As an expecting parent, there are soon to be a lot of new experiences you will encounter. As your baby grows, you will grow with them, taking one step at a time. Carole Kramer Arsenault RN, IBCLC, and founder of Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny, shares her top newborn tips as you enter into the world of parenthood.
The First 48 Hours in the Hospital
Skin-to-Skin: Both you and your baby will most likely be wide-awake immediately after birth so enjoy cuddling skin-to-skin. This will help baby transition to life outside of the womb, regulating their temperature and blood sugar levels. If you plan on breastfeeding, this is a good time to try it out and promote a successful latch. Don’t stress if skin-to-skin or breastfeeding don’t happen immediately after birth; you’ll have plenty of time for both of you to enjoy it in the postpartum room. Partners can offer skin-to-skin time too; it’s helpful while Mom delivers the placenta and gets stitches if required.
Breast Feeding: If you are breastfeeding, remember that although it is natural and has been around forever, it does not come naturally for every mom and baby. Some newborns need a little time to learn how to breastfeed effectively. Stay positive if your baby is not latching immediately; there are many ways to remedy this. Ask your nurse for assistance and be sure to request a lactation consultant stop by as well. The best advice I can give you is that if it hurts for more than 30 seconds after latching then gently edge your clean, pinky finger in between the corner of baby’s mouth and your nipple to break the suction. Take them off and try again. You want your baby to learn a good, deep latch so that they’re getting enough milk and you are both enjoying the experience.
Heading Home as a Family of Three
Bathing Your Newborn: Newborns only need to be bathed every two to three days, in between wipe your baby’s neck and bottom with a warm washcloth, daily. To give a bath, fill the baby bathtub with lukewarm water before placing your baby in. Their head and ears should be well above the water line. Place a warm washcloth on a large exposed area of skin, such as baby’s belly, so they are less likely to become chilled and cry.
Start by washing their face with just water on a washcloth. Then use baby soap on their body and hair. Make sure to get those little crevices and between the toes. Rinse your baby well and try to avoid pouring water down the front of your baby’s face. When you are done, place your hands firmly under your baby’s armpits and use the tips of your fingers to support their neck. Slowly raise your baby up and gently place them onto a prepared towel.
Feeding Baby: Your most important job is to make sure that your baby is getting enough to eat. The goal is to have your baby back at his birth weight at the two-week checkup. If you need to supplement with a bottle as mom’s milk comes in, offer the smallest and slowest paced nipple size. This should help the baby get back on the breast without getting frustrated because it will be a similar paced feed from breast to bottle.
Burp your baby in between breasts if you are breastfeeding. Bottle fed babies will need to get burped more due to more air seeping in through the artificial nipple. During the first two weeks, burp a bottle fed baby every one to two ounces; as time goes on you can burp halfway through the bottle. If your baby fusses or spits out the nipple, try to burp him before finishing the feeding. Burp for about a minute and if nothing comes out, then you’re done. You can burp your baby with him resting up right on your chest or by sitting your baby upright on your lap, using one hand to support his chin and neck and the other to pat his back.
Safe & Comfortable Sleep: Your baby’s crib or bassinet should not contain any wedges, sleep positioners, blankets, pillows, bumpers or stuffed animals. If you follow the list of SIDS-prevention methods, the risks decrease dramatically. Avoid overheating by dressing your baby in cotton to allow air to circulate around baby’s body. As a rule of thumb, dress your baby in one more layer than yourself because they cannot yet regulate their body temperature.
Put your newborn in a bassinet next to your bed and, “sleep when your baby sleeps.” This is especially important in the first couple of months. If he spits up, he will turn his head, or cough and cry. Don’t worry, you will wake up. The bottom line here is that in order to take the absolute best care of your baby, you need to be well-rested.
Set up Baby Stations around Your House: This is especially helpful if your house is more than one level or if you gave birth to multiples. In a basket, put together some of the following supplies: wipes, diapers, cream, burp cloths, swaddling blankets, an extra outfit, a water bottle and a snack for yourself. Remember it’s important to take care of yourself too so you can be the best parent possible for your new baby.
Every new parent runs into one hiccup or another when it comes to how they envisioned their first few days with their baby. Do your best to try and go with the flow—you’ll be much happier if you give yourself some slack right from the beginning! Learn more tips about pregnancy, delivery and the first three months of life from Carole Kramer Arsenault’s parenting book, Newborn 101.