Mother’s Day for 2017 has come and gone. The bouquets of flowers have wilted, and the best candies in those gold-foil boxes have been devoured.
What remains are the headlines: “Opioid crisis sends kids to foster care, “Mother found passed out on top of newborn,” and “Babysitter sentenced in child’s death.” Add to these headlines, “Hospital officials determined that the girl had been shaken so severely that she suffered ‘abusive head trauma,’ and they gave her no more than 72 hours to live.”
There are new babies in my family, Cohl William Scott and Parker Carol Lynn, 6 months old, so I am aware, again, in an upfront and direct way of the importance of good care for these marvelous little creatures who have recently entered our lives
Am I to assume that everyone knows about cautions to maximize the chances for survival and good health of the little ones in our midst? Perhaps you can pass this column on to new mothers and fathers who might have already been cautioned or are so busy with jobs, education and the needs of infants that they have forgotten. And perhaps some deliberately chose to ignore the warnings because it seems expedient at the time:
• Do not use bumper pads in the crib. Do not use blankets, pillows and toys in the crib. All that should be in the crib is a tightly- fitted sheet. Afraid your baby will get cold? Dress the baby for sleeping to prevent this.
• Babies should always be put on their backs for sleeping. Pay no attention to those who say, “But I was always taught they should be put face down to avoid choking and the flat-head issue. This baby will have a big bald spot. ”
• Babies’ cribs should be in the mother’s or father’s sleeping area for the first year of their lives. There’s plenty of time later for them to enjoy that special bedroom you have lovingly decorated for them.
• Do not sleep with the baby — in your bed or in a chair. Of course, you’re tired and your bed or chair may be convenient, but this is an absolute no-no as you may roll over on the baby, or he can smother in the pillows and covers or fall out of your arms as you sleep in a chair.
• Do not allow anyone to smoke in your living quarters or your vehicles, and this includes the parents. So grandma doesn’t want to go outdoors to get her nicotine fix, and you don’t want to hurt her feelings? You are responsible for this infant whose lungs are developing and who will need those lungs for the rest of her life. Think of the smell of that cigarette as well of all of those carcinogens floating in the air, settling on furniture/walls and in the lungs of that infant or child who has no voice in the matter.
• Your baby needs the loving touch, the sound of soothing voices in abundance. Sing, tell stories, quote poetry.
• Place your baby on his stomach regularly for tummy time so that he can strengthen his body to be able to support his head and spine. And caregivers need to be meticulous in protecting that spine and head until their babies are fully prepared to handle this task.
• Dogs and cats might have been family members long before the new one came into your life. If you opt to retain the animals and the baby, you have an additional monitoring job. And the monitoring should be close and ongoing.
• Change diapers frequently and do it well so that rash doesn’t develop. Think of how you would feel soaked in urine and feces and unable to address the issue.
• Immunizations are serious business, and you now have the responsibility for getting those shots on time as prescribed by your doctor. You might shed a few tears, as someone I know did with her baby’s first injections, but remember it’s just a pinch that can make an important difference in your baby’s health.
• More mothers are now interested in breast feeding, and this works well for some — not so much for others. Embrace it if you opt to do so and know that the bonding experience for mother and baby is rewarding in spite of some minor issues such as sore nipples and leaking breasts.
In conclusion, I would feel that I’m being remiss if I failed to mention the special responsibilities that the large number of single parents in our country have.
The single parent probably understands why he or she is single. If it has anything to do with the other biological parent’s irrational behavior, drug addiction (prescription or street), or alcohol, do not leave your child in that person’s care. And if you are the one with anger or addiction issues, let someone have that little one who is willing and well prepared to nurture.
At times some single parents are looking for support or love or acceptance. This may lead to Johnny Lee’s “Looking for Love” in “all the wrong places.” Your first obligation is to your baby.
Just remember, becoming a parent is a process. You might feel incompetent from time to time. Seek the advice of persons you respect who are current with their responses. Better to be known as the person who calls the physician’s office too much seeking advice than the person whose story ends up in my newspaper.
Note: I have deliberately used alternate pronouns when referring to babies. With all the gender issues now current with a range of “politically correct” terminology, I feel relatively safe in using “his” and “her” – at least for this week.
Contact Dr. Vivian Blevins at email@example.com.