Even though I have been a pediatrician for almost ten years, it was only when I became a parent four years ago, that I realized how overwhelming it is be a new parent. As a pediatrician, I had questions for my own pediatrician. So when new parents come to my office with questions, I not only welcome them…I expect them!

Here are the top five questions I get from new parents:

1) How often should my baby poop? What color should it be and when should I worry?

When you become a new parent, one thing you can count on is endless conversations about poop! Newborn stools change quite frequently as their diet changes so it makes sense that parents will have a lot of questions about it. In the first 2-3 days of life, your newborn will have stools that are black and tarry. This is called meconium and it is made up of substances that your baby ingested in the womb such as dead skin cells, mucous, bile and water. As your baby starts to take in milk, the stool will change in color. Breast-fed babies will have watery, yellow colored stools with a seedy appearance, like mustard. Formula fed babies usually have stool with a pasty consistency and can range from green to tan to yellow in color. Because breast milk is easier to digest than formula, breast-fed babies can average about 2-5 stools per day. Formula fed babies stool less often and generally stool about once per day. However, each child is different and babies can go 2-3 days without stooling. Check with your pediatrician to make sure your baby is not constipated. If the color of your baby’s stool is chalky white or black or if you notice blood or mucous in the stool, please make sure that your child is seen by the pediatrician.

2) How much should my baby sleep? Is it okay to let my child sleep through the night?

Newborns can sleep up to 16-17 hours per day. But they usually don’t sleep for longer than a 2-3 hour stretch during the first weeks of life. This results in exhausted parents and an unpredictable schedule! The first two weeks of life are crucial for your newborn to regain their birth weight, so it is important to wake your child to feed every 2-3 hours. After that, it is okay to let your child feed on demand. Around 6-8 weeks of life, newborns start to sleep more at night. And around six months of age, most babies start to have regular sleep cycles and can sleep 8-12 hours through the night. So relief is on the way!

3)  Can I give my baby a pacifier?

The use of a pacifier is a personal decision for each family. But pacifiers are not harmful. There are a few things to keep in mind before you offer the pacifier. First, if you are breastfeeding, it is best to wait at least 3-4 weeks until breastfeeding is fully established. Second, pacifiers should also not be used as a substitute for feeding. If your baby still wants to suck after being fed, then a pacifier can help to soothe your baby. And finally, remember that eventually you will have to wean the pacifier!

4) Can I take my baby outside?

You can take your baby outside. In fact, fresh air is great for both parents and baby. You should be careful not to take your child to crowded places or where there are sick people to minimize the risk of infections. Also, remember to keep your child out of direct sunlight. Because newborn skin can burn easily, keep them fully clothed and shaded with an umbrella or a stroller with a hood. If your child is premature or has a medical condition, please discuss with your pediatrician before taking them outside.

5) Does my baby need vitamins?

If your baby is exclusively or partially breastfed, it is recommended that they get 400IU of supplemental vitamin D daily. If your baby is drinking at least 32 ounces of formula per day, then they do not need supplemental vitamin D. All formulas sold in the United States have the appropriate amount of vitamin D. The first few months of a child’s life are a tremendous time of change and adjustment for both parent and baby. And having a support system of reliable people that you can reach out to for help is crucial. In those moments when you are completely exhausted and sleep deprived- it’s important to remember that our lives are made up of changing seasons. And this season will change. So you don’t have to be a perfect parent, just a real and loving one!

 I hope this helps you on your path toward finding bliss.

– Dr. Smita