Baby basics (0-5 months)
For many women, the closer to the end of the pregnancy, the greater the urge to nest! Sorting through the infinite number of baby things available to new parents can be overwhelming. If you're looking to save money, accept hand-me-downs or borrow baby gear from friends and family (who live in smoke-free homes), except that you may want to buy car seats (and other things with safety-related mechanisms) brand new. If you plan to have more than one child, or intend to resell certain items you've purchased after you're finished with them, consider buying unisex.
Download our 0-5 month old baby essentials checklist.
Your diaper bag
A well-equipped diaper bag can be the difference between a pleasant outing and a potentially disastrous one. As a general rule of thumb – it is best to be over prepared. You can never predict what is going to happen or how equipped the space is that you find yourself in. Trying to remember everything can be challenging. You often find gaps in your packing at the most inopportune time (when things have gone sideways). To help in this process, here is a list of “must haves” and some “nice haves” compiled by experienced moms who have learned from a few disastrous experiences of their own! This list will vary according to weather as well as the age of your child.
A pdf of this checklist is available here.
- Diapers – for new babies, pack at least one for every hour you plan to be away plus a couple extra
- Wipes – if you don’t have a reusable package (highly recommended), throw some into a Ziploc bag
- Wet bag (or large Ziploc bag if you are careful to keep to away from children) for holding dirty diapers or wet/soiled clothing
- Hand sanitizer
- Diaper cream
- A folding change pad or blanket (many diaper change travel kits come with wipes case)
- Change of clothes for child – for a baby consider a onesie or a sleeper and for older children a shirt/bottoms
- Change of clothes for you – a shirt is ideal but at the very least a scarf to cover up any mishaps
- Receiving blankets
- Soother/teething toys
- Baby food/healthy snacks (spoon, bowl, bag for empty dirty dishes, snack trap for finger foods)
- Sippy Cup (if applicable)
- Food and drink for you - you will be better for it! For quick energy, try Quest Coconut Cashew Bars
- Required medication
- Wallet (keep a handful of change in your bag at all times)
- Bottle fed babies
- Clean bottles
- Bottles of water and powdered formula (try formula dispensers like Munchkin Formula Dispenser Combo Pack). While more expensive, premixed formula is super convenient when out and about
- Breast fed babies
- Expressed breast milk (this will require a cooling device)
- A nursing cover or blanket should you choose (we like this nursing cover and these blankets)
- A few nursing pads and nipple cream
- Insulated bottle tote/heater
- Pacifier holder you can clip onto stroller
- Stain eraser or tide on the go
- Face clothes
- Nail clippers/file
- Lip balm/gloss
- Hair ties
- Sling if your little one gets fussy and wants out of stroller
- Disposable changing sheet (one less thing for you to wash)
- Grocery cart cover
- Bag for scrapes and cuts (Band-Aids/ointment)
- Cell phone charger
- Toys (that are in one piece and not too small)
- Books (a great idea especially the interactive kind)
- Weather dependent
Once you are home and have a moment to breathe, replace items used so your bag is set and ready to go for the next outing!
Our one big tip: Keep a backup supply of diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, socks, water and non-perishable snacks (like trail mix) in your vehicle. This has saved us more than once!
Baby proofing your home
Preparing your house for the arrival of your baby can seem like a daunting task. You only need to crawl around on your hands and knees for a few minutes to see all the potential dangers that exist. We cannot possibly protect our kids from every bump and bruise, despite our best efforts, but thoroughly baby proofing our house can greatly reduce the risk of serious injury. While your eagle-eyes are by far the best baby proofing you can do, don’t underestimate how tired you are likely to feel the first year and how quickly things can happen. What should you do before baby arrives and what can wait until they show signs they are ready to crawl? Here is a list of ideas to get you started.
Things to consider before your baby arrives
- Have a working carbon monoxide detector
- Ensure all fire detectors are operating
- Stock your first aid kit
- Have emergency numbers easily accessible
- Remove all poisonous plants or keep them out of reach
- Make sure small choking hazards are out of reach (you'd be surprised what babies can grab and put in their mouths - as a general rule, anything that can fit inside a toilet paper roll is a choking hazard!)
