How Is Babby Cared For: Crash Course in Babby 101
August 3, 2014 3:43 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I just found out last night that we have been chosen as adoptive parents to a baby... who is due in September! So, suddenly lots to do and lots to learn. Where do we even start?! Instruction manuals, blogs, scholarly articles, To Do Lists, To Don't Do Lists... What are the resources you found indispensable? Which did you find later that you wished you'd had earlier? Which are a waste of my time? We have wonderful family and friends who I know will help us figure all of this out, but I need to start building up my own arsenal of resources.
posted by jph to Education (22 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Thumbs up:
Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, taken with a grain of salt, is pragmatic about sleep training but isn't as extreme as Ferber.

(I acknowledge that many people disagree with letting a child cry at all, and you are welcome to do so, but I thought I'd include the book, which we've found to be very helpful. I think this link on Slate is helpful in discussing the issue.)

The Baby Center website provides a nice overview of sleep training options and other helpful, unbiased information.

Thumbs down:
My husband and I disliked anything by Dr. William Sears or his family members for a lot of reasons, primarily the strong sexism of all of his published work in assuming that the primary parent-child bonding MUST be attachment parenting between mother and child (and a lot of other sexism throughout the work, as discussed in Ms.).

Don't overthink! Don't stress yourself out! Congratulations!
posted by miss tea at 4:09 AM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Contact your local hospital and ask if they hold a newborn care class. I'm due in Sep too, and the class we went to was good. They went over basics... Safe sleeping, cord care, when to call a doctor, practice diapering/dressing/wrapping. Nothing earth shattering, but it was good to run through it all ahead of time!

You could also look into hiring a post-natal doula; if on a budget contact your local doula training centre and ask about working with a student doula. They'll make a series of home visits and help you work out any issues you're having. The doula college near us also has classes similar to the hospital's.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott.

Newborns only do three things: eat, sleep, and poop. You'll be fine! I think the main rule of thumb is Your Baby May Vary, so it's hard to provide specific advice.

Oh and if you haven't seen it, the documentary Babies.

posted by jrobin276 at 4:25 AM on August 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Lucie's List has been indispensable to me as I planned out the baby stuff. It's great for telling you what works and what doesn't, and it's written in a straightforward, breezy style that doesn't make you itch.
posted by Madamina at 4:56 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only book I've ever really used/needed is the American Academy of Pediatrics book Caring for Your Baby and Child: Birth to Five Years. It's a handy reference to have. But you can also find much info online on the Baby Center website and others (even the message boards can be reassuring when you want to confirm that something your kid is doing is normal or look for ideas for solving different issues, just don't go to them looking for accurate medical information.)
posted by amro at 5:10 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

AHHHHH!!!! Congrats!! I got to snuggle new born twins yesterday and was feeling that pull....I'm kinda jealous! The above resources are, get up to speed but trust your gut. You'll know what to do....don't overthink and don't doubt yourself. Don't buy too much stuff.....diapers and onsies are all you will need at first......a good, highly rated, NEW car seat. Everything else can be bought second hand. Just enjoy this time with your partner and your little one. It FLIES by!!
posted by pearlybob at 5:18 AM on August 3, 2014

I agree that Weissbluth was helpful for understanding baby temperment and sleep cycles. Brazeltons Touchpoints is also great for physical, intellectual and emotional development for the first three years.

Also seconding taking a baby care class at the hospital. The few days we spent post birth with the midwives in the hospital was really helpful, you might miss some of that if you're not giving birth. A class might cover a lot of that. Also, where I am midwives assist with newborn stuff up to six weeks after birth and make house calls. It was super helpful to have someone coming every few days to weigh the baby, check on the jaundice, answer feeding questions, etc. I might look into seeing whether you can hire someone to do home visits for you.

Don't buy tons of newborn sized stuff! Our baby is tiny and was in newborn stuff longer than most and I still think we didn't get every outfit on him once, we got so many gifts!

