First, schedule regular preventive "well-child" visits with your infant's pediatrician. If you're between appointments and believe your child is ill, call the pediatrician to find out what your next move should be, said Dr. Donna Snyder, a pediatrician with the FDA's Pediatric and Maternal Health Staff.
Before giving medication to your baby, get expert advice. Certain medicines may not be appropriate for an infant. If your doctor recommends a medicine for your infant, be sure you know the proper dose.
Use the appropriate dosing device -- not a kitchen spoon -- to give medicine to your baby. Some medicines are packaged with these devices, but you can also buy them at the drug store. Talk to a pharmacist or other health care provider if you have questions.
"If your baby is prescribed a teaspoon of medicine, make sure you give a teaspoon and not a tablespoon," Snyder said in an FDA news release.
And for mothers who are taking medications, Dr. Leyla Sahin, an obstetrician with FDA's Pediatric and Maternal Health Staff, added that "it's important to ask your health care provider whether it's OK to breast-feed."
Ask this about all prescription and over-the-counter products, including supplements. Some medications can pass through breast milk and pose a risk to babies. New moms should not stop taking a medication without first consulting a doctor, Sahin advised.
Be sure to store all medicines out of sight and reach of children, said Snyder, who noted that babies can start to crawl as early as 5 to 6 months of age.
"But even if babies are under the age where you'd expect them to be able to get to your medication, get into the habit of putting medication out of their reach," she said.
It's also important to read and follow storage instructions for medicines, or to talk with a pharmacist or doctor about proper storage.
"For instance, some antibiotics need to be kept in the refrigerator," Snyder noted. "So you want to make sure you're storing it according to the instructions."
New mothers also need to look after themselves, including getting enough sleep.
"Sleep when the baby sleeps and take naps during the day. If you're a new mom feeling consistently very sad, it could be a sign of postpartum depression," and you need to talk to your doctor, Sahin said.
"Keep in mind that being a new mom is a transition period that may be stressful. But take the time to celebrate being a new mom," she urged.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the ABCs of raising safe and healthy children.
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