100 Frequently Asked Questions for Your First Three Months with Baby
It’s not easy navigating the first 90 days of parenthood. But from the minute you leave the hospital, you’re in charge, and it’s almost like your fingers can’t type fast enough to Google the zillions of worries running through your head. To simplify, we pulled together this guide to the most frequently typed asked questions during those early days.
It’s tricky—and all depends on the season and outside temp. Winter babies will need to be bundled up. (Think: Hat, mittens and baby snowsuit on top of footie pajamas.) Summer babies can get away with less, but should still be covered up so they stay protected from the sun. (A short-sleeve dress or onesie and a sun hat should be fine.)
The American Academy of Pediatrics says there’s a small chance it can interfere with breastfeeding—some babies are sensitive to the difference, apparently—but a review of healthy, full-term infants conducted by the University of Chicago found that pacifier use had no impact on feeding. (And according to the AAP, it can also reduce the risk of SIDs.)
For the first use, sterilize it by dropping it in a pot of boiling water for five minutes. After that, rinse with hot, soapy water or throw it in the dishwasher. (You can also sanitize it using your own saliva, according to a study published in Pediatrics.)
Yep, the reactionary movement is called the Moro (or startle) reflex. Basically, when there’s a loud noise or your baby feels startled, his arms and legs will jolt up and extend outward quickly, then return to his sides. Creepy? A little bit. Adorable? Absolutely. (It also usually stops by about four months.)
So you birthed a baby Houdini. It happens. If you’re using the traditional muslin cloth, that might be the problem. Trade it out for the Velcro kind. Or better yet, the zipper kind. The goal is to give your baby womb-like security. That doesn’t mean you have to be a master folder.
Remember that Moro reflex we told you about? Swaddling actually promotes sleep, according to HealthyChildren.org and the AAP, and is the easiest way to prevent your babe from making a sudden movement and waking himself up.
The AAP recommends waiting until the two-month mark. This is typically the time that babies start trying to roll over, so it’s safer for them to have their hands free.
A good of rule of thumb is that your baby should have one wet diaper for each day of life. For example, one pee diaper on day one, two pee diapers on day two, etc. Then, once you start breastfeeding or formula feeding more regularly—usually by day three or once your milk supply comes in—you should expect at least five to six wet diapers and three to four poop diapers every 24 hours, according to the pediatrician-endorsed parenting website Kelly Mom.
In the first 48 hours, your newborn’s poop will be black. (It’s called meconium and, yes, it’s normal.) By day three or four, you’ll start to see transitional stools that are green/brown, followed by yellow—and usually seedy if you’re breastfeeding. (also according to Kelly Mom.)
Yes, but only for the first week unless your pediatrician tells you otherwise, and only to glean clues about the baby’s overall health. (Is she constipated? Dehydrated?) Bottom line: If something seems amiss or you haven’t had a pee diaper in 24 hours, call your pediatrician.
Your baby will be seeing the doctor a lot for the next year. (Well visits take place at three to five days, two weeks, one month, two months, four months, six months, nine months and 12 months—whew!) But that first appointment is really just about checking his weight, height, head growth, genitalia (especially if baby had a circumcision), hips, reflexes and pulse, according to the AAP.
Bring your log of pees and poops—the pediatrician will ask you how that’s going—and any questions you have about newborn care. Many doctor’s offices also offer complimentary breastfeeding or CPR classes, so ask about those too.
For the first 60 days, an infant’s circadian rhythm is totally off, according to a study out of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, meaning they have their days and nights mixed up, dozing for hours starting at 9 a.m., but acting wide awake come 9 p.m. A lot of this is connected to the fact that they need to eat every two to three hours right now. Still, to help them flip their schedule, you can try making your home super bright during the day and then keeping the nursery calm, dark and quiet for nighttime feeds.
John Hopkins Medicine has a handy chart to help you keep track, but during the first three months, your baby should be averaging between 15 to 16 hours of day and nighttime sleep.
During the first three months, there really isn’t an “ideal” time, according to Kim West, infant sleep coach and author of Good Night, Sleep Tight. Right now, your infant is sleeping in short two- to four-hour bursts and that’s A-OK. Still, you can watch for baby’s sleep cues (looking bored, rubbing her eyes, for example) and set a semi-consistent time from there (say, between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m.)
It feels counterintuitive, but with babies, sleep begets sleep, says Kathryn Bucklen, M.D., a pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. This means that forcing a newborn to stay awake later with the hope that it will tire him out will probably just backfire and he’ll end up sleeping less overall.
Up until the two-month mark, don't even bother. But, according to pediatric sleep consultancy Wee Bee Dreaming, you can start to create a routine—say, feed, bath, jammies, books, bed—between six and eight weeks.
Between 68 and 72 degrees. An indoor thermometer can help you keep track, but as a rule of thumb, you want it to feel comfortable to a lightly clothed adult (aka if you’re sweating or shivering, the baby is definitely sweating or shivering).
As with most parenting-related things, the research is mixed. There’s a chance it could increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. On the flip side, if you’re breastfeeding exclusively, sleep guru Dr. Sears has this to say: “Lighter sleep [due to waking to breastfeed] makes it easier for a mother and infant to detect and respond to the presence of the other, making the bed sharing arrangement much safer.”
Your baby loves the soothing vibrations, but the AAP says beware any non-firm sleep surfaces for nighttime, in order to reduce the risk of SIDS. You’re the mom and the call is yours to make, but, per the experts, it’s best to limit Rock ’n Play sleep to naps.
The most scientific way is to keep tabs on the baby’s weight at your pediatrician “well” visits. That said, according to Kelly Mom, there are a couple of telltale signs like your boobs deflating after a feed and your baby appearing content vs. fussy when you finish nursing.
Remember, if your child is gaining weight, your supply isn’t necessarily low. But if you’re worried, you can bolster your supply by encouraging your baby to nurse longer (per Kelly Mom), nursing more frequently during the day and night, and getting more sleep. (If only, right?) You can also add one extra pumping session to your day as a tactic to trick your boobs into thinking there's a higher demand for milk.
If your baby is gagging during feeds, try adjusting his position so that he’s nursing uphill to minimize choking. You could also experiment with something called block feeding. (Basically, if he finishes feeding on one side and still wants more, just put him on the same boob he just nursed from and hand-express milk from the other side after to help your supply adjust.)
No. Not in the slightest. It’s a giant misconception that breastfeeding works for everybody and that it’s the mother’s fault if she can’t make it happen. In fact, some research has found that there are biomarkers for insufficient breast milk (aka it’s not nurture, it’s nature), so cut yourself some slack. Want even more peace of mind? Read this recent study from Harvard Medical School, which supports the radical theory that formula-fed infants turn out just fine.
Kelly Mom and the AAP both agree: An eight-ounce glass of wine is fine, as long as you wait two hours to nurse after sipping. (FYI, alcohol peaks in your bloodstream about 30 minutes to an hour after you consume it.)
Best not to. Babies—especially those under three months of age—detoxify alcohol in half the amount of time it takes an adult. And while less than 2 percent of alcohol reaches a mother’s blood and milk, it can impact baby’s motor development, according to the AAP.
This is actually a major breastfeeding myth, recently debunked by science (and Slate). When you sip alcohol it doesn’t just pool in your boobs and stay there. Instead, alcohol passes into your breast milk at the same rate it goes into your bloodstream. When it leaves your bloodstream—typically about two hours later per glass—it leaves your breast milk (aka pumping and dumping is just wasted effort). In other words, technically you can drink what you want as long as you wait until you’re sober to nurse.
If you’re formula feeding? Day 1. If you’re breastfeeding, most lactation consultants recommend waiting until your newborn is at least three weeks old. The reason? You want your milk supply to be fully established—and your newborn to be comfortable and confident suckling from the boob before you introduce something new.
No. For the first use you should, but according to the CDC, hand washing in hot, soapy water or throwing them in the dishwasher (ideally, on a cycle that allows time for heated drying) is fine.
Nowadays, options abound and you can choose from formulas that are cow’s milk-based, soy-based and hypoallergenic. Your best bet is to talk through your options with your pediatrician during baby’s first “well” visit.
Milk-based formulas have added iron, which infants need, while soy-based formulas are available to parents who don’t want their baby consuming animal protein or for infants with a lactose allergy. (Don’t worry, they’re still iron-fortified.) If your baby has a lactose allergy, they could have a soy allergy, too, which is where the hypoallergenic or specialized formula options come in.
The AAP recommends feeding your newborn between 8 and 12 times a day or approximately every two to three hours. As a rule of thumb, you can keep an eye out for hunger cues: licking lips, rooting (moving their mouth toward the boob) or—the main sign—crying.
