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  • Raising a Smart and Healthy Baby: The A to Z Guide to His First Year

    An alphabetical guide to everything you need to know about being a new parent
    by Jillianne E. Castillo .
Raising a Smart and Healthy Baby: The A to Z Guide to His First Year
  • From A to Z, here's a guide on what you need to know and keep in mind when it comes to baby care, encouraging maximum growth potential, building your parent-child bond, and more!

    A is for anticipating (what your baby will need)
    Welcome to your parenting journey! There will be lots of firsts for mom, dad, and baby. Aren't you excited? In our checklist on what you'll need for your little one's first three months, Dr. Cricket Chen recommends choosing baby clothes made of cotton fabric. You can borrow these or buy only three sets of each since newborns can outgrow them quickly. Tie-sides help you dress your newborn easier. Mittens are must-haves to prevent your baby from scratching their face, adds pediatrician Dr. Florianne Valdes. Use caps or bonnets when bringing your baby out and about. As your baby grows, you can move on to shirts, onesies, and pajamas, so you can get four to six of each of those. 

    B is for bath
    Your baby’s first bath at home will be after her umbilical cord stump has fallen off, which is around the second week after birth. “It is recommended to stick to sponge baths until the cord falls off, usually between 7-10 days,” says pediatrician Dr. Ina Atutubo. Afterward, bathing your baby thrice a week is enough to keep him clean and smelling good. Dr. Jaime Isip Cumpas recommends opting for a gentle cleanser that can be used as both soap and shampoo.

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    C is for crib safety
    Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death of an otherwise healthy baby during sleep. To help avoid this, doctors give a set of guidelines to follow for “crib safety.” This includes laying down a baby to sleep on his back, having only a firm mattress and fitted sheet in the crib (no pillows, blankets, stuffed toys, etc.), and not sharing the same bed (but having her in the same room) for the first 6 months. 

    D is diaper rules
    Changing a baby's diaper is pretty straightforward. Most parents learn their own easiest and fastest technique through experience. However, there are diaper health rules to avoid infection, diaper rash, and accidents. If the baby needs a diaper change, remember to wipe from front to back to prevent urinary tract and cause an infection. The key to a diaper rash-free baby bum is to keep it dry as much as possible. Rash cream and petroleum jelly work act as a protective barrier between baby’s skin and wet nappy, but you have to make sure the bum is dry before applying it.

    E is for essential baby gear
    For your baby's first year, this can include a crib, bottle sterilizer, baby bath tub, stroller or carrier, and high chair. Note that your baby doesn't need a walker as pediatricians say these don't really help a child learn to walk and can even be harmful. 

    F is for feeding
    Breast milk — superfood for babies! — is recommended for at least 6 months although parents have the option supplement with formula feeding. On average, newborns feed every two to three hours. At around 2 months, this spaces out to around three to four hours. For those worried with low breast milk supplyDr. Maya Bunik, an executive committee member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP), has this advice: “Babies start out nursing as little as 1 ounce each feeding. When choosing bottle sizes, I recommend parents opt out of the 8 ounce sizes and stick with 4 ounces. Most adults would be satisfied with 4 ounces of whole milk, and 8 ounces would be overfilling at one sitting.” 

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    G is for games (like peek-a-boo!)
    Playing is one of the most important things you can do with your child, and there are baby games to engage him as early as 6 months old. Have fun with peek-a-boo (it encourages social interaction and exercises your child's working memor), singing nursery rhymes (the repetition of the songs exercises your baby’s memory as he soon becomes familiar with them), and copying animal sounds (it practices attention, working memory, and self-control). 

    H is for holds
    Lots of first-time parents are anxious about holding their small, seemingly fragile newborns. To give you confidence, read up on the different baby holds you can use to pick up and carry your little one. Familiarize yourself with the shoulder, cradle, face-to-face, belly, hip hold and more! For the first three months, the most crucial thing is to support baby’s head and neck. Don’t press on the soft spots on her head (called fontanelles). After this stage, your baby will be able to develop better control of her head and neck muscles so that you can hold her without fear.

    I is involving dad in child care
    Research shows a lot of lifelong benefits for children who have hands-on dads. A study found that babies whose fathers were more engaged and active when playing with them in their first months performed better in cognitive tests at 2 years of age. The more positive a dad's interactions were with their child, the more the child performed better in cognitive tests. 

    K is for kisses
    Make sure to give your baby lots and lots! Word of caution, however. For guests, keep their physical contact with your newborn to a bare minimum. Don't be afraid to tell them they can't kiss your baby. One couple lost their newborn to meningitis after she likely contracted herpes from a visitor. One of the most important things a parent can do to protect their baby against meningitis is vaccination.

