Common questions about life with a newborn, answered

Those first few hours, days, and weeks at home with your newborn are so exciting – and exhausting! As first-time parents, it's completely normal to have many questions about life with a baby, from whether it's okay to watch TV while your newborn is in the room (it is) to how to handle family members and friends who want to visit (make sure they're up to date on their vaccinations). We've gathered answers for more common questions below, but always call your baby's doctor if you have any concerns about their health.

A mom bottle feeding a newborn baby at home.
Photo credit: / gradyreese

No problem feels like a small one in those early, sleep-deprived days at home with your newborn. From trying to dress your squirming little squish to navigating the different colors (yes, colors) of baby poop, every hurdle feels like an unknown, leading to many, many questions.

Becoming a parent can feel like uncharted territory, and your confusion and stress over something seemingly small might actually just mean you're already doing a great job. Always call your baby's doctor if you have any concerns about your newborn's health, but when it comes to things like watching TV and giving your baby a pacifier, it's helpful to know that there are no hard and fast rules. That said, the following advice for new parents might help.

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Should the house be quiet while my baby is sleeping?

Don't worry about having a completely quiet house while your newborn is sleeping. Most babies can sleep through quite a bit, and in fact, some babies do better with white noise, particularly the hum of appliances like dishwashers, washer-dryers, or blow-dryers. And in homes where there are older siblings, total silence may not really be possible anyway.

To make life easier on yourself, help your baby distinguish between day and night right from the start. You can do this by saving bright lights, louder noises, and playtime for daylight hours and making nighttime wakefulness more subdued. Finally, think about buying a sound machine to drown out background noise while your baby sleeps, simulating the louder sounds of the womb.

Can I watch TV with my newborn in the room?

Yes. There's generally no problem with watching TV while holding a sleeping baby or breastfeeding – in fact it can be a prime opportunity for some downtime. When your baby's older, TV may start to distract them from nursing, but that's not a risk at this early stage.

Direct screen time is a concern from the very beginning, though, so keep an eye on how much your baby is actually staring at any media – the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any screen time at all for children younger than 18 months. (That said, video-chatting with grandparents, other relatives, and friends is fine.)

If it's the middle of the night, keep the volume on the TV low and the lights in the room dim or off to reinforce the difference between night and day for your newborn.

Is loud music bad for babies?

Some new parents wonder if their baby’s hearing can be damaged by music, and if it's being played too loudly, it can be. Experts recommend keeping noises near your baby to below 60 to 65 decibels, which is around the level of a normal conversation. Gradual hearing loss might happen over time with prolonged high exposure to anything, including extra-loud music.

If it's at a safe volume, feel free to turn on the tunes around your baby. Just know that your newborn might not even react to music at all yet, unless it’s way too loud. And while they may definitely grow into a music lover, right now the music is more for you.

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Should I give my baby a pacifier?

It's up to you. While some parents opt to skip giving their baby a pacifier because they're worried about them becoming too dependent on it, there's some evidence that pacifiers can help cut the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). To avoid difficulty establishing breastfeeding if you're exclusively breastfeeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until your baby is a proficient nurser – around 1 month old is their guideline – before introducing the pacifier.

When you shop for a pacifier, look for one that has a soft nipple and is sized for a newborn. It's a good idea to offer the binky only between or after feedings, since you don't want it to replace or delay meals. It may take a few attempts to find a pacifier that's just right for your baby.

How do I shower with a newborn at home?

If you're alone but need a shower, it's okay to put your baby in a safe place and take one. Some parents put a bouncy seat on the floor of the bathroom, or wait until their baby's napping safely in the crib and bring the baby monitor into the bathroom with them. It may not be your most relaxing shower ever, but it can still help you quickly recharge.

To help put your mind at ease, you can add safety gates to your bathroom, and ensure it’s babyproofed as your baby becomes more mobile. Ensure you are locking cabinets, moving trash cans and their liners away from reach, and securing any cords.

Read more about how to babyproof your entire home.

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What's the best way to handle people who want to visit the baby?

Too many visitors can be overwhelming, both for you and your newborn. It may not be feasible or safe to accommodate everyone who wants to meet your baby and sit and chat – or worse, you may end up feeling like you have to entertain and cater to guests.

Come up with an approach for visitors to share with everyone; if you have a partner, make sure it's a plan you both agree on. Always be sure to ask visitors not to come if they have any symptoms of illness, and you can request that they wear a mask, get up to date with their vaccinations (especially pertussis, the flu, and COVID-19) and wash their hands as soon as they arrive. It’s your call on whether or not you're comfortable with them holding your baby, or just visiting from a distance or even outside.

Babies are their highest risk of infection in the first 4 to 6 weeks of life, so if it's possible, you may want to consider deferring non-VIP visitors until after this time.

To share your good news with a wider circle (and perhaps ward off lots of calls and visitors), update your social media, or send a text, email, or a more traditional birth announcement card. Also, leave a note on the front door to deter unscheduled rings if your baby is napping, asking delivery workers and others to avoid knocking.

A few myths about newborns, debunked

New parenting can get confusing when a well-meaning relative gives you outdated advice, especially old wives’ tales or myths. Here are a few newborn myths to watch out for.

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You shouldn't let someone hold your newborn while they're on their period.

Across the world women have been limited by myths surrounding menstrual cycles and periods, in part due to the stigma that they are unclean or can even bring bad luck. Since mom herself will be back on her period soon, there's no valid, medically-proven reason that someone's menstrual cycle would cause any harm to a newborn.

Newborns can't see anything at birth.

Your baby can see, including faces, large shapes, motion, and light. Their vision won’t completely develop until between ages 3 and 5, but until then, you can expect them to have pretty solid vision up to 12 inches in front of them after the first month.

Too much holding will spoil your baby.

Unlike the loaf of bread you haven’t replaced since your baby’s birth, your baby is completely spoil-proof. Holding your baby as much as you want won't develop dependencies in any negative way – in fact, it’s totally necessary and important for creating a strong bond in the early weeks and months, as babies thrive on physical touch.

Giving your baby rice cereal will help them sleep through the night.

Not only is rice cereal not going to help your baby sleep through the night, despite your grandma’s insistence, but it’s no longer proven to be necessary for a baby to have at all. Instead of rice cereal, offer barley, multigrain, and oatmeal instead, and it doesn’t have to be the first food they have. Plus, giving solid foods too early (before 4 to 6 months old) isn't good for babies, as it can actually impede digestion and keep them up more at night.

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American Academy of Pediatrics. 2016. Parent Plus: Limit infants’ exposure to arsenic by feeding a variety of grains. a new window [Accessed January 2022]

HealthyChildren.orgOpens a new window. 2017. Reduce the risk of SIDS & Suffocation. American Academy of Pediatrics. a new window [Accessed January 2022]

John Hopkins Medicine. Undated. Noise-induced hearing loss in children. a new window [Accessed January 2022]

Jana LA, et al. 2015. Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. 3rd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics. a new window [Accessed January 2022]

Mayo Clinic. 2020. Feeding your newborn: Tips for new parents. a new window [Accessed January 2022]

The Nemours Foundation. 2018. A guide for first-time parents. a new window [Acessed January 2022]

HealthyChildren.orgOpens a new window. 2016. Where we stand: Screen time. a new window [Accessed January 2022]

Alexandra Frost
Alexandra Frost is a Cincinnati-based freelance journalist, content marketing writer, copywriter, and editor focusing on health and wellness, parenting, real estate, business, education, and lifestyle. Away from the keyboard, Frost is also mom to four sons under age 7 who keep things chaotic, fun, and interesting.