When is My Baby Ready To…?
Sleep: "Is my baby ready to…"
…have a blanket in the crib?
The official line from the AAP is to avoid blankets (they’re a potential suffocation hazard) until your baby reaches her first birthday.
What you need to know Some pediatricians give the okay for babies as young as 6 months. "A small, crib-size blanket is fine for a child who can lift her head and can push it off or crawl out from under it," says Jennifer Roche, M.D., a pediatrician in private group practice in Amherst, Massachusetts. (Whether or not it stays on her all night is another issue.)
Who would have thought a simple decorative touch in the nursery would end up being controversial? Some experts say bumpers are suffocation hazards and shouldn’t be in the crib at all; others take a more pragmatic approach.
What you need to know To be on the safe side, avoid large, fluffy bumpers and remember to tie them to the crib as tightly as you can. Also, make sure there are no gaps — that way your baby can’t get his head stuck between the bumper and crib railings.
According to some doctors, you should take them out of the crib when your baby is sitting, around 6 months, but definitely no later than 9 months, when he begins to pull himself up to stand. Although it’s not very likely, he could use the bumper as a step and launch himself out of the crib.
With all of the nervousness about possible SIDS hazards, parents might worry about putting stuffed animals or other playthings in their infant’s crib.
What you need to know depends on the plaything.
Stuffed animals. While the AAP doesn’t recommend that babies sleep with plush loveys until they’re 1, Ari Brown, M.D., coauthor of Baby 411, says it’s okay once a baby is 6 months old, with these caveats: The stuffed toy is a small one (no bigger than the size of her head) and has no removable eyes or buttons. Your baby should also be rolling over and moving around on her own.
Mobiles and other crib toys. You should remove the mobile from the crib at the 6-month mark — babies may then be able to make a grab for them when they sit up. As for attachable toys, as long as they don’t contain small, "choke-able" parts, the only consideration is whether your baby can handle the stimulation. "Some will push the buttons repeatedly until they get sleepy. Other kids will just get more and more wired," says Dr. Shu, the mom of a 4-year-old.
Books. Since babies are likely to chew on board books, doctors recommend giving them only fabric ones in the crib — after they turn 1.
Gear: "Is my baby ready to…"
…face front in a car seat?
When it comes time to turn your baby around in the car, which is more important: her weight or her age?
What you need to know Both are equally important: A child should remain rear-facing until she’s at least 20 pounds and 1 year old, say experts. Dr. Shu goes even further and recommends keeping your child facing the back as long as she can stand it. "If we all could travel facing backward, we’d be safer. As soon as you face the front, the chance of whiplash goes way up," she says.
But what about kids who pitch a fit because they can’t see you? Dr. Brown, mom of a 10- and a 7-year-old, says she’s been there. "We flipped my daughter around when she was nearly twelve months old, but she was over twenty pounds at that point. I thought it was actually safer that way — otherwise, I worried I was going to get in a crash, what with all of the turning around I was doing to quiet her down. But I still tell all my patients to wait!"
…fit in various baby carriers?
The worry: fitting a too-small baby into one of these items.
What you need to know First, check the manufacturer’s specifications. After that, here’s what experts recommend:
Front carrier. As long as your baby is above the carrier’s height and weight specs (depending on the model, usually eight pounds and 21 inches), you can carry him around facing in from the get-go. He’ll be ready to face out once his neck is strong enough to hold his head steady, usually when he’s about 3 months old. And don’t be overly concerned if his head slumps forward when he starts to snooze. It may look uncomfortable, but he’ll be able to breathe just fine.
Backpack. No earlier than 3 months, and even as old as 6 months, depending on the type of backpack, say experts. A baby needs adequate head and neck control to keep his head stable and supported.
Umbrella stroller. Six months at the earliest. A baby needs good trunk control — meaning the ability to sit up independently — because of the lack of support usually found in these strollers.
Jogging stroller. While some manufacturers say that joggers are appropriate for babies as young as 6 months, Dr. Brown says she wouldn’t advise it for babies under 1. "The ride can be quite bumpy for immature spine and neck muscles, especially going over curbs or rocky paths," she says.
Bike trailer or bike seat. A baby should be at least 1 year old before being put in a trailer, say the AAP and other experts. Besides the bumpiness potential, there’s the risk of a spill, so your baby will need to wear a lightweight bike helmet while on the ride, and his neck won’t be strong enough to support one until his first birthday.
Food: "Is my baby ready to …"
…chew crackers, bagels, and other breads?
Which of them are choking hazards for an infant with few teeth?
What you need to know "By nine months or a bit sooner, a baby is able to try all bready foods, as long as parents keep a close watch," says Dr. Roche. The number of teeth babies have really has no bearing on their ability to chew; gums are mighty strong on their own.
…try something new without fear of allergies?
There’s a long list of potential allergens, including dairy, egg whites, and nuts. But it’s hard to know whether those of us without a family history of allergies should be concerned.
What you need to know Your baby can eat most foods after his first birthday. The exceptions:
Nuts. Many doctors think kids shouldn’t eat foods with peanuts or tree nuts, like almonds, cashews, or walnuts, until they’re 3. The earlier they’re introduced, the more likely these foods are to become lifelong allergens for some kids. But if your toddler has already had a PB&J sandwich a few times and has not had any reaction, you’re in the clear, says Dr. Brown.
Dairy foods. Processed products like cottage cheese, yogurt, and cheese (all made with whole milk) are okay by 6 months. Just hold off on cow’s milk until he’s 1. Your baby’s still-developing digestive system would have a hard time processing the volume of milk he’d consume, compared to the smaller amounts of yogurt or cheese.
Strawberries. Raw ones can cause some babies to break out in a rash, so if you’re concerned, feed yours cooked berries until he’s a year old.
…try a piece of sushi?
With all the stories about food poisoning, you’d think raw fish is something to keep away from your baby until grade school.
What you need to know You can introduce sushi after your child’s first birthday. "It’s true that with raw fish, you’re running a risk of food-borne parasites," says Dr. Brown. "But you can catch one of those at a salad bar. Just make sure to go to a restaurant with a good reputation. My kids have had sushi for years."
The biggest concern about sushi is mercury contamination. Doctors urge pregnant women and kids under 8 to stay away from albacore (white) tuna (but canned light tuna is okay), shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish — all of which have extremely high levels.
You may have heard that it’s best not to introduce water to a baby’s diet until she’s eating solids.
What you need to know It’s true, but you can start giving your 6-month-old four to six ounces of water a day so that she gets fluoride.