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The Informed Parent

Fast Facts: Basic Infant Care

by Shanna R. Cox, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Nov. 14, 2011

True or False?

Statement: Infants need water in addition to breast milk or formula. > False

Infants need water as a component of their diet, but the ratio is important and needs to be calculated with protein, electrolyte and minerals included.

Statement: Infants in the first three months of life are at higher risk for invasive infections than they might be at other times of life. >  True

Infants’ immune systems are not fully developed. They have some immunity from maternal antibodies, but this does not protect against many serious infections, both bacterial and viral. Infants also often cannot show the same telltale signs an older child might show to indicate they have a serious infection.

Statement: Infants may be sleep trained. > True

 Many parents have a perception that infants are too young to start sleep training. In reality, early schedule and routine can help an infant learn day and night routines as well as give a little predictability to what otherwise is an oftentimes difficult time of constant change. Generally, sleep training will be successful after six weeks of age, although this time period may not be appropriate for a premature infant or one that is dealing with other medical issues.

Statement: Cradle cap will go away without intervention. >False

 Cradle cap, or seborrhea, is a proliferation of greasy cells. Many parents are told to put oil on an infant’s head to rid the baby of cradle cap. While this may soften the thickening it can also make it thicker. In the past, parents would then scrape the thickness off in layers. I find it easier to use some baby or other non-fragranced shampoo on a soft baby brush and scrub the area two to three times a day. This will eliminate the seborrhea in a few days. Occasionally the area may need to be hydrated with a non-fragrant lotion after the scrubbing.

Statement: Infants shouldn’t be swaddled. It restricts their ability to move and develop. > False

Swaddling can be an effective technique for basic comfort, ease of handling, and warmth. It also is an effective calming tool when an infant responds to it. Swaddling is best accomplished with a relatively thin receiving or muslin blanket to allow some breath ability and the snugness needed. Parents should be aware the American Academy of Pediatrics has an official statement recommending infants be swaddled with legs in a bent or frog leg position to allow for appropriate development. This holds true for carrier positioning as well.

Statement: Hand washing is a major key to infant health. > True

 For protection against infection and optimal health, frequent hand washing is essential. In neonatal intensive care units, anyone who enters a unit is required to wash their hands for several minutes prior to even visiting, much less care for an infant. Parents can give this as an example when asking visitors to “wash first.”

Statement: Infants can be spoiled. > False, False, False!

Infants thrive with affection and a warm environment interaction. It helps them grow both physically and developmentally. This loving care also eventually leads to some very rewarding positive feedback for parents (think…first eye locking, smile, and giggle). Just be patient…the first few weeks can be all exhaustion, but truly a small investment for the soon-to-be moments of awe for all involved!

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