Bringing a new baby home is a time for great joy and celebration. There are so many exciting experiences waiting for the happy family. But, it doesn’t take long for mom and dad to discover that caring for a newborn baby, while joyful, can be demanding and exhausting. They also discover that their baby definitely has a mind of his or her own and will make his or her presence felt in a hundred and one ways – not all of them amusing. As most parents will tell you, it’s all a matter of practice and patience.

Feeding your baby: The first you will need to make is whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby. Research shows that, in most cases, breast milk is the best food for your baby. But some mothers cannot or prefer to not breastfeed. Baby formula is a healthy alternative. Always remember to burp your baby gently after a feeding. While feeding from a bottle, make sure your baby is not taking in air bubbles. A newborn baby will need to eat every few hours around the clock so be prepared for interrupted sleep. When your baby is ready to accept semi-solids and solids, introduce one food at a time. Allow him or time to get used to each food. Avoid baby foods with additives.

Diapering: You will need to decide if you are going to use cloth diapers or disposable diapers. If you decide on cloth diapers you may want to consider using a diaper service. Each option has its own pros and cons. Parents usually make a decision based on time, convenience, environmental concerns and financial considerations. The best advice I’ve received is to avoid a puritanical fascination for any one type of diaper. I use a combination of cloth and disposable. I use cloth at home and disposable diapers when I’m running errands with the baby, visiting friends and relatives, or traveling.

Bathing and Grooming: That first bath at home can be scary for a parent. Until your baby’s umbilical cord stub falls off, only give sponge baths. A baby bathtub makes giving your bath easier and safer. Before placing your baby in the water, test it will your elbow to make sure it’s not too hot or too cold. Never leave your baby unattended while he or she is in the bath. After the bath, bundle your baby up in a nice fluffy towel and dry him or her thoroughly. Make sure the umbilical area is dry and that the eyes, ears and nose are clean. You may need to clean these with a wet washcloth, but never insert buds into them. Trim your baby’s nails just after a bath.

Sleeping: Experts recommend putting your baby to sleep on his or her back. It’s not uncommon for a baby to wake at least once during the night until he or she is about a year old. The younger the baby, the more times he or she will wake during the night for feeding and changing. Feed, change, and comfort your baby when he or she wakes up at night but don’t turn those “awake” periods at night into playtime or it will be harder for you to get your baby to the point of sleeping through the night.

Common health problems include colic, diaper rash, cradle cap, skin rashes and ear infections. Many of these problems need just a little extra care and patience. Call your doctor with any concerns or questions. If your baby is in pain, take him or her in for a doctor visit.

Traveling: A common question of parents is when it is safe to travel by air with a baby. You should wait at least two weeks after the baby is born to take him or her on a trip that includes a flight. After that, most experts say it is safe to travel by air with your baby as long as your baby is not sick. When traveling, pack all the items you need along with plenty of extra clothes and diapers. If traveling by air, call the airline to make arrangements for taking your baby’s car seat or carrier and stroller (a combination car seat/stroller works great) on the plane.

Safety and comfort are two of the most important things to keep in mind when you handle your baby. It is a good idea to have a fairly regular schedule for bathing, feeding, playing and sleeping. Your baby will always respond to a warm, loving environment. Hold your baby, cuddle him or her and respond to his or her cries. It is impossible to ‘spoil’ a little baby. Let your love overflow. Most of all enjoy early parenthood – kids grow up very fast.