The Ultimate Guide to Newborn Care: Exploring Naps, Nutritional Tips, and Gentle Parenting Techniques | Expert Advice for Parents and Parenting

What Every New Parent Needs to Know: A Comprehensive Guide

Parenting is a time filled with both solicited and unsolicited advice. When it comes to making informed decisions about some of the most discussed topics, sticking to the evidence helps. Below is our handy guide to what every new parent needs to know in key areas.

Breast vs. Bottle: Debunking the Controversy

While breast milk undoubtedly provides benefits, the breast versus bottle debate is not as contentious as it is made out to be. Breast milk has properties that protect a baby from getting sick, and a baby can self-regulate a feed. Additionally, if you are exclusively breastfeeding, there’s no need to sterilize bottles (aside from when bottle-feeding pumped milk). However, formula has all the vitamins a baby needs. It’s true that studies have found that breastfed children achieve higher grades, but this correlation could have many other causation factors. For example, higher-educated women tend to breastfeed more, meaning socioeconomic status, not breastfeeding alone, could be the factor. One study comparing siblings who had been either bottle-fed or breastfed as infants found no significant health benefits later in life. Women often feel guilt and shame when they don’t breastfeed, which can contribute to poor maternal mental health. This has led campaigners recently to focus on the phrase “fed is best” rather than “breast is best.”

Routine or Baby-Led: Finding the Balance

New parents are often asked whether their baby follows a routine or if they are letting the baby lead the way. Routine tends to refer to scheduled naps and feed times, whereas with a baby-led approach, parents take cues from the baby. Proponents of routines say it helps to have predictable times to feed, play, and sleep. They argue that if fed on demand, the baby will simply “snack” all day and never be full. On the other hand, baby-led followers say routines are militant and don’t allow the baby autonomy. The evidence actually paints a different picture. One study found that those who followed strict parent-led routines were more likely to experience anxiety and negatively influence breastfeeding duration. Perhaps not overthinking it is best, as each baby is different. The NHS recommends responsive feeding when babies are young, which will help stimulate milk production early on. Babies tend to fall into a routine gradually anyway, so perhaps it’s not worth fretting over in the long run.

Sleeping in a Crib or Bed Sharing: A Delicate Balance

Many parents end up “accidentally” co-sleeping but rarely admit it because of safety concerns over SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). It has been found that bed sharing can increase the risk of SIDS by a small amount, though the risk rises in combination with other factors, namely drinking and smoking. Proponents of bed sharing say it can be done safely, and in many parts of the world, bed sharing is the norm. The rate of SIDS when co-sleeping is lower in families where mothers are breastfeeding and parents have not smoked or consumed alcohol. Experts therefore urge caution. Scientists still don’t know what causes SIDS, but the Lullaby Trust has evidence-based, safer-sleep advice for parents: ABCs – always put the baby on their back in a clear cot or sleep space.

The Benefits of Early Peanut Introduction

Parents used to be told to avoid peanuts in infancy at all costs, in case a baby has an allergic reaction, but advice has changed. New guidelines urge parents to introduce peanuts when weaning. Research now shows that if babies aged 4-6 months are introduced to peanuts, it reduces allergies by 77%. The later peanuts are introduced, the smaller the reduction in allergies. Of course, be on hand to witness any adverse effects, which include rashes, swelling, or shortness of breath.

The Power of Play in Early Literacy

Some parents introduce letters and numbers to their children in nursery with the idea that this will surely benefit them once they go to school. If a child shows natural interest, this is fine. However, evidence points to the fact that play in itself is hugely beneficial to learning. In fact, children who learn to read at around age six often do as well academically or even better compared to children who start at age four. Children at academically pressured preschools have shown later academic declines, whereas those who attended play-based learning settings showed improvements. It is language development that is key for learning, so talking to your children and reading books to them regularly gives them the best head start with literacy learning.

The Gentle Approach to Parenting

Anyone with a toddler is likely to have come across “gentle parenting.” It revolves around acknowledging your child’s feelings calmly and gently, especially when they act out. Proponents say it will help with tantrums or stubborn disobedience, though evidence suggests that being a “sensitive parent” – which means being in tune with your child’s needs – has the best outcome on social development and well-being. This is not the same as gentle parenting, which is a discipline style rather than a disposition. Research shows that children with sensitive parents had better social development and academic achievement. As for gentle parenting, experts say boundaries are also important. If your child hits their sibling, it could be better to tell them this is inappropriate rather than getting down on their level and saying, “It seems you hit your sister because you are a little frustrated right now…” Reacting to each individual child’s needs might be better than following the parenting style du jour.

The Mystery of Bedtime

Sleeping through tends to be the ultimate goal for most parents, but the idea that kids are able to do this is a bit of a myth. There are schools of thought that say for optimal sleep, babies and toddlers should sleep from about 7pm to 7am, as research has found that earlier bedtimes are linked with better health outcomes for preschoolers. However, practices and preferences vary around the world. It’s worth tuning into what your child needs: not all toddlers will easily go down at 7pm, so trying to do so could cause everyone more stress and lead to increased “bedtime resistance.” Research does show, however, that a consistent bedtime routine helps improve sleep quality and well-being.

Melissa Hogenboom is a science journalist and author of The Motherhood Complex: The Story of our Changing Selves.


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Denial of responsibility! Vigour Times is an automatic aggregator of Global media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, and all materials to their authors. For any complaint, please reach us at – [email protected]. We will take necessary action within 24 hours.
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