Congrats, you'll have a blast!
posted by ohio at 5:22 AM on August 3, 2014

Congrats! Totally check out baby slings and other babywearing options. It was sooooo nice to be able to have two hands, although some babies dislike them. Mine was delighted and would sleep for a couple hours at a time.

Definitely also get a baby swing and an activity mat. Indispensable. Seconding Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions.

Set yourself up comfy "feeding spots" in places where they make sense -- like the living room and the baby's room. A comfy chair, a blanket, a basket with snacks and drinks, some books, maybe your phone charger. A Netflix/Amazon Prime subscription is helpful, too.

I can't lie -- prepare to rearrange your entire life. Enjoy this last month, because this is not the way it's going to be for a while. My son will be four in October and yesterday was the first time I took him to a public function and didn't have to spend the entire time chasing him around. (Only half the time.) Sometimes it is not going to be fun. Sometimes you will want to do anything else, be anywhere else, than near this kid. But stick it out, because it's worth it. Not only are baby giggles and toddler "wuv you"s and sticky, dirt-covered preschooler hugs the absolute best, but raising a kid has brought a depth of meaning to my life that's indescribable. Everything matters now in a way it never did before.
posted by woodvine at 5:45 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I adopted a baby many years ago. In retrospect, what was most important for me and my partner at the time was having friends with young babies and children. Their advice and support were worth more than any equipment or book.
posted by mareli at 5:58 AM on August 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Cook and fill your freezer starting now with foods you and your partner can easily re-heat. Clean your house. I mean clean it - because it becomes harder to find time to do. You don't have to baby proof until your kid is mobile, but its good to get cabinet locks on early (if they can be disabled) and know where you are putting up gates / toilet locks / etc. Get a Netflix subscription or a great place to listen to the radio, or a place to read books - or something that you'll be okay doing at weird intervals throughout the day/night when the baby is up and you find yourself bored with the tedium that certain aspects become. It is all sunshine and roses - but roses sometimes also need a little manure to really blossom to their fullest - and shoveling manure is a bit of an under-focused reality for early parenting.

Last bit, kids don't throw anything at you that you aren't ready for. Diapering your kid when you start will seem hard until it gets easy. Then your kid will wiggle and it will get hard again, then that too will become easy... Sleep depravation is the same way - just when you think you can't survive it - it will magically clear up - maybe its furber that gets there, maybe it is someone else - more than likely its just you learning to adjust and your kid learning their rhythm. This whole baby thing is new for the too - remember that. They don't always know what they want either.

Good luck and congratulations!
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:08 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rule number one: All Babies Are Different

Which is precisely why manuals don't work. You'll figure out your baby's preferences only through experience and trial and error.

Have a meet and greet with your pediatrician, then picked the most chilled out one, he/she'll be the best person to ask for advice right away.

Buy a snot sucker and some saline.
posted by lydhre at 6:33 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding against the Sears books. They're certainly informative, but obnoxiously heteronormative and very very strongly biased in favor of attachment parenting - which is a perfectly fine baby-rearing approach, but not the only one.

I liked Heading Home with Your Newborn, which was recommended in a previous AskMe.

There's a lot of baby stuff out there that babies quickly outgrow, or that works for some babies and not others, so buy secondhand or borrow from friends when you can. Especially the stuff you're not certain you need.

The one thing you really do not want to buy secondhand is a car seat, since you don't know if they've been in any accidents. Get your car seat installed a few weeks in advance, because that shit is not as intuitive as you might think. Find out if there are any car seat installing/inspecting resources in your community; in our town, the police department does it.

Postpartum depression can happen to anyone with a new baby, not just biological mothers. Take care of yourselves, have friends check in with you regularly, and don't worry about keeping up with non-essential tasks; delegate them or let them slide for a little bit.

If you ever get overwhelmed with all the conflicting advice, remember: babies gonna baby. There is no foolproof one-size-fits-all approach to parenting; the prevailing baby-care philosophies change from generation to generation, and all of us came out okay. As long as you love her and are making an effort, she'll be fine.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:41 AM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I liked the Sears books, particularly The Baby Book. My kid is 11 though, and there weren't a lot of options at the time that supported things like babywearing, co-sleeping, and cloth diapering.

