Learning how to tend to your baby and provide basic infant care is a vital part of learning to be a parent! Learning the basics is essential and Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny has your back in doing so! You will get into the rhythm of being a new parent and discover that everything will go smoothly! It isn’t easy being a parent to a newborn, being armed with the right information will shorten the learning curve!
We spoke with three pediatricians and a registered pediatric sleep consultant for this newborn guide, gathering advice on what parents should pay attention to, what kinds of routines they should follow. In addition to tips on feeding, sleep routines, bonding, bathing, and recognizing when it’s time to ask for support.
Feed your infant on a regular basis, whether you’re breastfeeding or using formula.
If a mother is breastfeeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively doing so for the first six months of life. Initially, her breasts will produce a thick, yellow nutrient-dense liquid known as colostrum. Within three days after the birth of the baby, the mother will usually begin producing breast milk.
At the beginning of breastfeeding, a nursing mother may have to work hard to help baby latch on properly. If you’re having difficulty establishing a good latch or getting your baby to eat, reach out to a lactation consultant; most hospitals and birthing centers have at least one on staff. Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny offers in person and virtual visits as well.
Whether breast or formula feeding, newborns should be fed every one to three hours. Frequent feedings assist children in regaining weight lost after birth. They will be capable of eating more at each meal and having fewer feedings each day and night.
Providing infant care during sleep & awake time
The first few weeks of a baby’s life are characterized by long stretches of sleep, followed by frequent awakenings. At first, newborns sleep for 16 to 17 hours each day, but these periods of wakefulness are separated. Because your infant will be awake for short amounts at times throughout the night, this will inevitably disrupt your slumber.
Infants need to be taught a sleeping schedule. Wake your baby up when daytime naps last longer than three hours. You might also consider establishing a routine, which signals that it’s time for your baby to rest.
Bedtime routines are equally important. Changing your newborn into pajamas, swaddling, feeding, reading, and even singing could be incorporated into a regular bedtime routine. It is also acceptable to let your baby fuss for a few minutes at night. It is not necessary to soothe and rock your newborn every single time. Pick the right time by discerning the issue and resolving it so both of you can go to sleep. Baby may just be fussing as he learns to fall asleep or connect sleep cycles.
How a baby is positioned for sleeping is quite important, as well. Back sleeping reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, babies should always be placed to sleep on their backs. After the American Academy of Pediatrics urged parents to put their newborn infants to sleep on their backs, the incidence of SIDS fell by more than half.
Infant care when they need to be soothed
When your baby is awake, one of the most effective ways to connect with her is through skin-to-skin contact. Rest your bare-chested infant on your bare chest, for example. Skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth has been shown to increase the chances of babies being breastfed, as well as their duration and effectiveness of feeding. Another way to soothe your infant is by letting her hear your voice. Pediatrician and author, Dr. Jennifer Shu also advised talking frequently and getting your face up close to baby so she can see you better because newborns are nearsighted.
When your baby gets fussy, consider using some or all of the “five S’s” — swaddle, side or stomach position (only when awake!), shush, swing and suck — which were first suggested by pediatrician Harvey Karp, M.D., author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”
When your infant is awake, perform tummy time.
Mayo Clinic pediatrician, Dr. Angela Matke reminds parents not to forget about tummy time, suggesting that this type of bonding is “really important for gross motor development, head control and neck strength.” To do tummy time, place your awake baby on her stomach on a stable soft surface two to three times a day for three to five minutes. Engage with your baby on the floor to keep her entertained. You can also do tummy time on your chest if your baby prefers that, Mattke added.
Bathing Your Baby Softly & Providing Infant Care in the bathroom
First, clean the face with a clean, moist washcloth and no soap. Next, using only enough baby soap to wet the washcloth, gently wipe the rest of their body. Wipe your baby’s body once again with a clean wet washcloth. Apply a baby moisturizer, such as petroleum jelly, to your baby’s skin after the bath to prevent it from becoming dry. Make sure to use mild, unscented products and watch for any skin irritations that may result from a product.
Keep in mind that bathing too frequently can result in dry skin or eczema, a skin condition characterized by red, scratchy skin and rashes. With a newborn, you’ll want to give sponge baths before the umbilical cord stump falls off, which usually happens 5 to 15 days after birth. Additionally, for daily care, pay attention to areas that do get soiled and care for those areas gently. This includes daily washing around the mouth, neck, and groin area.
Ask for support.
Becoming a parent is exciting, but it can also be exhausting and unsettling. If you are struggling with the transition, ask your partner, if you have one, for help or reach out to other family members or friends. Dr. Diane Cicatello, a behavioral developmental pediatrician, suggests that “A tired, stressed out, poorly nourished and emotionally impoverished parent or caregiver cannot nurture their child.” When it does get to be too much and you need a break, ask friends or family members to hold your baby, change him, take him out for walks or bottle-feed him expressed breast milk or formula.
More than half of mothers experience “postpartum blues” — mood swings, loss of appetite or sleeping problems. (Partners can feel depressed, too.) Often, these symptoms resolve on their own within two weeks of birth. But if your mood swings are severe, you aren’t sleeping much or are sleeping too much, or you are feeling like you can’t do everyday tasks, you may be experiencing postpartum depression, which affects one in nine mothers. If you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor right away to get the help you need.
Infant Care: When to Worry
If your baby has a temperature above 100.4, call your doctor immediately, because a fever in a newborn can be a sign of a serious infection. It’s also a good idea to call your pediatrician if your baby isn’t eating well or if they are crying constantly. It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor if you see signs of worsening jaundice. A condition in which there is too much bilirubin, a yellow pigment made by red blood cells. Signs of worsening jaundice include increased yellowing of your baby’s skin or yellowing of the whites of her eyes.
Parenting is exciting and rewarding, but challenges can and will surface. Take it in stride and arm yourself with tips, tools, and support for the health of the baby and always make sure to care for yourself. Infant care when you are a new parent is scary, and you are likely going to worry more so than not. Reach out for support for you and your infant at Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.