Little babies don't come with instructions, but they do come with a whole lot of questions: Is she getting enough to eat? Is his poop supposed to be that color? What's up with all that crying? Fortunately, help has arrived. Heidi Murkoff, author of the popular "What to Expect" series, offers these answers to the 10 questions people most frequently ask her.
The latest edition of "What to Expect The First Year" came out last month. Still have questions? (Who doesn't?) Join Heidi for a live chat on TODAY Parents' Facebook page on Wednesday at noon ET.
1. What IS that in my baby's diaper?
Heidi says: "The color and texture of baby poop can change from day to day — and bowel movement to bowel movement — causing even seasoned parents to scratch their head. It comes in a wide variety of colors, consistencies and frequencies — for example, seedy and mustard-colored or soft and brownish green — that are all considered healthy and 'normal.' If you're puzzled by what you're seeing, take a picture to show (or email or text) the doctor." And be aware of when the contents of your baby's diaper could spell problems.
2. How do I know if my baby is getting enough to eat?
Heidi says: "When you're breastfeeding, figuring out whether your baby's getting the right amount to eat is a pretty simple calculation — if enough's coming out (about 4-5 wet diapers and 2-3 bowel movements per day), enough's going in. For bottle-fed babies, it's a bit more precise: Babies under six months generally don't need more than 32 ounces of formula per day; once solids are added, the number of formula ounces can be scaled back a bit. A good rule to follow is this: As long as your baby is gaining enough weight, is wetting and dirtying enough diapers, and is happy and healthy, you can be sure you're on target." Here's more information about determining whether baby is getting enough to eat.
3. How do I know if my baby's crying is colic?
Heidi says: "Doctors usually diagnose colic based on the 'rules of three': at least three hours of crying, at least three days a week, lasting for at least three weeks. But few infants follow the textbook description exactly — different babies do colic differently, and sometimes the same babies do colic differently on different days. In reality, the word 'colic' is just a catch-all term for problem crying — the problem being, there's no solution to it besides giving it time." These strategies may help ease the strain until it passes.
4. My baby hates tummy time. How do I get him to like it?
Heidi says: "To make tummy time less torture and more fun, try these tricks: put him tummy down on your chest while you do your sit-ups and add some funny faces with each rep; lie on your bellies together, side by side or face-to-face, then coo at each other; add a baby-safe floor mirror to provide him with a distracting image of himself." Don't miss these other suggestions for bringing a little fun to your tummy sessions.
5. My baby's so gassy. Could she be allergic to my breast milk?"
Heidi says: "Very few babies are actually allergic to food in their mother's diets. But some moms maintain that certain foods they eat unsettle their little ones' tummies (though, it hasn't been backed up by scientific study). If you find your baby is gassy a few hours after you eat a certain food, try eliminating that food from your diet for a few days and see if your baby's symptoms disappear. If not, there's no reason not to add the food right back to your diet." And try these simple strategies for relieving the pain in your little one's tummy.
6. When can I take my newborn out in public?
Heidi says: "Don't feel like you need to stick close to home those first couple of weeks. A healthy, full-term baby is hardy enough to handle any number of excursions — whether it's a stroll in the park or a trip to the market. Just be sure in the first six to eight weeks to limit exposure to large indoor gatherings, particularly during flu season when germs are everywhere, until her immune system has a chance to strengthen." And get tips here for how to dress your new little one appropriately.
7. When should I start offering a bottle?
Heidi says: "Some babies have no difficulty switching from breast to bottle and back again right from the start, but most do best with both if the bottle isn't introduced until at least two to three weeks. Earlier than this, bottle feedings may interfere with the successful establishment of breastfeeding (not because of so-called 'nipple confusion,' but because your breasts won't be stimulated enough to pump up supply). Wait much later than this, and baby might reject rubber nipples in favor of mama's soft, warm, familiar ones." These how-to bottle-feeding dos and don'ts will help you get started.
8. How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?
Heidi says: "A lifetime of good sleep for your baby will depend on her learning how to fall asleep and fall back to sleep solo — on her own, unassisted by you. If you and your baby are ready to give up night feeds and a helping hand getting back to sleep, then the sixth month may be a good time to start sleep teaching (a.k.a. sleep training). Before you begin, you'll need to make some slight adjustments with baby's current sleep habits including: determining whether she's napping too much or too little during the day; weaning her off middle-of-the-night feedings; and establishing a bedtime routine."
9. When should I start reading to my baby?
Heidi says: "It's never too early to start raising a reader — even though your baby may be more wiggle worm than bookworm at first, or do more chewing on the corners of books than looking at their pages. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to your baby daily, right from birth." Here are three ways to nurture a love of reading in your little one.
10. How can I soothe my teething baby?
Heidi says: "If you could, you'd take your baby's pain on for him. Since you can't, try these time-tested teething remedies to take at least some of the pain away: give her a teething toy to chew on; with clean hands, massage your baby's sore spots; stash her teething rings in the freezer as the cold will ease pain and swelling; or soak a washcloth in chamomile tea, freeze it, then let baby suck." For info about what you shouldn't use, see the recommendations here.
The all-new third edition of "What to Expect The First Year" is available for purchase now.