    L is for languages (both Filipino and English!)
    Your little one may not be able to talk yet, but how you converse with her already has an impact on her speech and language development. Be attentive to your baby's attempts at “talking” to you through her babbles and grunts. Respond accordingly by talking back. Don't be afraid to talk to your baby in both Filipino and English, too! Research shows your baby can handle learning several languages at the same time.

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    M is for massage
    “One of the easiest and fastest way to nurture and show our love to our babies is through infant massage,” says pediatrician Dr. Roselyne M. Balita. Try it out at home when your baby is quiet and engaged, like after his bath. Dr. Roselyne recommends edible oils like virgin coconut oil for baby massage as opposed to mineral oil. Watch how to massage your baby:

    N is for no screen time
    Give your baby a toy to keep her entertained, not your phone. Children below 18 months should avoid screens (phones, tablets, the TV, etc.) altogether, and the only exception is when it’s used for video-chatting, as per the most updated recommendations from the AAP. It's only at 2 years old that a child can be allowed screens for a maximum of 1 hour. 

    O is for overwhelming
    There's a lot to take in, but know that you can handle this. “Parents are so tough on themselves. In fact, parents think they're not even supposed to have help. Everyone thinks they’re supposed to do it on their own,” says well-known pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp. Don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it and make sure to allot time for self-care. 

    P is for poop
    Baby poop surprises and bewilders many first-time parents. The first poop of a newborn is called meconium, and Dr. Ella Salvador warns that it can be a little alarming — it is dark green to black in color with a thick and sticky consistency. She assures it’s completely normal. Warning signs, however, include poop that's black, white, or blood-tinged, pebble-like stools, and poop that spills out of the diaper and reaches all the way to the back. 

    Q is for quality bonding
    Warm and responsive parenting lays the foundation for healthy social, emotional and cognitive development in infancy and beyond,” says Ronald Ferguson, a professor at Harvard University and director of the Achievement Gap Initiative. Parents don’t need to be told they need to show love to their babies, they already do! What Ferguson stresses is for parents to be more conscious about it and to do it on purpose. “Warm and responsive parenting lays the foundation for healthy social, emotional and cognitive development in infancy and beyond.”

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    R is for reading books together
    Make story time a part of your bedtime routine from your baby's first night at home! By reading to your baby regularly, “you’re teaching your baby that sitting on your lap and being read to feels good and that books are enjoyable,” says pediatrician Carmen Ramos-Bonoan, M.D., who is the national director of the Philippine Ambulatory Pediatric Association (PAPA). Exposing children to books at a young age allows them to develop their skills in listening and speaking. Later on, it builds their reading and writing skills as they learn language and increase their vocabulary. 

    S is for solid foods
    By 6 months old, with the guidance of your child’s pediatrician, your little one can now start exploring different kinds of food other than milk. There’s no right food to start with, says the AAP. But begin with one kind of food first, like porridge or other mashed veggie. “One way to make eating solids for the first time easier is to give your baby a little breast milk, formula, or both first; then switch to very small half-spoonfuls of food; and finish with more breast milk or formula,” says the AAP. Have fun exploring solids together!  

    T is for tummy time
    The AAP recommends that babies get “tummy time” — your baby laying on his stomach — every day to help his developing muscles grow strong. For newborns, tummy time lasts for only a short period, between three to five minutes. “For a 3- to 4-month-old baby, some research suggests aiming for at least 20 minutes of tummy time a day,” says pediatrician Dr. Jay L. Hoecker, a fellow of the AAP.  

    U is for Unang Yakap
    Unang Yakap, or the First Embrace, is mom’s first skin-to-skin hug with her baby immediately after birth. It's essential as it transfers a mother's warmth and protective bacteria to her newborn. The cuddling shouldn't end here though! Research shows that parental affection is vital to a child's well-being. 

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    V is for vaccination
    Vaccinations prevent serious, life-threatening diseases, their spread, and the complications they can cause. There are a total of 13 recommended vaccinations (two of which are given right after your baby is born) on the updated childhood immunization schedule for Filipino children ages 0 to 18 years old. Talk to your child's pediatrician about this. 

    W is for well-baby visits
    Don't miss on your baby's check-ups which are usually scheduled at birth, a week later, and then once every month after. It's during these well-baby visits that the doctor checks to see if your baby is growing enough in terms of weight and height, reaching his developmental milestones, getting the recommended vaccines, and more. This is also your opportunity to ask any questions or raise any concerns you have with your baby's health. 

    Y is for you
    “There is nothing that sparks a child's interest more, and that promotes learning and development in all domains, more than being with a parent,” says developmental pediatrician Dr. Victoria Dominique Ang. You are your child's favorite thing in the whole world. 

    Z is for ZZZs
    Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours, which includes naps, on a regular basis to promote optimal health, according to sleep guidelines. There will be lots of night-time wakings (and soothings from mom and dad) in the first few months but a regular and more predictable sleep-wake cycle will appear at around 3 to 6 months.

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