As first-time parents, your moment of truth has finally come. You have survived the challenges from pregnancy to labor. Your life is about to turn around as you go home and start a new life with your baby.
This article will help ease your nervousness away and in no time, build the confidence of first-time parents like you in taking care of your baby.
Don’t Be Shy to Get Some Help
Most first-time parents feel embarrassed in asking for help. In reality, a lot of people around you are not only willing but are excited to give you a hand. There is no shame in admitting that you are new to do this, and a few words from those who have more experience can help make your life easier. Start by talking to experts while you are in the hospital. They may even have lactation or feeding specialists who can help you start learning about feeding and nursing. Your nurses and doctors are also great resources in learning about baby care. They can begin teaching you how to hold, change, and burp your baby.
Once at home, you can hire a baby nurse or nanny to help you around for a short time. Hiring help will also give the mom time to have some rest and have her body recover from pregnancy and delivery. Most first-time parents want to start figuring things out by themselves, and that is also okay. But your future self would thank you so much for getting some help and allowing yourselves time for recovery.
Probably the people most willing and excited to help you out are your parents, relatives, and friends. They could not wait to meet your baby, that is for sure. Though you might not agree on some things, their experience in caring for a child will still prove useful. However, as parents, you should not feel guilty about limiting the people who meet and hold your baby, especially in the first few months.
Baby Handling Tips
You may have handled babies previously, but it just isn’t the same when it is already your own. As first-time parents, you are probably intimidated by how fragile your baby is that you are sometimes scared and unsure of how to handle it. A parent’s loving and protective instinct will always be there, but here are a few essential baby handling tips to help you out:
- Always wash or disinfect your hands and arms (with sanitizer or alcohol) before holding your baby. Newborns have weak immune systems, and they could quickly get sick if handled with dirty hands. This does not only apply to you but for visitors who would hold your baby as well.
- Support the neck and head of your baby. Make sure to cradle your baby’s head and neck when lifting from the bed, carrying upright, and laying him down again.
- Never shake your baby - not when playing, waking up, nor out of frustration because your baby will not stop crying. Shaking a baby is very dangerous. It can cause learning problems, blindness, and even death. Newborns have weak necks and heavy heads. If constantly shaken, their soft brains bounce around their hard skulls, which can cause the brain to bleed. Cases of shaken baby syndrome are usually caused by tired and frustrated parents who want their babies to stop crying. Parents did not often intend to hurt their babies, but emotions took over, and they lost control. If you think you are about to lose your cool, remember that your baby can’t speak and the only way to tell you something is wrong is through crying. Try to understand what your baby needs. Is he hungry? Does he want to change his diapers? Does he need attention? Ask yourself these questions and more when trying to appease your baby. Lastly, it is very tiring to take care of a newborn. If you get easily frustrated, you need to get more rest. Let your partner, mom, or nanny take care of the baby first while you get some sleep.
- When taking your baby out, make sure that the seat belts are securely fastened. This applies to strollers, carriers, car seats, - most especially baby sleepers or rockers. A brand recently recalled 4.7 million of their baby sleeper products after receiving reports of at least 32 infant deaths because of using their product. Be careful also in trying out new trendy products that will help put your baby to sleep, just like baby bouncers. According to researchers, 35% of the crib ads you see online, in magazines, and retail stores depict unsafe sleeping conditions.
Bonding and Swaddling
Bonding with and soothing your baby should happen in the first few days you spend with your newborn. This helps establish physical closeness with your baby to develop an emotional connection. Both parents can take turns in cradling your baby and gently stroking him in different patterns. Take the opportunity to be “skin to skin” with your baby by holding him against your own skin while feeding or cradling. First-time parents also learn swaddling - a soothing technique that involves wrapping your newborn in a blanket. Babies feel calmer when swaddled because it recreates the feeling of being inside the womb. Thus, they sleep better and have fewer awakenings. Swaddling is for young babies, from birth usually up to their fourth or sixth month. You can stop swaddling once your baby can already roll onto their tummy or if your baby does not seem to like it. Click here for a step-by-step guide on how to swaddle your baby.
Feeding Your Newborn
Newborn babies have an erratic feeding schedule. You have to be committed round the clock to feed them whenever they want to be fed. Here are some feeding tips that will help you get started:
- Take note of the cues. Your baby will most likely fuss or cry to tell you they are hungry. Each baby will have a different set of cues they will use to tell you when they need or feel something. Most newborns need to be fed around eight to twelve times a day, which is about one feeding every two to three hours.
- Feed your baby with breast milk or formula. Most medical experts strongly recommend exclusive (no formula, juice, or water) breastfeeding from birth until the baby’s 6th month. Breast milk helps babies grow healthy and strong and reduces their chances of getting sick. This is because it provides the perfect mix of nearly everything your baby needs to grow - protein, fats, and vitamins. However, not all moms are capable nor want to breastfeed, and it is perfectly okay. Moms who don’t breastfeed should not be shamed nor feel ashamed about it. There are a thousand other ways to nurture, take care, and be close to your baby.
- It is normal to see variations in your baby’s eating patterns. Feeding a newborn is basically feeding on demand. They can ask to be fed literally at any time of the day - even during the wee hours. At two to three weeks after birth, growth spurts usually happen where they would either want to be fed more often or in greater quantities. This will happen again during the sixth week after birth. The key is to spot and respond to early signs of hunger, such as putting fingers in their mouth or make sucking noises, instead of keeping close tabs on the clock.
- Trust your instincts and pay attention to your newborn’s cues and reactions. Remember that experts only give recommendations. Each baby has its own unique physiology. Don’t worry if your baby is not eating much or when you expect him to. They usually know what and how much of something they need. Instead, focus on weight and growth gain, consistent bowel movements, and contentment on their feedings. These are watch-outs that will help you determine if your baby is growing as he should be.
- Know when to ask for help. If you are struggling to breastfeed, your baby does not want to eat at all or cannot seem to be appeased even after trying everything out, see your doctor. It does not mean you gave up, or you are failing at parenting. This is all new to you and reading about it will help you be prepared, but it would not be enough when your baby is already there. Experts will be more than willing to help you sort things out and come up with solutions.
Putting Your Baby to Sleep
You have probably been warned by your friends and relatives already - you are in for long nights. Most newborns sleep every two to four hours, and they usually do not sleep through the night. Their digestive systems are still so small that they need to be nourished every few hours, and would be awakened every time they feel hungry. This sleeping and eating pattern would go on up until your baby’s third month. To establish a sleeping pattern for your baby (and for you as well), you can try the following:
- Reduce stimulation at night. Babies usually have their days and nights mixed up. To help them distinguish one from the other, keep the lights low at night and reserve playing with them during the daytime.
- Have some white noise. Studies show that the sound babies hear while inside the uterus are two times louder than a vacuum cleaner. This means they are used to hearing sounds while asleep. To do this, you can try placing a fan on medium inside your baby’s room.
- It helps to fill your baby up in the evening. If you feed him every four hours in the morning, reducing the interval to every two hours in the evening. This helps your baby have an uninterrupted sleep due to hunger.
Becoming first-time parents can be overwhelming and scary. This article will help prepare you to learn the basics of newborn care.