Getting to know your newborn
Getting to know your newborn can be an exciting, yet daunting time. Knowing what to expect can make the the transition into motherhood smoother. We share some tips that will become second nature in time
Each mom’s experience of bonding (another word for connecting with your baby) is different. Some moms fall in love with their babies in utero, long before birth. Other moms experience anxiety as the birth date approaches, not knowing for sure if they will love their baby and then experience love at first sight on the day their baby is born, says Meg Faure, occupational therapist and co-author of the Baby Sense series of books.
Another very normal approach is to feel somewhat intimidated by your baby and not very connected to this new life for a while after birth. This can create anxiety as you start to worry if that “natural” maternal instinct will ever kick in. Don’t worry, you will fall in love; sometimes it just takes time.
It is a researched fact that skin-toskin contact in the first few days after your baby is born releases wonderful feel-good and love hormones, as well as assisting in the establishment of breastfeeding. Touch is a language that babies understand, says Meg.
Stroking, nuzzling, massaging, cuddling, and napping together – these are the ways you and your partner can communicate your love for your child and develop that special bond.
Newborns are actually very clean and hygienic. While they do not get dirty easily (with the exception of their nappy area), they do need to be protected from infection. So with that in mind here are a few principles for newborn care.
1. You don’t have to bath him every day, but your baby’s face and bottom need to be properly cleaned twice a day. Prepare a small bowl with cool boiled water and a few swabs of cotton wool. 2. Start with your baby’s face. ✓ Wet a swab for each eye. ✓ Squeeze the excess water out. ✓ Always wipe your baby’s eyes from the nose outwards. 3. Once you have washed his eyes, use a clean swab to wipe the rest of his face. ✓ Wipe with a damp swab under his chin and behind his ears to clean out milk curds that may accumulate in the folds of his neck. 4. Once you are finished cleaning your baby’s face, move onto his bottom. ✓ Remove the nappy. ✓ Wipe your baby’s genital area, wiping well in all the groin folds. ✓ If you have a baby girl, wipe gently from front to back – there’s no need to open the labia to clean in the folds. ✓ If you have a boy, wipe under the scrotum and around the penis area (do not pull your baby’s foreskin back, this is not necessary and can hurt him). ✓ Then wipe your baby’s anus well from front to back.
BATHING YOUR BABY
Wash your baby every second day and on alternate days just top-and-tail him.
If your baby has a colicky patch in the evening, where he cries a lot, rather bath him in the evening if he finds this soothing, or move the bath to the morning if bathing seems to unsettle him more. ✓ Prepare the changing space with a clean babygro and vest, a clean nappy and a warm towel. ✓ Run a warm bath – not lukewarm but not hot, just a nice warm temperature. ✓ Lather your baby with aqueous cream before putting him the bath. This will make him slippery, but it’s easier than lathering him in the bath. Wrap him in a towelling nappy and lower him into the bath wrapped in that for safety. ✓ Hold your baby with your arm behind his neck area – his neck and head should be resting on your forearm – and holding his arm that is furthest from you in your hand. This leaves you with one hand free to wash him.
Your newborn will need a nappy change at every feed and maybe even more frequently. Disposable nappies are excellent at absorbing the urine away from the sensitive skin of the bum area, but you do still need to take care and clean the area well at each nappy change. ✓ Prepare the nappy change area by having two nappies on hand (there is a chance you will need to use two nappies if your baby happens to wee in the
middle of a nappy change). ✓ Use water that has been boiled and allowed to cool down and cotton wool swabs for the first few weeks and then change to a gentle wet wipe if your baby does not develop nappy rash in the first few months. ✓ Wipe the nappy area well, as per the top-and-tailing instructions. ✓ Use a simple bum cream as a protective layer, unless your baby develops a nappy rash, in which case you will need a specially formulated nappy rash cream.
Your newborn’s immune system is not yet fully developed and so it needs to be protected for a while. You can do this with these tips: ✓ Clean the umbilical cord stump area very well until the cord falls off completely by itself (do not pull on it, as this heightens the risk of infection). Use surgical spirits on a cotton bud and thoroughly clean the area after each bath and every daytime nappy change. Don’t be scared to lift and move the stump around so that you get it clean right at the base. ✓ Always wash your hands after each nappy change and top-and-tailing. ✓ Always wash your hands before preparing any feeds. ✓ Sterilise your baby’s dummy and anything that goes near his mouth until he is six months old. You can do this using a microwave steriliser, or sterilising solution or tablets in water.
You will never have been quite this tired in your life and sleep deprivation may make you feel even more out of your depth in your new role.
This is quite normal, says Meg, but it helps to understand how your newborn will sleep in these early days of his or her life.
Your newborn may sleep fairly well for the first two weeks – sleeping long stretches between each feed.
But all this will probably change at 10 to 14 days, when your little one becomes more alert.
At this point your newborn may be more difficult to settle and may even resist sleep during the day or worse still, have his day and night muddled up and be wakeful all night.
REASONS FOR SLEEP DISRUPTIONS
The main reasons for sleep disruptions change dramatically from birth to toddlerhood.
The main causes of sleep disruptions in the newborn stage are:
Once your newborn baby becomes more awake and alert, it may seem that he is awake most of the day and you just cannot get him to sleep at naptime. This becomes a vicious cycle – the less he sleeps, the more he will resist falling asleep. Make sure he is put back to sleep 45 minutes after waking during the day. Time this from the moment he wakes up until you put him down for the next sleep, says Meg.
All cleaning, playtime and feeds should happen during this awake time.
A new baby will wake at the end of a sleep cycle and frequently at night – he will not sleep through. Since newborns need to feed frequently and also go through growth spurts, try to feed your baby on demand during the day and wake him if he is not feeding at least three-hourly during the day.
If your baby is really not settled day and night and is waking very frequently during the night, rule out reflux. This is a common cause of discomfort in new babies, which can impact on sleep. Observe him closely, make a list of all his symptoms of discomfort and be sure to tell the paediatrician. Reflux can be a little complicated to diagnose.
• DAY AND NIGHT MUDDLED UP
Some newborns take a while to differentiate day and night. For these babies, keep day interactions more animated and alert, and keep night feeds very calm with as little interaction, such as changing nappies, as possible.
Keep in mind that developmental milestones are worked out at the average age at which children acquire new skills, which means that many babies acquire the skills later, and many acquire them earlier. They are intended to serve as a guideline only, and not as a rule. Babies develop at their own pace, and a slightly slower development than average is not a reflection on her future abilities.
It’s helpful to understand that development starts at the head and works its way down through the body in a specific order. Your baby won’t acquire one skill before she’s developed the specific muscle control and thinking patterns that this skill needs.
In real terms, this means that while you can of course stimulate your baby, you can’t push her to acquire skills she’s not ready to develop. What you can do, however, is take time to play with your baby, and spend lots of time in communications – both talking and listening.
Some emotional and social milestones to be on the lookout for: ✓ He stops crying in response to softly spoken words, especially when hearing your voice ✓ He looks intently at your face when feeding ✓ He’s upset by loud noises and harsh voices ✓ He enjoys close contact and eye contact ✓ He loves to see you, smell you, hear you and feel your loving touch.
Above all – enjoy your little one in these early, all-important months. The time will go by so quickly and when his first birthday arrives, you’ll look back in amazement at how far he’s come and how time has flown. YB
OTHER MOMS EXPERIENCE ANXIETY AS THE BIRTH DATE APPROACHES, NOT KNOWING FOR SURE IF THEY WILL LOVE THEIR BABY AND THEN EXPERIENCE LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT ON THE DAY THEIR BABY IS BORN