Decorating the nursery is part of the joy of planning for and bringing home a new baby. But when it comes to preparing the crib, it’s important to stay minimalist in style. Bumpers, blankets and stuffed animals may pose strangling and/or suffocation hazards and increase risks for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Some tips to help keep baby safe:
- Select a crib with solid head and footboards, no drop rails and narrow slats (no wider than 2 ⅜” apart)
- Choose a firm, tight-fitting mattress and cover it with a fitted bottom sheet
- Position the crib safely away from window blinds and curtain cords
- Do not expose the infant to cigarette smoke
- Never put baby to sleep on a water bed, sheepskin, sofa or other soft surface
- Remove all blankets, quilts, pillows, stuffed toys, cushions and bumper pads
- Dress baby in a one-piece sleeper instead of using blankets
- Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ back to sleep rule – always place newborns on their backs at bedtime
Dr. Warren Brill is a pediatric dentist and president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). He encourages parents to establish and maintain good oral habits with children from the very start including some key advice below:
- Clean baby’s gums with a soft, infant brush or cloth and water
- Use a wet cloth to swab baby’s mouth after the last feeding before bedtime
- Visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth erupts or by age 1
- Brush baby’s teeth at least twice a day
- Start flossing when teeth come in next to each other
Dr. Brill advises parents to continue to assist with brushing and flossing through toddler and school age years. Children don’t develop the manual dexterity to clean their own teeth until they reach age 7 or 8.
Infant massage is a soothing and relaxing way for you and your baby to bond. Research shows a range of stress-relieving benefits for parent and child such as:
- Less crying and fussiness
- Better sleep
- Reduction of gas and constipation
- Improvement in muscle tone
- Regulation and weight gain for premature infants
The beauty of infant massage is that it’s easy to learn and convenient to do in any setting. Here are some basics:
- Position baby on a clean, flat surface such as a changing table
- Cover the torso with a soft blanket or towel
- Warm a small amount of lotion or oil in your hand
- Use gentle, circular motions starting on the forehead and moving to the temples, nose, mouth and ears
- Speak softly as you go, working downward across the shoulders and chest
- Maintain close eye contact as you move to the belly, arms and hands and tug tenderly on each finger
- Apply smooth, even pressure, one leg at a time, from top to bottom and finish by counting each toe
Take your baby’s cue. You can repeat the process by turning the infant onto the tummy – or stop whenever your little one seems calm and relaxed.
Reading to your baby during the first year of life is key for intellectual and emotional development according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even though your little one won't understand at first, researchers say babies who are exposed early to language become successful readers and writers. Another bonus: Reading with your baby promotes bonding and creates positive memories. Here are some tips to help make reading a lifelong, enjoyable habit:
- Start early. Cuddle up with your infant and talk to him while he looks at a picture book for a few minutes each day.
- Bring home colorful books with textures. Babies use their senses, so let them touch and gaze.
- Change your pitch, be expressive and have fun! Your baby loves the sound of your voice.
- Make reading part of your child's bedtime routine.
- Visit the library regularly and allow your child to pick several of his own books.
- Be a good role model. Let your child see that you enjoy reading.
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institute for Literacy