A friend having her first child has made me want to write a blog post on things I wish I would have known about caring for a baby. For the moment, I've only come up with a few tips...but more may surface.
1. Eczema. I know SO many parents that have struggled and struggled with their poor babe's dry skin, especially in the winter. Finally my pediatrician friend passed on the advice of a pediatric dermatologist. One bath in clear water (NO SOAP!) per day. Pat dry, and put on hydrocortisone cream. Also use the cream several times during the day if necessary. This was the only tactic that worked for Eva, and it got rid of her eczema within two days. (Note: Any "moisturizer" that has water as a first ingredient will only dry skin out further.)
2. A baby cannot be held too much, but YOU can hold your baby too much. Sometimes parents will say they don't want to "spoil" their baby by holding them too much. This is ridiculous. Babies are born dependent on the care and love of others, not as individuals in a war of all against all. A baby cannot be held too much. On the other hand, YOU can hold your baby too much. I know I was trying so hard to be counter-cultural (avoiding the carseat "potted plant" phenomenon) that I ended up making my life kind of difficult when Maia was a baby. Parenting is a very physical thing, and if you wear your baby in a sling for the majority of your day, you'll feel it. It's nice to hold a sleeping baby, but unless there will ALWAYS be someone available to hold your child while she's sleeping, it's better to set her down so she gets used to sleeping nearby rather than on a human being.
3. Sometime between five months and eleven months, a baby's wants and needs diverge. In the early days of life with a baby, you may become accustomed to meeting his every desire, and this is perfectly acceptable. Babies want to be fed, to be changed, to be cuddled, to sleep, and so on. This is also what they need. But you have to be cognizant of the change that is coming. Some day your baby will want something that she doesn't need. You may be so used to meeting all your baby's desires that you don't realize the change that's occurred. Be on the lookout and plan in advance for dealing with it.
4. Resign yourself to less-than-ideal sleep. Regardless of the book or method, I've yet to meet a parent who NEVER has any problems with their child's sleep patterns. So regardless of the strategy you adopt, just know in advance that you will not get the same kind of sleep you had before. Sometimes your child seems to be a great sleeper, and you count on her usual nightly sleep pattern only to find out that she's not going to sleep well that night (teething or whatever). Every night, when you go to bed, tell yourself that you very likely will not get as much sleep as you would like.
5. Don't let your pediatrician push you around. I admit, we had no idea what to expect with pediatricians, and we didn't have a great first experience when we took Maia to her first appointment (no - not just because she peed all over Jeff when we took her diaper off for the weigh-in). Many pediatricians are not breast-feeding friendly. Their offices have formula ads plastered everywhere (in the form of the waiting room toys or clocks or requests for participating in formula studies where you get free formula), and the doctor will tell you that your child certainly needs an iron supplement, and flouride, too. "If they're only breastfeeding, then they're missing out on all the flouride that's in water!" Who cares. Our dentist told us that children with healthy diets who brush their teeth do not need flouride. But that's just one example. If your pediatrician tries to do a table examination, you can suggest that they look at the child on your lap, especially if your baby is upset and scared. Remember, it's your child. You're there for the pediatrician's help and advice, but you are the real expert on your baby. Don't let them make you feel incompetent or unduly worried about your child's health.