Let’s be real: No matter how many books you read or vlogs you watch, the learning curve for a first-time parent is still steep. While you will ask plenty of questions of your own mother, your mother-in-law, your friends, and your pediatrician, there are other things you want to know the answer to without consulting a real person. Whether you find the question embarrassing or simply want an immediate answer at 3AM, there are times you will turn to the internet to come up with your answers.
As a first-time mom, I know all about this. I’ve come to call this chain of parenting advice “Dr. Google,” a tongue-in-cheek phrase that I use to remind myself that the internet is not my doctor and that while it’s fine to start with the internet, especially to answer my “dumb questions,” for serious concerns I really do need to either call her pediatrician or call my OB. Keep that in mind, and keep in mind that I am nowhere near a doctor myself. However, if you’re the type to turn to Dr. Google first and decide whether or not to call the real doctors after, here are the answers to all the questions I paged Dr. Google about in Babyface’s first 5 weeks home. This is the short-and-sweet version, which means I tried to cut out my own commentary (and explanations on why I asked the question in the first place). Hopefully, they’ll help you assess some of your own parenting questions.
And yes, it’s okay to laugh at some of the things I paged Dr. Google about. If my only value to you is that of comedic relief, I’m fine with that!
QUESTIONS REGARDING C-SECTION RECOVERY
Q: When will my periods start after I’ve had a baby?
A: 5 Weeks – 1 Year after Baby is born. It’s likely to take longer for your period to come back if you’re exclusively breast feeding, especially if you’re feeding around the clock (i.e. your kid is not sleeping through the night). Also, unless you’re okay with potentially having a second baby soon after the first, you probably shouldn’t just rely on breastfeeding as a birth control method.
Q: Is it okay to masturbate or have sex after having a C-section?
A: You need to wait for your doctor to clear you on this one, probably at your 6-week follow-up. Orgasms cause your uterus and abdominal muscles to contract, which can rip out your stitches.
Q: Why do I have a hard lump beneath my C-section scar?
A: It could be anything from a cyst to excess scar tissue. You can probably wait for your 6-week follow-up and check with your OB on this one, but if you’re really concerned, it’s always okay to call.
Q: Is it normal to have diarrhea after a C-section?
A: Constipation is more common, which is why you may have been instructed to take a stool softener, but diarrhea can be common. If you have diarrhea, it’s a good idea to stop taking the stool softener.
Q: Why can’t you drive after a C-section?
A: If you’re on pain medication, it can slow your reflexes. If you’re off pain medication, slamming on your brakes can still mess up your stitches, and the pain you may be in while in a car (going over bumps/etc.) may cause you to be less focused on your driving than in other circumstances. Also, if you get in an accident before your doctor clears you to drive, you’re likely to be held liable by the police and by your insurance.
QUESTIONS REGARDING INFANT HEALTH
Q: Is that a rash or baby acne?
A: Both are exceedingly common in infants, and Google can’t tell you which one your baby has. Baby acne can kick in when Baby is a couple weeks old and last six months or more, so duration isn’t necessarily a tell. If Baby seems bugged by it—itching at it or crying—it’s probably a rash and you should make an appointment to see your pediatrician. Otherwise, you can probably wait until Baby’s next appointment to ask.
Q: What’s the difference between spitting up and vomiting?
A: It’s a force thing, not a volume thing. If they seem to just sort of open their mouths and stuff runs out, it’s spit-up—even if it’s voluminous. If their whole body seems to contract before they shoot some out, it’s vomiting. Most of the time, spit-up doesn’t bug them and vomiting does.
Q: Does vomiting mean my baby is sick?
A: Not necessarily. Many babies vomit and spit-up. Check for other symptoms, like diarrhea, fever, and lethargy, before deciding whether you really think they’re sick.
Q: What are the early signs of tetanus?
A: Stiff muscles, especially a stiff jaw.
QUESTIONS REGARDING INFANT CARE
Q: How often should my baby be eating?
A: Every 2-3 hours is average. You probably shouldn’t let them go more than 4 hours unless you’ve checked in with your pediatrician.
Q: Why is my baby crying after I breastfeed?
