That first time
ASK A COUPLE of seasoned moms, and you’ll hear that somewhere between their photo albums is a diary of meaningful “firsts”: first smile, first tooth, first step, first poo… But as a new parent you soon realise there are many more firsts in your child’s life than just these traditional milestones, and every one of them is loaded with pride, excitement and joy – as well as some anxiety and insecurity … Every single first experience you and your child share is very special – so cherish these moments!
MEETING FOR THE FIRST TIME
There’s no bigger moment in your life than the first time you hold your little one in your arms. You experience a mix of emotions: exhaustion, relief, joy, gratitude and pride – and overwhelming love when you look into those little eyes for the first time. Ironically, your little darling is no oil painting at birth. Her skin can be covered in an oily white substance called vernix, there can be blood and little marks on her body and her head might have a strange shape. All these “side effects” of birth will fortunately disappear after a few days. Ask to hold your baby as soon as you can after the birth, so that you can get to know each other better. Consider holding her naked body against yours – skinto-skin contact keeps her warm, calms her down and helps her regulate her heartbeat and breath. Chat to your little one while you check how perfectly she’s formed. She’ll react to your voice, curl her little fingers around yours and stare into your eyes.
Of course the camera flashes continuously after the birth to capture every special moment! Make sure Dad takes photos of your first mom-and-baby moment and when the baby is being weighed, and then ask the doctor to take a family photo. Later, when baby is rested, spruce yourself up a little (labour pics can sometimes be unflattering!) and have someone take a picture of your brand-new little family.
The first time baby comes to the breast is one of the most intimidating yet magical milestones for many new moms. It's the forging of a very special bond: your exclusive time together. A good start is skin-on-skin contact directly after birth. This stimulates your hormones for breastfeeding and will give baby the opportunity to seek out your breast. Initially your breasts don't contain milk but colostrum. It's a yellowish fluid that's rich in antibodies to help protect your baby against infections. Latching correctly is key to successful breastfeeding; otherwise your nipples become tender and even start bleeding. Tickle baby's cheek with your nipple, and she'll open her little mouth in towards your breast. Then bring her head swiftly to the breast, so that a large part of your nipple goes into her mouth. If she latches correctly, her mouth will be wide open, her lower lip will curl out and it won't hurt. If you battle, ask the medical staff to help.
With the first feed comes the first wind! Getting rid of those pesky winds might seem tough at the beginning, especially since the little body is so small and limp. Rest baby over your shoulder or on your lap, and pat or rub her back with upward movements. She might bring up a little milk. If she doesn't break wind after a few minutes and falls asleep, she probably doesn't have wind, and you can comfortably leave your precious child to sleep. She'll complain if she's uncomfortable.
FIRST NAPPY CHANGE
Your baby's nappy should be changed frequently, usually with every feed. Don't get a fright when she has her first dirty nappy, and it looks like a sticky darkgreen or black toffee mixture. It's normal, and it's called meconium. Your baby's stool will only change after a few days. Breast babies' poo will then be mustard yellow with a somewhat watery, crumbed appearance, and bottle babies will have more shaped, lightbrown stool. Make sure to give your baby's bum a thorough wash every time you change nappies, so no urine or stool remains behind. Remember to always wipe a girl from front to back so no stool ends up in her vagina.
FIRST VISIT TO THE DOCTOR
Within 24 hours after her birth the paediatrician will examine your baby for the first time. Your doctor will check your baby from head to toe for possible problems. He'll check that her head circumference is proportional to her weight and length, if there are cataracts or other eye problems and also make sure her nasal passages are clear and that her tongue is not stuck too tightly to the floor of her mouth. He also checks that the palate is fully formed, that her little heart beats normally and that air flows freely to the lungs. Furthermore, he checks that all her organs are where they should be, her hips are properly in their sockets, that the sex organs and legs and feet are normal. You might not be present for the examination, so chat with him about anything you're unsure of.
FIRST CAR RIDE
It's time to get the precious cargo home – your first car ride together as a family! Protect your little one by safely strapping her into her car seat and ensuring it has been installed 100 percent correctly, in the middle of the back seat if possible, as this is the safest spot for children. If you feel you can't leave your child alone in the back, sit next to her.
FIRST TIME AT HOME
You were two when you left for the hospital, and now you're suddenly three. Regardless of all the anticipation during pregnancy, it can be a strange experience. You'll probably catch yourself staring at the little human for hours on end. How incredibly beautiful is that little face? Many parents welcome a stream of visitors during those first days, which can be quite exhausting and can take its toll in combination with little and interrupted sleep and changes in routine. It might be best to put the phone on silent now, lower your standards and relax as much as you possibly can.
Baby's first bath at home is often daunting, even if they meticulously demonstrated how to in hospital. That little body can suddenly feel extra slippery, and if baby also starts screaming the moment you undress her, it can be extremely unnerving. Find comfort in the thought that it does become easier the more you do it, and before long it will be one of the highlights of your day together. Make sure you have everything within reach before you start the bathtime ritual. Always test the water with your elbow – it must be lukewarm. Bath her quickly, as a newborn can easily feel cold. Remember it's also unnecessary to bath a newborn baby every single day, as long as you just keep the important bits clean: private parts, face and folds around her legs, arms and neck. Follow the bath with a massage if she enjoys it.
FIRST NIGHT AT HOME
You're scared you won't wake up when your small person cries. Your boobs are sore and uncomfortably full. The reality of new parenthood only sinks in that first night home alone with your baby. You'll probably get up every five minutes to listen if she's still breathing, like thousands of moms before you. Consider a monitor if baby sleeps in her own room. Don't switch on the light when you change her nappy at night (invest in a night light), and don't talk to her. Work quickly but gently, so that she comes to understand that nights are meant for sleeping.
It'll do you and your baby a whole lot of good to get out of the house and spend some time with friends. Plan your first outing for a time when it's calm, and keep it short. Be sure to pack a nappy bag with at least one extra set of clothes, a burping cloth, nappies and wipes.
FIRST VISIT TO THE CLINIC
It's time to take your baby for her first set of shots – an experience that can be traumatic for mom and baby. You may be tempted to give baby painkiller syrup before you go, but it's not recommended or necessary as it can interfere with vaccines. Rather breastfeed for comfort. Use the visit to the clinic to make sure she's growing like she should be, drinking enough and to sort out small niggles.
REMEMBER IT’S ALSO NOT NECESSARY TO BATH A NEWBORN BABY EVERY SINGLE DAY, AS LONG AS YOU JUST KEEP THE IMPORTANT BITS CLEAN