How to swaddle a baby? How to get rid of baby hiccups? Newsday asked Google for the Top 10 parenting “How To” searches from New Yorkers — and the company provided us with a recent list. Then we went to experts to answer them for our readers. Most of the questions are from parents of younger children whose child-rearing journey is just beginning. Here they are:
No. 10: How do you get a baby to sleep in a crib?
“To that I say, ‘Good luck,’ ” says Kathryn Cannino, program director of the Long Island Parenting Institute, a parenting education organization based in Central Islip. She says parents should respond to their baby’s temperament in the first few months and not expect that they will necessarily sleep in a crib in their own room as an infant. She says a baby may take to the crib more easily if parents “room share” but don’t bed share. “Having the crib in the same room can be helpful,” she says. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics in October recommended that infants sleep in a crib or bassinet in their parents’ bedroom for at least the first six months and, optimally, for the first year of life, based on the latest evidence that it can decrease the risk of sleep-related deaths. Parents can provide comforting music, white noise or vibration to entice baby to sleep, Cannino says.
Sleep coach Rebecca Kammerer echoes Cannino. “Children from newborn to around 5 months of age may not be ready for very long periods of separation from their parents,” she says. Once a baby is 6 months old or older and seems ready to sleep in a crib in his or her own room, she recommends implementing a sleep routine at the same time each night. “You might give him a bath, read a few board books,” she says. Parents can also choose a good-night phrase, she says. Kammerer recommends putting the baby in the crib drowsy but awake. Stand next to the crib and put a hand on baby’s tummy to soothe him, or rub his belly, but don’t pick him up, she says. Then leave the room.
If the baby is crying or protesting, Kammerer suggests two possible approaches that she calls Time-Checks and The Shuffle. Time-Checks is when parents check on baby, say, every five to 10 minutes, with the goal of having baby fall asleep on her own to learn self-soothing. The Shuffle is when a parent positions himself or herself next to baby’s crib while baby falls asleep. Over a period of days, parent positions farther away until eventually out the door.
No. 9: How do you potty train a girl? (How to potty train a boy was also in the Top 10 — it came in at No. 4)
Professional potty training consultant Samantha Allen, owner of Manhattan-based NYC Potty Training, uses the same technique for girls and boys, she says. Here is some of her advice for parents:
The child should have the motor skills to walk to the toilet and pull down pants and underwear.
Carve out time to focus on the process when you aren’t distracted by other needs and activities.
Explain to the child that he or she will now be using the toilet instead of a diaper, and stop using diapers.
Allen isn’t a fan of beginning with a child-size potty. She recommends a stepstool to the grown-up toilet. “The toilet is no bigger than the rest of the furniture in the house,” she says. Starting with a child-size potty means having to transition to a toilet later. “Nobody likes change, especially kids. It’s adding an extra step,” she says.
The biggest hurdle to potty training is adjusting to stopping what they are doing to go into the bathroom, Allen says.
Some parents may add incentives, such as rewards to reinforce behavior. But Allen doesn’t recommend making potty training into a game, such as when parents put a Cheerio into the toilet to encourage boys to perfect their aim.
No. 8: How do you bathe a newborn?
Parents should only be giving a newborn a sponge bath until the remaining umbilical cord falls off, says Dr. Kerry Frommer Fierstein, a pediatrician with Allied Physicians Group Pediatric Health Associates in Plainview. “You don’t want to get the cord wet, so you don’t want to submerge it in water,” she says. An overall sponge bath only really needs to be done twice a week, she says, because “the only part that really gets dirty, you’re cleaning many times a day.”
Once bathing begins, many people buy an infant tub that angles baby in a sitting position, Fierstein says. Fill the tub with warm water, not hot, she says, and sit the baby in it, always keeping one hand on the baby so the baby doesn’t accidentally slide under the water. “Clearly never leave the baby alone,” she says. If you forgot the soap in another room, for instance, take the baby with you to get it, she says.
If putting the tub in the sink, make sure that the tub isn’t wedged against the faucet in a way that it might accidentally turn on hot water and scald baby, she says. Use the free hand to hold a washcloth dabbed with liquid soap, because it’s easier than bar soap to use one-handed, Fierstein advises. Using “infant” soap isn’t necessary, Fierstein says. She actually prefers adult hypoallergenic products for baby because “anything that looks pink and smells really good probably has a lot of chemicals in it.” She says that could irritate baby’s skin. You can use the same liquid soap used for washing baby’s body to wash baby’s hair, she says.