- Ensure your crib meets federal safety standards
- Have a firm mattress that fits the frame
- Do not place crib in front of window, heat register, decorations, or anything that baby can grab
- Avoid bumper pads on crib
- Do not leave toys, puffy blankets or pillows in the child’s crib (consider putting baby to sleep in a secure swaddle or sleep sack)
- If using a change table, ensure it has raised edges and a safety strap (note - the safest place to change a baby is on the floor)
- Consider a baby monitor, preferably with video, so you can check on them regularly but make sure the cord is secure and out of baby’s reach
- Have an anti-slip bath mat (do not use a bath seat to prop baby up)
- Adjust thermostat to monitor hot water temperature, below 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.89 degrees Celsius), to avoid scalding
Preparing for movement and beyond
About your baby
Pregnancy was the easy part...
You finally have what you've been waiting oh so patiently for for the past 9 months – your perfect little bundle of joy has arrived! Let us be the first to congratulate you (and to let you know that we're here as a virtual shoulder for you to cry on!). We know that feeling of now what!?!
If we're being completely honest, it truly is amazing to be a Mom! But with that awesomeness begins sleepless nights, countless tears (theirs and yours), never-ending worrying over every little thing, constantly second guessing whether or not you're doing the right thing, perpetual mommy guilt, and forgetting at least one thing you need for you or your baby every single time you leave the house!
New parent's don't have much spare time so here are the coles notes for babies... you may have heard that as newborns they primarily drink, poop and sleep and it's pretty much the truth.
Your baby will most likely be feeding every 2-4 hours in the beginning. Generally, a newborn’s stomach is the size of a cherry the first 2 days of life, a whole walnut by day four, and finally around the size of an egg at two weeks of age. Typically, a newborn will consume two to three ounces per feed in the first month. Your baby should have, approximately, six wet diapers per day by the first two weeks if they are getting enough to drink. Growth spurts are common especially around 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months which may cause a change in your baby’s eating and sleeping patterns.
Since you're going to be working hard feeding your newborn once every three hours or so regardless, and everything is completely new to your baby, this is a great time to introduce them to life as you know it in terms of feeding and sleep. We think it's very important to create healthy habits (feeding and sleep) from day one and for everyone in the family to have a full night of sleep asap after your baby is born.
If your delivery was difficult or there was concern about trauma or shock to your baby, particularly if you had a caesarean or if a vaccum or forcepts were used to help deliver your baby vaginally. If this is the case, or if your baby has colic, you may want to speak with your doctor about taking your baby to a chiropractor or craniosacral therapist.
Establishing healthy practices for your baby from the moment they are born is important so that you don’t have to try to change established habits later on (because that's not fair to anyone, especially your baby). Off the top of our heads, here are a few important healthy habits!
- Maximize skin on skin and cuddle time
Babies and children grow so fast, let them fall asleep on you before putting them down in there crib (at least for the first coupe of days or even weeks). Many of the little things that annoy you today are gone in the blink of an eye and you actually look back on those memories fondly. Love and appreciate every single minute of parenthood!
- Teach your baby healthy feeding and sleep habits right away
For a predicable schedule and to maximize uninterrupted sleep as soon as possible (up to 12 hours at 12 weeks), implement the Calmmother feeding and sleep schedule (or other sleep program that works for you) as soon as possible after your baby is born. We cannot stress enough that our program is most effective if you transition your baby to your schedule as soon as she is born. Although we recommend that you be firm and consistent with the schedule, we urge you to be patient with your baby – we are talking about your sweet baby after all. In the same way that certain babies walk and talk earlier than others, some babies may take longer than others to adapt to a desired schedule. This is something to keep in mind as you transition your baby to your routine. We know that patience is truly a virtue in every sense of the word.
Make sure to let other family members and caregivers know about the feeding and sleep method you are using so that they can help you establish consistency in your little one's life. Habits can develop in as little as a few days, so you will want the other caregivers to know about your daily routine and minimizing the frequency of your baby falling asleep on an adult. Since it can take up to a few weeks or longer to change a habit once it has been established, try not to let the bad habit form in the first place.
