Wow, 9 months of pregnancy have just flown by, a number of hours of labour and delivery have just happened and now you are a very happy and excited new parent. What next?
I was totally overwhelmed by the first week with my precious new baby. I was tired yet keen to spend every moment awake, staring at my absolutely gorgeous new bundle. Yet reality struck pretty quickly! Feeding, burping, changing nappies, changing clothes, bathing, laundry, checking there were enough nappies, wipes, muslins and so on. It was all consuming and I longed to know if I was doing any of it right!
I think that there is an element of preparation that can make your first week with your baby as easy as possible.
- Fill your freezer with pre cooked meals for you and dad – you may not feel like preparing meals, let alone going shopping for supplies. Also, buy a bottle of milk and put it in the freezer, so that if you run out you can simply remove it from the freezer and defrost it. It is not the time to get used to tea and coffee without milk!
- Bulk-buy nappies, wipes and cotton wool! Do not go too crazy with the number of newborn nappies you buy as your baby will grow very quickly.
- Check you have enough baby clothes – you maybe using a few outfits a day due to nappy leaks and vomits.
- Ideally, even if you are hoping to exclusively breast feed, have a steriliser, bottles with the newborn teats and ready made formula in cartons (one bottle and teat are enough- you can sterilise them by boiling in water for 10 mins). Also make sure that you know how to sterilise a bottle, so you are not reading the instructions in a moment of stress and panic. Just in case!
How much sleep does my newborn need?
Labour and delivery are stressful and exhausting for babies too. They need to recover and sleep is the perfect way. Do not be worried if your little one has a feed and then immediately goes to sleep straight after they have been born.
Newborn babies can sleep for between 16-20 hours a day. Provided they wake up for feeds and feed well, then allowing them to sleep for up to 4 hours at a time is perfectly fine.
Some new babies have their night and day confused and seem to sleep more during the day and then want to feed more at night. Make sure you are sensible with your night-time routine and persist with this, they will sort themselves out!
You need sleep too!! Try to sleep whenever your baby does, especially in the first few days.
How much milk does my baby need?
If you are trying to establish breast feeding then newborns will feed approximately every 2 hours (day and night). This is because they are only getting a small volume of colostrum from you. Colostrum is a highly concentrated mix of goodness that you initially produce until your milk comes in on day 3 (if you have had a vaginal delivery and perhaps as late as day 5 if you have had a c-section). Once your milk has come in you can try to expand the time between feeds to 3-4 hours. Remember that you are aiming to feed your baby every 3-4 hours during the day so eventually your baby will feed less and less at night. If your baby has not had enough feed during the day, they are going to want to snack more at night-time, which is not what you want- you need to sleep!
If you are formula feeding you need to offer your baby milk every 2-3 hours initially and then as their stomach expands and they can take more milk you can feed your baby every 3-4 hours.
Many mums follow a demand feeding pattern and hence feed their baby when they are showing signs of being hungry- be careful not to let your baby snack every few hours as they are then not getting a good volume of feed and therefore will always be hungry rather than settling well for 3-4 hours.
How often do I need to bath my baby?
This is absolutely up to you! Babies do not need to have a bath everyday however it can really help establish a good bedtime routine and help with the wind down at the end of the day; bath, massage with moisturising cream, quiet playtime, milk and bedtime- with the lights dimmed low and quiet voices.
How often do I need to change a nappy?
The simple answer is, at least every 4 hours if they only have pee in the nappy or as soon as you can if they have pooed.
Baby poo is extraordinary! The first few poos are meconium – a thick, sticky dark green/black tarry substance that is the waste lining of their gut. After this the poo becomes bright yellow and looks to contain small seeds in a breast fed baby. In a formula fed baby the poos can become more brown in colour.
Safe sleep – what do I need to be aware of?
It can be tricky to know if your baby is too hot or too cold at night and what to dress them in. Here is a guide that I found helpful as it gives you a starting point- you can then adjust things as needed. Also, to tell if your baby is too hot or too cool is very straight forward. A hot baby has red cheeks and may feel sweaty, a cool baby will have blue tips to their finger tips and toes. A baby should feel warm to your touch.
At normal room temperature, around 180C, your baby should be in a vest and sleepsuit and sleep under a cotton sheet and 2 cellular blankets, or in a 2.5 tog baby sleeping bag. Do not put a hat on them, see advice below.
There has been much research into the causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The charity “The Lullaby Trust” has a great website with tons of up to date advice, .
Here are the key points:
- Always place your baby to sleep on their back
- Keep your baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth
- Place your baby to sleep in a separate cot or moses basket in the same room as you for the first months
- Breast feed your baby if you can
- Use a firm, flat waterproof mattress in good condition
- Never sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby
- Don’t sleep in the same bed as your baby if you smoke, drink, take drugs, are extremely tired, or if your baby was born premature of low birth weight.
- Avoid letting your baby get too hot
- Don’t cover your baby’s face or head
How do I bond with my baby?
This is easy… simply spend time with your baby. Just being together you are forming a bond. This might be strong from the moment they are born or it may develop over the first few weeks and months. New babies are wonderful- enjoy every moment.
DR ANASTASIA ALCOCK
MRCPCH MBBS BSc(Hons) DTM&H DPID DRCOG