Rinse baby fully and, before completely drying the baby and the skin is still glistening, apply a moisturizer ointment, cream or lotion to lock in the moisture, she says.
Some babies love their bath, some don’t. “At the beginning, a lot of them don’t like the bath because they don’t like being cold,” Fierstein says. Once babies are sitting up, usually around 6 months old, they can start being bathed in the bathtub sitting in a ring, Fierstein says.
No. 7: How do you get rid of cradle cap?
Cradle cap is a rash that consists of yellow, greasy-looking scales concentrated on the scalp, says Dr. Denise Woodall-Ruff, attending physician in the division of general pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park.
It’s a self-resolving rash — meaning if parents do nothing, it will go away on its own, Woodall-Ruff says. “It’s really innocent; it’s benign. It doesn’t affect the health,” she says.
But parents find it bothersome aesthetically. “Most parents just don’t like seeing the scales,” she says.
This is what Woodall-Ruff recommends to her patients to treat cradle cap: Apply olive oil or mineral oil to the scalp. (Baby oil isn’t as thick, so it might not work as effectively, she says.) “I actually prefer olive oil because it’s right in your house,” she says.
Leave it on the scalp for five to 10 minutes. While it’s there, take a soft-bristled baby hairbrush or a fine-tooth comb to gently brush off the flakes (the oil will loosen them, making that easier). “Then take baby shampoo and shampoo the baby’s hair and rinse off the scales,” Woodall-Ruff advises.
This can be done every other day, she says. Doing it every day may irritate the scalp.
The rash can recur. “Some babies have a really significant case of it,” she says. In that case, the baby could be taken to see a doctor for medicated shampoo or medicated cream, Woodall-Ruff says.
Some researchers think cradle cap may be triggered by a mother’s hormones during pregnancy, while others think it may be associated with the yeast on the scalp, Woodall-Ruff says. There is no known way to prevent it, she says.
By the time the baby is 1 year old, cradle cap will likely no longer be a problem, she says.
No. 6: How do you get rid of baby hiccups?
Don’t use the old wives’ tales often suggested for adults — you don’t want to scare the baby or have him hold his breath.
In fact, you should probably do nothing and allow the hiccup spell to resolve on its own, says Dr. Denise Woodall-Ruff, attending physician in the division of general pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park. Hiccups can last five to 10 minutes. “They just need a little time,” she says.
“One of the things it’s important to know is that the hiccups are totally innocent,” Woodall-Ruff says. “It’s really an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm muscle. There’s nothing that triggers it. It just kind of happens spontaneously in the body.” The noise parents hear comes from the baby’s vocal chords.
Sometime hiccups can start if the baby is gulping quickly during a feeding, she says. If that happens, change the baby’s position, lift her to burp her or help her relax until hiccups subside. You can also swaddle the baby or rub his back.
Babies who hiccup often might even have a history of the hiccups before birth, Woodall-Ruff says. “A lot of babies actually hiccup when they’re in the mother’s womb,” Woodall-Ruff says. Babies usually outgrow frequent hiccups pretty quickly. “From my experience, babies will have these spontaneous hiccups for the first month of life,” Woodall-Ruff says.
No. 5: How do you burp a baby?
No. 5: How do you burp a baby?
There are no strict rules about how to burp a baby — or even if burping during or after feeding is absolutely necessary, says Dr. Jennifer Shaer, a pediatrician and chief medical officer for Allied Physicians Group, with 22 offices on Long Island.
“You can put them over your legs, you can put them over your shoulder,” she says of how to position the baby. You could even sit them up and support their chin, she says. “It’s kind of instinctual,” Shaer says. Once parents find a position that works for their baby, they usually stick with it, she says.
Then, gently pat the baby on the back to help the baby release any air. If the baby is particularly fussy, parents can rub or massage the baby’s back to help a burp along.
If baby doesn’t burp, that’s OK, Shaer says. “It’s not the end of the world. It will come out the other end,” she says. “Or maybe there’s just no gas.”
Parents can wait until a feeding is complete to burp a baby, and they can stop after one burp, she says.
While many people think burping is caused by air that the baby gulps while feeding, Shaer says all babies also have bacteria in their stomach and intestines that are constantly producing gas. Babies might just feel more pain from gas than adults do because their systems are still developing, Shaer says. “I think a lot of people have a crying baby in front of them and think, ‘Maybe I didn’t burp him right,’ ” she says.