- Learn to communicate effectively with your baby
This really goes both ways in terms of learning your baby's language and teaching your baby to communicate with you as well. We are assuming that you are interested in soothing your baby before she begins to cry hysterically or at all.
Absent health concerns, making sure your baby is content is key to avoiding tears. This will entail ensuring that your baby is well-fed and rested, that she is burped and changed as required, and that she comfortable, meaning not too hot or cold and that her clothing is comfy (we know, tall order, right?).
With respect to your newborn baby, we believe that Dunstan Baby Language (DBL) provides a life changing approach to preventing tears. In short, according to DBL the five universal words or sound reflexes used by infants are: Eairh – baby has gas, Eh – baby needs to burp, Heh –baby is physically uncomfortable, Neh – baby is hungry, and Owh – baby is tired. We recommend that you at least check out Ms. Dunstan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey. It won't take up too much of your time to learn what you need to know (and there's an app for it – genius!).
As your baby gets older, it can be fun trying to figure out her needs and wants in between the raspberries, giggles, cooes and sound reflexes. But, for times that you may just want to cut to the chase, we also think it is important to teach your baby sign language. This can be particularly helpful when your baby is old enough to eat solids. Plus, how cute is it for your baby to sign I love you before she can verbalize it!
Start using basic baby sign language with your baby as soon as possible, including the words hungry, thirsty, more, finished, sleep time, and I love you. Learn these and other baby signs at www.babysignlanguage.com. You may be surprised by just how fast your baby picks up on it.
- Always teach proper etiquette
Since habits begin to form immediately, be mindful of the manner that you speak to and behave in front of your baby from day one. Teach good manners by demonstrating appropriate etiquette, including sitting politely at the dinner table, not playing with or throwing food, not allowing toys at the table, and teaching your baby to say please, thank you and excuse me, etc.
Similarly, to help develop your baby’s ability to communicate verbally, speak with her like she is a person – try to avoid baby talk completely. Also, use words with correct grammar and pronunciation.
Babies pick up on words very quickly, and they love listening to you sing and talk. Tell your baby what time it is and what you’re going to during that time, such as bath time, nap time, play time, bedtime, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Having a running dialogue with your baby during the day is totally normal – just wait until she begins to talk back to you!
- Lose the Mommy guilt and take care of yourself
Food, love, career, and mothers, the four major guilt groups – Cathy Guisewite could not have said it any better.
Truly, it doesn't matter what you do, how hard you try or how much you love your baby, mother's guilt will always be there regarding one thing or another. This includes, but is by no means limited to, the decision to go back to work or not (and if so, when), to breastfeed or not (and if so, for how long), to take time for yourself, or to put your newborn down or let them cry for five minutes or longer.
Perfection is impossible, you are doing the best you can, go easy on yourself. And don't forget to breath!
Diapers and hygiene
Within the first two days of life, your baby should have minimum one or two wet and one or two solid or poopy diapers. The stool colour will mostly be dark green to black (this is referred to as meconium). During the next two days you should see at least three or four wet diapers and at least three poopy diapers. From one to three weeks of age expect five or six heavy wet diapers with yellow or clear urine and three to five poops per day. As your baby’s digestive system develops the stool consistency, colour, and frequency changes as well. After five weeks their bowel movements will be less frequent but larger.
These guidelines are for both breastfed and formula fed babies. If your baby is having less frequent bowel movements it is most likely normal; however, have a conversation with your healthcare provider.
Contact your healthcare provider if your baby goes more than six hours without a wet diaper.
Preventing diaper rash
Diaper rash can come on quickly and fiercely. We recommend putting Peas in a Pod's Smooth as a Baby's Bum Balm on your baby's bum each time you change her to help prevent diaper rash. At minimum you will for sure want to do this until your newborn's poop changes from being sticky and greenish black in colour to brown and batter-like – expect it to take a few poops, or a day or two, before you notice a change in colour and consistency. Note that this Bum Balm is a natural alternative to petroleum laced baby creams and balms that are on the market.
