Many new parents, no matter how much experience they may have had with other children, will have questions about particular issues when it comes to their own babies. Some of the answers are available in books, some from paediatricians, others from other mothers and grandmothers. It's good to be in the know, and so this week we provide answers to some of the more common questions, courtesy of UNICEF Jamaica's Parenting Corner.
1. What is the best way to feed my newborn baby?
Breast milk is the best food for baby's first six months of life. In fact, for this period, baby needs no other food. Breast milk contains all the water, vitamins, protein and nutrients that baby needs in the first six months of life.
But breastfeeding is much more than food alone -- it protects babies from diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections, stimulates their immune systems and improves response to vaccinations, and contains hundreds of health-enhancing molecules, enzymes, proteins and hormones. Breastfeeding creates a special bond between mother and baby and offers unique interaction and stimulation that -- along with the balance of protein and energy, micronutrients and active factors in the milk -- helps growth and development and gives a sense of well-being and security.
These benefits are even greater for underweight babies, in emergencies, and with other high-risk situations or conditions.
2. I get very worried when my baby starts crying, but some people tell me this is normal in a young child. What does it mean if my baby is crying?
Crying is a vitally important means of communication for your baby. A baby's cry can mean hunger, pain, or anger. As a parent, you must check to see which of these factors is responsible for baby's crying. Make sure that baby is fed, dry and comfortable. The amount of crying in the first three months varies in a healthy baby between one to three hours a day. Babies who cry more than three hours a day are often described as having colic which may be caused by excessive gas or an inability to digest certain foods.
3. I often hear about babies getting hurt in accidents around the home. What can I do to protect my baby and keep him or her safe?
Safety is very important for infants and every parent must consider the child's stage of development when taking steps to keep them safe. Here are a few tips:
* Place baby in a proper car seat for every car ride. The safest place for an infant's car seat is in the back passenger seat. If baby needs assistance or attention while you are driving, safely pull the car over to the side of the road and park safely before trying to help your baby.
* Do not leave baby unattended on a surface from which he or she can wriggle or roll over and fall off.
* Block off rooms that are not childproof. Babies may learn to crawl as early as six months. Do not drink or carry anything hot while holding baby.
* Never leave small objects within an infant's reach. Remember, infants explore their surroundings by placing everything they can get their hands on into the mouth.
* Be aware of potential poisons (household cleaners, fuels such as kerosene and gasoline, cosmetics and medicines) in your home and keep them stored up, out of baby's reach.
4. How can I be sure my baby is developing normally for his or her age?
There are certain things that a baby should be able to do at different ages. These are known as developmental milestones and provide important information regarding a child's development. The milestones are different for each age range. Rolling over, crawling, walking and talking are just some of these milestones. When you visit the doctor's office or the clinic, find out from the nurse or doctor about the different things baby should be able to do at his or her age. Observe your baby and see if and how he or she is achieving these. A health-care provider or early childhood caregiver can also tell you how to stimulate your baby and help him or her reach these developmental milestones.
5. What should I look for in a child care/day care centre or pre-school for my young child?
When choosing a centre or pre-school for your child, take the time to visit the place when children are present. Ask if the centre is registered or preparing to be registered. The centre should provide a safe, stimulating and nurturing environment for your child. Here are a few things you should look out for:
* A sound building structure
* Clean floors and furniture
* Fire extinguishers
* Covered electrical outlets
* Lots of natural light and fresh air
* Colourful and stimulating surroundings
* Adequate bathroom and sleeping facilities
* A clean, spacious, safe and properly enclosed outdoor area
* Adequate toys, play material and learning material where necessary
* Caring and well trained staff who can work well with young children.