Reflecting back, I guess it IS pretty heteronormative, and definitely puts a lot of emphasis on the role of the mother. But at the time I was getting a lot of side eye for the way I was caring for my baby ("She sleeps in your bed??" "Don't you know they make disposable diapers?"), and the book was reassuring about the fact that the things I was doing were reasonable and normal.
posted by jeoc at 8:02 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


The parenting forums were (are) a lifesaver to me with both my kids. It was incredibly helpful to have a group of moms that I could ask "is this normal?" Plus, there's lots of intelligent conversation about all sorts of topics, both kid-related and not. (carseats, feeding babies, education, etc.)
posted by belladonna at 8:48 AM on August 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I echo the suggestion to enrol in a baby care class if available - there's no substitute for having someone show you how to do all the practical hands-on stuff.

I found the Wonder Weeks app really useful (there's a book, which I assume has more info, but I haven't read it). It doesn't tell you what to do, but does provide a general overview of the developmental leaps your baby might be going through and how they'll manifest, which my baby and many others I know followed pretty closely.

For newborns, the concept of the fourth trimester was enlightening (Google it, you don't need to buy a book or anything).

For blogs and forums, I liked Ask Moxie (archives of - there's also a lively and supportive Facebook group), Mumsnet (British site so your mileage and cultural expectations may vary), and the previously mentioned AltDotLife.

For general: be aware that there is a whole industry built around terrifying new parents that they're doing everything wrong. Resist. You will get to know your kid, and you will get to know what works for your kid - take safety and health recommendations on board and then do whatever works best for your family, and just smile, nod and ignore if anyone tells you that your kid will grow up warped and weird if it is/isn't allowed to sleep in your bed or whatever.
posted by Catseye at 9:23 AM on August 3, 2014

That is so wonderful! Congratulations!

Books...ehhh. The only book I read (and I just sorta skimmed it) was Happiest Baby on the Block. I also have Baby 411 as a reference but mostly I go on instinct and sometimes I will dip into internet baby/parenting forums and read up on different topics.

The essentials for me (I have an almost-4 month old) have been a white noise machine, Halo sleep sacks for swaddling, a Rock N Play for sleeping and hanging out in, and a baby swing. We have an activity mat also...that has been nice but I am sure a blanket with some toys would be fine too.

Oh yeah, and burp cloths. You cannot have too many. I bought a pack of Gerber cloth diapers and they are great for cleaning up baby spit ups and drool.
posted by medeine at 9:27 AM on August 3, 2014

Another voice to the chorus about finding a parent peer group. Online is good but in person is even better. Babies go through so many changes so quickly--but, amazingly, on remarkably tight developmental timelines--that it is invaluable to have people around you to commiserate because they are going through the same thing, or did recently, or about to. The concerns you have when your child is 4 months old is different than when they're 16 months than when they're 28 months... And things move so fast that last year can feel pretty far away! If your adoption workers can't hook you up to local resources/peer groups/support groups, look for info at baby gear stores, parenting circulars, or good ol google search.

Congrats! Enjoy your baby and the big adventure!
posted by Sublimity at 1:33 PM on August 3, 2014

The classes we took at the hospital included (hospital published) books that have been surprisingly useful; we're using these and our library for the most part since there are a zillion books, and very baby/family is different.

A post-partum doula will provide a similar service to the midwife home visits Ohio describes (common in Commonwealth countries... UK, Oz, etc). Where are you?
posted by jrobin276 at 1:57 PM on August 3, 2014

Congratulations, I hope!

