Baby care: Your Newborn
Your new baby
Being the parent of a newborn baby, can be daunting, exciting and challenging all at the same time. This guide aims to provide a snapshot of the first twelve months of your baby’s life, providing information and guidance on everything from general care tips to feeding, sleep and minor ailments. While it is important to note that all babies grow and develop at their own pace, there are some basic milestones and developmental stages that your baby will go through during the first year of life.
Your newborn baby is more vulnerable than an older baby. They are more susceptible to infection and illness as their little bodies have not yet had time to build up there immunity, their defences are improving each day however it is vital that you ensure that your baby is looked after in such a way that unnecessary exposure to germs is minimised.
This ranges from feeding to handling, making sure that all feeding equipment (if bottle feeding) is sterilised correctly, milk feeds are made up according to the manufacturer’s instructions and that all of those who come into contact with your baby, practice responsible hygiene such as washing hands regularly and ensuring that your baby’s home environment is clean, safe and appropriately warm or cool.
The first three months in particular, will be quite challenging. Of course, this can also be a very special time for you and your baby as you bond and become acquainted with one another. There will be long days with little sleep but if you are able to prepare for this as much as possible, the transition will be that much easier for everyone.
The bond between a parent and a baby, can be one of the strongest bonds in nature. For some this comes instantly, for others a bond develops over time. This also highlights the point of post natal depression, something that is experienced by a small percentage of new mothers. In some cases this can be mild and in other cases, the symptoms are more severe. Discussing the signs of postnatal depression with your partner, friend or family member, before you baby is born, can help to make it easier to identify and address if the problem arises. There is help and support available through many sources such as your GP, Health Visitor or through private therapy sessions with a qualified practitioner.
For many new parents, life will be turned upside down. Days and nights seem to melt into each other and your baby will continue to grow, develop and enchant you as each day passes. We can take a closer look at your baby’s development by breaking their growth down into three month stages. The first three months may seem to go by in a flash, as your baby grows and develops, their little characters become more evident, their personalities come to life and before you know it, those first words will start to trickle off their tongues.
Bathing your baby
For the first couple of weeks, a top and tail or wipe down with cloth and some warm water is all that your baby will need. May practitioners advise that you should wait until your baby’s umbilical cord has come off before you bath them for the first time.
You may wish to use the sink, a small bowl or baby bath for the first few months, this makes it easier for you to bath your baby rather than having to hang over a large bath that could make it difficult for you to hold your baby safely. There are a range of products however that offer support for your baby if you decide to use your bath. The can be purchased online or in baby department stores.
Ensure that they have a good safety rating if you do choose to use a bath support for your baby. Initially, water alone is appropriate for your baby’s delicate skin. As he or she gets older and the skin is less sensitive, you may decide to use a liquid bath soap and mineral oils for massage afterwards. All babies react differently to their first bathing experience. Some will be soothed by the warm sensation on their skin, others will be anxious or a little uncertain of the whole process.
Most babies will eventually come to enjoy their bath time routine and as they become older babies and toddlers, bath time will be much anticipated if it is a fun and enjoyable experience. In the early stages however, your baby needs no more than roughly five minutes of bath time, you can build on this in the future as they begin to be able to support themselves and enjoy their bathing experience with more independence.
Bath safety is something to consider each and every time you bath you baby. This applies as they get older too. It can be a good idea to gather all that you need for your bath time routine, before you start to bath your baby. Gather towels, soaps, massage oils, cloths and toys before you begin and you may also wish to lay out your nappies and pyjamas so that you can dry your baby quickly and get them warmly tucked into their clothes after their bath or massage.
Feeding your baby
If you plan on breastfeeding your baby, then there are some things you can do to prepare ahead. There are some very useful products available, some of which will be of more use to some than others. Decide what you may find useful and speak to your family and friends about products that they would recommend. You may wish to consider items such as nursing bras, tops and covers for when out in public, breast pads, nursing pillows and a breast pump. You may also want to consider care products such as oils or ointments that can help to prevent dry or cracked nipples. Muslin cloths or similar cloths are worth their weight in gold, always keep a stash with you for cleaning up, dabbing, covering or wrapping. They are very versatile.
If you have decided that bottle feeding is the best way forward, you may wish to start looking into the various types of formula available. Do your research, speak to family and friends, call the helpline numbers offered by the formula companies if you have specific questions. You may also ask your GP or Health Visitor for more information and advice.
If bottle feeding, you may wish to purchase a set of bottles that have anti-colic mechanisms included, this can help to reduce the intake of wind. You will also need a way of sterilising your bottles. There are many options available for this purpose. You may choose a sterilising solution, a microwave steam steriliser or an electric steriliser. Decide what will work best for you. The current advice is that when making up a feed from powdered formula, you should do so using water that has boiled so that any bacteria is killed off before it is given to baby. With this in mind, decide how you will make up your baby’s bottles at night, what works best for you and your family. Your GP or Health Visitor will be able to provide current advice and information on breast or bottle feeding.
Burping your baby
Some babies will naturally or easily bring up any wind, some may also bring up a little milk along with this burp or with hiccups, this is known as posseting. If your baby is bringing up a large portion of his or her feed after every feed, or seems to be in discomfort after feeding, speak to your GP or Health Visitor to discuss the possibility of reflux or silent reflux. Babies who experience this condition may need smaller, more frequent feeds with regular burping during and after feeds.