After the first few days, two to three ounces every three to four hours should be enough, says the AAP. (The same hunger cues apply, but the amount is slightly different than breastfed babies because they tend to rely on smaller, more frequent feedings.)
As soon as you’d like, although experts recommend holding off on bottle feeds for at least a couple of weeks so your baby has time to get comfortable nursing. We’re fans of beginning to pump around the three-week mark, in order to build up a freezer supply and increase your breastmilk production overall.
According to Kelly Mom, there are a variety of risk factors: a poor latch, cutting feedings short (which can lead to a backup of milk), nipple damage that causes bacteria to grow, and more. In fact, the best prevention tactic is easier than you think: Sticking to a regular feeding and pumping schedule. Also, it’s important to rotate breasts and start on a different side each time so that one boob doesn’t start to get backed up.
Typically, your doctor will prescribe a pain reliever (and, occasionally, an antibiotic, according to American Family Physician) that’s anti-inflammatory…along with drinking plenty of fluids and getting rest. Keep in mind, you still have to breastfeed to maintain your milk supply, but this—in addition to taking a hot shower and massaging your breasts—can actually aid in your speedy recovery.
Yes, although you may want to wait until three weeks to introduce one while you establish your milk supply. Just keep in mind, depending on the amount of time between nursing sessions, you may still need to wake up to pump.
Basically, it’s a genius mom tactic where you pre-empt your baby’s middle-of-the-night feeding by plucking her out of the crib (right before your own bedtime) and encouraging her to nurse while she’s still asleep. Since most babies are incapable of sleeping through the night until six months (or longer), this helps them load up on calories around 11 p.m., which could help them make it until the morning.
Nope! This happens frequently because the muscle that keeps food in baby’s stomach is not yet fully developed, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If spit-up flows easily out of his mouth—often combined with a burp—it’s fine. Vomiting occurs when spit-up is forceful, says the Mayo Clinic, meaning it shoots out inches instead of dribbling down his chin, which could be a sign you should call the pediatrician.
This is a widely debated issue and, for the most part, depends on the baby. Still, research conducted by Northeastern University found that while nipple confusion can occur occasionally when a baby is given an artificial nipple via a bottle too soon, there is very little evidence to indicate that it's brought on by pacifier use.
If you’re breastfeeding exclusively, wait until at least six months unless otherwise ordered by a pediatrician, according to Kelly Mom. Even when it’s 90 degrees outside, an extra nursing session or two is enough to keep baby hydrated. Ditto formula-fed babies. Just offer them a bit more to drink if it’s especially hot.
The stump on your baby’s belly button typically falls off on its own within one to two weeks after birth, per the American Pregnancy Association.
The recommendation used to be cleaning the base of the cord with rubbing alcohol, but no more: Now, most doctors recommend that you just leave it alone—and keep it dry during bath time—so that proper healing can occur.
It typically takes about ten days for your newborn’s circumcision to heal, according to WebMD. In that time, you can expect it to be a bit red and swollen with a yellow crust. To care for it, change the bandage and apply a fresh dab of petroleum jelly (to keep it from sticking to things) with every new diaper.
You should always (always) wipe front to back. Bonus tip for girls: Be sure to clean any poop that collects in the folds of the labia.
Nope. Not at all. But you can be prepared for it. In other words, keep a box of tissues or extra wipes nearby. Good times.
Ditto the tissues. Whenever you do a diaper change, your first step should be to place a tissue over his penis to at least try to catch any unexpected urine.
According to the Mayo Clinic, frequent diaper changes, applying a barrier of ointment like A&D regularly, and making sure the skin is dry and the diaper is fastened securely, but not overly tight, can all help minimize the appearance of diaper rash.
In most cases, layering a combination of ointment and butt paste (Triple Paste, for example) until the rash clears up should be enough. You can also take extra steps to keep the area dry and allow your baby to have some diaper-free time for up to ten minutes three times a day, per the Mayo Clinic.
Sort of. At two or three days old, your baby girl may have a little bit of bleeding caused by hormone withdrawal now that she’s no longer inside your womb. Don’t worry: It’s totally normal, per WebMD, and it will be her first (and last) menstrual cycle for years and years.
