Calming Your New Parent Fears

This content has been clinically reviewed by Tracy Nailor, M.D.

Taking your new baby home is exciting—and terrifying. But don’t worry, both of these emotions are normal, especially for new parents. More good news? You’ll become more relaxed around your baby as time goes by.

You’ll also probably have a slew of questions about the health of your new little bundle, and this quick guide can help put your mind at ease about some of your top baby concerns. 

Getting Your Newborn to Sleep

Is my baby sleeping enough?

Most newborns sleep 16 to 17 hours a day. This sounds like a lot, but they may only sleep one to two hours at a time (which explains why you’re so tired!). It typically takes about six months for babies to have regular sleep cycles. This doesn’t mean they sleep through the night—it’s normal for babies to wake up frequently during the night – but they can usually get themselves back to sleep unless they need to be fed or changed.

At first your baby won’t know the difference between night and day, but this will pass. Don’t try to keep your newborn awake during the day so that he’ll sleep at night. This will make the baby overtired and make sleeping at night more difficult.

How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?

Don’t let other people tell you what’s “normal’’ when it comes to a newborn’s sleep patterns. Every baby is different—some sleep through the night early on, while others will continue to wake up off and on.

A few ways to gently help your newborn learn to sleep:

  • Give him lots of attention when he’s awake so that he feels calm and secure.
  • When he acts sleepy, help him fall asleep by rocking him or offering him a thumb or hand to suck on.
  • If he wakes up at night, keep the lights low to feed or change him.
  • Resist the urge to talk or play with him when he wakes up in the middle of the night so that he eventually learns that nighttime is for sleeping.

As your baby gets older, you can start a bedtime routine of bathing, reading and sleeping that will help him relax and get to sleep. This takes time, though, so be patient. Your baby will sleep through the night when he’s ready.

Learn more about putting your baby to sleep safely

Feeding Your New Baby

Is my baby getting enough to eat?

Most parents worry about whether their babies are getting enough to eat, and it can be tough to tell because babies suck not only for hunger but for comfort. But in most cases there’s no need to worry.

Newborns have tiny stomachs, and will need to eat often. Breastfed newborns typically nurse every two to three hours; formula-fed newborns eat every three to four hours.

In most cases, babies consume about 90 percent of the available milk during the first 10 minutes of feeding on each breast. Your baby will turn away when she’s had enough breast milk or formula.

Know that if your baby is alert, content and active, is steadily gaining weight, and is regularly wetting and soiling diapers, she’s probably eating enough. On the other hand, if she’s cranky and always seems hungry—or never seems hungry—call your pediatrician.

Is it possible to feed my baby too much?

There’s no need to worry about overfeeding your breastfed baby. Your baby will eat what she needs. Breastfed babies typically gain more weight during the first two to three months than formula-fed babies, then taper off, particularly between 9 to 12 months. Babies who are breastfed for at least six months are also more likely to have a healthy weight as they grow up.

It can be easier to bottle-feed using formula because it takes less effort for a baby to suck from a bottle than from a breast. Make sure the hole in the bottle’s nipple is the right size for your baby. The formula should drip, not pour out. Also, never prop a bottle because this can cause a baby to choke. It also increases chances for ear infections and, as your baby gets older, tooth decay.

If you’re worried about your baby’s weight, bring it up to your pediatrician.

Should I wake my baby up at night to feed him?

Yes, wake up your newborn every four hours or so at night to nurse if he doesn’t wake up on his own. This will help prevent dangerous dehydration. After about 4 weeks of age, you can let him sleep through the night (if this happens), as long as he is wetting and soiling diapers regularly and gaining weight.

Keeping Your New Baby Well

When is a fever dangerous in a baby?

Infants tend to have higher temperatures than older children. But if your newborn (3 months or younger) has a fever with a rectal temperature of 100.4oF (38oC) or higher, call your pediatrician or go to the emergency room immediately. Even a slight fever can be a sign of a serious infection in an infant. If your child is between 3 months and 3 years of age, call your doctor if her fever is 102.2oF (39oC) or higher.

What over-the-counter medications are safe to give my baby?

Always talk to your pediatrician first before giving medicine of any kind to a child under the age of 2.

When administering acetaminophen or ibuprofen, always look carefully at the label to make sure the product is correct for your baby’s age and weight, and follow dosing instructions exactly. Be aware that there are different formulas for infants and older children.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t recommend that OTC cold and cough medications containing a decongestant or antihistamine be given to children younger than 2 because of possible serious or life-threatening side effects.

When can I take my baby out in public?

You can take your newborn out for a walk right away as long as you’re sure to keep her from getting too warm or too cold. Avoid exposing her to direct sunlight, too (and don’t put sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months; just keep them in the shade).

To avoid germs, keep your baby away from crowded places like grocery stores, especially during the first month. And make sure anyone who wants to handle or hold your baby has washed their hands, and is free from any type of contagious illness to help keep germs from spreading.

Is it normal for my baby to be so fussy?

Many days it will feel impossible trying to console your fussy baby.

This is because many newborns have a natural, daily fussy time, which usually occurs late in the afternoon or evening. This can last for about two to three hours a day from age 6 weeks to 3 months.

During these fussy times, you might want to try walking with your baby, stroking his head or burping him. Some babies calm down after a ride in the car. If nothing seems to work and you feel frustrated, try leaving your baby alone in a safe place for about 15 minutes so he can cry and fall asleep.

Remember, it’s normal for a newborn to cry, so don’t take it personally. And no matter how frustrated you feel, never shake a baby. Shaking can cause blindness, brain damage and even death.

Be sure to pass this information along to your baby’s other caregivers, too.  

This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.