Q:I've heard many opinions in regards to newborns and pacifiers. Is it ok to give one, and if so, at what age?

A: All babies have a natural desire to suck and pacifiers can often be great tools to aid them. When used properly, pacifiers can help comfort a baby or simply give him the opportunity to suck when he is not actually hungry. I generally don't recommend giving a newborn a pacifier, however, until nursing or bottle feeding is firmly established (which is approximately six weeks).

If you give your baby a pacifier before then, it can often present nipple confusion and inhibit the baby's ability to suckle the breast or bottle properly. Also keep in mind that it should never be used as a "plug" to simply stick in your baby's mouth every time he whimpers. Crying is how babies communicate with us to say, "I'm hungry, tired or something is bothering me!" Pacifiers are a personal choice and if you choose to use one for your baby, there is nothing wrong with it.

Q: HELP! My newborn seems to have his days and nights switched!

A: More often than not, newborns home from the hospital have their days and nights mixed up. In utero your baby slept most of her days away, with the constant rocking motion of mom's belly walking, moving about, driving in a car, etc. At night, however, when mom was asleep, there was less movement to put the baby to sleep and he was therefore awake more of the time. After birth, your baby still has the same day/night association he had in utero and can very often still have his night and day mixed up.

Don't worry, though, this is an easy problem to fix. Simply start by waking your newborn every few hours during the day to eat. As the days progress he will gradually become more alert between sleeping and if you've been consistent at waking him up during the day to eat more often than the during night, he will automatically have his longer sleep spells at night and his alert time will be during the day.

Q: What are the benefits of trying to establish a routine so young?

A: Babies thrive on consistency and predictability. Although it's very difficult to keep a tired little one awake or wake him once he's already sleeping, the early months of your baby's life is the prime time to establish healthy sleep habits for the future. All babies have a natural rhythm they follow and by helping them establish these rhythms at an early age, you're helping ensure that they continue to be good sleepers as they mature and grow older. Also, by establishing a routine early on, it helps ensure that they get the needed amount of sleep and nutritional intake so that they can truly thrive.

Q: How much sleep does my newborn need?

A: A newborn spends approximately two thirds of each twenty-four-hour period sleeping. That's a total of around sixteen hours! Once home from the hospital, it is natural and completely normal for newborns to be extremely sleepy and snooze the days away- so don't worry. Also, as your little one grows bigger he will start becoming more alert and will begin giving you more adorable "awake time."

Q: Why is swaddling helpful for my newborn?

A: While in the womb babies are held tightly, snug and warm. Swaddling helps mimic the womb and gives them that familiar, secure feeling they had in utero. Doing this also promotes healthy development by enabling them to sleep longer stretches. Additionally, swaddling helps prevent a newborn's moro reflex (also known as the startle reflex) which can last until around three to four months of age. This reflex can often make an infant feel as if he is falling and startle him to the point where he wakes up and become difficult to settle back to sleep. Below is a diagram of how to swaddle your newborn:

Note: The diagram above is when using a regular receiving blanket, but there are also countless blankets on the market made specifically for swaddling babies. Always consult with a health professional to ensure your baby is being swaddled safely.

Q: What are the symptoms of colic and how will I know if my baby has it?

A: Between the ages of newborn to three months, one in four babies suffer from colic. Most simply put, colic is when your newborn suffers from severe abdominal pain. If your baby has colic…you'll know it. Symptoms include inconsolable cries for hours on end, a general predictable time every day that your baby cries, kicking his legs up towards his stomach and a tightening of his arms. Things that can help with colic are baby massage, swaddling (see diagram above), and remaining calm during those difficult hours. If you think that your baby is suffering from colic it is also important to enlist help from friends and family members so that you can have a break sometimes. Don't worry though, it won't last forever! Most cases of colic subside usually around three months.

Q: What is reflux and how can I help my baby with it?

A: Reflux with babies occurs when stomach contents are brought back up into the esophagus, throat or mouth. For babies who spit up a lot or have reflux there are definitely things you can do to help ease this. I would first suggest making sure that you don't feed your newborn too often. Every mother has to decide how often she'd like to offer a feeding, but if this occurs too frequently (more than every hour or so), you don't enable your baby to properly digest the liquid intake and can therefore be constantly stuffing him causing him to spit up stomach acid.

Therefore, with healthy newborns who are gaining weight properly and were not premature, I generally recommend feeding them every two to three hours. This way you can ensure that they have enough proper time to digest the food and allow them to get hungry for the next feeding. Additionally, angling the mattress when your baby sleeps can also help. This way he is not flat on his back which can also aid in digestion. Make sure that his feet are always lower than his head. You can either angle the actual support platform for the crib or bassinet, or just use a small elevation under the mattress.

Take caution, however, that the crib still remains flat and that your baby can't slide down. Always consult with a health profession to make sure that whatever you do for your baby is safe.