If you’re expecting a baby or recently became a parent, the voices of well-meaning friends and family, and messages of TV and media have undoubtedly crept into your head. Advice, stories, and warnings about everything from labor and birthing techniques, to feeding and sleep routines can put unnecessary stress into an otherwise amazing time in your life. While it is completely normal to worry—that is, after all, your job as a parent to some extent—it’s important to identify what aspects really warrant your concern and how to learn to let certain things go. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Keep it simple. The baby business is a big market, so try not to get caught up in all of the things you think your baby needs. Besides a car seat and a crib (or safe sleeping place) your baby does not need all of the latest gadgets. For example, high chairs will not be used for at least four months. Bottle or wipes warmers? Definitely not a necessity—in fact, some bottle warmers make the milk in the bottles too warm for babies. Baby Nurse Tip: All you need is a cup of warm water to place the bottle into, in order to get a good temperature.
2. Know true labor. True labor contractions get stronger, last longer, and are closer together. They will also not subside when you get up and move around or drink water. Baby Nurse Tip: If you’re not sure if you are in labor, time the contractions from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next to determine if they are regular. Regular contractions that are increasing in frequency and intensity may be a sign that you are in labor. When in doubt, contact your health care provider.
3. Plan ahead. To avoid unnecessary worry when you’re in labor, do yourself a favor and take a tour of the hospital and familiarize yourself with the parking and admitting protocol before hand. Baby Nurse Tip: Don’t bring unnecessary items like your baby’s car seat to the birthing room. These rooms are usually small and don’t accommodate many extra items. You won’t need it for at least couple days anyway!
4. Bond from the beginning. Both you and your baby will most likely be wide-awake immediately after birth so if possible, just relax and cuddle skin-to-skin. Baby Nurse Tip: If you are planning on breastfeeding, this may be a good time to try it out. If you are bottle-feeding, your baby will not be ready for a feeding just yet. But don’t stress if skin-to-skin or breastfeeding don’t happen right after birth; you’ll have plenty of time for both of you to enjoy those benefits when you’re in your post-partum room.
5. Ask questions. Learning about diapering, feeding, and other baby care aspects is all part of your post-partum hospital stay. Listen carefully to what the nurses teach you and don’t be afraid to ask any questions you may have, including information they may have already shared. You will be very tired, after all, and they understand that! Baby Nurse Tip: Get as much rest as you can. It is wonderful to share this time with friends and family who want to visit, but if possible, try to schedule them around your rest and sleep.
6. Think positive. If you are breastfeeding, remember that although it is natural and has been around forever, it does not always come automatically for moms or babies. Some newborns need a little time to learn how to breastfeed effectively. Baby Nurse Tip: Try to stay positive if your baby is not breastfeeding immediately. There are many ways to remedy this, so ask your nurse for assistance or ask to see a lactation consultant if you are having difficulty. Every new mom runs into one hiccup or another when it comes to how they envisioned their first few days with their baby, so 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!
7. Settle in, relax and enjoy. When you bring your baby home, keep in mind that all he needs is food and love at this stage. In fact, besides you adjusting to a new sleep schedule, he should be relatively ease to care for during these first few weeks at home. Baby Nurse Tip: 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 have any feeding concerns—or any other concerns for that matter—your baby’s pediatrician is just a phone call away.
8. Create sleep safety: Your baby’s crib or sleeping place should not contain any wedges, sleep positioners, blankets, pillows or stuffed animals. If you follow the list of SIDS-prevention methods, the risks decrease dramatically. Baby Nurse Tip: Avoid overheating by dressing your baby in cotton to keep him comfortable overnight. Cotton sleepwear allows air to circulate around baby’s body.
9. Be aware of chemicals. The best cleaning supplies for your home are those that contain the least chemicals or, better yet, none at all. Read ingredients and try to avoid aerosols. Baby Nurse Tip: If you must use commercial cleaning products make sure your house and your baby’s room is properly ventilated. Open the windows and let the fresh air circulate.
10. Embrace the unpredictable. As your newborn nears his second month, you will feel much more comfortable and confident caring for him, as feeding will likely be well established and your baby will be gaining weight consistently. Baby Nurse Tip: Don’t be surprised if your once easy-to-care-for one-month-old generally becomes a little more fussy around this time—this is a normal part of infant development. Many babies between the ages of four to eight weeks begin to have periods of fussiness throughout the day. Just remember that this will pass. Use soothing techniques such as swaddling, or try to calm him by using a baby carrier, swing, bouncy seat or stroller.
11. Reinforce routines. By three months old your baby will become much more predictable, perhaps sleeping for longer stretches at night and falling into daytime nap patterns as well. Baby Nurse Tip: Try to encourage and reinforce any natural rhythms your baby has taken to. Babies crave a predictable schedule and will be much happier with consistent daytime naps and nightly sleep routines.
Life as a parent is an incredible journey. But when you do have moments of frustration, doubt or worry—as every parent inevitably does at one point or another—remember that the newborn phase will go by quickly. Try your best to enjoy all of the moments, big and small and know that you can reach out to friends, family and other resources for support whenever you feel you need it.