Up until the umbilical cord stump falls off, sponge-bathing your newborn should suffice. (After all, they don’t do much to get that dirty in those first few weeks.) After that, it’s up to you how often you want to take on bath time, but typically, two times a week is plenty, according to parenting expert Dr. Sears.
The key is to keep baby warm—especially if he’s partially submerged. Also, keep in mind that infants are extra slippery when wet, so you’ll want to be sure you have a good grip (or a towel nearby in case you need to quickly scoop him up). In the early months, you really only need to spot clean the areas that get the most sweaty or grimy. Think: back, under their armpits, and in between their toes, per Dr. Sears.
Immediately. Your doc will recommend staying away from crowded places with poor ventilation—like shopping centers or church—for six to eight weeks, for fear of airborne germs, but as long as you stick to airy or outdoor spaces, you should be fine.
Same deal. You can go anytime. If you can sit outdoors or near a window so that there’s increased ventilation, all the better.
It’s inevitable that your baby will be around other kids at some point, especially if she has older siblings. Still, toddlers harbor a lot of germs, and the last thing you want is for your newborn to get sick in the first eight weeks of life. As a rule of thumb, require all toddlers to wash their hands before visiting.
The CDC recommends that all pregnant women get this vaccine—which protects against whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria—during the third trimester of every pregnancy. (Yes, even if you got it before.) This way, you can pass some of the antibodies from the vaccine along to your newborn while they’re still in utero.
No, but Seattle Children’s Hospital advises that new parents, grandparents, babysitters and nannies all get the TDap vaccine if they know they’ll be in regular close contact with the baby.
Per the AAP, yes. Recent research found that a vitamin D deficiency and rickets have increased in all infants due to limited exposure to sunlight and change in lifestyle, dress and topical sunscreen application. An oral supplement given daily in liquid form should suffice until they start eating solids.
Not until later, according to the AAP. Typically, your pediatrician won’t recommend a multivitamin until your baby is four months old, but when they do, you’ll want to make sure it contains iron, since breastfed babies are at risk of iron deficiency. (Human milk has very little of it, apparently.)
Do. The goal is to prevent torticollis, a head tilt that can happen due to positioning in the womb or a difficult childbirth, says KidsHealth.org. Since it can take up to three months to develop, most doctors suggest doing a series of stretches—basically, helping your baby turn his head in both directions—during the first three months to compensate. (Here's a helpful tutorial.)
Do. In fact, author of The Happiest Baby Harvey Karp swears by it during sleep time, as a way to mimic the sound of the womb during a newborn’s first few months. Still, the type of white noise matters. Aim for something with a low and hypnotic pitch, like the rumble of an airplane or the sound of rain on a roof.
It’s your call. While a lot of experts recommend having your newborn nap in a room with a little bit of light while they straighten out their circadian rhythm, babies tend to get easily distracted—and over-stimulated—by a variety of sights. This means that once baby is no longer acting nocturnal, blackout shades are a simple solution…and one that can help extend the length of their naps.
Not necessarily, but it all depends on their age and nap timing, according to Psychology Today. For newborns, sleep begets sleep—but at a certain point (say, six months on), a nap that goes past 5 p.m. can actually start to interfere with nighttime slumber, at which point you might want to (gently) wake her up.
This goes hand in hand with Harvey Karp’s notion of different types of white noise. While baby might sleep right through the soft drone of a TV or the sound of rain, the clanging of silverware or the sharp pitch of dishes being set down could jolt him awake, unfortunately.
Ah, the million dollar question. According to the AAP, babies don’t have regular sleep cycles until they’re six months old, but you can actually start some form of sleep training as early as four months.
This one is your call. There’s the cry-it-out method, the fading-out method, the no-cry method…so many choices. Take our quiz to figure out which one is best for your parenting style.
It varies, according to Kelly Mom, but keep in mind: For newborns, sleeping through the night can actually mean a five- to six-hour stretch, which often starts at 7 p.m. and ends at midnight. (Depressing, right?) By six months, you should be getting solid stretches of at least eight hours.
Get this: According to WebMD, babies pass gas as many as 13 to 21 times a day. To stop it, you can try a few things: Changing your feeding position (you want to be sure baby’s head is elevated above her stomach), burping her more often, switching to a slower flow nipple if you’re bottle feeding or bicycling her legs. (Yes, it works!)