Some babies on the other hand, may be showing colicky signs or have difficulty bringing up wind after a feed. The air your baby takes in while swallowing during feeding results in a build-up of wind in the gut. Ideally, getting rid of some or most of this wind by burping during and after feeds, will help to minimise this collection of air and the subsequent discomfort that some babies can experience. Burping also helps to maximise the room in your baby’s tummy so that they can take a full feed and settle more easily afterwards.
Some babies will burp on their own, others may need a little help, some babies take in large amounts of air and others seem to take in very little. Assess your baby’s feeding, burping and signs of any discomfort, signs such as pulling their legs up or arching his/her back during or after feeds may indicate discomfort relating to the feed, you may also notice audible gurgling or bubbling in your baby’s stomach. Try different ways of helping your baby to expel any trapped air after feeds by trying different positions. Eventually you and your baby will find a position that is most effective.
Generally, breastfed babies tend to take in less air, if they have a good attachment, than babies who are bottle fed. That said, all babies are different and this is not a hard and fast rule. If your baby suffers from wind and has difficulty expelling the air, try some of the following techniques. Ensure that you have a muslin or cloth to hand for any possets or dribbles.
Over the shoulder or on your chest – by holding your baby in an upright position, or laying at a diagonal across your chest, gently rubbing your baby’s back on their left side in a repetitive upward motion can help. Again, by placing your baby over your shoulder slightly with the belly lightly resting on your shoulder, you should be able to again use gentle upward strokes or pats to help ease the air out of your baby’s tummy.
Some babies may not be ready to burp right away, they may also not be in the optimum position for their own body. Keep trying various positions or variations on the suggestions made here until you find what works for your baby.
Laying your baby on his or her front, across your lap can also be a very helpful way of expelling air trapped in your baby’s tummy. Lay baby across your knees, perpendicular to your own body. Pat or gently rub your baby’s back in an upward motion. Ensure that your baby’s head isn’t lower than her body as she may then vomit or become light headed.
You can also try sitting baby on your lap, facing away from you. Use a hand to support his or her body with the palm of your hand supporting the chest. Then use your fingers of the same hand to support the chin and neck taking care not to exclude baby’s airway. Lean your baby forward slightly and again, gently rub or pat.
Your baby’s sleep
Your newborn baby will sleep for a lot of the day, anywhere between sixteen and twenty hours a day although again this varies from one baby to the next and it may feel like you’re up all night with little catch up sleep during the day as you attend to his or her needs, changing, feeding and comforting as you go. Thinking ahead about newborn sleep, what they will require from you and what you need for yourself too will help to put some perspective on things when baby arrives.
Newborn habits often mean a very unpredictable schedule as your baby requires lots of sleep, waking at will for feeds and may also spend short periods crying or quietly taking in their surroundings before going back to sleep. Your baby’s cries may be due to hunger, discomfort or overstimulation at times. It can sometimes feel as though you don’t know what your baby wants, that is very normal and with time, you will learn your baby’s cries and will be able to respond to his or her needs accordingly.
Babies have a much shorter sleep cycle than adults do. They spend more time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep than we do. This is thought to be the time when your baby’s brain develops, processing all that he has experienced during his periods of waking. Sleep deprivation for parents is very challenging but in the greater scheme of things, this is a relatively short period in your baby’s life and everyone will soon settle into a more acceptable sleep pattern as the months go on. Feeding your baby on demands during the first few months is key to establishing health feeding and sleeping patterns later on. Once your baby is established on feeds and you have started to see a more obvious pattern developing, you can start to consider a more structured routine, usually from about six to eight weeks.
Starting to implement a routine early on can be of huge benefit in the long run. Obviously a set routine will take time to establish and you cannot expect your baby to sleep through the night from the start, this takes time and varies from one baby to the next. By working to a rough routine at the start, keeping things like the bath time and bedtime feed on track can help to give your baby cues that let them know what is coming next. A darker room at night with less noise will help to differentiate the sleep during the day where it is lighter and you may have the TV or radio on in the background and so on.
Feeding your baby on demands during the first few months is key to establishing health feeding and sleeping patterns later on. Once your baby is established on feeds and you have started to see a more obvious pattern developing, you can start to consider a more structured sleep routine, usually from about six to eight weeks.
Follow the same routine each day where possible, putting your baby down awake but drowsy rather than rocking, feeding or holding until they’re asleep. This may be a struggle in the beginning but keep at it and your baby will eventually take your lead and you will help to create a familiar routine for bed and nap times.
Play and development
Play and interaction with your baby are essential elements in helping him or her to grow and achieve. Their development milestones can be encouraged through interaction throughout the day. Your baby will thrive on the attention they get from you, your positive encouragement, smiles, praise and adoration will be recognised and they as they grow, they will continue to seek this response from you. Equally, your baby also needs some time on his or her own so that they start to learn that they are independent from you. It may be that you give your baby a few extra minutes in the cot awake while you get a bottle or clothes ready, they may want some time lying on a mat under a play gym or just some quiet time while you get on with some other task in the room, or another room if it is safe to do so.
Spend time playing with your baby and also allowing them time to drink in their new environment without your interaction. You may want to try getting into the habit of picking your baby up before they begin to get upset, this helps to send a message that you are always there and they do not have to become upset to get your attention. Build on this as your baby gets old but rewarding them and praising them for being good if they have played alone with a toy or activity for a few moments, allowing them to have your full attention and praise for doing so.
Talk to your baby throughout the day, start by telling them what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, how much you love them. They have taken comfort from your voice since they were in the womb and by communicating verbally, you will help to comfort, encourage and interact with your baby.
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