As your baby grows and reaches and surpasses milestones, you’ll learn everything there is to know about your little one: from the difference between a hungry cry and a tired cry to how she prefers to be rocked and burped. You will grow more confident in your parenting skills and you and your baby will grow closer than ever before. But you will always have worries: anxiety about your child staying healthy and getting enough nutrients, doubts that your baby’s crying is normal, and concern about his sleep patterns. This is completely normal. Your baby relies on you for everything and this can be stressful at times. But just like how your baby is growing and learning, so are you. You’ll learn how to notice anything out of the ordinary and will rely on your pediatrician less and less as you start to master taking care of your little one. You will also learn basics like taking a temperature and caring for them when they’re sick, and you’ll examine snot and poop like you never have before! Here are some common signs of a healthy baby:

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    Baby is attentive and quiet a few times a day. Starting around the one month mark, your baby’s awake time should start slowly increasing. She should spend some time looking around and observing her surroundings; this is a great indication of social progression.
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    Baby is slowly starting to support their own weight. Around one month, your little one should start being able to hold their own head up, even if it’s very brief. Tummy time is an important activity to help strengthen muscles and get them ready for sitting and crawling milestones. 
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    Baby makes eye contact and starts to interact with people. It usually goes like this: eye contact around one month, first smile around 2 months, cooing at 3 months, and laughing around 4 months. These are all great signs that your darling is maturing into a social, loving being and are important indication of early language development. 
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    Baby calms at the sound of your voice and the feel of your touch. The bond between mother and baby is indescribable and this reaction is a sign of emotional growth.
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    Baby cries a little less and sleeps more regularly. Before you know it, you will start seeing distant glimmers of what resembles a routine: naps that are around the same time or last longer, larger stretches between night feedings.  These are signs of a maturing nervous system that’s learning the ropes. 

These are just a few indications of healthy development – there’s lots of factors that go into a “healthy” baby. Even if your little one is taking longer to develop, you shouldn’t be anxious or overly concerned. Every baby develops at their own pace  and as long as your baby is happy and healthy, there’s nothing to worry about. Regular check ups with your pediatrician will help monitor weight gain and physical progression as well. 

When it comes to overall care, it’s important that your baby gets lots of sleep, exercise, stimulating activity, and a healthy diet. The actions you take now will impact your child’s future, so it’s important to start good habits early. Keep your baby healthy and happy by giving them plenty of space and time to release their energy, follow their own interests, and master new skills. Here are some other do’s and don’ts:

Do’s

  • Have a set schedule with flexibility. Some babies are more easy going, but most thrive and feel more settled when practicing  a set schedule.  However, there is no need to be overly strict with this schedule as it can just cause unnecessary stress. 
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    Spoil baby, but only before six months. After this time, it’s important that you start to let your baby figure things out for themselves. If you run over to them at every little hiccup, you’re taking away important learning opportunities. 
  • Let babies cry a little – as long as you are giving them lots of attention, especially positive attention, the rest of the time. 

Don’t’s

  • Don’t overreact to negative feelings. It’s normal for children to become nervous or oversentive at times but that doesn’t mean they’re unhappy. Sometimes it’s okay to let your child feel these negative emotions – it prepares them more because these emotions are part of life. 
  • Use cold medicine. Generally, children under six shouldn’t be treated for a cold – you just have to let it work its way out naturally.
  • That being said, don’t ignore a fever. Fever is a sign of infection and anything over 100 degrees should be reported to your pediatrician. 

No matter the situation, you should always be a good role model to your baby and teach them to share and care. Your baby looks up to you and observes your actions all the time, so it’s important that you show them what it’s like to be happy, overcome challenges, and that it’s okay to show emotions.

To help you navigate through parenthood, we’ve assembled information related to general care, activity, potty training, and sleepy time. 