If your baby has diaper rash, start with increased airtime or diaper-free time. When you put your baby’s diaper back on, apply diaper rash cream – we like Weleda's Calendula Diaper Rash Cream.
Bathing a newborn can be stressful mostly because your baby seems so fragile! Talk to your healthcare provider about how often to bath. For the first few weeks you need to be careful watching that their umbilical cord heals so you won't want to put baby in water right away. Laying you're baby down on their towel and using a facecloth or sponge to clean them works well. Don't forget to use lotion (or oils like coconut or olive work great as well especially if your baby has dry skin or is prone to excema).
A great Mommy and me perineal healing herb bath recipe is available here.
Cradle cap (and how to get rid of it)
Cradle cap is that patchy, scaly, yellowish, crusty, rash-like skin that develops on a baby's scalp. Although it's typically not itchy or bothersome for babies, it's not ideal. Thankfully it's quick and easy to get rid of it!
Before your baby's bath, put baby oil (or olive or coconut if you prefer) on your baby's scalp. Then, using a small comb, gently comb scalp in each direction (especially diagonal directions) to get rid of the dry skin.
It can take a few times before baby's cradle cap lifts and flakes off and eventually disappears completely.
Feeding and Teething
Breastmilk is a dynamic whole food that changes with the needs of the infant as they grow. It contains essential vitamins, nutrients and antibodies, including essential fatty acids important for brain development. Unfortunately, there is nothing on the market that is comparable and scientists are not able to completely replicate the qualities found in breastmilk. Other benefits to breastfeeding include:
- Protection against infection for your infant
- Lower rates of childhood diseases such as eczema, asthma, and ear infections
- Adult teeth may develop straighter
- Reduction in breast cancer risk for mother
- Increases metabolism to lose pregnancy weight faster.
However, if you cannot breastfeed or choose not to, you are not harming your baby. For the record, we're not judging you either way.
For approximately three or four days following delivery you will only produce colostrum, a thick and sticky yellow to orange coloured milk containing nutrients and antibodies that will help to protect your baby from infection. When you begin to produce milk, pumping will help you build up your milk supply. But be careful not to over pump to help avoid engorgement.
Keep formula on hand
Even if you are breastfeeding, we recommend keeping supply of formula on hand just in case you don't produce as much milk as you'd like. There are a number of nursing teas on the market, however fenugreek herbal tea and palm dates can also be helpful to increase and maintain milk production. Ask your qualified healthcare provider about what's best for you and your baby.
For a list of cold remedies considered safe to ingest while breastfeeding see this post.
How much and how often to feed
How much and how a baby should be drinking
Most newborns feed every 3-4 hours, however some may need to feed as often as every two hours. Expect to feed at least eight times in a 24 hour period. During growth periods, your baby may need to feed more than usual. As formula is slower to digest than breast milk, formula fed babies generally go longer between feeds. Some parent's decide to feed their newborns are regular intervals to help their baby get on a schedule to keep baby fed and avoid meltdowns due to hunger. Also see the sample chart in our feeding and sleep program.
How to tell if your baby is getting enough calories/nutrients
There are many signs and symptoms to monitor to ensure your baby is getting what they need:
- Count the wet diapers: within the first week of life an infant should have 5-6 fairly wet diapers in a 24 hour period.
- Weight gain: it is normal for your baby to lose up to 7% of their birth weight in the first few days of life. They should return to this weight or surpass it by the 2nd week mark; after this time most breast fed babies gain around 170 g (60 ounces) per week
- Other signs:
- Your baby should have good colour to their skin, be filling out and continuing to grow in length, head circumference is within optimal percentile, their fontanels (soft spots on their head) are not sunken, they are alert and active
- Signs they are not getting enough or are dehydrated: fontanels & eyes are sunken, baby cries but no tears are produced, dry or brittle hair/skin, lethargic, they have gone more than 6 hours without a wet diaper, all of these reasons you should contact your healthcare practitioner.
