"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. Don't despair. Here are some great tips for you as a new parent from those who have been in your shoes.
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.
"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 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
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:
Position. 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.
Timing. 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.
Motion. 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.
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.