To me, a meaningful measure of a good parent is the parent who successfully overcomes the stress and adversities associated with not having a “utopia” baby.

You just had a baby, and your goal is to be a good parent. What helps make a good parent? A good baby.


By a good baby, I mean a baby who is not irritable, seldom cries, sleeps through most of the night, has no difficulty feeding and smiles a lot. Utopia!


Having such a baby makes it much easier to be a good parent, and it also makes it more enjoyable. However, a baby who is irritable, cries a great deal and is up most of the night can be very stressful and takes away much of the joy of being a new parent.


Although most parents can manage a good baby, it can be a challenge and a test of parenting skills to successfully maneuver through the trials and tribulations that are present when caring for a difficult baby.


It is my theory that certain babies are born content and remain so as long as parents don’t disrupt their personality too much. Conversely, some babies are not as happy as others for a variety of reasons.


For example, babies born with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, are usually not very happy because they are in discomfort. The same is true for infants with colic. With medications and a tincture of time, these symptoms go away.


Sometimes the way a baby’s behavior is managed hinders rather than helps relieve the symptoms. Mismanagement of the baby who frequently cries at night can prolong the crying episodes. Continually picking up the crying baby and consoling him or her is usually not the right course to take.


If the baby appears well, is fed and the diapers are clean, there is nothing wrong with just letting the baby cry. To some mothers, this approach is unacceptable, but usually they are the same mothers who will have to get up every two hours to console their crying infant.


Many babies, during certain times of day, have short crying episodes. This is nothing to be concerned about, and before you know it, they are gone.


Feeding can be another issue. There are many reasons why babies have difficulty feeding, including swallowing too much air while feeding. Burping the baby can help relieve this problem. Since the baby needs calories to grow, if feeding is a continual issue, consult one of the baby’s health care providers for advice.


To me, a meaningful measure of a good parent is the parent who successfully overcomes the stress and adversities associated with not having a “utopia” baby.


Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund in Massachusetts. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.