PLN Answers Your Parenting Questions: Newborns (Part 1)

As part of a new series, Parent Life Network tackles the most common parenting issues for new parents with expert advice from professionals… and other moms.

We can all agree that parenting is one of the toughest jobs out there, so why is it that we feel we need to do it alone? From the moment we find out we are expecting our first child we are encouraged to “ignore the advice” and “trust our instincts,” but what if your instincts are telling you that you have no idea what you are doing? That’s totally OK.

Here at the Parent Life Network, we want to encourage parents to reach out for help in those times of need. To support, we have come up with some sound advice from both leading Canadian parenting experts Nanny Robina and Alyson Shayfer, as well as the ones right beside us in the trenches, our fellow parents!

What is the best advice to give to new parents that they don’t hear enough?

Nanny Robina: Never be afraid to ask for help. You’re not alone, even though it may feel like you are at times. Don’t aim to be perfect, there is no such thing as a perfect mother. As long as you do your best by your baby, your perfect to them in their eyes and that’s all that matters.

Kim Booth: Do what feels right. No one else in the world is more equipped to raise your child than YOU. Be confident and let your instincts guide you.

Lisa Price: The best advice I ever received as a new parent and will continue to share with any new parent is, “If you have to get dressed, don’t have them over.”

Kathy Zaremba: There is not one way to parent! You need to find what works for you and run with it.

What is the best way to make your partner feel involved as a new parent if you are breastfeeding?

Alyson Schafer: If you want to avoid a clingy, mom-dependent baby, you need to make sure you are not being a discouraging force to your partner. We need to be willing to allow dad to rock and burp baby even if they are crying or would settle faster in your arms.

Nanny Robina: As a daddy, there are things that you can do to help with the feeding process: massage, getting snacks, and holding and supporting mama in a comfortable position. Help mama learn what positions are most comfortable for her and baby when breastfeeding. Daddy and mama should act as a team, even if he feels like [you’re] the runner at this time, it’s all teamwork.

Stacey Cameron: Have dad help with diaper changes, burping and talk about the process so they feel they are being helpful and included.

What is normal in terms of crying and what is a sign of colic?

Lisa Price: I think crying is one of the first ways a baby learns to communicate. They use their cries to let their parents know how they’re feeling. I think with colic, they’re likely inconsolable.

Nanny Robina: Normal fussing can often be smoothed over by picking up, feeding, or rocking. Colicky babies tend to fuss a lot, for longer periods of time and no amount of rocking or soothing will calm them.

Erica Mino: Both of my kids had colic. To me, it looked like pain, but it was hours and hours of non-stop crying that could not be solved by the usual diaper change or feeding.

Gabby Wagner: With colic it is constant, and they appear to be in pain. No matter what you do they can’t seem to settle, they wake up from a dead sleep and their crying almost seems like screaming.

Should you wake to feed? How do you know if your baby is eating enough?

Nanny Robina: As a consultant, I advise waking for two feeds, until at least 6 months if breastfed, or feed by dream feeding. Your baby has ways of showing you if they are hungry and will pull off the breast. However, some babies are just distracted easily. If they pull off after a two-minute feed, you should encourage your baby to feed a little longer. A full feed is usually a 10-minute feed.

Stacey Cameron: Never wake to feed unless ordered by the doctor. If they are hungry they will wake up. I remember my first was jaundice so we were told by the doctor to wake every two hours to feed as she wouldn’t on her own. After a week, her levels were back to normal, and we were told we didn’t need to. By 1.5 months, she was sleeping 6-hour stretches at night.

I know they are eating enough by how content they are after eating and by the number of wet diapers.

Kathy Zaremba: Personally I followed my baby’s cues and fed on demand for the first year. I didn’t wake my babies but they were larger, to begin with, so there wasn’t a concern for weight gain.

Marci Kidney: If your baby is underweight, wake to feed. Otherwise, HELL NO!

Alyson Schumer: Babies are designed to eat frequently and to sleep lightly. It’s a survival mechanism. That’s why they wake up often because they have a small belly. In the beginning, we have to feed them on demand at night.

What can parents do to encourage their baby to get on a sleep schedule?

Nanny Robina: I am a big fan of scheduling, napping every 1.5 hours for a small baby and aiming for a minimum of 3-4 naps.

Timing is imperative, as your baby could become overtired. Overtired babies often become very fussy, which makes for a difficult and short nap. Rocking to sleep, and helping soothe your baby to sleep is normal.

By three months your baby is able to sleep for longer stretches and manage naps, as long as the daytime schedule is in place, the night time schedule becomes much easier.

Lisa Price: We used the old-fashioned “cry it out” method. We decided that we would use a timer to ensure she did not cry too long and we listened closely to her cries to keep track of how she was doing. We put her to bed within the same hour each night.

At what age should your baby have an established schedule to their days and nights? What can you do to establish a schedule?

Lisa Price: I don’t think there is a set age for a baby to establish their schedules. I think that comes down to the parents, their circumstances and their environment. I am personally a huge fan of routine and schedules. I do, however, think you can bend the rules on occasion (such as visitors or a play date). As long as you are comfortable knowing your child’s limits, then you can play (a little bit) with their patterns.

Stacey Cameron: We had a schedule from newborn. Always had a bedtime routine with lotion and cuddles that routine can then grow as they do, but it helps the baby know bedtime is coming.

Alyson Schafer: Let the baby lead the day.

Nanny Robina: Base your baby’s schedule on their age. A 3-month-old baby, for example, often needs a nap every 1.5 – 2 hours. Start by having your baby wake at the same time every day, then nap at the same time every day. Sleeping and waking at the same time daily is part of scheduling; it’s setting your baby’s internal rhythm.

The first few months of your new baby’s life are filled with sleep deprivation, hormones and lots of questions. Never be afraid to reach out for support. Take a look at the local parenting groups in your area to connect with other parents for support and encouragement, and, of course, take a look at some of the great articles and resources on this blog. For more information, you can check out Alyson Schafer’s latest book, Aint Misbehavin’, which offers a quick index to 150 common parenting perils. Nanny Robina is available for private and group consultations.

Photograph by Omar Lopez.

Melissa Robertson

Melissa Robertson

Melissa Robertson divides her time between writing her for the Parent Life Network and wrangling her three children that have lovingly helped her earn the title 'hot mess mom'.