Ten things new moms need to know
1 “Breastfeeding can be hard to start with,” says Pretoria midwife Heather Pieterse. And it doesn’t come naturally for many moms – you need to trust your body and your baby as you learn how to connect and get used to breastfeeding. Ask for help from your midwife or at your clinic, or watch a “how to” video online. “Attend breastfeeding support groups,
and don’t underestimate the power of a lactation consultant, who will visit you at home and assist you if you’re struggling,” says Heather. When it comes to how often, “feed your newborn on demand,” suggests Cape Town midwife Philippa Hime. Heather explains: “Babies need to feed often as their stomachs are very small and breastmilk is low in protein and
digests very quickly.” In case you’re wondering if your baby is getting enough to eat: “If he’s having plenty of wet and dirty nappies, settles for one to three hours between feeds, and is gaining weight, you’re doing perfectly,” Philippa says.
2 Most babies gain around 150 and 200 grams per week in the first six months, says Philippa, and Heather adds that this weight gain can be fairly erratic. “Breastfed babies may gain 80g in one week and 250g in the next, so you need to look at the overall picture over about a month,” she says. “Most new parents are obsessed with weighing their baby, just to be sure it’s all going well. I suggest only weighing in weekly unless told otherwise by your doctor or clinic sister,” Philippa says. And bear in mind that most babies lose some weight during the first few days of life, but usually regain it quite quickly, so that within a week to 10 days they’re back to their original birth weight.
3 Don’t worry if it looks like your baby has diarrhoea – “Bright yellow, watery, explosive stools with tiny white curd-like bits in them are normal in a newborn,” says Philippa. When it comes to how often babies should poo, she says, “Some babies can poo seven times a day, while others poo once every seven days. Look at the consistency of the stool rather than the frequency.” Exclusively breastfed babies should have yellow or slightly green poo with a mushy or creamy consistency, while formula-fed babies have pasty, brownish, peanutbutter-like poo.
4 “It’s normal to bleed for three to six weeks after the birth, as your uterus shrinks down to its normal size again,” says Heather. “Remember that over nine months it grew from a fist-sized muscle deep in your pelvis weighing around 50g, up to a full 1kg and the biggest muscle in your body at the end of pregnancy!” If the bleeding gets heavier or you notice big clots or have severe pain, speak to your midwife or doctor.
5 “Leave the umbilical-cord stump alone, unless it gets stools on it or gets full of gunk, and then just use cooled-down boiled water, not surgical spirits, to clean it,” says Heather. Don’t bath your baby for the week or 10 days it will take for the stump to fall off – until then, just give her a simple “top and tail” (face and bottom) sponge bath.
6 Say goodbye to your old sleep patterns, says Heather. “You won’t sleep for more than two- to three-hour stretches for the first few months of your baby’s life – but don’t worry, you will survive!” Your new baby will, however, sleep a lot. “Most newborns can only handle 45 to 60 minutes of awake time, but this will gradually increase as the baby gets older,” says Philippa.
7 “You won’t spoil your baby by attending to her when she cries,” says Heather. “Rather, you’ll be nurturing a sense of security and in the long term aiding independence.” Studies show that holding your baby has a huge impact on her contentment, reducing fussiness and colicky symptoms, and even improving her ability to feed frequently.
8 Don’t overstimulate your baby – this could exhaust her. “The only stimulation your baby needs to begin with is your smiling face,” says Philippa. Signals of over-stimulation include if your baby looks away from you, grizzles, shrieks or sucks his hand.
9 When it comes to dressing your baby, think about what you’re wearing, and then add one extra layer for your littlie. “Newborn babies can’t regulate their own body temperature, and while you don’t want your baby to be cold, you also don’t want to overdress the little thing,” says Philippa.
10 You’ll get the hang of it! “Every mother started where you are: as a new mom, feeling her way and feeling vulnerable – you’re not alone,” says Heather. Ask for help if you need it, and “Take the advice that sounds right and ignore the advice that doesn’t,” she adds. “You’ll soon find what works for you.”