Dr. Michel Cohen, founder of Tribeca Pediatrics in New York City and author of The New Baby Basics, is famous for his low-anxiety, minimal intervention approach. He is chic and charming and down-to-earth– his manner is like a salve for the anxious American parent.
I’ve been working with him lately– I teach childbirth classes for Tribeca Parenting and write for his New Basics blog— and one thing I’ve noticed is how often he tells parents what they don’t need to do.
The newborn period can be tough, especially the first time round. There’s so much information out there it can make your head spin. It’s nice to get reassurance that sometimes less is more.
I asked Michel to tell me what parents often assume the have to do, but actually don’t. Here’s what he told me:
1. Burp the baby.
“There can be a lot of fuss and time wasted over getting a burp out after every feeding. Babies can actually get more agitated with all that tapping and tummy pressing. And if the baby gets agitated he cries and if he cries, he swallows more air … and so it goes. So skip it. If a gas needs to come out, it’ll come out. Maybe the baby will find it a little irritating, but probably not as irritating as trying to force it out.”
2. Keep the baby indoors.
“The truth is you can take your baby out as soon as you’d like. A baby doesn’t require a 100% germ-free environment– she may be little, but she has a robust immune system, far hardier than people imagine. Most of the diseases we vaccinate against are not an issue because they are not present in our general population thanks to these same vaccines. If you want to go out with your baby, go for it.”
3. Bathe and wash the baby with soap.
“Babies are not crawling around in dirt (right away) so they definitely don’t require constant bathing with soaps that can dry out the skin and cause irritation. You can bathe with your newborn at first and splash a little warm water over her toes– this is such a nice way to introduce a new baby to water, and you get to take a warm bath– or just give her occasional sponge baths for the first few weeks. When you start giving your baby baths, plain old water will do the trick.”
4. Keep quiet when the baby is sleeping.
“Not necessary. Babies don’t hear all that well and when the noise gets crazy, they shut down. This is why you often see babies fast asleep in a room full of humming activity or in a car or train, where the roaring sound actually soothes them.”
“It’s become de rigeur to swaddle, but it’s really not necessary. Babies can fall asleep without a swaddle and in fact some studies are indicating that excessive swaddling isn’t great for the baby’s physical development. If you find swaddling helps, great but make sure to let that baby out of the swaddle for large parts of the day.”