During pregnancy, you have plenty of time to prepare the new baby’s arrival. Baby showers provide clothes, diapers, décor and more. You decorate and furnish the nursery. By the time your due date arrives, you’ve usually visited the hospital, maybe even interviewed pediatrician groups, decided on a birthing plan – at times, the 9 months almost seems too long as you’re waiting for the big event!
Then, it happens. Whether you calmly drive yourself to the hospital or are rushed there by a frantic spouse, friend or family member, life after that trip is never the same again. In that first full week home, it’s very natural to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing – regardless of the books you’ve read, classes you’ve taken and preparations you’ve made. Motherhood is an experience best learned in practice, not in theory. So, rest assured that you’re in good company with millions of other new moms around the world, and a little refresher on baby’s first week is always helpful.
1) Breastfeeding: It looks and sounds like the perfect moment between mother and child, but the truth of the matter is that it can often be hard. You may feel your baby’s not latching on well or that she’s not getting enough milk. You may not have a strong milk supply or it may be delayed (as milk can take several days to really come in). Many new moms expect this immediate bonding experience and instead, find the complete opposite, including discomfort, pain and jaw-clenching stress.
First of all, relax and give yourself a break. It is a natural process, but like any process, it takes practice. Don’t expect it to always be as hard as it is in the first week. Secondly, talk with a lactation consultant, even before you leave the hospital. They are available for you, and no matter what you’re experiencing, they’ve heard and seen it before. It’s amazing what the wise and comforting words of an expert can do to put your mind at ease. Finally, don’t give in to the hype. Many women feel that if they can’t successfully breastfeed their baby that they have failed as a mom. Nothing is further from the truth, and your job is to put your child first. Doing what is best for your baby, whether it’s breast milk, formula or a combination of both, is what makes you a great parent.
2) Bonding: It’s rather overwhelming – here your body has just been through this incredible physical experience; you’re exhausted, and you have this little person completely depending on you for everything. Many moms stress over how to bond with their new baby. The answer – just do what comes naturally. Hold your new baby, talk to her, sing and let her hear your voice. Look into your child’s eyes, smile and let her get to know your face and expressions. This is also your introduction to your baby’s coos and gurgles, cries and murmurs.
Skin to skin touch is a very important way to bond with your new baby. Even if you’re not breastfeeding, hold and cuddle your baby, and encourage your spouse or partner to do the same. Cradling, massaging and holding your child; spending time talking to and focusing on her is the best way to develop that sense of security, foundation and unconditional love that all children need. And these are also amazing moments for you, as a parent.
3) Holding your baby: This may sound rudimentary, but your real live, wriggly little baby is nothing like the pretend doll they gave you in Lamaze classes. It’s normal – especially for new dads, but also for moms – to feel a bit unsure when you’re first holding your little one.
Hold your baby close to your body, always cradling the head and neck, especially when laying your baby down or carrying her upright. Don’t be afraid to take your cues from an expert and ask one of the maternity nurses in the hospital to show you exactly how to pick up, lie down and hold your new baby. They’d much rather help than watch a parent do it incorrectly. Remember that your baby is much too young for any type of active play or jerky movements, so make sure that your fun-loving Uncle Bobby and other guests know not to bounce your new baby on his knee or toss her up in the air.
It’s a good practice to wash your hands before picking up your baby, and feel free to encourage guests to do the same.
4) Diapering: That first week home, you may be amazed at what comes out of your baby’s bottom. Rest assured that it’s not forever! For the first few days, your baby’s bowel movements will be a tar-like substance called meconium. After all the meconium is out of her system, diapers will feature a seedy, yellowish mustard-like substance. The frequency of poopy diapers will vary, based on if you breastfeed or use formula. Typically, breastfed babies don’t poop as often as their little bodies digests the breast milk easier. On average, you should check your baby’s diaper every 2-3 hours and definitely after feedings. Don’t worry, with time, you will definitely get to know your little one’s schedule.
Changing a diaper when the umbilical cord is healing is another task that new moms get to encounter that first week. The umbilical cord stump will eventually fall off, so as a parent, your job is to keep that area clean and dry. When you diaper, fold the front down so the umbilical cord remnant is left exposed. When you’re diapering your baby, some parents want to help the “stump process” along, but let things happen naturally.
Finally, diapering a new baby is another task that is different in practice than in theory. Never ever step away from your infant on a changing table, and always have a hand on your child, even if you’re just reaching for a diaper, wipe or baby powder. An extra burp cloth or washcloth, especially for little boys, is handy to place over the baby’s front. And, take this time to talk to your child and coo with her as you’re diapering – some babies dislike the feeling of being naked on the changing table, so soothe your little one through the process.
Mommyhood – it’s a physical, mental and emotional rollercoaster, so it’s no wonder we need advice and input, both before and after our little one arrives. Never hesitate to ask for help, be confident and comfortable in your ability to care for your baby, and know bumps along the way are normal and natural.
~ The Baby Pibu™ Team
- “A Guide for First-Time Parents.” KidsHealth from Nemours. January 2014. http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/newborn_care/guide_parents.html#
- “Baby’s First Few Weeks.” Parenting.com. http://www.parenting.com/article/babys-first-few-weeks
- “My Baby’s Here. Now What Do I DO?” WebMD.com. October 16, 2013. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/my-babys-here-now-what-do
- Pechman, Rachel Rabkin. “Must-Read Tips for your First Week with Baby.” Parenting.com. http://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/first-week-with-baby/#page=2
- “Preventing and Treating Diaper Rash.” WebMD.com. June 27, 2013. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/diaper-rash-treatment-13/newborn-first-week?page=1
- Stewart, Rebecca Felsenthal. “What to Expect Baby’s First Week.” http://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/what-to-expect-babys-first-week/?page=1