Trust yourself as a parent. The common-sense advice from Dr. Benjamin Spock has held true for more than six decades. The recently released ninth edition of "Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care" (Pocket Books, 2011), by Spock and revised by pediatrician Robert Needlman, includes these back-to-basics tips about babies and toddlers:
Babies want to learn to feed themselves and can do so more readily than parents realize. The best window of opportunity, when a spoon is an exciting tool, is between 12 months and 15 months of age. It may take weeks for your little one to learn how to get a bit of food on a spoon, or to keep it steady on the journey to her mouth, so be patient.
Feeding works best when you understand and follow your baby's hunger cues. Let her fill up and stop when she is full.
Keeping an able-bodied walking baby in her stroller may be handy and may keep her out of danger, but it also dampens her spirit and hinders her development. When a child learns to walk, let her out of her stroller during daily outings, Spock suggests.
A child who is frightened by separation is sensitive to whether her parents feel the same way about it. Measure your own emotions, because a parent's anxiety can reinforce a child's fears.
Ideas about overuse of baby gear:
Cut back on plastic baby seats as carriers. Babies need physical contact with caregivers who feed them, who are comforting, who dance and play with them. Your baby craves touch and will feel happier and more secure in a front-pack baby carrier or cloth sling.
Walkers can be dangerous. Walkers with wheels on them interfere with a baby's learning to walk because he doesn't have to balance. They also raise the baby's height so he can reach higher objects, and they raise his center of gravity so it's easier to tip over. In addition, it only takes an instant for him to drive his walker down the stairs.
Expensive shoes are not necessary. After a baby is standing and walking, let the child go barefoot or with socks indoors most of the time when conditions are suitable. Your baby gradually builds up his flat arches and strengthens his ankles by standing and walking.
Be sure to put your baby to sleep on her back. Keep soft, fluffy blankets and pillows out of your baby's crib. They increase the risk of suffocation.
Toddlers need clear, consistent limits. If you find yourself saying "no" more often than "yes," you may be setting too many arbitrary limits. Save the battles for issues that are really important, such as staying in a car seat.