No. 4: How do you potty train a boy?
Samantha Allen, professional potty training consultant and owner of Manhattan-based NYC Potty Training, uses the same technique for girls and boys, she says. See No. 9 for some of her advice for parents.
No. 3: How do you increase milk supply?
Most breast-feeding moms feel as if they have a low milk supply, says Deb Bouchard, an international board-certified lactation consultant, La Leche League leader and nurse at Peconic Pediatrics in Riverhead. “Even moms who are making plenty of milk worry about it,” she says. “It’s a common concern.”
Most of the time they are producing enough, and they just have anxiety due to lack of breast-feeding experience, Bouchard says.
The No. 1 way to increase milk production, she says, is by nursing more or pumping more. “Increasing demand will almost always increase supply,” she says. Typically the baby would drive that demand, but extra expressing can help to drive the production higher, she says.
If it’s still a concern, Bouchard recommends getting in-person help from a La Leche League leader who can observe a feeding and consider the variables involved in the situation. “There’s nothing that beats an actual face-to-face conversation about how things are going,” Bouchard says. Most La Leche leaders have a sense of when to refer a woman to a lactation consultant or a medical doctorwho specializes in breastfeeding, Bouchard says.
“There’s no solid evidence that eating or drinking certain things helps,” Bouchard says. She doesn’t recommend baking or buying lactation cookies or drinking tea marketed as aiding milk flow. “They’re not proven to have any benefit,” she says, and they can be pricey. “A lot of commercial marketing preys on people’s fear,” she says.
No. 2: How do you swaddle a baby?
Swaddling has been touted as a way to help baby feel calm, mimicking the mother’s womb. But swaddling a baby correctly and safely is critical to avoid sleep-related infant deaths such as suffocation or SIDS, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The AAP recommends swaddling only until a baby is 2 months old. You don’t want a baby to be able to roll over while swaddled and suffocate. And you don’t want a baby to be able to move around, loosen the blanket and accidentally pull it up over his face.
“Hands down the safest recommendation is to use a wearable blanket instead of a loose blanket because those are designed to prevent accidental suffocation,” says Dr. Elizabeth Murray, a pediatrician at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester and a spokeswoman for the AAP.
Some risk exists when swaddling, AAP literature says — it can cause a baby to sleep more deeply, and decreased arousal may be one of the reasons babies die of SIDS. Swaddling legs too tightly can also harm a baby’s hips.
If you do swaddle a baby in a baby blanket, according to the AAP:
Spread a baby blanket out flat, with one corner folded down. Lay the baby faceup on the blanket, with her head above the folded corner.
Straighten her left arm alongside her body, wrap that side of the blanket over her body and tuck it between her right arm and the right side of her body. Then, straighten her right arm alongside her body and fold that side of the blanket over her body and under her left side.
Fold or twist the bottom of the blanket loosely and tuck it under one side of the baby. Make sure her hips can move.
No. 1: How do you stop breastfeeding?
The answer depends on the reason the mother is stopping and how old the child is, says Deb Bouchard, an international board-certified lactation consultant, La Leche League leader and nurse at Peconic Pediatrics in Riverhead.
“We always recommend weaning gradually instead of cold turkey,” Bouchard says. There’s some risk involved with a halt, she says. “The milk that is getting left behind could lead to an infection called mastitis,” Bouchard says.
But sometimes, a mother has no choice because of the need to start a new medication that can be passed through breast milk, for instance, Bouchard says. In that case, a mom can use cool compresses to help with pain or engorgement, and, if a physician OKs it, take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
If the mom is nursing a baby and needs or wants to stop, Bouchard recommends gradually dropping a feeding, replacing it with formula, over the span of a week or two to give a mother’s breasts a chance to reduce milk supply and the baby a chance to transition. If a mom needs to reduce some fullness between feedings, she should pump or hand express only enough milk to relieve the fullness. There’s a fine line between that and expressing so much that the body thinks it should still be producing the same quantity of milk instead of slowing down production, she says.
The strategy is different for weaning a toddler who may object. Bouchard suggests changing the routine to do something more exciting during what would usually be a feeding time to distract the child. The mom won’t likely have much discomfort because a toddler isn’t solely relying on breast milk, so the mom’s body probably isn’t producing as much milk.