As a mother herself, pediatrician Melissa Seifried, MD knows that first-time parents face major changes in their lives including, she says, “a huge change in sleep schedule, the need to predict what a nonverbal human being may need, and changing many diapers!”
She says one of the most important things is to make sure babies sleep on their backs in a safe environment, following the ABCs of safe sleep — meaning they sleep Alone, on their Backs and in a Crib.
The questions Dr. Seifried gets most often involve concerns about what is coming out of their baby at either end, from spit-up to poop, and what is “normal.”
Below, she answers the top five questions she hears most often.
“All babies spit up,” Dr. Seifried says. Don’t worry unless your baby is “not growing at the expected rate because they aren’t keeping enough calories down or are in pain,” she says.
In that case, you can sometimes treat reflux with an antacid, but parents should discuss their concerns with their baby’s pediatrician and not try to treat the problem before consulting the doctor.
“The frequency and consistency of stool varies throughout the first year of life and infrequent soft stools can be normal,” says Dr. Seifried. Even the color can vary greatly without meaning anything is wrong.
If your baby’s stool is too watery, he may have diarrhea. If your baby strains too much and the stool is dark and hard, it may mean she’s constipated. In either case, you should talk to your pediatrician.
“Parents are sometimes very concerned about their infant crying and I remind them that they aren’t hurting themselves by crying,” says Dr. Seifried.”Crying is the only way they can express their feelings.”
She adds that deciding when a concern is more than just new-parent anxiety is sometimes tricky. She suggests contacting your pediatrician with your concerns to see if an appointment is necessary.
Yes, says Dr. Seifried. “I believe in herd immunity and that we are protecting not only ourselves but others by getting vaccines,” she says.
“I stand by the CDC’s vaccination schedule and have vaccinated my own children,” she says. “I believe parents are the best advocates for their children and we have to protect and treat our children together under a mutually agreed plan.”
It’s best for parents to decide whether or not to circumcise their children, she says. “While circumcision can be beneficial for health, I do not believe it is essential to live a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Seifried says.
“The topic of circumcision is very heated, and people have many reasons for their beliefs including medical, religious and cultural,” she says. “I think it is important for parents to do their research on the potential health benefits of circumcision and the possible complications.”
If you are a first-time parent, your instincts and confidence will grow as time goes on, even if it doesn’t seem that way in the first few days, weeks, or months. As a pediatrician, Dr. Seifried says her job is to support parents along the way.
In addition to talking to your baby’s pediatrician when you have concerns, first-time parents can also get helpful information from reliable health sources online, including the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as this blog.