Q: My newborn is feeding so frequently that I am exhausted by the demand. Should I feed my baby every time she cries or can I put her on a schedule, say every two hours?
A: Babies are exhausting! How often you feed your baby depends on her age and weight as well as how you are feeding her. Newborns typically lose weight in the first week after birth so I recommend that new moms feed their babies at least every three hours until their baby gets back to birthweight, typically by two weeks of age. After that, I recommend feeding on demand, knowing that a breastfed baby with a lucky mom will feed as often as every two hours during the day and less often at night. I hesitate to recommend a strict schedule, because breastfed babies will often cluster feed for a few hours before nap or bedtime, then sleep for a longer stretch of time. Essentially, I support whatever works best for you and your baby. Babies cry for all kinds of reasons, and as you get to know her, you will be able to tell hungry cries from lonely cries from painful cries. Start experimenting with other soothing techniques, as well, and you will figure out what she needs.
Q: My baby is almost 6 weeks old and I am contemplating going back to work soon. My husband and I have a couple of interviews scheduled with childcare providers but need some advice as to what kinds of questions to ask? How do you find outstanding care for a newborn?
A: Choosing a care provider for your baby is one of the most important decisions you make when going back to work. With a baby that is just 6 weeks old, consideration of how many other children are there is very important. Her risk of infection is higher when she is that young. You will want to know daycare hours and how many children are on site. What is the illness policy of the center? Also, clarify the staff training and ratio of providers to children. Does the staff know CPR? How many babies is each staff member responsible for? Ask for references and call them personally. Find out how long the staff has been employed there and check to see if you are allowed to visit at any time or only during certain hours. With diligence, you will find a safe and supportive environment for your daughter when you return to work.
Q: I'm curious about your opinion on energy drinks for kids. Lately, my 13-year-old son's friends have all been drinking one after school before cross country practice. My son wants me to buy them, but I'm not so sure this is a good idea.
A: I agree with you, energy drinks before exercise are not a good idea. Most energy drinks are a combination of refined sugar and caffeine. In small amounts, those may help athletic performance, but in the large quantities present in most energy drinks, that combination can cause a significant crash in energy about an hour after consumption, right in the middle of cross country practice. High caffeine content can predispose your child to dehydration, while the sugar may cause a blood sugar drop that will impair his ability to perform physically. Your child is much better off with a glass of water and snack with complex carbohydrates prior to practice.
Q: Some of my friends' preschoolers seem way more advanced than my daughter. They speak clearly and tell elaborate stories when we get together. My daughter is quiet and does not have nearly as much to offer. Should I be worried about her development?
A: I would bring her in for an evaluation because you have a noticed a difference in your child compared to her peers. Is she quiet when in groups and more verbal when she is home? If she seems anxious in new situations, you can discuss strategies to help her feel more comfortable. If she seems to be behind in her overall verbal development and communication, she should have an evaluation to determine cause and best therapy. Many things can affect her communication skills: she should be evaluated for systemic illness, hearing ability, and overall development. We want her to have as many communication skills as possible by the time she starts kindergarten to support her social and emotional development, so addressing your concerns early is the right thing to do for your child.