“Overwhelmed” is a word that describes how you may feel when you first bring home your newborn. Thoughts of “I’m not prepared for this!” to “How could the hospital trust us with this precious life?” may scurry through your mind as you try to meet all of your baby’s needs and bond with him or her. Don’t despair about what you need to do to care for your newborn.. Here are some great tips for you as a new parent from those who have been in your shoes.
Reading and Feeding
When our son was a newborn, feedings were an hour-long process, and since my wife and I were often looking for meaningful ways to spend time together, we decided to read. Whenever my wife was feeding our son, I would read out loud from a book that we both enjoyed. It made the time enjoyable for both of us. We continued the tradition when our daughter was born, even selecting books before she arrived. Reading together helped us look forward to feeding time.
To occupy my brain while my baby eats, I count his swallows, especially during nighttime feedings. At first this was a practical thing: If my baby was not swallowing, he was not eating, which meant I either nudged him to continue eating or just put him back to bed. This soon turned into a sweet ritual. By counting swallows, I am focused on my baby, enjoying his sweet noises that I will surely miss someday. It reminds me that I am meeting his needs and that these feedings are temporary. Plus, it can actually be fun to see how many swallows he’ll take during a feeding.
Teaching Nursing Babies Not to Bite
Around the six-month mark, when new teeth started to emerge, my babies would begin to test their new little blades on my soft flesh. At first I didn’t know what to do. The baby chomped down and hung on. But soon I figured it out.
At the first pressure of a bite, I would loudly and firmly say, “No.” This shocked the baby, who was comfortable and lazily lounging in my arms. She would release her teeth. I would instantly set her down, away from the warmth of my arms and the milk.
This almost always produced an unhappy baby. She would start to whimper, wondering what just happened. After a couple of seconds, I would pick the baby back up, hug and kiss her, and resume the feeding. This process was only needed a couple of times before she learned that biting Mom wasn’t OK.
Care of Newborns: Settling Tiny Tummies
My baby has had problems with spitting up ever since we brought him home. He would eat and be kept upright for a time, but once we laid him down, he would spit up on himself and start screaming.
The two places where this issue was the worst was in the crib and on the changing table. Over time,
I’ve found two easy fixes.
On the changing table, I fold a receiving blanket as a small pillow for him, and it works great. The
little bit of incline helps keep him from spitting up. In the crib, I put a small, thin pillow under
the mattress to help prop up the head of the mattress a little. It’s amazing that something so small
can make a big difference.
Baby Steps for New Parents
Hours after our first child was born, my husband began to change our son’s diaper for the first time. I looked on. Immediately a yellow spray shot up and fell, hitting our son in the face. He began screaming. My husband backed up. The screaming grew louder, and the hospital nurse hurried in to witness the care of our newborn.
“I’m afraid I’m doing something wrong,” my husband said.
“He is completely fine, but he’s picking up on your emotions,” she said.
As we relaxed, we were both astonished that our son calmed down, too. Infants cry because they’re hungry, tired, uncomfortable or in pain. Barring those factors, our relaxed attitude may help settle our children’s emotions.
Calming a Fussy Baby
When my first baby was born, everything seemed perfect — for about three weeks. Then suddenly, my precious bundle of joy morphed into a nonstop screaming machine.
Coping with a fussy baby can be quite a challenge, especially for a new mother. These three techniques helped me calm and care for my crying infant:
Motion. Most babies love motion. My daughter particularly enjoyed rocking in an infant swing, riding in the car or being lightly “bounced” while my husband or I paced the room.
Warmth. I often gave our daughter a warm bath to relax her or placed a warm (not hot) water bottle against her tummy to help soothe her gas pains.
Closeness. During the day, I would “wear” my fussy baby in a sling as I did chores around the house. And at night, my husband and I swaddled her.
Tips for the First Few Weeks of Infant Care
1. Finding a schedule. Knowing that most newborns thrive on a schedule, I set out to discover the natural rhythms to my daughter’s day. Using a day planner, I noted when my daughter slept, ate and stayed awake. In this way, I was able to identify, and subsequently, maintain her schedule — first noticing a pattern after two weeks.