Also known as meltdown mode, the witching hour is a consistent time period every day—usually in the early evening—when a baby gets fussy and isn’t easily satisfied, no matter what you do. The Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh attributes it to a natural dip in mom’s prolactin levels (your milk-making hormone) combined with the fact that infants get overly stimulated by day’s end. The good news is that it typically subsides after three months.
Babies should be set on their stomachs for play at least two to three times a day for three to five minutes at a time, says the AAP. That said, you can also increase the amount of time a baby is on her belly if she appears to enjoy it. (Which she won’t…all babies hate tummy time.)
Basically, it’s when you put your baby on her stomach, set a toy within arm’s reach and let her wiggle around under your watchful eye. The goal is to help her strengthen her neck muscles, but also to prevent her from developing a flat spot on the back of her head, per the AAP.
Try putting her on your chest while gazing straight into her eyes. Instant incentive to lift her head.
In those early weeks and months, your newborn benefits from almost anything: Try “sportscasting” your day to help him learn conversation. Alternately, shake a rattle, sing a song, read a book out loud, practice tummy time or make facial expressions for him to imitate.
You can typically judge this by feeling the back of the neck, says BabyMed. It’s near the core of their body, so it’s a good litmus test. If you find it feels damp or sweaty, it’s a sign your baby might be too hot and can shed a layer.
Ditto the neck. If it feels cold or chilly to the touch, it’s worth adding a layer of clothing (or a hat).
In the butt, per the AAP.
If baby’s temperature is 100.4 or higher, especially in the first 12 weeks, it’s considered serious and you should immediately contact your pediatrician. After that, you should call if it spikes higher than 101 degrees. (Although most docs will encourage you to call if there's anything that's remotely worrying you.)
Probably not. According to KidsHealth.org, regular detergent won’t do any harm, unless he has allergies or a skin sensitivity like eczema or atopic dermatitis.
By three months, says the AAP, and sometimes sooner. It’s mainly in response to the sound of mom's or dad’s voice. So keep up that “sportscasting!”
This typically happens around four months—and is some combination of babbling, smiling and a giggle fit, per the AAP.
Up until three months, newborns can’t focus on things that are more than six to ten inches away. But by two months, they’re starting to see subtle differences in color and can recognize mom’s and dad’s face, says the American Optometric Association.
According to WebMD, around 12 months. But some babies talk way earlier or way later, and still fall into the category of normal.
This developmental milestone typically happens anytime between four and six months, according to Baby Science. Note that it's easier for babies to roll from front to back first. (Back to front comes a bit later after lots and lots of tummy time.)
Visual memory—introducing a baby to an object or person over and over again—supposedly helps, according to a study from Indiana University. So, you know, don’t be a stranger.
Most likely cradle cap. (You can always check with your pediatrician.) For the record, that’s just a fancy term for baby dandruff and it should clear up in a matter of weeks.
Yep, all normal. This typically happens to most newborns around the two-week mark and clears up a couple of weeks later, according to the Mayo Clinic.
We wish there were. You could invest in a NailFrida, which comes with an S-shaped nail file and curved nail clippers for ease of use, but even if you attempt it while baby is sleeping or nursing, it’s tricky.
Embrace the mom fail and move on.
The AAP recommends room sharing for six months to help reduce the risk of SIDS. (Their philosophy is that it’s easier to hear the baby having a problem if she’s close by.) Still, some pediatricians say it’s fine to give her the boot sooner, as long as you sleep with a monitor by your bed.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to minimize your infant’s exposure to the sun until they’re six months, which means no sunscreen until that age, too, according to the AAP. Still, if shade truly isn’t available, it’s OK to apply a minimal amount to places like the face and the back of the hands.
Your best bet before resorting to sunscreen is to keep baby covered up. Use clothing, a sunhat, a swaddle, whatever it takes.
In addition to the soft spots on their heads that allow for proper brain growth, your baby may have a bump or two. According to the AAP, a bit of swelling on the head after delivery is totally normal and should go away in a few weeks’ time. (It’s also most common with vaginal deliveries, specifically if a vacuum was used for assistance.)
Not necessarily—head shape irregularities can start in utero, says the AAP. Still, it’s best to maximize tummy time, so they don’t spend all their sleep and awake time on their back.
Before you panic, talk to your pediatrician. Helmet therapy is a lot more rare than you might think and many flat head symptoms can be treated with physical therapy and noninvasive measures, according to the AAP.
Yes. We promise you, yes.