Growth spurts are common especially around 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months which may cause a change in your baby’s eating and sleeping patterns. Babies also become more efficient in removing milk from breast, which may result in a shorter feeding time. These are all normal activities however some parents think these changes may mean their baby is ready for solids which is not always the case. Make sure you are keeping in contact with healthcare practitioner to track growth changes regularly.
Signs of dehydration
General signs that your baby is not getting enough fluids or is dehydrated:
• baby's fontanels (soft spots on their head) and eyes are sunken
• baby cries but no tears are produced
• baby has dry or brittle hair and/or skin
• baby is lethargic
• baby has gone more than 6 hours without a wet diaper.
Contact your healthcare practitioner immediately if your baby is showing any of these signs.
Jaundice is a medical condition with yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes. Jaundice is relatively common among babies and may require you to feed your baby more often. You may also have to take your baby checked daily by healthcare professionals until it is gone.
Using bottles and pacifiers
The need to suck is an innate way for a baby to feel calm and relaxed; some babies even suck their thumbs in the womb! This need is stronger in some infants more than others. In the early weeks of breastfeeding, it is important for a newborn to first learn how to attach to their mothers nipple to ensure proper latching, stronger suction, and reduce chances of sore nipples. Introducing a pacifier or bottle too early can, on occasion, confuse the newborn as there is a difference between the two and how the mouth is orientated. If breastfeeding is not an option or if milk flow doesn’t come in and supplementing is required most infants will adapt but it may be beneficial to discuss with a lactation consultant.
It is a good idea to start weaning off a bottle and the need for a pacifier between ages 18-24 months. This is when the upper gum-line and palate start to reshape and how an overbite or “buckteeth” can develop. The intensity of the sucking is what will determine if any dental concerns arise. Another concern is when a bottle is used for night feeds as this can lead to tooth decay; so avoid letting your baby fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth. A good strategy is to see a pediatric dentist approximately six months after your baby’s teeth have come in to avoid any major dental issues.
Your baby's tongue thrust mechanism
Tongue thrust reflex prevents infants from choking on foreign objects and causes them to push food out of their mouths. Prior to 4 months, a baby's swallowing mechanism is designed to work with sucking but not chewing – between 4 and 6 months, most infants develop the ability to move food from the front of the mouth to the back instead of letting it wallow around in the mouth and get spit out.
A baby's tongue extrusion reflex begins to fade between 6 and 12 months. At this point they have the ability to prepare food in their mouth before swallowing. This is also when they will be able to get a better lip seal around a cup -- prior to this time a bottle or sippy-cup may be a cleaner option.
Answers to FAQ's about baby feeding and sleep are available here.
Teething can have a huge impact on your baby's overall mood and demeanour, but also can impact how they are eating and sleeping. And it can start happening as early as a few months after birth!
Symptoms of teething can be similar to those of a cold or flu such as fussiness, pulling at the ears, difficulty sleeping and slightly loose stools. Other common symptoms include drooling, scratching along the jaw line and biting/gnawing on things such as their hand or your shoulder.
Out top solutions to teething are listed below.
- Teething toys - there are gazillions of toys for teething on the market, including teething bling for Mom to wear for easy access (and help serve as a great distraction when you need to give your baby something to play with).
- Bioron Laboratories' Camilla - this is a must have! It helps with teething but we've found it is also amazing for calming and soothing, especially, if your child is crying hysterically (like on an airplane which is the worst). Literally keep this handy all of the time!
- Wearing an amber necklace around the neck, all day and night - while controversial, this can be very effective method but some parents have to see it to believe it. If want to try an amber necklace, consider one where each bead is knotted individually, so if the necklace happens to break the beads will not break loose from the string. Also consider putting it on your baby as a newborn so that they don't even notice it's there. If you put it on them when they are older, they may notice it and play with it. Don't forget to take it off at bath time (and avoid getting it wet) as this could have an impact on the integrity of the string it is made with.
There are also drool bibs on the market which are worth buying as they can save you having to change your baby's top once every hour to keep them dry and comfy cosy.