Care

Part of raising a healthy baby is taking all the necessary steps to care for you baby properly. You must make sure all of your baby’s needs are being met and this will help him/her grow up into a strong, loving toddler. Here are some top things to consider when caring for your baby:

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    Baby proof your home. It’s important to provide a safe environment where your baby can learn and explore, enjoy tummy, time, and have fun, even if you have to turn your back for a minute. 
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    Dress your baby appropriately. And by this we don’t mean making sure her skirt isn’t too short! Babies aren’t able to effectively communicate body temperature so it’s important that you take the initiative to dress your baby well based on the environment. Taking into consideration the weather in your area, you’ll need clothing for all seasons, as well as protection from the sun (like organic sunscreen and sunglasses) for all year around. 
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    Just like an adult, a baby’s nails need to be trimmed, their hair needs to be washed, and their ears need to be washed out. Be careful not to over-wash their hands though – exposure to germs is an important part of building a strong immune system.
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    Change their diaper immediately when they are soiled. Plus, add an extra thick layer of protection paste to help prevent diaper rash from forming. Fragrance-free, gentle wipes should be used with each diaper change. 
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    Promote healthy grooming habits with regular baths, moisturizing skin with organic lotions, and brush their gums with an infant finger toothbrush and non-fluoride toothpaste (followed by a baby-sized toothbrush when their teeth come in).

There’s so much that goes into caring for your baby. It’s important to educate yourself and always speak up if you have any questions or concerns. After all, it’s always wise to be prepared and better safe than sorry. Here are some additional points to take into consideration when caring for you little tyke:

Do’s

  • Put your baby to sleep on their back. Every nap, every bedtime, every caretaker. This sleeping position is the safest when it comes to lowering the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 
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    Burp your baby in the middle and no later than 10 minutes after a feeding. This helps relieve gas build up and helps stop a baby from spitting up. 
  • Keep the crib clean and free from toys and excessive blankets. The less crowded the crib, the better. This also applies to bottles: you shouldn’t put your baby to bed with a bottle. Laying down with a bottle increases the risk of bottle caries and ear infection.  
  • Run a cool mist humidifier in the nursery to help with congestion and skin dryness.

Don’t’s

  • Use harsh chemicals. When it comes to anything your baby will come into contact with (like clothing and blankets), it’s important that they not be exposed to any chemicals that could harm them. You should change your entire family’s laundry detergent and use organic household goods like organic lotion, body wash, and cleaning supplies. This includes not using DEET before 2 months. 
  • Hold your baby 24/7.  Not only will this help with clinginess, but it will also give them the opportunity to strengthen their muscles and practice some independence. 
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Activity

The first key to helping your little one develop into a happy child is you. While there’s a lot of things that will bring a smile to a child’s face, none of them compare to the connection between parent and child. It’s important to play with your baby and connect with him/her. If you’re having fun, she’s having fun. Plus, play creates joy and helps your child develop skills essential for future happiness. 

Not only does activity help your baby grow and develop mentally, but it also helps them physically. From sitting and crawling, to standing and walking, each of these milestones requires the strengthening of muscles. Here’s a breakdown of the activity milestones:

  1. Tummy time. This is the first form of play and occurs when a baby is placed on their belly on an activity mat. These mats are usually filled with textures and colors and are used to encourage early exploration and observation. 
  2. Bouncer / activity gym / jumper. These are stationary items that encourage strength and exploration through a wide variety of stimulating and developmentally appropriate toys. They encourage creativity, imaginative play, as well as strengthening of the legs and grasp. 
  3. Mobile toys. This category has the widest selection of activities such as walkers, push toys, and items like balls that require mobility. These encourage the largest amount of active play between the three categories. 

Babies progress at different rates so there’s no need to stress if you little one is a tad behind. Either way, it’s important to start healthy habits early, physically and mentally. Keep your baby’s mind and body engaged with fun, stimulating activity to help her grow and develop into a beautiful toddler and beyond. 

Do’s

  • Read to your baby. Adult -baby interactions such as reading are associated with higher IQ later in life. Plus it’s a great way to practice attention skills, as well as develop vocabulary. 
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    Explore. Expose your little one to new places and experiences by playing with new toys, and going to new places such as the park, lake, beach, etc. This prevents boredom and elevates their curiosity.
  • Play along. But don’t do all the playing. Instead, take a less active role; this means your presence can still be appreciated but your baby gets to become more independent as well. 

Don’t’s

  • Engage with baby with the TV on. As adults, the TV is commonly on for “background noise,” but this distraction takes away from the creativity and activity associated with play time. 
  • Leave baby unattended. Always keep your baby close by and keep an eye on them. Accidents happen and you should always be prepared.
  • Use toxic art materials. Almost everything in your house runs the risk of being put into a slobbery baby mouth. Make sure toys and art materials are non-toxic and easy to clean up. 

As they get older, children use play to discover what they love to do and this can point her towards interest she could have for a lifetime. Build villages, paint (with non-toxic paints!), and make crafts to stimulate creativity. You should also schedule play dates to help you baby progress socially (sharing is caring!). Use this time to encourage imagination, self-sufficiency, and exploration. These traits will make for a happy baby and also give your baby skills that they will continue to use throughout their life. 

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Potty Training

Unlike a healthy adult poop, potty training is neither smooth nor fast. The number one tip for any parent embarking on this major milestone is patience, and lots of it. Potty training involves taking a handful of steps (e.g., interpreting your body’s signals, undressing, having some control over your bowels/bladder, and washing your hands) and putting them into the correct order for a successful potty break. Your child should be able to do at least some of these before starting, otherwise both parties involved will just end up being frustrated. Each child is different and will be ready to begin training at different points in their childhood; this has nothing to do with the child’s motivation, personality, or intelligence. There are three steps you can take to maximize success:

  • 1. Prepare
  • 2. Learn
  • 3. Reward
  • Get a potty chair. Most people will recommend a children’s toilet to start off with instead of the adult toilet attachment seat. This will help reduce a child’s anxiety at the size of the adult toilet and give them the security of being close to the floor.
  • Choose a good location. Training toilets don’t have to be in the bathroom. During this phase, ease of access is more important. This could mean the living room , play room, etc. Or if you have multiple potties, you can place one in each major room. 
  • Show your child the potty. Let him/her know that this is her “special chair” and what it’s going to be used for. 

As for the actual method of teaching, there are many different variations and techniques out there. You should pick one that best suits the needs and schedule for both family/parents and child. Remember that this is their accomplishment, not yours, and you should act as a loving guide through the whole process. Here are some things to consider when potty training your darling:

Do’s

  • Wait until the time is right. Each child will be ready at their own time and progress at their own pace. Starting too early will result in a longer training period, meaning you could end at the same time as if you had just waited a little bit longer.
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    Bribe your child. In this case, bribe = motivation. Get creative with M&M’s, pennies, or stickers and reward every positive thing you child does. 
  • Heap on the praise. If you don’t agree with physical rewards, your praise and admiration can be just as effective and should also be used in addition to bribes if you go that route. 
  • Teach boys to pee sitting down first. This eliminates any confusion about peeing standing but pooping sitting down and will make it easier to focus on “target practice” once he’s mastered using the toilet first. 
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    Encourage regular trips to the potty at these major times: when they wake up, before and after naps, before and after a meal, before bed, and every 2 hours if the don’t go on their own. 

Don’t’s

  • Start the process during a stressful time period. Stresses such as a parent returning to work, a new baby in the house, or an illness can add unnecessary stress. Wait until the issue has passed over or cleared up before starting potty training. 
  • Punish your child for accidents. This is a serious mistake and can lead to potty anxieties and other social issues. Instead, practice positive reinforcement by rewarding every single good thing your child does, especially in the beginning. If you find that your child has accidents and doesn’t seem to care, they may not be ready for potty training yet.
  • Use pull-ups. These can feel too similar to diapers, leaving your child feeling confused about the purpose of wearing them. 

Remember, patience is a virtue. Being patient, compassionate, and full of praise is probably the best attitude you could have about the whole potty training process. It’s important to keep the environment positive and your little one motivated to surpass this milestone. But it takes time, effort, and love. Don’t worry, your child isn’t going to graduate high school in diapers! They will be potty trained before you know it! 

