New Mom 101: Health Milestones for Your Child’s First Year

New Mom 101: Health Milestones for Your Child’s First Year

Congratulations! Your bundle of joy is here, and the excitement is palpable, but probably so is the immense burden of anxiety. Your first year with your first child tends to be the most stressful any parent experiences, but if you know what you’re looking for, so much of that nervousness can be alleviated. So what can you do to ensure baby meets all her goals in the first year?

Follow Vaccine Schedules

Vaccines are of the utmost importance in keeping baby happy and healthy, and your pediatrician should work with you on what and when your tot needs. Keeping up with these appointments is key, as missed vaccines can have fatal consequences. Most children who are not vaccinated won’t be allowed into structured group settings where other children are present, as well, like daycare, preschool, or Head Start programs. This is because immuno-compromised children rely on herd immunity to protect them, so unvaccinated children are not only at a higher risk of contracting diseases we’ve all but eradicated, but they risk passing them on to children who cannot be vaccinated for legitimate reasons.

Keep Up with Doctor’s Appointments

Your pediatrician’s recommendations may vary, but generally, doctors want to check-up on baby three to five days after birth, then at specific mile marks within the first two years of his or her life. Most of these appointments will be aimed at checking baby’s developmental milestones and looking for any developmental delays that might require professional intervention. They’ll also check for neurological or psychological disorders, perform autism screenings, measure height and weight to ensure growth is on track, and, oftentimes, perform blood tests to check things like lead levels, just to be safe. All of these procedures are vital to ensuring your tot is on track and, if something is wrong, intervening early and effectively.

Think About Dental Health

Many new parents carry around the misconception that, because baby teeth fall out, they don’t need to be cared for specifically. Even before baby starts cutting teeth, it’s good to use a gentle cloth to wipe baby’s gums, helping to get your little one used to the tooth brushing process once it begins in earnest and also clearing away bacteria for when teeth do start to emerge. Once baby has any number of teeth, you’ll need to start brushing: baby teeth can get caries just like adult teeth, and no one wants their toddler going through extensive dental work. Use a soft, baby toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste and brush twice a day, just like you would for yourself. Keep in mind, also, that baby needs to go to the dentist, too! The general rule of thumb is to make an appointment around 6 months after the first tooth erupts, or by age one, at which time your dentist can check for signs of tooth decay and educate you on how best to care for your little one’s new teeth.

Track Developmental Milestones

Most parents know the general gist of when baby should be accomplishing new tasks, but having a book or chart you can refer back to can do wonders to alleviate new parent woes about your baby seemingly being “behind”. Most milestones exist in a range, so worrying about your child not being able to roll over by exactly six months is needless stress. So many resources exist online to see where baby should be that no parent should ever feel lost. Keeping a printed version of a handy developmental domain chart can provide some peace of mind, and also help to clue you in early if baby is falling behind. Some sites also provide activity ideas for how to promote growth in each area, making it an invaluable resource for new parents.

Most importantly, though, enjoy this time! Kids grow up so fast, going through their first years in a haze of nervous anxiety over whether they’ll turn out well will leave you with nothing but regrets. Keep up with your doctor and dentist and seek professional advice if you ever have any nerves, and then get back to enjoying your bundle of joy.

Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake.