Fiona Cooke is a maternity nurse with bags of experience, and glowing client recommendations. She is the author of the new baby book A Helpful Guide to a Happy Baby: practical wisdom from a maternity nurse from 0-3 months. Fiona is passionate about empowering and supporting parents to gently guide babies into a rhythm and to establish their own family’s priorities.
Babies need to be in the dark and quiet to sleep
Night time is dark and quiet and it’s when humans sleep. But in the early days, newborn babies actually find night-time hard to sleep through because it is so quiet. For nine months in the womb, the whooshing of blood from the placenta through the umbilical cord, the sounds of both baby’s and mother’s heartbeat and all the noises from the digestive system mean it is actually very noisy. As well as being noisy, babies in the womb aren’t still; they are jiggled about all the time as the mother moves around, and they hear sounds from the world outside as well as the sounds from inside. Then suddenly, when the baby is born, it’s dark and quiet and still — their whole world has changed. It’s like being on an alien planet! So babies have to learn to adjust, and will with time and patience. But in the early days, don’t be surprised if you find you can’t put your baby down to sleep in a cot or crib; they need lots of cuddles and closeness, so don’t expect too much too soon from your little one. Remember they just came from a tight, warm and noisy womb; give your baby time to adjust and enjoy the experience of nurturing your newborn.
Babies under six weeks old aren’t smiling, it’s just wind
In my time as a maternity nurse to many, many babies, I have noticed that some babies smile very early, at approximately two to three weeks old. These babies will give direct eye contact and smile at you, but you have to be quick or you will miss it. Many people dismiss this as wind, because a baby with uncomfortable wind may have a twitchy face, but if your baby has made eye contact I would say the smile at you is real. As part of normal development, a smile is not expected until approximately six to eight weeks when your baby’s smile will last longer and become more obvious, but that doesn’t mean you were imagining it before. Don’t let the doubters tell you what they think they know — you know your baby best of all.
Never wake a sleeping baby
When you’re sleep-deprived and exhausted, it might seem like a terrible idea to wake up a sleeping baby, and there are plenty of people who will tell you not to. However, in my experience, in every 24-hour day, a baby will wake around the clock to feed every two and-a-half to three hours, but also take one longer sleep of three to four hours (or possibly up to five hours, depending on the weight and health of the baby). This is quite predictable even from a young age. So if your baby is having a lovely long sleep during the day, then you can be pretty sure they will make up for the food they have missed at some later point, and will almost certainly have you awake every two to three hours during the night. A strict sleeping schedule is not a good thing for a tiny baby, but a respectful routine based on feeding well means you can manage a baby into a more predictable rhythm. As a maternity nurse, I personally would prefer a longer stretch of sleep at night-time when I am trying to sleep, and I know most exhausted parents would too. So if your baby is sleeping for much longer than three hours in the daytime, wake them with a cuddle so you can work towards a more peaceful night.
Only bottle-fed babies need burping
It’s surprising how many people believe this! It is important to burp your baby well after they have fed and before they go to sleep, regardless of how you choose to feed them. It’s true that breastfed babies on average tend to take in less wind than a bottle-fed baby, but if you want your baby to sleep comfortably and well, you still need to burp them. When your baby has a full stomach, the milk is digested by acid. Digestion produces gas. I think of the wind or gas as an air bubble: bubbles can travel upwards and come out as a burp or downwards along the intestine and pass out of the bottom. The longer the air bubble stays trapped, the more chance of an uncomfortable feeling, so always try for a burp. When baby stops eating, sit him upright on your knee or over your shoulder; as long as his back is nice and straight and upright a burp should come.
Only breastfed babies get closeness and comfort from feeding
Breastfeeding is a wonderful, natural way to feed your baby but you will still be able to feed them closely and lovingly if you use a bottle instead. I am a maternity nurse, and I help new mothers with feeds, particularly if they need some time off in the night-time. I know from my first-hand experience with lots of babies that they can get as much nurturing, closeness and comfort from being fed lovingly from a bottle. I always encourage new mothers to try breastfeeding, but there should be no pressure or worry if for some reason it’s not possible. Being close to your baby giving cuddles, chatting, holding, feeding and skin to skin contact all stimulate oxytocin, which makes you feel good. When you feel good you will enjoy your baby, which helps with bonding. Touch and closeness is the food of love: it stimulates the senses. Your baby will feel loved and content and safe and secure knowing you are close however you feed them if you give them plenty of time, closeness and attention.
Article by Fiona Cooke, maternity nurse and author of the new baby book A Helpful Guide to a Happy Baby.