Family Matters

The Scoop on Raising Baby, from Two Mom Docs

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Parenting today is nothing like it was a generation ago. In terms of baby gear and safety recommendations, it’s even different than it was a few years ago.

Take infant car seats, for example. A few years ago, babies were supposed to remain rear-facing until they turned 1 and reached 20 pounds. Most parents I know celebrated baby’s first birthday by turning the car seat around. But the times they are a-changing. Now, that 1-year, 20-pound guideline is a bare minimum. Instead, parents are advised to keep babies rear-facing as long as possible, and many car seat manufacturers have adjusted their seats to make that possible. (More on 5 Pregnancy Taboos Explained (or Debunked))

That’s just one tidbit you’ll learn in the newest edition of Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, written by two pediatrician-moms.

It’s been only five years since the book, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), first came out, but authors Laura Jana and Jennifer Shu were surprised at how much child-rearing has evolved in that relatively short time frame. Given carte blanche to revise the book, they wound up adding new chapters on topics including vaccines and childcare. There’s also updated advice about safe sleeping, breastfeeding, pacifier use and carseats. (More on Who’s Afraid of the Flu? Not Moms)

Jana, an Omaha pediatrician and mother of three who is co-founder of the Dr. Spock Company, and Dr. Jennifer Shu, an Atlanta pediatrician and mother of one who edits the AAP’s web site, tried to make this book a one-stop shop — professional advice coupled with the down-low on parenting. “You shouldn’t have to go buy 10 million books about how to dress baby and feed baby,” says Jana. “This is the high end on evidence-based medicine, but also the practical parenting side of things. It’s like your best friend and a doctor’s visit, all combined into one.”

Here’s a rundown of some of their updates:

*Safe Sleep: While the last edition focused on the highly successful nationwide “Back to Sleep” campaign urging parents to put babies to sleep on their backs, Jana and Shu observed that unsafe sleep environments go beyond tummy-sleeping. Parents increasingly have relied on side sleep positioners, which were recently recalled, and there has been more chatter about co-sleeping, in which babies sleep in their parents’ bed. As a result, the authors clarified for new parents what the AAP considers a safe sleep environment: newborn in the same room but not in the same bed. (More on Time.comParents, Stop Using Infant Sleep Positioners; They’re Linked to 12 Deaths)

The updated recommendation strikes a compromise: it upholds the importance of breastfeeding — which the AAP recommends exclusively for six months and as part of other nutrition for at least a year — while acknowledging concerns that separating baby from mom may make it more difficult.

*Pacifier Use: New research has shown that pacifier use can be protective against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Experts think that sucking on a pacifier keeps infants from falling into a deep stage of sleep, although they’re not sure that’s why it works. Meanwhile, women are often told to hold off on introducing pacifiers too early as they can interfere with the establishment of breastfeeding. “A lot of people say don’t use pacifiers for the first month,” says Jana. “We explain there is no magic to the first month. You just want to make sure the baby can latch and nurse correctly.” If baby is nursing like a champ after five days, there’s no reason not to let her suck on a pacifier. (More on Study: Breast-Feeding Moms Get Just as Much (or Little) Rest as Formula-Feeders)

*Demystifying Breastfeeding: Many moms worry initially that their babies aren’t getting enough milk, leading them to stop breastfeeding soon after giving birth. But it’s normal for a newborn baby to be hungry in the first few days before a mother’s milk comes in. “If the baby is crying and acting hungry all the time, you nurse them more and that’s what makes the milk come in,” explains Jana. “For the majority of moms who would quit breastfeeding because they think they’re failing, they’re not. That’s how it’s supposed to go.”

*Vaccines: Since more than a few parents are concerned about the safety of childhood vaccines, the authors added an entirely new section including data about vaccines. There’s also information about how to calm babies before and after they get their shots. “It’s easy to forget what horrors some diseases caused because vaccines have been such a public health achievement,” says Jana. (More on Video: Filming Embryos Improves Chances of Pregnancy)

*Childcare: This year, AAP’s focus is on early brain and child development. By the age of 5, 84% of kids have spent time in some sort of childcare. The authors (Jana owns a childcare center in Omaha) share 13 indicators of quality to look for when scouring town for a childcare center — everything from staff-to-student ratio to diaper-changing policies, which shed light on the hygiene of a childcare facility.

*Car Seats: In addition to keeping kids rear-facing as long as possible, some new car seats are equipped with side impact crash protection. Though side-impact crashes account for less than 25% of accidents, they’re the deadliest.

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