A: There’s a number of reasons, including a let-down that is too fast or too slow. Or something you ate might not agree with them, or maybe they don’t like the taste. Or maybe they’re just crying because they’re a baby and the breastfeeding is incidental.
Q: Why can’t babies eat food?
A: In addition to the fact that they are likely to choke or aspirate on food, their digestive systems aren’t fully matured. This means that even giving them something like a pinky of eggnog or a popsicle to lick at can give them an upset tummy. Some studies also show that exposing them to potential allergens before 6 months can actually cause food allergies.
Q: Is cue feeding a good idea?
A: Cue feeding—feeding an infant based on observing their hunger cues rather than based on a schedule—can be a good idea if it works for your family. The pros are that it teaches your child to listen to their own hunger cues rather than just to eat because “it’s time,” and it teaches them that you will listen to them/believe them/etc. The cons are that they may not eat enough, especially in the earliest days of life or if they’re sick. We schedule fed Babyface for the first 2 weeks and then switched to logical cue feeding, which means that we watch for her cues but at least make her try a bottle if it’s been more than 3-4 hours between feedings during the daytime.
Q: Can you put Chapstick on an infant?
A: Assume that anything going that near their mouths is going in their tummies and then make your best judgment call.
QUESTIONS REGARDING INFANT DEVELOPMENT
Q: When will the umbilical cord stump fall off?
A: 1-2 Weeks is average, but up to 5 weeks is still within the normal range.
Q: When does baby’s eye color set?
A: Usually around 6 months, though for some kids it takes up to 3 years. A small percentage of people experience eye color change up to adulthood.
Q: When do babies start playing with toys?
A: It depends on what you consider “playing,” but usually in the 4-6 month range.
Q: When are the sleep regressions?
A: Every kid is a little different—some go a little early and some go a little late, and others skip a sleep regression altogether with. But the common ones are at 6 weeks, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 2 years, and they usually coincide with your kiddo learning a distracting new skill.
Q: When can I give a baby a pillow?
A: Not until you trust them in a toddler bed, usually around 2 years.
Q: When can I give a baby a blanket?
A: Usually around 1 year.
Q: When do babies coo?
A: Usually around 2 months.
Q: When do babies smile?
A: Around 5 weeks
Q: Does my baby have colic?
A: Go with the rule of 3 on this one: If they cry for no apparent reason for 3+ hours a day for 3+ days a week for 3+ weeks, you can safely call it colic, not just normal baby fussiness.
Q: How long am I supposed to use skin-to-skin time with my baby?
A: According to Dr. Google, you’re supposed to do 1 hour/day for the first 6 months.
Q: When do babies understand words?
A: Experts disagree, but probably somewhere in the area of 4-6 months they begin to understand some words.
Q: Has your baby ever fallen out of a sling wrap?
A: Some babies have, but it’s a small enough risk that pediatricians don’t warn against sling wraps. Babies are more likely to suffocate during baby carrying than anything else, so if you’re going to baby carry, pay attention to how you have them positioned.
Q: How long after baby is born do you get the social security card?
A: If you filled out the paperwork in the hospital, you’ll probably get the card in the mail within the first month of being home.
Q: How many photos of baby is too many to post on social media?
A: There’s no real number—some people say more than 1/day is too many, some say more than 2-3/week is too many, and some say there is no such thing. Everyone seems to agree that you should be respectful with what you post since you can’t exactly ask your baby’s consent first. And they also seem to agree that if people decide they don’t want to see that many pics of your kid, they’ll block you, so as long as that doesn’t bother you, post away.
My cousin came to visit this weekend, and as we were showing her how to burp Babyface, she mentioned that she felt like we were experts at this parenting crap. I remember feeling the same way the first time I stepped into a Masters level classroom: That I was sitting in a room of experts, and I was the only idiot. I learned towards the end of my Master’s degree the same thing I felt when my cousin visited: There are no experts—we’re all just faking it—and the sooner we can admit that, let go of the mom-guilt, and lean on each other, the better off we’re going to be. So sing “Does anybody have a map?”, enjoy this list of my idiot FTM first month inquiries, and get ready to do some consults with Dr. Google yourself!
Already further into this parenting experience than I am? Let me know some of the crazy things you had to google when your first was little that seem silly to you now!