When it comes to infants in their first year of life, a good start involves providing them with good nutrition, a safe home environment, regular medical and dental care, and proper car safety measures.
This article provides tips for giving your baby the healthiest start in life, divided into four main categories: good nutrition, safe home environment, medical and dental care, and car safety.
Good nutrition is important for infants, and breastfeeding is the best method for early infant feeding.
Breastfed infants have reduced risks of infections, asthma, SIDS, and obesity.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that infants receive only breast milk for the first 6 months of life.
Parents should prepare themselves for breastfeeding as soon as possible after delivery and seek support to continue breastfeeding.
Healthy solid foods should be introduced at 6 months to help children develop healthy dietary patterns.
To make a home healthy and safe for infants, it is important to prevent exposure to secondhand smoke and maintain a safe sleep environment.
Babies who breathe secondhand smoke are at a higher risk of dying from SIDS and getting sick with various respiratory infections.
Soft bedding such as blankets, pillows, bumper pads, and soft toys should be kept out of the infant’s sleep area, and the baby should be placed on their back for all sleep times.
A firm, flat sleep surface such as a safety-approved crib mattress covered only by a fitted sheet should be used, and the sleep area should be in the same room where the parent sleeps.
Well-child visits are important for making sure your baby is growing as expected, discussing any concerns about your baby’s health, and getting scheduled vaccinations to prevent illnesses.
On-time vaccination throughout childhood helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.
Parents should also take care of their baby’s mouth and teeth by wiping their gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth, starting to brush their teeth twice a day with a soft, small-bristled toothbrush and plain water when teeth come in, and visiting the dentist by their baby’s first birthday to spot signs of problems early.
When it comes to car safety, infants and toddlers should be buckled in a rear-facing car seat with a harness, in the back seat, until they reach the maximum weight or height limit of their car seat.
The car seat manual and labels should be checked for weight and height limits, and a rear-facing car seat should never be placed in the front seat as front passenger air bags can injure or kill young children in a crash.