Sleeping through the night asap
Lack of sleep is something most parents anticipate when their new baby arrives. With all of the new scientific studies out there, we all know how bad lack of sleep is for us! It is not realistic to expect 8 hours of perfect, uninterrupted sleep with a new baby but a gradual improvement in the quality of sleep can be expected as your baby grows, develops, and their need for nutrients at night decreases. Determining the best time to establish a sleep routine for your infant is highly individual, there is no rule for or against when to start.
A study (note 1) comparing newborns on a sleep-training program to a control group followed newborns from birth until 6-9 weeks of age. The study found infants on the sleep program had significantly better sleep patterns than the control group. Additionally, the parents in the sleep-program group obtained more uninterrupted sleep, reported less stress generally, and felt more competent when responding to their infants at night compared to the control group. Insomnia is so common! It is also common for people to report that their sleep problems began as children. Therefore, establishing a sleep routine in infancy may influence sleep patterns as your baby grows up. It is also interesting to note that up to 30% of children have sleep problems in their first four years which means less sleep for the parents during this time as well.
Many Calmmother mama’s have verified the earlier a baby is started on the routine, the easier it is to have their baby sleeping through the night and for the infant to get themselves back to sleep by self-soothing. Just like an adult, when an infant knows what to expect and is in a routine, anxiety and stress levels can be reduced. When your baby is getting more sleep, YOU are getting more sleep! More sleep for baby and mom reduces the risk of maternal depression and improves your child’s mood during the day.
Always consult your healthcare practitioner to discuss the sleep program you have in mind and to ensure your baby is a good candidate for that program. Some circumstances may include: low birth weight, weight loss, low immunity, premature birth, or other health concerns your healthcare provider may have.
The Calmmother feeding and sleep guide, which gently helps your baby transition to 10-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep by 12 weeks, is available here.
Answers to FAQ's about baby feeding and sleep are available here.
Dropping a nap too early can cause a less than ideal chain reaction for your family. Not only does lack of sleep cause your baby to be overtired and cranky, it may mean that it will be more difficult to put them down at night. Less or not enough sleep during the day may require an earlier bedtime to ensure that your child is getting enough sleep in a 24 hour period.
According to Dr. Pamela Smith, ND, "most newborn sleep between 11-17 hours in a 24 hour period with the average around 14 hours. However, this amount of sleep is usually in 1-4 hour blocks with approximate hours equal during the day and at night. By 2-6 months of age, the nighttime sleep starts to dominate the amount of daytime sleeping."
When using our feeding and sleep program, or when it comes to sleep generally, the amount of sleep that a baby needs in a day will vary. As a starting point, you should do what works best for you and your family.
We have found this method of dropping naps to be a smooth transition:
- 0-6 months - baby naps a minimum of 1.5 hours between each of the daytime feedings until they are at least six months old (this means four daytime naps per day: early morning, late morning, afternoon and late afternoon)
- 6 months - drop the late afternoon nap before dinner around six months, preferably after baby is consistently sleep 10-12 uninterrupted hours through the night (if you've used our program then your baby likely has been sleeping this way since 12 weeks or 3 months)
- 9 months - drop the late morning nap around nine months or when baby is ready -- when you drop this nap, your baby may need to have two naps during the day, in the morning after breakfast and after lunch, for 1.5 to three hours each
- One year - drop the early morning nap after breakfast when your baby is around a year old, and continues to have a 1.5 to three hour nap after lunch (coincidentally, this is when many daycares tend to have nap or quiet time).
One way to help keep things smooth and easy when dropping naps is to make the transition slow, for example, reducing nap time by half an hour at a time until phasing the nap out completely. It is also important to teach your baby to be able to lay or play quietly in their crib (or bedroom) when it is nap time until it is time to wake up. After your child stops napping, if you would still like quiet time each day, convey to your child that it is quiet time and that they need to play alone. Quiet time can help give everyone in your family a much needed break.
Consult your child's qualified healthcare provider if you are concerned that your child is not getting enough sleep or has a nutritional deficiency.
1. Wolfsen, A., A. Futterman, and P. Lacks. 1992. Effects of parent training on infant sleep patterns, parent’s stress, and parental perceived competency. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 60(1) 41-48.