2. Reassuring older siblings. Since nursing a newborn can be time consuming, I didn’t want my other children to feel as if the new baby got all my attention. During feedings, I would have my other young children gather books, and we’d read together on the sofa while I nursed.
3. Putting baby to bed. To help my infant ease into her crib after feedings, I first warmed the bed with a heating pad, always removing the pad from the crib and turning it off before laying the baby down.
Your Baby’s Snuggle Personality
Some babies were born to snuggle. Other babies, like my daughter, are more resistant. But all babies need physical affection to develop properly and bond with their parents. If your child is less than happy to cuddle, try experimenting in these three areas to discover your baby’s snuggle personality:
The only snuggle position my daughter tolerated was the stomach-to-stomach position. A friend’s baby would only cuddle if she was on your lap with her head on your knees and her feet pointed toward you.
Some babies like to cuddle right after they eat. Others like to cuddle right before bed. My son resisted cuddling with his dad before bed because my husband was too good at getting him right to sleep. Figure out when your baby is most in the mood for snuggles and cuddle then.
Both of my children preferred a gentle up-and-down bounce to traditional rocking. Some babies like a back-and-forth motion. Experiment until you find what works best for your baby.
If your baby still resists being held close, try alternate methods of physical contact, such as rubbing her back or giving her a gentle massage.
Room to Splash
With our infant daughter, bath time became stressful for everyone involved. One little change helped us go from “Hurry up before she gets mad” to “She’s not going to be happy that it’s time to get out!” We ditched the baby tub and placed her on a nonskid mat in the big tub or our large sink. She could splash freely, reach her bath toys and kick her legs, which turned bath time into playtime.
Small bathtubs may be best for brand-new babies, but once a baby can sit up on her own, she may not want to be confined. Allowing our daughter to explore her surroundings took bath time from terrible to terrific.
Care for Newborns: Sensitive Skin
The skin of a newborn is extremely sensitive. Many babies have dry skin after birth, and a parent’s inclination may be to put lotion or oil on it. This can often cause allergic reactions. I learned to wait for a couple of weeks before I used any lotions. Then I spot tested it on a small part of my infant’s body to see if there was a reaction.
Prepare for Departure
One of the big challenges of having a newborn is the time it takes to get ready to go somewhere. A simple solution I use is setting an alarm on my phone for 30 minutes before we need to be out the door. When the alarm goes off, I know it’s time to feed and change the baby and gather everything we need to take with us.
Not all fussy babies have colic — when a healthy, well-fed and diapered baby cries for several hours a day for no apparent reason. Researchers have studied possible reasons for colic including lactose intolerance, maternal anxiety, allergies and an immature digestive system — but have come to no conclusive findings.
Some indicators of colic:
Predictable crying. Colicky babies often cry at the same time of day, usually late afternoon or evening, for roughly the same amount of time. Crying begins suddenly and for no apparent reason.
Intense, inconsolable crying. Colic elicits sharp cries and screams, and a child typically can’t be comforted.
Body posture. Babies with colic often draw their legs up to their chest, clench their fists, grimace and tense their abdominal muscles.
A bowel movement may signal the end of the colic episode.
There is no treatment for colic. However, it usually subsides when a child is 3 months old.
Pediatricians aren’t sure why cradle cap develops — maybe hormones passed from the mother or healthy skin cells growing faster than the old cells falling off. The result is a flaky, white or yellow, scalelike crust on the scalp.
Treatment is often unnecessary but if you decide to treat your baby at home, Evelyn Okoreeh, R.N., recommends following a simple procedure: Every day before bath time, rub a few drops of mineral oil on your baby’s scalp. Wait about 15 minutes. Then gently scrub the area with a soft brush or toothbrush with soft bristles. Don’t pick at the skin; that can cause an infection. Finish by washing your infant’s hair with baby shampoo.
If the condition persists or worsens, talk with your doctor about over-the-counter and prescription creams.
Facts about Cradle Cap
• Cradle cap Is not a sign of allergies or poor hygiene, does not cause discomfort and is not contagious.
• This condition can be found on skin other than the scalp, and usually clears within six to 12 months.
—Nancy I. Sanders