Raising a child can be one of the most fulfilling experiences of life. You give birth to a little human being, nourish her with all your love, and see her grow into a happy, healthy person. This is obviously a massive responsibility and needs constant love, care and dedication.
As a mother, you are the one who is closest to your baby. Even though the thought of ‘being a mother’ can sometimes seem overwhelming and unnerving, trust us when we say you will be able to ace it. Mothers have superpowers that science is only now beginning to appreciate!
To help you along on this amazing new journey, we have prepared an A-Z primer on how to have a healthy baby. It enlists all the important things a baby needs to thrive.
1. A for Attention
Your baby loves being the centre of attention, and you love showering her with it! When babies get attention in their early life, they automatically learn to manage stress and become better adjusted to the world. On the other hand, when they don’t get enough attention, they become more sensitive to future trauma.
Recent research by Harvard Medical School recommends that parents should try to respond to their babies’ crying as soon as possible. Do as your maternal instincts advise – pick your baby up, play with her and make eye contact frequently during the day.
2. B for Breastfeeding
They say a baby’s favourite food/drink is mother’s milk, and science agrees! Breast milk is a rich (and complete) source of nutrition for your baby and provides her immunity against infection.
Consider exclusively breastfeeding your baby for the first six months. You can then gradually introduce solid food while continuing to breastfeed at least till your baby turns one. If you are unable to breastfeed for some reason, discuss this with your doctor and choose a suitable formula for your baby.
3. C for Cuddles
Cuddles are one of the favourite moments of the day for both babies and mommies. They feel so good that the difficult part is when you have to stop! As it turns out, cuddles not only feel good but are also crucial to your baby’s emotional development. Pathbreaking research by psychologist Darcia Narvaez shows that children who have positive experiences with affectionate touch grow up to be less anxious adults. This starts with baby snuggles.
Cuddle your baby as often as you want to, even more, when she is fussy or unwell. Don’t listen to people who criticise you and say that you may be spoiling your baby. You are the mother, you know best, and there is no such thing as ‘too much love’ for babies!
4. D for Diapering
Babies tend to need diapers (cloth or disposable) for at least 2-3 years after birth. While diapers are necessary, especially at night-time and during travelling, they also demand extra care.
Change diapers frequently through the day even if they are not soiled. Clean the diaper area gently, with baby wipes – Baby Dove wipes are non-alcoholic and mild, and a good choice for baby’s delicate skin. Use a diaper-rash cream to protect the area from infection. Choose a diaper rash cream that contains zinc oxide –it helps to neutralize pH faster and forms a protective layer to shield the skin from irritation.
5. E for Encouragement
Imagine the sheer amount of learning babies have to do in their early years – learn to adjust to the world, learn to roll over, crawl, say new words, recognise faces…phew! At every step of the way, babies need their parents’ support and encouragement. This helps them learn even faster.
Praise your baby’s little efforts, such as the first time they roll over on their tummy or learn to stand up by themselves. Babies may not be able to say much, but they can read facial gestures and tones of voice very well.
6. F for Family
The mother may be at the centre of a baby’s world, but the daddy, grandparents and siblings are also very important people! Raising a baby in close connection with the extended family is excellent for good emotional health. Scientists believe that a baby can sense strong familial bonds and feel reassured and safe.
Help your family members bond with and spend time with your baby. If you have started bottle feeding, your husband can pitch in to feed the baby. Family members can also babysit, be part of play-dates, and get together on outdoor picnics.
7. G for Gym Time!
While little ones may seem just too tiny, they need physical exercise too! To raise a healthy baby, include daily physical activity in her day. This will boost physical development, aid digestion, and improve sleep quality.
After your baby reaches the 4-month mark and has good head and neck control, you can introduce her to tummy-time. Place your baby belly-down on your chest, across your lap, or on a well-padded floor blanket. You can do this when your baby is well-rested and hasn’t been fed recently.
8. H for Health Check-Up
A periodic health check-up is crucial to track your baby’s progress and see if she has good overall health. The paediatrician will record her weight, height, head circumference, and also inspect her for any infections or allergies.
Take your baby for a health check-up every month, or as instructed by your paediatrician.
9. I for Interaction
You must have noticed that some babies start talking earlier and more fluently than others. Part of the reason is an early initiation of interaction! Babies need to socialise with you and other people to pick up new sounds, words, the skill of eye contact, and the ability to express themselves.
Talk to your baby frequently during the day. Speak in Motherese (using facial gestures and exaggerating the main syllable) as you change her diapers or give her a bath. Take your baby out to the park or on play-dates to introduce her to other people. Babies may experience stranger anxiety around 7 months of age, so try to balance social interaction with lots of cuddles, rest and mom-time.
10. J for Jokes
No, your baby is not too young for jokes, and it can be surprising what a keen sense of humour some babies have! Child development experts believe that humour and laughter can make babies smarter and able to cope with challenges better.
Build your baby’s sense of humour by blowing raspberries on her tummy, making funny facial expressions, and enunciating funny sounds. K for Knowledge
Brain development is at its fastest during the first three years of life. Use this time to build your baby’s knowledge base and skills to give her a great head-start on life.
Here are some quick tips you can use to build your baby’s brain:
- Read to your baby every day. Choose simple and colourful books with lots of pictures.
- Play music for your baby.
- Help your baby with unstructured play or simple cause-and-effect games (e.g. baby throws something, and mom picks it up).
- Stimulate your baby’s senses by introducing different smells and textures.
11. L for Love
We are not going to go into the details of this one, except for saying one thing – the kind of love that a mother feels for her baby is strong enough to move mountains! Babies can sense this love, and they lap it up greedily, growing stronger with every hug.
12. M for Moisturization
Your baby is born with ultra-thin, delicate skin that’s 30% thinner than adult skin. When exposed to the outside world, your baby can lose moisture up to five times faster than adults do. This can lead to skin dryness, irritation, fussiness, and a number of skin problems over time.
Protect your baby by moisturizing her skin regularly, especially after bath-time and before bed-time. Use nourishing products for bathing and cleansing her that don’t strip the skin’s natural oils. The Baby Dove Rich Moisture range is an excellent option to keep your baby’s skin soft and moisturized. The Baby Dove Lotion, especially, replenishes your baby’s precious skin barrier and keeps the skin hydrated for up to 24 hours!
13. N for Nutrition
Nutrition is the key to your baby’s physical and mental development. Breast milk (or formula milk) fulfils all the nutritional needs of your baby for the first six months. After this milestone, once your baby has learnt to hold her head up and swallow, you can slowly introduce solid food.
You can start with fruit and vegetable purees, finely mashed lentils or rice cereal. Introduce only one new food at a time and wait for three days before introducing another. In the 6-12 months period, your baby will continue to derive most of her nutrition from breast milk (or formula milk).
14. O for Oral Care
The oral cavity, if not well-cared for, can become the breeding ground for many infections. Even before your baby gets her first tooth, incorporate oral care into her routine.
Simply dip a small cloth or gauze in warm water and rub your baby’s gums and tongue. After your baby starts teething, use a soft toothbrush to brush her teeth gently.
15. P for Paediatrician Tested
Baby skin is different in its physiology and structure and therefore needs specialised care. When choosing baby products, pick ones that are gentle and nourishing. Steer clear of products with harmful chemicals and strong fragrances.
One quick way to ensure this is to go with expert recommendations. For example, the entire range of baby products by Baby Dove is paediatrician-tested and dermatologist-approved. This means the products are absolutely safe for application on delicate baby skin.
16. Q for Quality Time
Bringing up a baby can really sap your energy and leave you with little time in hand. However, little ones need our time not just for daily care and feeding, but also for play, interaction and relaxation. Babies who get quality time from their parents develop deeper relationships, feel more loved, and learn to pay undivided attention themselves.
Involve Dad in this area, to ensure baby – daddy bonding is part of every day. This gives you a much-needed break and allows your baby to get some alone time with Dad!
17. R for Regular Massage
You know that feeling of warmth and satisfaction you get after massaging your baby? Science has found there is a valid reason behind it – massaging releases the ‘love hormone’ (oxytocin) in the body, and this helps you and your baby bond better! A daily massage also promotes your baby’s overall development, keeps her skin moisturized, and is the tried-and-tested secret of a healthy baby.
Paediatricians highly recommend a massage for babies, using gentle strokes. Choose a light and non-greasy oil like Baby Dove Massage Oil that gets readily absorbed into your baby’s skin and reduces any chances of slipping. This oil also soothes dry skin by locking in moisture.
