Your baby’s first year is a developmentally crucial time. Your little one will begin to explore new flavors beyond mother’s milk, master basic locomotion, and maybe even say their first word. Their tiny brains and bodies need all the help they can get to meet milestones.
You can do quite a bit as a parent to support and nurture your child’s development. They look to you to meet their every need. What should you do? Here are five healthy habits to master in your baby’s first year.
New parents don’t get much direction regarding when to take their child to the doctor or dentist. The hospital should tell you to set up your first pediatric appointment within the first three to five days of giving birth. However, they might not advise you on selecting the right doctor – assuming your insurance coverage network and location allow you a choice.
Infants aren’t born with an innate skepticism of health professionals – such phobias develop later, often after negative experiences.
For example, many adults shun the dentist even if they have the financial means to seek care because of the associated pain and discomfort. You can enforce this healthy habit in your child by making their earliest experiences positive and seeking providers who are kind and patient, who speak in age-appropriate terms when demonstrating procedures, and deal gently with noncompliance.
Far too many parents turn quiet time into a negative experience, demanding their child take a time-out as punishment. However, your little ones are more likely to comply and learn effective emotional regulation skills if you model such behavior as a coping mechanism.
For example, you should step away when you feel heated with older children, saying something like, “I’m going to go lay down quietly and read until I feel calm enough to discuss things rationally.”
However, you can lay the groundwork for later quiet play time during infancy. Many parents find it best to put their babies down for a nap around 9 a.m. and another in the early afternoon. As your child ages, you can naturally segue from sleeping to spending time coloring or reading in their room after lunch and taking emotional regulation breaks as necessary.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most infants begin eating solid food at around six months and can enjoy various food groups by seven to eight months. If you want them to explore multiple flavors later in life, start introducing them now.
What can babies eat? The answer is nearly anything adults can, although you need to cut it up tiny or puree it to avoid a choking hazard, especially if your little one still lacks teeth. Although some babies are born with an incisor or two, most infants begin teething around six months.
Are you making curry for dinner? Get your little one accustomed to anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger by giving them a bit of rice with the sauce. Inspire their cravings for plant-based foods by introducing them to various vegetables, including old favorites like peas and carrots and some exotic varieties like kohlrabi.
When was the last time you took your baby to the park for a walk? You might not realize the multitude of benefits. Spending time outdoors helps your child produce natural vitamin D to slash their future heart disease and diabetes risk and develop healthy bones. It also boosts their immunity, thanks to the phytoncides emitted by plants.
Get in the habit of a daily park outing now so that it becomes a natural part of your day as your baby grows and gains independence. They’ll eventually graduate from the stroller and take turns playing on the equipment and running, skipping, and jumping to develop their tiny bones and muscles.
As much as you love your baby, you need time to yourself. However, you can’t leave them unattended, which means finding the best help. You might be in luck if you have parents or in-laws, but you can’t simply demand they give up their retirement to help you raise your family. It’s best to have a few folks you rely on – start interviewing before you give birth, if possible.
What should you ask a prospective sitter? You should cover the basics, such as available times, years of experience, education, and rates. However, please don’t shy away from asking tough questions, such as, “Have you ever suspected a child in your care was being abused?”
You should also perform a background check on any sitters you don’t personally know or hire through an agency you trust to handle such matters.
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