When I became a mom for the first time I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. So I quizzed new moms, read whatever books and magazines I thought would help, searched the Internet and went to my children’s wellness appointments with a list in hand.
Our pediatrician Dr. Yorck Von Conrad of Pediatric Associates of Montgomery County in Maryland patiently answered my questions. His answers mattered because they determined whether or not my newborn was happy and cooing or crying for what felt like endless stretches.
Now I have a one year old and a three-year old. I recently sat down with Dr. Von Conrad and asked him what are some of the things new parents need to know.
Babies like routines. “Children need routines to thrive. We know if they get their sleep regularly, if they get their meals regularly and in regular volume they are happiest. All parents can appreciate that,” Dr Von Conrad said.
Von Conrad says it’s important to set up a routine. This isn’t necessarily a strict schedule. But try within the first weeks to set up a regular pattern for roughly the same time every day. For example, baby wakes up and is changed. Then it’s time to eat and then play time. Be consistent. At nighttime keep the same order– eat, bath, song, story, then lights out. This will help signal to your baby it is time to go to sleep. Everyone’s routine may be a little different. So do what works for you and your baby.
We found keeping a log helps. When our baby woke up we jotted down the time. We wrote down when she ate, when she napped and how long her nap lasted. Over time we could see clear patterns that helped us anticipate our baby’s needs.
Consider “sleep training”
Most psychologists suggest as of the age of 4 months you can start training a child. But before that there is not a lot of value.
“You’re not going to get very far. Early on everything they do is brain stem reflex. Going at it with that approach, when can you start sleep training? That’s starting at about four months,” Dr. Von Conrad said.
There are different schools of thought on sleep training.
These days ask a mom what’s sleep training and it’s equated with some version or other of “cry it out.” That means when baby cries out for you in the middle of the night you don’t automatically respond.
The first four months with a new baby can be tough. There’s no getting around it. You’re exhausted. You may be returning to work. And baby is still waking up several times a night. At that point many parents consider sleep training.
It can be going cold turkey. You put baby down and then walk out – no matter how long baby cries. Or you can try “Ferberizing” named after Dr. Richard Ferber, a pediatrician with the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Dr. Ferber explains his technique in the book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. The idea is that you put your baby down to sleep while she is still awake and allow her to learn how to put herself to sleep. It means that you let your baby cry for a set period and then return to soothe baby, gradually lengthening the time before you go back in to soothe your baby.
There are a lot of parents who have had success with crying-it-out techniques and in the long run it can help your children become better sleepers.
“That said, you have to take into account that there are cultural biases,” adds Dr. Von Conrad. There are parental emotional biases. But generally speaking you should work on having a set routine and schedule to get your baby sleeping through the night at 4-6 months of age.”
Dealing with colic and reflux:
“These are similar but two different beasts- sometimes interchangeable, says Dr. Von Conrad. “Sometimes we think colic is reflux. Sometimes someone with reflux can develop colic.” There’s not a lot pediatricians can do for colic that is not related to reflux, other than give it time, says Dr. Von Conrad. Colic usually shows up in the first three months of life and lasts about one to two months.
Some families find it useful to drive a colicky baby around. The fine vibrations can settle the colic down. Other parents will put the baby in a car seat and put that on top of the dryer with it turned on. WARNING though –don’t leave the baby unattended alone on the dryer.
Reflux, however, is usually associated with a baby being cranky and spitting up.
“Treatment is imperative if the child is failing to thrive,” says Dr. Von Conrad. If the baby is losing weight or not gaining appropriately then it’s time to visit the doctor.
I wrapped up my interview with Dr. Von Conrad asking him what’s the most important thing he has learned as a parent of a 5-year old and 8-year old?
“That it doesn’t matter who you are. You are never going to know it all. Every kid is a learning experience for everybody. With every child there is something mysterious or new. It doesn’t matter if you are a pediatrician or a nurse. Parenting will teach you some lessons. That’s for sure. “
Category: Health and Safety