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Best Pieces of Advice for New Parents
By Byron Cotton, M.D.

Full or Famished?
Reading Your Baby's Hunger and Fullness Cues

Adults have a hard enough time knowing when they are full, so it can be difficult for parents to gauge whether a baby, incapable of verbalizing his needs, is hungry or not. Fortunately, babies are adept at self-regulating their food intake with a little help from Mom and Dad. Byron Cotton, M.D., pediatrician with the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Decatur Primary Care Center, recommends that parents of newborns begin with a bottle containing three ounces of formula. If the child finishes that bottle the parent may offer another half an ounce.

To determine whether a baby is hungry or full, simply study the rate at which they are suckling the bottle or breast. If the baby is suckling vigorously, he is probably still hungry. If he suckles less ardently he is probably full and just fulfilling his instinct to suckle. In that case, a pacifier will help satisfy that instinct.

Dr. Cotton also recommends that newborn babies only be fed formula or breast milk. Some parents serve water, which is not ideal because water does not contain calories or electrolytes, both vital during this stage of growth.

Ideally, the mother will breast feed for a year or more following birth. Breastfeeding has many substantial benefits for both parties involved. In addition to passing along antibodies that develop the baby's immune system, breastfeeding encourages bonding between mother and child.

Another much-appreciated benefit of breast feeding is that it helps mothers lose weight because their metabolism speeds up to produce the breast milk. Also, children who are breastfed tend to have fewer problems with obesity throughout their life.

Other gems of advice for new parents:

1) Although they are often just trying to help, many older siblings do not know how to pick up a baby or properly support his neck. Teach your older children to only hold the baby while supervised by an adult.

2) Sibling rivalry, often in the form of pinching and hitting, begins immediately for many children. This is especially likely if the older child is between the ages of one and three years old. Closely monitor your children when they are together, and make sure that older siblings are still paid attention

3) Crying babies up to six months old should be picked up. Usually, they are hungry, wet, have a fever or another need for attention. Always keep an eye on the baby's temperature because any fever above normal is too high. If your baby is less than two months old and has an oral fever above 98.6 degrees (rectal temperature is one degree higher), take him to the pediatrician or emergency department immediately. Remember that babies cannot regulate their body temperature as well as adults, so make sure that they are appropriately dressed to assess an accurate temperature. Dr. Cotton recommends that babies wear one more layer of clothing than their parent.

Byron Cotton, M.D. is a physician at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the leading pediatric healthcare systems in the country, is a not-for-profit organization that benefits from the generous philanthropic and volunteer support of our community and state. With 430 licensed beds in two hospitals and more than 400,000 annual patient visits, Children’s is recognized for excellence in cardiac, cancer and transplant services, as well as in many other pediatric specialties. To learn more about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, visit the Web site at www.choa.org or call 404-250-kids.

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