Support, Don’t Judge
Times change, and so does medical advice, especially where infant care is concerned. If someone close to you is expecting or has recently delivered a newborn, check your biases and judgment at the door. The new parents might be too polite to tell you these things — so we will.
Here, Anita Chandra-Puri, MD, Northwestern Medicine pediatrician, shares important information that new parents want you to know.
Baby’s Health Is No. 1
If the new parents seem to be “paranoid” about germs, they have good reason.
“Infants under two months old who develop a fever will be admitted to the hospital while we look for a bacterial infection,” explains Dr. Chandra-Puri. So while visitors may want to play “pass the baby” and smother the little one with kisses, new parents may not appreciate that kind of bonding with a newborn.
What are things you can do to support the parents’ efforts to keep baby healthy?
- Get flu and pertussis vaccinations
- Do not visit if you’re not feeling well
- wash your hands well before holding baby
- Keep young children at a distance, and be sure they are vaccinated
- Be understanding if they decline an invitation to a gathering, or ask people not to visit
Medical Guidelines Have Changed
Just because it was good enough for you and your baby doesn’t mean it’s good enough now. Research helps refine medical advice every day, so trust the new parents to be the experts on what is recommended and what is right for their baby. Here is some current advice that you may not know about:
- Babies should always sleep on their backs with no pillows or loose blankets in the crib or bassinet
- Pacifiers are acceptable for soothing the baby
- No one should smoke around the baby
- Babies should always be secured in a car seat, never on a lap, when in a vehicle
- Car seats should be rear-facing for at least two years
Leave Feeding Decisions to the Parents
How, what and when parents feed their baby is a decision made with guidance from the mom’s physician and the baby’s pediatrician.
If you’re skeptical about breastfeeding, rest assured that medical experts agree: Breast milk is best for baby, and it provides adequate nutrition for the first six months, so there’s no need to introduce other foods sooner.
On the flip side, there are many possible, personal reasons why some moms do not breastfeed. Recognize that this is a sensitive subject for many women, and the “why” is, frankly, none of your business. Bottle feeding with commercial formula is a completely acceptable substitute for breastfeeding. These products are highly regulated and scientifically designed to provide complete nutrition, says Dr. Chandra-Puri. It is not possible to replicate formula at home, she adds.
Provide Support, Not Stress
“Support for parents is important,” explains Dr. Chandra-Puri. “They are learning, and they are following their pediatrician’s advice.”
Rather than adding to stress by offering unsolicited advice or expecting the new parents to play host to a steady parade of visitors, consider how you can help. Provide meals, run errands or come up with other thoughtful ways to help them relax and bond with baby.
“The bottom line is to remember that everybody is in the baby’s corner,” says Dr. Chandra-Puri. “Everybody wants the baby to be healthy and happy.”