Becoming a parent is one of the most terrifying, rewarding experiences you can go through. Not only are you responsible for your own health and safety, but now you’re responsible for the health and safety of another little human as well!

The first rule: stay calm. People have been raising children since as long as people have been around — in fact, by having a child, you’re carrying on a family tradition that goes back to the dawn of man/woman!

Still, caring for a newborn isn’t easy, and the first few years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of mental, physical, and social/emotional development. So how do you make sure you’re doing everything you can to set up your child for success?

The Body and Physical Health

A healthy baby is a happy baby, and physical health is crucial in a child’s first years. While the vaccine debate in this country is a hot button issue, those who do opt to vaccinate their child will do them at their well-baby visits with a pediatrician. mentions that these visits coincide with months 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 24, meaning that, under the current immunization schedule, your child will receive around 10 different vaccines by the time he or she turns 2. Don’t forget booster shots for diseases like tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and polio around age 4, and don’t forget to keep yourself vaccinated as well. Health insurance for you and your loved ones, whether term health, ACA, or employer-based, is all but essential for parents and their newborns, so if you don’t have it, get it.

Beyond official doctor’s checkups, keeping a baby physically healthy comes very much down to habit and hygiene. Bathe your child regularly, and keep them clean — especially their ears and noses. Arianne Segerman writing for mentions that “keeping a baby’s nose clear is one of the biggest ways you can prevent colds from taking hold,” while the HearStore staff reminds that built up earwax can cause hearing loss. Other than that, be a stickler about using hand sanitizer around your newborn, and keep them clean and healthy.

Stimulate Their Little Brain

Beyond making sure your newborn is physically healthy, you’ll want to make sure they’re  developing mentally as well. Flora Richards Gustafson writing for mentions that the best ways to stimulate a newborn’s brain development include touching and interacting, talking to your child, reading to them, or even just letting them hear new sounds like chirping birds, or smell new things like cooking. They also mention that it’s very important to avoid television.

One of the more interesting claims going around concerning child development is that listening to classical music will make infants smarter people when they’re older, a phenomenon dubbed the “Mozart effect.” While Scientific American documents the rejection of this claim from scientific communities, the idea behind stimulating a baby’s brain with experiences leading to future smarts isn’t so far off. Your child’s development will be an interactive experience between the two of you, and while you can’t just press play and create a smarter baby, that shouldn’t stop you from introducing passive interactive practices, such as playing classical music every now and then. In fact, musical mobiles are great for just that — check out this post on how to select a good one.

Raise a Social Butterfly

Every newborn needs to experience interaction between itself and its parents. Not only does this help stimulate their brains, it also helps them learn how to be social creatures. If you have any other children, or perhaps even cousins, don’t hesitate to introduce them periodically and surround your child with people that love her. author Whitney Coy suggests smiling and playing copycat as some of the best ways to socialize with your baby.

Other newborns are good to introduce as well, as long as they’re about the same age. Keep a close eye on your budding socialites, and make sure they behave themselves.

Remember, parenting isn’t easy, but with the right tips and knowledge in your corner, your baby is going to turn out just fine — you did, didn’t you?

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