18. S for Skincare
Whether your baby has normal or sensitive skin, a daily routine is essential to keep it well-nourished. Even the smallest of triggers can irritate delicate baby skin – from weather changes and air-conditioning to friction from clothes! When you have a daily skincare routine for your baby, you can ensure her skin remains soft and supple all day.
Here’s a simple skincare routine you can adapt for your baby:
- Massage your baby with a moisturizing massage oil in the morning.
- Bathe your baby using lukewarm water and a nourishing soap/body wash.
- Apply a moisturizing lotion within minutes of drying your baby.
- In the evening, cleanse your baby using a soft sponge, lukewarm water and baby wipes.
- Apply a moisturizing lotion before your baby’s bed-time.
Note: Many mothers report that babies love routine of all kinds! They like it when they are part of a consistent schedule and can expect feeding, play-time and sleep around the same time every day. After your baby is a few months old, you can try building a routine for her. The result will keep both you and your baby feeling more relaxed.
19. T for Touch
One of a mother’s magic powers is the power of touch. A mother’s touch has been scientifically proven to be therapeutic for babies, helping them feel relaxed and also boosting their development. Practise skin-to-skin therapy (also called ‘kangaroo care’) with your baby. Dress your baby in only a diaper and hold her next to your skin. The good news is, even dads can practise touch therapy to reap wonderful results for their baby!
20. U for Umbilical Cord Care
Your baby’s umbilical cord is what kept her connected to you while she was in the womb. The doctor clips it off after delivery, and that’s how we have cute belly buttons. The umbilical cord needs extra care for a few weeks after delivery.
Keep the cord area clean and dry, especially while bathing/cleansing your baby. It is recommended to avoid tub baths till the cord falls off. Avoid covering the area with the diaper; keeping it exposed will speed up healing. Consult the paediatrician if you spot any signs of belly button infection such as oozing or pus formation.
21. V for Vaccination
When babies emerge from the womb, they are exposed to all the microbes and infectious agents that are abundant in the outside world. Their immune system is not yet strong enough to fight these agents off. This is why you need to get them vaccinated to protect against infectious diseases. Vaccines contain a small, weakened amount of the bacteria/virus they protect against. Therefore, they do not cause the disease but teach the immune system to protect against it in the future.
In your baby’s first year, ensure she gets all the recommended vaccines, including Polio, Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis and Rotavirus. Ask your doctor to share a complete vaccination schedule your baby will need to follow over the years.
22. W for White Noise
White noise is a combination of different frequencies of sound that all have the same intensity. The humming of an air-conditioner or fan, the sound of water flowing from a tap and ocean waves are all examples of white noise. Why is this important for a baby? Well, this is the kind of sound that the baby heard while she was in the womb and stands for familiarity and comfort!
White noise can be very beneficial in soothing your baby to sleep. Use an online white noise generator or build your own at home to calm your baby when she is fussy.
23. X for X-ploration
Before you know it, your baby will get mobile, i.e., start to roll over, crawl and walk. A love for exploration is a trait every baby is born with and something we as parents should promote. Babies need to explore their surroundings to strengthen their muscles, learn about their environment, and develop balance and coordination.
Here are some simple ways to baby proof your home and encourage exploration:
- Add safety tape around any furniture with sharp edges.
- Install child-safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs, on balcony doors, etc.
- Secure heavy furniture or electronics to the wall.
- Disinfect the floor with a baby-friendly disinfectant every day.
24. Y for You
This is perhaps the most important thing on this list – you! As the mother, you are the one who is the most attuned to your baby’s needs and understand her best. Your instincts are very strong, and you can assess your baby’s overall health and wellness simply by reading her cues.
To ensure your baby gets a lot of ‘You’, have faith in yourself. Remember that there is no right or wrong way of being a mother, only your way.
25. Z for Zzzzs
Babies need a lot of sleep in their early years. Sleep helps your baby get adequate rest and rejuvenation. Newborns can sleep for up to 18 hours a day during the first three months! Even after they turn one, they still need about 12 hours of sleep a day. Help your baby sleep peacefully by building a bed-time routine for her, such as moisturisation, cuddles and dim lighting.
Ensure to place your baby on the back as that is the safest sleep position for little ones.