28 Dec Eat, Sleep, Repeat: The Life of a Baby
Wouldn’t it be great if babies came with instruction manuals? Becoming a new parent is a daunting (but rewarding!) task, and there are lots of questions that come with it. Today, Dr. Mandal gives us the scoop on some of an infant’s favorite activities: eating and sleeping.
How do I know if my baby is eating enough?
It depends a lot on the age of the baby. In general with infants, babies feed very frequently, so the best way is to watch how much they’re eating at certain periods of time, as well as how often they’re voiding and stooling. Pretty much, whatever’s going in should be coming out. If babies aren’t taking enough in, they probably won’t void and stool enough.
When a child is breastfeeding, it is very common that moms and dads will worry more about if a child is eating enough because you simply can’t see what the baby is eating. Sometimes it’s hard for a mom to tell, especially if the baby’s just a few weeks old or if this is a new experience for her as a first-time mom. Seeing your pediatrician, checking the baby’s weight, and watching the voids and stools is the best way to know.
As children get older, their nutritional needs increase, so keeping up with your well visits and letting your pediatrician check their weight and growth parameters with growth charts is the easiest way for you as a parent to know that your child is eating enough.
Should I worry if my baby’s sleeping habits change?
Most of the time, no. If they SUDDENLY can’t sleep through the night, it might be an indication of illness, such as an ear infection or other problems. But it might just be behavioral changes in that they’re getting more alert and want Mom and Dad there more to help them fall asleep. Sometimes it’s because a baby’s going through a growth spurt and is starting to eat more and can’t go all night without eating again. Like I tell parents all the time, children will change. As soon as you get a routine down, your child will change on you. So it’s not unusual at all for babies to change their sleeping habits.
Are there any tricks for getting my baby on a regular sleeping schedule?
It depends on what’s going on and the age of the baby. Really, I don’t even expect a baby to sleep for a four-hour stretch until they’re one month old, and that’s important for parents to realize.
After they’re one-month old, try to have the baby feed as much as possible during the daytime so they can sleep for longer stretches at night without needing to feed. You can also make sure the baby isn’t sleeping too much during the day, but many infants will need either several small naps of 30–60 minutes or a long, two-hour nap in the middle of the day (and having a baby stay awake all day without napping usually does not mean they’re going to sleep for longer stretches at night).
For a baby, sleep is an important time when the brain resets because it’s learning all of the stimulation they experienced during the day. Being a baby is very busy because their brains are developing so quickly. Sleep lets them process what they’ve learned while they were awake. That’s why so many babies will sleep for 12 hours of a 24-hour period.
How can moms feel more rested when the baby isn’t sleeping regularly?
What I tell moms in the first couple of months of life is, “Try to sleep whenever the baby is sleeping.” Once moms go back to work, this can be very difficult, but if moms are lucky enough to get a six-week maternity leave, sleep when the baby is sleeping.
So, during the daytime, if the baby happens to fall asleep for a half hour after feeding, please don’t go fold laundry, please don’t unload the dishwasher. Just drink some water, catch up on an email or two, and then close your eyes and give your body some rest. It’s not just your mind that needs resting—it’s your body, as well. One little thing I tell every new parent is something my husband used to say when we had our first child 10 years ago. Whenever anyone would ask him, “So how’s fatherhood?” he would always answer, “It’s relentless.” I think that adjective is very true in terms of how taxing on the mind and body being a new parent is.
If you have questions or would like to discuss any concerns you have regarding your children, you can schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Kathryn Mandal, by calling 817-617-8600 or scheduling online at continuumtx.com.