Notes for New Parents

First, let me start by saying, “I am not a doctor.”  I don’t even play one on TV.  What follows comes from nearly 13 years of experience with 6 children, and doesn’t conflict with anything that I have ever heard from a Pediatrician, but, please, confirm these notes with your Pediatrician, and follow their advice instead of these if there is some conflict.  I would recommend asking any questions that you may have the next time you have an appointment, so that you can feel comfortable with these issues before you need to use them.

Also, I know a lot of this stuff is just common sense, but I’ve found that it never hurts to be reminded.  I’m not trying to preach here, so if it comes off that way, I apologize.  I’m just trying to pass along some pointers that I wish I had been given up front.

Fever:  Tylenol tends to work for low-grade fevers, and gives relief to aches, pain, and discomfort.  However, for high fever, above say 103 degrees, especially if the Tylenol isn’t bringing it down, try some Ibuprofen, such as Children’s Motrin.  Ask your Pediatrician for copies of the Tylenol and Motrin dosage charts for children – the bottles always say “consult your physician for dosages for children aged 2 and under” – and 2 am is not when you want to be trying to find out the correct dosage!  Tylenol and Ibuprofen have different schedules – Tylenol can be given every 4-6 hours, Ibuprofen only every 6-8 hours.  Remember that more is not better.  Don’t go over the recommended dosages unless expressly told to by your Pediatrician.  Also, write down the current weight of your child, and leave it on a Post-It note on the dosage chart.  All medicine dosages are by weight, not by age, since children’s weight can vary so much across an age.  I recommend using an oral dosage syringe – I find that the little medicine cups vary quite a bit in actual dosage, especially for small doses (1/2 tsp. or less). 

Diarrhea and Vomiting: Children can quite quickly become dehydrated.  Remember that whenever they are running a fever, or especially if they have diarrhea and/or vomiting, they need fluids.  Water, or better still, the pediatric electrolyte solutions (like Pedialyte) are good for this, and the liquid actually helps bring their temp down too.  Two tricks to try if they can’t hold anything down – get them to suck on a Popsicle (made with a lot of water and a little fruit juice or Kool-Aid) or Pedialyte ice pop (although the Pedialyte pops taste nasty, so, good luck!), or just small sips of liquid.  If you give small “doses” (around ½ tsp.) every minute or so, their body absorbs it before it can get to their tummy to be thrown back up.  This may seem like a real pain in the butt, sitting there giving small sips to a kid every minute, but, the alternative is that they get an I.V. to get those fluids, and trust me, you’ll rather sit with them forever giving them sips than to see them get an I.V. they could have avoided.

Gas / “Colic”: I am convinced that one of the main causes of “colic” (which I define as a fussy baby that won’t stop crying) is gas.  Now, you can pretty quickly realize the difference between a true cry of pain/anguish, versus the more intermittent and less pained cry of gas.  If it’s a truly pained/anguished cry that won’t stop, you’ll want to call your Pediatrician – you could have an ear infection, or something else that needs medical attention.  However, if heat on their tummy (like holding your baby against your chest) helps, and then when you put them down, they start crying again, they might have a case of gas.  Try Infants’ Mylicon (simethicone) drops.  They break up the gas bubbles, and pass right through your baby.  They cost quite a bit, and I’ve found that the kids pretty quickly don’t like the generic ones (flavor?), but they are available over the counter, and seem to work pretty well.  If you want, you can ask for the generic stuff at the pharmacy and save a couple bucks.  I also find that walking and patting/rubbing the baby’s back seems to help.  My guess is the body heat helps with the pain, and the patting/rubbing tends to relax them.  I think that if the baby is all wound-up and crying, they can’t relax enough to burp/whatever the gas out; but if you calm them down, they can get the gas out and fall asleep.

Diaper rash / “red bottom”: First, poop seems to be quite acidic (?) and will leave a red area of irritation if left in contact with the skin for any length of time, so, especially if your baby has a red bottom to begin with, try to catch those poopy diapers quickly.  Also, it seems that no matter how mild the diaper wipes say they are, sometimes they seem to burn when they hit the red skin.  For those times, try using some wet paper towels as a rinse, and then blot dry.  It seems to help.  Next, I’ve found that having a range of items to apply works best.  For frequent use, or mild redness, I like Balmex the best.  It seems quite mild, and can clear up the minor redness quickly.  Where you need more protection, such as a redder bottom, Desitin seems to work well (I think it is the cod liver oil and zinc oxide that does the trick).  You can also try baby powder – I like Baby Gold Bond the best – but remember to keep the cloud of powder away from baby’s face – they don’t need a lung-full of powder.  However, for the raw skin, when the skin is oozing and the ointments don’t stick, I like the Dyprotex ointment pads, along with maybe a little Baby Gold Bond powder.  The key here is to keep the poop (and pee) off of the skin as much as possible, so that it can heal.  Don’t let bad (oozing) diaper rash go for more than a few days (if it doesn’t start to get better, or if it gets worse) without seeing the Pediatrician – since open wounds sitting in poop is not good for baby's health!  For really bad cases, try painting on some Maalox (pour a little into a medicine cup and put it on with a Q-Tip) or ask your Pediatrician for a prescription for Maalox and Aquaphor mixed 1:1 (they are both over the counter medicines, but the pharmacist will blend them together - you can also do this yourself with a mixer at home - just wipe off the beaters and bowl with paper towels to get the Aquaphor off).  The Maalox seems to take care of the acidic poop and the Aquaphor helps the skin to heal.

Bedtime / General: Babies like / need routines to help them learn “the rules”.  I’ve found that having a bedtime routine, even if it is something as simple as “get a bottle, change your diaper, get into your sleeper, say prayers / read a story / sing a song / whatever, and then turn out the lights (and maybe rocking/walking to sleep)”, as long as it is consistent, and ends up at bed, seems to work wonders.  I tend to believe that there is nothing wrong with a little crying, as long as it is not a “I’m in pain” cry.  I think the rule-of-thumb that I heard was 1 minute per month of age (once they are a few months old), which seems about right.  Obviously, newborns will tell you when they want something, and that’s the way it goes, but it doesn’t hurt to set the routine, either.  Realize that the pattern that you set determines how your baby learns the rules.  If the rule is hard-and-fast, they learn that, and don’t push it (usually).  If you give in on things, even once, they learn that they can influence the rules, and they will continue to try.  Now, I’m not advocating letting your baby cry him/herself to sleep each night, nor am I suggesting that you don’t hold your baby when he/she is upset; far from it – I walked with Jamie (who had tons of gas) for hours at night, because she was in pain, and eventually, when she had burped/whatever, she passed-out and slept for hours.  Also, one of the most rewarding things as a parent, I think, is holding your baby on your chest and letting them sleep.  It’s so cool!  Believe me, they stop sleeping there all too soon, but it’s really great while it lasts.  Just learn the difference between pain and just plain unhappiness, and set the ground rules accordingly.  My last bit of advice on this subject is that I think that every parent should watch the “Mad About You” episode where Paul and Jamie start doing this with their daughter (Emily?) and watch them work through their feelings about letting her cry.  Discuss between yourselves about these feelings and what you two want to do.

Safety:  I’ll just hit some highlights here.  You should probably borrow/buy someone’s child safety book and read it over.  Sleepers should be fire retardant (meaning that they will both resist burning, and self-extinguish after removal of the flame) – follow the label for laundry instructions.  Underwear/Onesies/thermals are not fire retardant so they shouldn’t be used as the outer layer of sleepware, nor are most 100% cotton clothes, with the exception of Sarah’s Prints, which make 100% cotton Flame Resistant sleepers (imported from Israel, and expensive - but, check out for closeouts on sale). 

Car seats should be installed according to the instructions – something like 85% of all car seats are incorrectly installed.  Not in front of a airbag (generally not in front seat at all), and the seat needs to be in tight!  This usually involves kneeling on it (without the baby, of course!) to get it tight.  Also, most instructions recommend no more than two of your fingers should fit between your baby’s chest and the safety harness.

Babies do everything before you expect them to, so get those poisons / drugs / cleaners / sharp things / etc. up out of the way and/or locked up soon.  This also includes other “baby-proofing” items such as putting safety caps in the unused electrical outlets, putting individual pulls on each curtain / blind cord (strangulation hazard), moving breakable / small items up out of reach.  To make locking cupboards, I like the TotLok brand of child locks.  They install from the back side of the door, so there is nothing visible, and use a powerful magnet as the key to unlock the door.  You’ll have to look around a bit for them, but I think they are worth it.  Also, get yourself a poisoning kit, with both activated charcoal and syrup of Ipecac – keep them in a place where you can find them in a hurry, and get a Mr. Yuck sticker or write the local Poison Control Center’s phone number (for Pittsburgh, PA it's 1-412-681-6669, the nationwide number is 1-800-222-1222) on your phone list posted near your phone, along with other important phone numbers.

Take a first aid course. All first aid is common sense, but it helps to have been presented with the problems ahead of time, and practiced your response to them. It also helps to calm you down when there is an emergency, because you now know what to do. Contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross and ask when there is a First Aid course in your area.

A (working) smoke detector on each floor of your house/apartment greatly increases your chances of survival in a fire – and they cost very little.  Supposedly, the dual chamber (ionization and photocell) types are better at detecting both quick starting and smoldering fires.

In conclusion: Gee, I bet you’re glad to see that!  I hope you’ve found this to be helpful.  If so, great!  If not, sorry.  I receive no compensation from, nor work for, any of the companies whose products are mentioned here.  Once again, this is just a bunch of stuff that I wish someone had told me when I had my first kid.  If you don’t like it, feel free to ignore it – no hard feelings on my part – honest.


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