Parenting Vocabulary

Here are some words that you might not be so familiar with when you were not yet a parent. But now that you are, it would help you a lot to be well-versed on all of them.

cord care - The shriveled brown appendage that was once your baby's umbilical cord requires only a quick swipe with rubbing alcohol each time you change her/his diaper. Fold the diaper down around it to keep the area dry. In about a week you'll find a perfect little belly button instead. Trouble signs to watch for: redness and pus -- but a little bleeding when the cord falls off is normal.

burping - What was once bad manners is now a must in your home. Babies take in air while they're sucking on the breast or bottle, and they need some help releasing it or they become cranky and uncomfortable (a.k.a. "gassy"). To avoid this buildup, burp your baby halfway through each feeding -- when switching breasts or after every two or three ounces of formula -- then again when you're done. Best positions for burping: laying baby flat across your lap, sitting up on your lap and leaned slightly forward, or across your shoulder with his head facing back. In each case, you need to put gentle pressure on the abdomen. Then pat lightly on your baby's back. Of course, not every baby will burp every time -- if nothing happens after about five minutes, you can stop. There probably wasn't that much air in there to begin with.

circumcision - If you chose to have your son circumcised, you can expect his penis to be a bit red and to secrete a little gooey yellow stuff for about a week. Dab petroleum jelly on the tip of the penis at each changing to prevent it from sticking to the diaper. The circumcision site should also heal in about a week. Trouble signs to watch for: swelling or more than a little bleeding.

bonding - pretty much what it sounds like -- feeling an almost overwhelming affection for and need to nurture your baby. Hardly a negative thing, but because the original concept stemmed from a now debatable study trying to prove that early, frequent parent-child interaction immediately after delivery and in the hospital was necessary to bond, a great deal of anxiety and guilt has resulted. Medical complications may prevent postpartum nurturing. And adoption often does. Still other parents find that building a relationship takes time. So try to enjoy those magical and sometimes euphoric hours after birth, but you needn't sweat it if you don't.

Jaundice - one of those illnesses that you barely give a thought to -- until you have a baby. More than half of all newborns develop jaundice because their immature livers can't quickly process excess bilirubin, a toxic chemical produced during the normal breakdown and replacement of red blood cells. If you notice a yellowing of the skin -- it may even seem golden, like a tan -- that begins on the head and spreads down over Baby's body about three days after birth, call your pediatrician. Your baby is at risk for jaundice if you are nursing (bilirubin levels are often higher in breastfed babies) or if you have a boy, are diabetic yourself, or if Baby loses a lot of weight right after delivery. Jaundice is usually harmless and clears by itself in a few days. But the doctor will use blood tests to keep close tabs on it because extreme cases can cause brain damage. A day or two of phototherapy -- placing Baby under ultrafluorescent lights in the hospital -- may be necessary.
In my case, my son also had jaundice and the doctor advised me to sunbathe him every morning for 15 minutes ideally from 6:00-6:15 A.M. until the yellowish color will subside.

acne - Infant acne usually occurs between 2 and 4 weeks, as Mom's hormones start to work their way out of Baby's system. Unlike adult acne, however, the best response is to do nothing. Just keep baby's skin clean and dry, and don't squeeze the pimples or apply any treatments.

spit up - Most babies spit up often -- everything from little "wet burps" to real gushers. It's messy but totally normal. Burping more frequently may help. You can also try giving your baby a little bit less breast milk or formula at mealtime to determine if overfeeding is the problem. Some babies don't realize when it's time to stop eating and literally overflow afterwards! Most infants grow out of this stage by the time they can sit up0 on their own -- usually between 6 and 7 months -- but some may continue to spit up throughout their first year. And once solids enter the picture, spit up is a lot more damaging -- to clothing, that is.
You should talk to your pediatrician if your baby actually vomits - which is much more forceful than spit up and will cause your baby obvious distress -- particularly if it's an excessive amount or happens frequently. Some infants have a medical condition called gastroesophageal reflux. It's caused by stomach acids backing up into the esophagus and will require treatment by a doctor.

cradle cap - If you notice greasy, scaly patches on your baby's scalp, hairline, forehead, or around the eyes or nose, she's/he's got a skin condition that's been dubbed cradle cap. A form of seborrheic dermatitis, it's caused by a buildup of oil and effects up to half of all newborns in the first three months. Cradle cap won't cause your baby any discomfort -- not even itching -- but it may be painful for you to look at. Treat it by rubbing a little baby oil or olive oil on the scaly patches, wait an hour or so, gently scrape off the scales with a baby brush, then shampoo. Do this daily and it will probably clear up in a week or so. Stubborn cases may require a medicated shampoo.

nail care - Baby's fingernails grow so fast at first they'll be a danger to her/him. Trim them twice a week while she's sleeping, or after a bath when they're soft and pliable. Use only baby nail clippers, press down the pads of her fingers to avoid cutting the skin, and don't leave any jagged edges. Scratches on baby's face mean her/his nails have gotten too long.