“Oh, your baby is so content!” a friend may say, as your infant smiles and coos. But we all know happy infants don’t just happen. Happy infants are a matter of their parents’ responsiveness to a number of obstacles the baby faces without even realizing it. Hunger, discomfort, gassiness and even loneliness come into play for little ones.
They eat when they want to
Happy babies are fed on demand. Whether you’re breastfeeding or using formula to feed your infant, doesn’t matter. Newborns eat frequently, every one-to-three hours, and the hour is counted from the time your baby started his last feeding. So, if he nurses at 9 a.m., three hours later is 11 a.m., not 12 noon. Feeding on demand is recommended by major medical groups, including the La Leche League.
They know you respond
While you don’t need to hop up every time your baby makes a peep, Baby does need to know — and come to expect — that you will be there for him when he needs you. That said, sometimes babies can cry for unknowable reasons. “Babies go through these tsunamis of emotion,” says Harvey Karp, M.D. author of The Happiest Baby on the Block (Bantam; 2015). “For babies, it’s contentedness, serenity and security that make them happy; twenty times a day, something upsets them and then magically, arms pick them up and they’re fed, or someone comes and rocks them,” Karp says. Be that magic someone by letting your baby know you are always responsive.
They stay warm
Infants can’t control their body temperature, so keep that in mind at home and on outings in cold weather. Avoid placing your infant near drafty windows. After a bath, immediately wrap your baby in a towel. Normal newborn temperature is between 97.8 and 98.8. If your baby is warmer than that, adjust his clothing. If he’s cooler than that, likewise. For night time sleeping, invest in a wearable blanket, says Erika Landau, M.D. co-author of The Essential Guide to Baby’s First Year (ALPHA; 2011).
They stay dry
During the newborn stage, your baby will have up to six- -to-eight wet diapers a day (for breastfeeding moms, this applies once your milk comes in) and three or more bowel movements a day. Skipping changes can result in painful diaper rash,so avoid doing that if you can. Use a dab of petroleum jelly after each diaper change to create a comfortable barrier between skin and wetness.
They love skin-to-skin contact
Hospitals promote skin-to-skin contact for infants right after birth because studies have shown that it promotes bonding, stable body temperature and breathing rates. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), skin to skin should be practiced for an uninterrupted 60 minutes during the first 12 weeks and beyond.
Infants swallow a lot of air as they feed. This air can turn into a gassy tummy if it doesn’t get released, so burping a newborn is essential. Burp your infant gently up on your shoulder during feeding breaks. A less gassy baby is definitely a happier baby, Harvey Karp says.
They love being read to
Research shows that it’s never too early to read to a newborn, says the AAP. Not only does early reading promote brain development, it also builds brain processing speed and vocabulary. Reading to your newborn promotes bonding time, and Baby loves hearing emotions through your voice. It doesn’t matter what you read to a newborn, simply that you do!
Further Reading on Infants: