Parenting Myth Debunked: Caring for a Newborn is Not Instinctual

Disclosure :: Today’s post is sponsored by the Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital. Have you ever questioned why you, as a parent, did not know what to do or how to care for your child? Read on….

Parenting Myth Debunked: Caring for a Newborn is Not Instinctual

I remember visiting my first friend to have a baby of her own. She was so excited to meet her beautiful son, and I was thrilled to be invited to visit her in the hospital only hours after she delivered. We were in our early 20’s, and she was the youngest in her family. She confessed from her hospital bed as she gazed at her adorable baby boy that she had never changed a diaper! When the baby cried, she did not know what to do. I had some experience with younger siblings and babysitting, so I assisted a little and her nurses were incredibly helpful. HappiestBaby_fb_1200x1200She developed into a wonderful mother, but that experience has stuck with me all of these years. It reminds me – we don’t just “know” this stuff. We have to learn, through educating ourselves, asking for help, and of course through trial and error.

Unlike our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers before us, we are more likely than ever to be taking care of a baby away from extended family. The generational support our ancestors may have enjoyed is not nearly as common. And families are smaller, which means some parents have their first experiences with a baby when they bring their own child home from the hospital.

It’s a myth that as parents we should just instinctively know how to care for a newborn.

Advice abounds about how to feed your baby; when, where and how your baby should sleep; and certainly which products you can’t live without. But one night alone with a newborn and it hits you – no one is talking about how to soothe your baby, how to help her feel cozy and comfortable in her new surroundings, and what to do when she cries.

There are a lot of baby books on the market, with great information and advice. But Dr. Harvey Karp, a developmental pediatrician and professor at USC Medical Center, filled a real void when he wrote The Happiest Baby on the Block. What Karp did was combine his own experience as a parent and pediatrician with the time-honored methods parents have used to soothe infants for generations into a synthesized system. His book and DVD teach parents how to employ the “Five S’s” of soothing a baby, which results in a calmer, happier household and more sleep for everyone.

I used Karp’s techniques when my son was born, so I was very excited when The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital (where I am a Parent Educator) was approached with the opportunity to be trained as certified “Happiest Baby” instructors. Teaching the Happiest Baby classes is fun and kohlssatisfying, because I know I am offering real, practical and effective techniques – and in the class, we have the opportunity to practice and discuss the techniques in a way watching the DVD alone can’t provide. The best part is that through the generosity of Kohl’s department stores and the Kohl’s Cares program, we are able to offer the classes for FREE. Families come to a two-hour class, receive the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD and white noise CD, as well as hands-on instruction on how to employ the soothing techniques.

Dr. Karp’s research has shown that when parents know how to mimic the sounds of the womb to comfort their babies, it makes babies feel “at home.” This triggers a profound neurological response – the calming reflex. Parents who have learned these techniques have more confidence that they can calm their babies and can get as much as two hours of extra sleep.

Crying babies can erode a parent’s confidence and can contribute to nursing failure, marital stress, postpartum depression and even abuse. In the class, parents learn how to calm their babies using the 5 S’s:

  • Swaddling
  • Side/Stomach position
  • Shhing
  • Swinging
  • Sucking

Studies have shown that 25% of babies cry as much as 2-3 hours a day in the first 6-7 weeks. This is not due to any medical problem. Babies are born needing a fourth trimester for their neurological and digestive systems to mature. Sensitive responses to babies during this critical newborn period help them to adjust to being outside the womb and build strong attachments. Babies whose needs are met in the early weeks of life cry less when they are older.

The Parenting Center has been a program of Children’s Hospital for more than 34 years and is now helping a second generation of families get off to a good start. The Kohl’s Happiest Baby on the Block class is one of several programs we offer for new families including Snuggles and Struggles New Parent Support Group, Infant Massage and CPR.

Kohl’s supports more than 160 children’s hospitals through the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program, which has raised more than $274 million. Four times a year, Kohl’s introduces new Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise, which includes special children’s books and plush toys sold for $5 each. They donate 100 percent of the net profits to children’s health and education programs. To date, Kohl’s has donated a total of $87,372 to Children’s Hospital New Orleans through this program.

Kohl’s Happiest Baby on the Block classes are FREE and taught at locations across greater New Orleans, including Metairie, Uptown and the West Bank. For more information about the Kohl’s Happiest Baby class or to register for a class, visit our website.

Sarah KeithSarah Murray Keith, LPC-S joined The Parenting Center as a Parent Educator in August, 2012. She received her BA and an MS in Counseling from Loyola University New Orleans. Before joining The Parenting Center staff, Sarah worked as a Clinical Director at Family Service of Greater New Orleans and as the adolescent specialist at Jewish Family Service. She has a four year old son and two adult step-children. Sarah leads the Snuggles and Struggles group and shares in staffing the Metairie Center.


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