Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Parenting Pointers: What's Normal with Newborns?

If you’re a new parent, almost everything your baby does raises some sort of question. Most of it, though, is totally normal and nothing to worry about, says Stanford-trained Pediatrician Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, author of The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care for your Infant and Yourself 
Even as an expert herself who was trained to take care of new parents’ most burning issues on a daily basis, Dr. Casares was alarmed when she encountered her own with her newborn, hence her writing this book.
I had a chance to interview her to learn more.

Why are there so many things that parents question if they're normal with their newborns?

So many modern parents have little to no experience taking care of an infant when they welcome their own babies home. They enter parenthood with an overwhelming amount of information at their fingertips, but their Googling and crowdsourcing efforts often lead to frustration as they try to differentiate quality resources from unreliable advice. Fledgling parents also start their parenthood journeys isolated, for the most part, from other seasoned moms and dads. Add in the reality that newborns have a notorious reputation for bizarre behavior and scary rashes? It's a perfect recipe for panic and concern in the first few months caring for an infant. 

What are some of the ways you as a pediatrician reassure parents?

Reassurance is, in some ways, about letting parents know what can go right and what can go wrong as their children grow. As a mom, I know most parenting fears come from not knowing what to expect or from worrying you won't be able to handle challenges if something happens to your child. That's why, from the very beginning, I try to give parents guidance ahead of a developmental stage or an expected growth spurt. I can't predict everything when it comes to pediatrics, but I can set parents up for success by educating them in advance whenever possible.  I also spend a lot of time normalizing behaviors and experiences for parents when their kids are sick or struggling. It's so much easier to relax into the parenthood experience when you know you're not alone. 

How can parents figure out if something is normal or needs more attention?

It takes time for new parents to learn how to differentiate normal from concerning when it comes to their new infants. Gather reliable resources ahead of time. Ask your pediatrician for trustworthy blogs, books, and websites you can add to your parenting library early on so you're not scrambling last-minute for answers. Set up a team of medical experts for your child from day one. In my office, we have pediatric-trained nurses, certified lactation specialists, and experienced pediatricians all working as a team to care specifically for kids. Finally, listen to your gut. If you feel uncomfortable with the way your child is acting or with a physical finding, pay attention and seek help, even if you feel awkward. Over time, you'll hone your parenting problem-solving skills and you'll gain confidence. 

What piece of advice do you wish you'd heard before you had kids?

I wish someone had told me to spend my money and time on self-care, not gear, before I became a mom. I took so much time making the perfect baby registry and checking items off my to-buy list before my first baby arrived. When I look back, I would have been happier and healthier if I'd spent my time researching postpartum doulas or organizing family help so I had more time to rest and recharge in my early parenting days. All families benefit when parents take good care of themselves so they can take good care of their kids. 

Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP is a pediatrician and mom to two young girls in Portland, Oregon. She completed her medical school training at The University of Vermont and her pediatrics residency training at Stanford University. She also holds a Masters of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from The University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Casares is the creator of the popular website,, where she helps parents win at parenting without losing themselves, especially in the baby and toddler years.

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