren foam handles are angled and super comfortable.  All three models below can be folded and carried with one hand or put over your shoulder with the strap.  The three lightest models are: 

Quest Sport/Mod 12.1 pounds (without hood, shopping basket or raincover, which really makes it 13.2 pounds)  This stroller reclines all the way back and has extensions to make the seat longer.  If you think  your child will be napping in the stroller (second children, especially, as you can’t always stay home for naps) regularly this may be the best choice.  Personally I used this stroller when we were traveling and I knew my daughter would need to take a 2 hour nap in the stroller every day for 3 weeks.  The full recline and extension made all the difference.  I made my own “cover” to keep it dark inside.  (One of the “features” of this stroller is the see through window on the back, though I always found it let in a lot of light when my child wanted to sleep.)

Triumph  11.5 pounds (without hood, shopping basket or raincover, which really makes it 12.6 pounds) This stroller reclines enough for a toddler rest or take a nap.  Personally I’ve used this stroller for children above 6 months, until each child stopped daily napping, sometime between 3 and 3 and a half years old.  This is always my default suggestion for someone who isn't sure which umbrella stroller to buy.

Volo  8.8 pounds (without hood, shopping basket or raincover, which really makes it 9.9 pounds)  This stroller has no recline and is best for a child who doesn’t nap anymore, or who will almost never need to nap in the stroller.  If you think your child might even nap once a week in the stroller, I would buy the Triumph.  Personally I’ve used this stroller for children over 2 years old for short walks, and over 3 years old as my main stroller. This is usually the last stroller people use before their child graduates from stroller, around age 4 and a half.


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