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Sleepy Time

One of the biggest lessons you’ll learn as a new parents is that nothing is predictable – except for a lack of sleep. When your baby is born, their body has a hard time distinguishing between night and day – meaning that even though the majority of the time is spent sleeping, it’s spread out throughout the day and night in shorter bursts. This leaves parents over-tired and frustrated with lack of sleep. But once your baby is a few weeks old, they can start to tell the difference between day and night and it’s your job to help practice healthy sleep habits that they can carry on throughout their life. 

Let’s start off with this question: “Where should baby sleep?” Lots of moms dream of having the most beautiful nursery with the matching crib set and all those cute decorations. But in October of 2016,  the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their sleeping recommendations to state that they recommend room-sharing (but not bed-sharing) for the first six months at least, ideally at least one year. Their research concluded that room-sharing decreases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by as much as 50%.  However, a more recent study published in 2017 found that room-sharing resulted in poorer sleep-related outcomes and increased amount of unsafe sleep practices (e.g., infants sharing a room were 4x more likely to end up bed sharing compared to infants who slept in a separate room). There are quite a few pros and cons of co-sleeping that need to be taken into consideration:

PROS

  • Night feeding is easier because of baby’s close proximity.
  • Reduces the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.
  • Creates a secure sleep environment so baby can feel comfortable. 
  • Helps with intimacy for parents who don’t see their baby as much during the day.

CONS

  • Babies make noises and wake up the parents more often. 
  • It’s more tempting to pull baby into bed with you. 
  • Babies that slept in a room by themselves are better sleepers. 
  • Less privacy. 

More research is needed to reach a conclusion on the benefits and downfalls of room sharing, so take the points into consideration but don’t necessarily let them change your mind. Despite the cons listed above, the AAP still recommends room-sharing for at least the first six months. No matter where your baby sleeps, make sure you practice healthy and safe sleeping habits by taking into consideration the following:

Do’s

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    Limit the length of naps during the day. This doesn’t mean rudely waking up your baby if they have been napping for more than 2 hours. Instead, wake him up, feed him, keep him awake for just a little bit, then lay him down for another nap. Breaking up naps during the day will help promote longer sleeping sessions at night. 
  • Put baby to sleep on their back every nap, every sleep, every time
  • Use firm sleeping surfaces (like a firm mattress). If you baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, etc., move them to a safe sleeping area as soon as you can. 
  • Use light strategically. When your baby is young, they have difficulty distinguishing between night and day, resulting is sporadic sleeping patterns and less sleep for the adults. Help them tell the difference by using bright light during the day, dimming the lights in the evening, and keeping things dark at night. A night light can help keep the nursery dark but give you enough light to be able to check on your child. 

Don’t’s

  • Swaddle your baby after he starts to roll. Swaddling is recommended and helps decrease the risk of SIDS, but only before baby starts to roll over. 
  • Put soft objects, loose bedding, pillows, or stuffed toys in the area where baby sleeps. 
  • Co-bed. This increases the risk of SIDS and sleep-related deaths in infants. 
  • Rush in. Being over attentive to your baby’s cries or rustles during the night can lead to poor sleep habits. Sometimes babies wake up and go back to sleep, or even make noises while sleeping. Wait a minute to see if they resolve the issue themselves, and attend to them if they can’t fix it.
  • Jump into sleep training. Most babies won’t be receptive to formal sleep training until they are at least four months old. As much as you want some decent shut eye, starting training before baby is ready will hurt more than it will help.

Use caution when looking at products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Special mattresses, positioners, and wedges have not been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS. The best thing you can do is practice all of the safe sleeping tips that are recommended by the AAP and your pediatrician. On top of all this information, read our top tips for when your baby refuses to sleep through the night. These are great suggestions for helping your little one sleep (and therefore help you sleep too!). All of your safe sleeping practices should be shared with any caretakers, parents, grandparents, etc. This way you can ensure that for each nap and bedtime, any caretaker knows how to safely put your child to sleep. 

There are lots of things to take into consideration when it comes to sleeping. The most important tips is do what’s best for you and your family and practice the safe sleeping habits we’ve discussed. Sooner than you think, your little one will be sleeping through the night; and before you know it, they’ll be needing their own toddler bed! 

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