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    Preparing for the New Baby

    Excerpted from
    Dr. Spock's The First Two Years : The Emotional and Physical Needs of Children from Birth to Age 2
    By Benjamin Spock, M.D.

    Some parents have a superstitious fear of buying any baby furniture until after the baby is born, safe and sound. The only trouble with this plan, as some new mothers have explained to me, is that if you have "baby blues" (feeling sad for a few weeks following birth) or just feeling tired and indecisive for a few days after going home-any chore may loom large and baffling.

    Let's start with a list of the things that may or may not seem essential. (Parents vary a lot in what they consider essential.)

    A crib should last at least till three years of age. It should have a padded lining that goes around the inside because babies manage to squirm a lot and press their body against the sides and head of the crib. A crib's slats (the bars that form the walls of a crib) should be less than 2% inches apart. The mattress should fit snugly against the sides of the crib. It is usually made of foam-wrapped coiled inner springs, or foam, with a tough water-repellent covering without holes. Old-fashioned animal hair mattresses sometimes cause allergies in allergic families.

    Sheets for cribs are usually made of stockinet which tucks well, stays in place, and dries quickly. Crib blankets are usually made of polyester and cotton or acrylic. It's handy to have one or two, even if you use "sleeping bags" or sleepers. You'll need a couple of waterproof sheets to protect the mattress from urine if it doesn't have its own covering.

    Scales are not necessary if the baby will be visiting a doctor. They tend to get inexperienced parents over-concerned with the weight gain or lack of it.

    A fabric bath with a top that turns it into a diaper-changing table is a great convenience. But a plastic tub in the kitchen sink or wash stand will do for the bathing.

    Nightgowns are good for the day as well as night. The mittens are to prevent a baby from scratching herself. Long gowns will help to keep her from kicking off the covers.

    By six months, it's more practical to put her to bed in a baby sleep bag or sleeper than to try to keep her covered. The material depends on the season. Stretch suits that snap or zip from neck to foot can be used for day and night.

    Disposable diapers are convenient. Diaper services are becoming less available in many communities. Some parents prefer cloth diapers and wash them at home. Two dozen will do if you wash them daily. Six dozen are ample. You'll need a large covered diaper pail.

    A folding stroller, which will fit in the car, is very convenient. A government approved reclining carrier for a baby under twenty pounds may also be used as a car restraint.

    A safety-tested car seat/restraint is required for all children when riding in a car-even home from the hospital following birth. Follow the directions carefully when installing the scat in your car. Babies and infants under 20 pounds are safest in a car restraint that is placed in the backseat with the baby facing the rear of the car. Many new-car dealers now offer assistance with proper use of car restraints for all babies and older children in the community.

    Preparing Sibling for the New Baby

    If there are older children in the family it is wise to prepare them for the new arrival as well as this can be done. That's fairly easy in the case of a child three years or older by talking about the birth of a new baby sister or brother. Some parents can't wait to announce the pregnancy as soon as it is confirmed. Other parents prefer to wait a few months to be certain that there aren't any problems with the pregnancy. You might have the child help in planning any rearrangement of the house, furniture, or clothing months ahead of time, things such as turning over the crib or part of the bureau to the baby and passing down baby clothes or baby playthings. The parents should try not to speak as if they are about to take possessions away from the child, but to offer suggestions about how the child can help and please the baby. There are many fine children's books available in a library or bookstore that help children with the arrival of a new baby.

    At only two years of age, which is often the interval between first and second children, it is much more difficult to make clear to the child what will be happening and how she will feel. Letting her feel her mother's abdomen will help some, also calling attention to other babies seen in public, and asking whether the child would like to have one at home to take care of. In carrying out all these suggestions, it is wise for the parents not to act too excited or to try to get the child to be too enthusiastic. Casual is the attitude to aim for. The best you can hope for is a mixture of resentment and pleasure. If the child, before or after the baby's arrival, blurts out an aversion to having the baby at home, or suggests that he be returned to the hospital, it's wise to accept this as natural and to say, "I know how you feel; sometimes you don't want the baby at all."

    It's good to realize how tactless some relatives and friends can be, including the ones who've been most enthusiastic about the older child before. I've heard a grandmother say to the older child, "This is granny's baby now!"

    If the child will be going to a day-care center or nursery school, it's important that she be entered months before the baby's birth. If it's done just before or after the arrival it will seem like banishment, which accentuates the jealousy.

    Preparing the Parents for the New Baby

    The most important preparation for the first baby's arrival is for the prospective parents to get an idea or a feeling of what it will mean to them. In a way it is the biggest change in their lives. Until the baby's arrival they were free and independent. They could do anything, go anywhere that their work schedules allowed. But suddenly they are responsible for a second person who has many needs-frequent feedings, diaper changes, much sleep-who may cry a lot but has no words to explain what is the matter. The sense of responsibility for a wordless stranger weighs heavily on some parents especially if they are highly conscientious and the baby wakes often and fusses or cries.

    The mother needs to know that she may have sad feelings ("blue spells") for a few days or even a few weeks during which she feels inexplicably pessimistic that the baby's fretting means that he has some disease that the doctor can't diagnose or won't explain to her, that her husband doesn't love her anymore, that she has lost her attractiveness forever.

    The father may be put out, consciously or unconsciously, because his wife and the baby are getting a lot of attention and he is being ignored, by relatives and friends. The feeling makes some new fathers hang around bars. Others become flirtatious with other women. Both of these reactions will naturally upset the mother even more than the blue spells or the baby's fretfulness. The couple should learn to talk about these sources of unhappiness and make very conscious efforts-not to deny their own upsetting behavior, not to argue, but to understand and make amends.

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