My wife and I have a 3-week old adopted boy, who is terrific! Prior to taking custody of him, we had two failed matches, one of which fell apart immediately after the baby was born (her mom decided to keep her) -- I'm sure everything will be fine with your arrangement between now and September (as the great majority of situations are), but be VERY careful about stocking up on things. Hope management is a very real and necessary concern, even in the best of adoption stories. Having an empty crib built and a nursery painted would've been absolutely heartbreaking to us a few months ago (and the scramble to paint and build was only a minor inconvenience). We did have some shopping carts saved on Amazon and, but that was about the extent of our pre-baby purchases/planning... there's virtually nothing baby-related that you can't have delivered tomorrow.

When our boy was born, we had:

- An awesome community of recent parents in several time zones. We'd struggled with infertility for a while before adopting, and it took us about two years on the adoption path before we got our baby, so many (most?) of our friends both knew of our struggles and have kids under 5. Their advice and instincts (and their efforts to steer us towards our instincts) have been more valuable than any book or website. We also got an incredible amount of lightly-used infant clothing from all of their closets, but that part came a little later.

- A pediatrician that we trust. They're used to meeting expectant parents, which you are (even if it's not visible). Go ahead and interview them now, and choose the one that you feel most comfortable with.

- A car seat and the wheels that it attaches to. We got this from during one of the failed matches, but hung onto it because they have a one-year no questions asked return policy. It was the only piece of baby gear that we had in our house, but we didn't open the box until we were leaving our house to take custody.

- A water solution. We live in an old house with old pipes in a city with highly fluoridated water. The reverse-osmosis system under our kitchen sink is getting a workout, but it sure beats bottled water. Consider adding one of these to your sink, especially if your municipal water supply is fluoridated above 0.8ppm (no, fluoride isn't an evil plot and you shouldn't avoid asking a restaurant to give you tap water for a bottle when you need it... but fluoridosis is a real thing, and it does no harm to reduce your kiddo's exposure in the first few months)

- Books: we had Baby 411, and Heading Home with your Newborn. Our pediatrician gave us the American Academy of Pediatrics birth-to-five book during our first well-baby visit. All three have been useful.

Full agreement that the Sears books are worthless, especially if your relationship is egalitarian (i.e. Dad isn't useless) and you're not breastfeeding. The Mom-centric attachment parenting style may work for some -- but it's not how we operate, and Sears is very heavy-handed in a "this is the one true way" style that really bugged me. I thought that "Happiest Baby" was so-so at best when I read it... and our boy HATES being swaddled most of the time, which is a rather essential part of that process, so there's that.

- Unscented/undyed laundry detergent, that we'd been using for a few months -- so when baby is resting on my T-shirted chest, it's as gentle on his skin as the onesie he's wearing... even if I've dug deep into my closet.

- A "go-bag" that one of our friends gave us (she's a recent mom, and we asked her to build the bag for us based on her experience). It had some newborn diapers, one of each of a couple of different brands of sterilized bottles (your kiddo may have a preference for a particular brand, and sampling from a few before buying a handful of the preferred one was very useful), a thermometer, a bottle brush, dish soap, butt cream, burp cloths (both cloth diapers and a babies-r-us branded chamois-alike that are even better) some velcro swaddlers (swaddleme brand, but there are others), a pair of newborn pacifiers, and 3-4 onesies and long bodysuits.

The goal of the go-bag was "everything we need for 24-48 hours". Anything else can be purchased easily either in person or delivered overnight. (We had the complicating factor of traveling to another state on very short notice, where we needed to stay for about 2 weeks before coming home). We used everything in it.

- Within the first day or two we bought a portable bassinet, and a changing clutch. Both have been very valuable.

- We have (intentionally) tried to keep our boy happy with room-temperature formula. There's a school of thought that says warmed bottles are slightly more digestible/comforting, but it's a lot easier to feed an unheated bottle 30 seconds after your baby wakes up than it is to calm a starving baby for a few minutes of heatup time. So far, he doesn't seem to mind -- and we've heard that babies used to warm bottles tend to reject colder ones. (We're also making an effort to acclimate him to sleeping in noisy and non-dark environments, which also has gone well)

But most importantly: every baby is different -- listen to yours as best you can, and trust your instincts. All three of you will be learning from each other for the next 20 years.
posted by toxic at 7:10 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Books I recommend: Got the baby, where's the manual and for a year (and more) from now whole brain child.

For us the essentials stuff for the first 3 months were: baby carrier, enough clothes to keep him covered, burp clothes (or lots of washclothes), diapers/wipes/changing mat, baby play gym, bottles, cosleeper and swaddlers.

We have actively made it known to our friends and colleagues that we appreciate hand-me-downs, and have been very luck to have to buy very little (except a car seat, as mentioned above). It seems everyone has something they would be happy to pass on, once you make it known you're interested.

We got a post-partum doula who did some cooking/cleaning/general support (though it could have been someone with less training), and later a young nanny we trusted to cover a couple of nights. Both were well worth the money.

The support of friends/family/etc. has been the most important.
posted by lab.beetle at 8:42 PM on August 3, 2014

Great advice from lots of people here, jph. Looking at a longer-term horizon, one thing I'd add: Babies -- and the infants, toddlers, young children, older children, tweens, teens they become -- need structure. This seems obvious, maybe, but there are lots of parents who are very casual about making sure there is a breakfast time (and a breakfast), a dinner time, a bed time, etc, but children really rely on parents who have it together enough to provide structure, habits, positive reinforcement and predictability in their lives.

Secondly, but related: make sure part of the structure you provide in the years to come involves play time, and one-on-one time (often, at the same time: e.g., a conversation over Legos), and reading. Walking, playing and reading with your child connects you in magical ways. You will see it in the kids who have this predictability in their life, and who are read to/with, the first day of kindergarten, if not sooner.

Enjoy! Remember, the crazy baby stuff lasts only so long. You'll be great!
posted by slab_lizard at 10:11 PM on August 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

In general HOLY CRAP CONGRATULATIONS!! And then: You are going to be fine. Totally fine. You don't need a bunch of junk and books and expertises. It's nice to have every last ribbon and every bootie, but you are really going to be fine just as it is. You're going to grope through it just like all the people with the well-prepped booties.

--CARSEAT: very important, and you can get it installed at a car shop, or the local fire station
--Getting to know other parents is important. Try a baby group at a local hospital and you'll get to know some people whose kids are the same age as yours.
--If (one of) you might try to induce lactation, you'll want a lactation consultant, ask people if there's someone/someplace they'd recommend, and my biggest breastfeeding hack is "laid-back breastfeeding" (you can google it)
--We had a co-sleeper, but in retrospect might have been better off just sticking the crib next to the bed from the get-go. That's more or less what the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends anyway.

I would be more relaxed if I hadn't read so much about babies. Particularly from internet forums. There are endless factions of people in Facebook forums and on and so forth who are having knock-down drag-out sectarian battles about infant sleep, infant food, diapers, etc., and it can be both mean-spirited and neurosis-inducing. People in person are a lot better (hence the recommendation to meet parents at a baby group).

With that in mind, even though I'm contradicting myself a smidge, I want to leave you with the first lines from Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care: "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do."
posted by feets at 2:36 AM on August 4, 2014

Response by poster: You're great. Most of these have been super helpful, and I am especially grateful for those who made mention where there might be some weirdo heteronormativity in the resources. Obviously if the resource is good, I can look beyond that stuff. But I checked out some books at the store yesterday and they were WHACK. "So you're going to be a Daddy" books were almost uniformly about supporting female partners through pregnancy, with an extra dollop of weird sexism thrown in for good measure. We're a gay couple, so most of the assumptions about family organization in those books were way off the mark. (Hilariously so.)

Anyway, we're super excited. I've found an infant care class at one of the major children's hospitals here in town, and I've asked my primary care physician for a recommendation for a gay-friendly pediatrician. So I think we're rocking and rolling. Now we all keep our fingers crossed to make sure that this is all going to go off without a hitch! Thanks again.
posted by jph at 9:19 AM on August 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

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