What three tips can you offer new mums on the reality of being at home with baby in the first week?
- Sit back and take it all in – those first few weeks go by in a flash and before you know it dad will be returning to work. Spend as much time together as you can, looking at and cuddling your baby. Encourage Dad to sit with you even if you are breastfeeding, as his time goes fast too and being a daddy is a big change to cherish together. Learn together and share the experience, letting Dad get involved with nappy changes and winding if not feeding.
- You know best – although it may not feel like it at times. A mother’s instinct is always strong, so whether it is sleeping, feeding or needing a nappy change, trust in your ability to look after your baby. It will feel overwhelming, but know that you and baby will find your way together and that there is no rush. Tiny steps and a bit of trust along the way.
- Forget the housework! Your baby does not care if the floor hasn’t been hoovered, neither do your guests worry if there is washing up in the sink (in fact ask them to help do it!). The house can wait, your baby and bonding experience won’t. Do not feel guilty for spending time on the sofa or in bed, in fact I would fully recommend a week in bed and then a week on the sofa – let visitors muck in and order easy food.
How do you keep your baby’s umbilical cord clean to avoid infection?
It is best to keep your hands clean so wash them before and after nappy changing and whilst touching the area. Baby can still have a wash but keep the area dry afterwards but patting gently with a cloth/flannel. Try folding down the top of the babies nappy too, to help get air to the area and stop it getting “sweaty” underneath the nappy.
How can I make sure I’m putting my baby to sleep as safely as I can?
There are excellent guidelines by The Lullaby Trust that help new parents understand how best to put their babies to sleep safely. Babies are now recommended to sleep on their backs, with nothing else in their cots. They should also be placed with their feet towards the end of the cot or basket rather than being too high up the cot. Temperature is also considered to be an important factor too.
How might I tell if my baby has colic or reflux?
Colic and reflux are very similar and in fact, in my experience, colic is always usually caused by something; some of the most common reasons for colic being an overtired baby, a baby who isn’t getting enough milk in the evening or a refluxy baby.
Reflux can be either silent and consistent of regurgitation in the throat but with no obvious signs aside from congestion, arching back from feeds and not liking to be put down on their back, or vomiting reflux when it is really very obvious. There are many signs of reflux and some of them remain hidden for quite a long time and also unrecognised by many medical professionals, which is why so many parents find it difficult to get a diagnosis.
If you suspect your little one is struggling then try and seek help and go with your gut instinct. A high percentage of reflux is actually caused by food intolerances – often milk, so it is worth thinking about changing formulas or cutting out dairy as a first step towards improvements.
When should I start accepting visitors to the house to see the baby?
This is such a personal choice and one that many of my clients struggle with, often disagreeing with their partners. Having been through it before myself twice, I would say be strong and stand up for what you want as those first few weeks can be very rocky, particularly if your birth was tough.
Try and keep the first couple of weeks for close family only, and don’t be afraid to give them time limits on visiting too. No one wants to be sat with their boobs out, crying with their father-in-law looking on for a whole day at a time. Be kind to yourself and the huge experience you have just been through.
It will take time and once your partner is back at work, then think about friends popping over and asking them to bring food or hold the baby whilst you shower.
When can you start looking at implementing a routine for your new baby?
This is my most commonly asked question and the answer really is, whenever it feels right for you! I have clients who are keen to start a routine from four weeks onwards and they are doing what works for them and others who either don’t believe in routines or don’t think about it until the six month mark.
I always recommend parents enjoy the first weeks and don’t worry too much about creating habits or setting up routines, but from around six weeks feeding is usually starting to become well established and baby is no longer super sleepy, so it is a really good time to start thinking about setting up a gentle pattern to your baby’s day.
What do I do if my baby looks like he’s not gaining weight from breast feeding? How do I tell the difference between cluster feeding and an inadequate supply?
Your health visitor will point out if your baby is dropping down his percentiles to a level that concerns them, but some babies will drop slightly and have just been born a little bigger than perhaps they were supposed to be.
Good wet nappies and pooing regularly are good signs that your baby is doing well. As is their temperament too, if your baby is always unhappy and never seems satisfied then use your instinct. You could express and try offering baby a bottle in the evening if you are not happy with hours spent cluster feeding.
Cluster feeding is a really normal habit for babies in the evenings as they feed often to try and increase milk supply, which is naturally lower in the evenings but this does not mean that they are not getting enough. If you are tired and not able to cluster feed for whatever reason, introducing an evening bottle is a nice way of getting Daddy involved in feeding too.
Should I always change a wet nappy even at night?
In the day time, yes and during the night time if a baby is feeding, then I would always opt for a nappy change. However if baby is sleeping then you probably want to wait until baby next wakes up, as changing their nappy will likely wake them up and mean you probably need to feed them again.
It is totally safe for your baby to be in a wet nappy between night feeds during the night time.
Tell us about the most difficult challenges of the first month of being a new mother – what should we expect?
All mothers face very different challenges in those early weeks. I have yet to meet a Mummy who didn’t encounter some sort of difficulty, whether that is with birth, breastfeeding, sleep, reflux or relationships.
It is a huge time of adjustment and worth recognising that your world has completely changed. Things will no longer be the way you remember them and at times, this can feel really tough!
Dealing with lack of sleep
For some mothers, the lack of sleep can be really tough and the impact it has on mental health is huge. Asking your partner to help with night feeds or even paying a night nanny for a night if you are really struggling, are all good ways of helping. Everyone makes a joke of the idea of napping when your baby naps, but it really is a good idea and even a 20-minute cat nap can really help refresh your memory. Have early nights and don’t expect too much!
Breastfeeding is really hard work and takes time, energy and perseverance. There are so many places to get help but these are not always so obvious, so seek out your local breastfeeding café’s, read up on it before baby arrives and ensure that you ask as many questions as you need to whilst in hospital to get the best start possible.
As with everything, there is help out there if you need it, but know that you will get there and there are also other options if you decide it is not for you.
Your relationship is also changing and you now have a third little person to involve, which ultimately means that couple time takes a back seat. Some of my clients find it really tough as they are unable to feed the baby themselves (Daddy) so feel a bit out of the spotlight. Getting Dad to have a bath with baby, do the odd bottle feed and trying to share the baby care a bit will help build his confidence too. Try and laugh often, it is crazy but it is also magical and you will be a couple again, just not anytime soon, and that is OK! Date night at home in front of the TV with a takeaway is must!
The baby blues – what is this, and how is it different to post natal depression?
Most new mums will experience the baby blues, whereas postnatal depression does not happen to everyone. Due to the changes in a mother’s hormones post birth, you may well experience some more down days where there are lots of tears and your hormone levels are all over the place. This is very normal and nothing to be concerned about, it will pass with time. However as time passes, if you continue to feel down and things appear difficult then do get in touch with your GP or health visitor.
There are lots of places to get help for postnatal depression and the earlier it is caught, the easier it will be to get help and come out of. Never be embarrassed to talk about this, your mental health is so important for both you and your baby.
Article by Heidi Skudder, Parent and Baby Coach