Baby Care - Normal Functions of a Baby
The number of hours of sleep required each day is not the same for every baby. It depends on the individual baby and on environmental circumstances. Not all babies require the same amount of sleep, and parents should be aware that each baby establishes his or her own sleeping pattern.
Sleeping. It is immediately noticeable that, as the baby's age increases, there is also an increasing divergence in the average number of hours of sleep each individual baby requires.
Although newborn babies generally sleep for a total of about twenty hours a day, it is usually for three or four hours at a time, between one nursing and the next. By about six weeks of age, a baby usually begins to sleep for longer periods during the night.
At about six weeks of age a baby begins to need less sleep and to enjoy staying awake for a while after being nursed. At such times, lying on a bed, the baby can be encouraged to use his or her eyes. A colorful mobile is useful for this purpose and can also promote movement and exercise.
It is a mistake to believe a baby can sleep anywhere in any surroundings. Like an adult, a baby prefers quite and undisturbed repose. A baby who is frequently carried about from one place to another, bounced around in the car, bumped in stores, or awakened by loud noises in unfamiliar surroundings can develop lifelong sleep problems.
Crying. It is important to remember that a baby always has a reason for crying and never does so just to be a nuisance. Crying is a baby's means of communication, generally signifying discontent. A parent or baby sitter soon learns to recognize the sounds and to interpret the reasons: hunger; colic pains; wet or dirty diaper; lack of attention; teething; sudden bright lights; being picked up or looked at by a stranger; and others.
Crying patterns vary as much as do sleeping patterns, and some babies cry more--or less--than others. Most babies up to the age of two or three months have a crying period each day. Parents should not allow themselves to become angry. One method commonly successful in soothing a baby is to walk around slowly, holding the baby upright and speaking gently.
Teething. All babies have to go through the process of teething, but some find it less disturbing or painful than others. The milk teeth, or baby teeth, are already present in the jaw at the time of birth and begin pushing their way through the gums at about age six to eight months. There are 20 milk teeth.
The 32 permanent teeth start to develop when the baby is born. Eventually they begin coming through at age five to six years.
There are many signs by which a parent can know that a baby is teething: the cheeks may become red and blotchy; the gums may swell; the baby may frantically suck the fingers or anything else that close at hand. Alternatively, the baby may have difficulty sucking; a cough may develop because of the extra saliva produced when a tooth is erupting; there may be earache, a referred pain from the gums; the baby may pull or rub the ears; and dry or sore patches of skin may appear on the face, especially if the baby sleeps on his or her stomach on a sheet damp with saliva.
A baby who is teething may wake up crying several times each night and may cry persistently even when soothed. At such a time, offer the baby a drink of cool water or diluted fruit juice. Special preparations of acetaminophen suitable for babies also are available from most drugstores and may be helpful. During the day the baby's gums may be rubbed with a teething salve to give temporary relief.
To prevent soreness on the baby's mouth and face, apply a barrier cream and do not allow the baby to lie on a damp sheet.
Care of the Teeth. Vitamins A, C, and D and calcium (all in milk) are important for healthy teeth.
To keep the baby teeth healthy, parents should not permit bad eating habits. The baby should never be given undiluted sugary juices, nor a pacifier dipped in honey. Sweet drinks and foods are harmful to teeth, destroying the enamel. Once the baby can chew food, meals should be finished off with a piece of apple or some water. When the baby is one year old, clean the teeth after each meal with a soft, small brush, brushing the teeth up and down and making a game of it so that it becomes a pleasurable part of the daily routine. Use toothpaste containing fluoride. Many babies are given additional protection with fluoride drops from the age of one month if the fluoride content of the local water supply is insufficient.
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