Caring for Your Newborn: Babies Don’t Come With Instructions
Some new parents are petrified at the thought of being alone with their newborn baby. Truth be told, it would be great if newborn babies came with instructions and a newborn checklist! Thankfully, we can rely on the wisdom of our ancestors; baby instructions have been figuratively passed down from generation to generation. Additionally there is a wealth of information available to us today that we should take full advantage of such as this very blog post you are reading right now, your family, friends and your physician. Babies may not come with instructions but caring for your newborn has not dramatically changed over the generations!
Taking Your Baby Home from a Birthing Center
A birthing center is a unique place to give birth. Its philosophy is centered on giving mom full control over her body and birthing options. Birth and labor are allowed to progress at their natural pace keeping medical intervention minimal. Once the baby is born however, you will need to make sure you see your baby’s pediatrician. Your OBGYN is not your baby’s doctor – only yours.
Find a Pediatrician If You Do Not Already Have One
You must take your baby to his/her pediatrician within 24-36 hours after birth. This is to give your baby their first physical where the doctor will examine them from head to toe & administer a hearing test. It best to keep in mind that your baby does not have a fully developed immune system yet so he or she will be very susceptible to getting sick.
It is suggested that until the first round of immunizations usually from 2-3 months of age, its wise to minimize exposure to crowds of people and to keep your baby home as much as possible.
What to Expect the First Few Days
The first few days are adjusting periods for mom, dad, family members and baby. Expect to get little to no sleep as babies eat every 2- 3 hours (lest not forget the diaper changes). They have tiny stomachs so they eat little but often. They will be sleeping in between feedings so try to nap during these times. Sleep when the baby sleeps – every precious second of rest counts!
Some tips to ease the stress of this time:
• Enlist the help of a family member or friend to come by and take over baby duties (feeding, changing diapers etc..) for a few hours so you can get some sleep
• If you are breastfeeding, pump some milk into bottles so that when help arrives, they can feed baby while you rest – as tempting as it may be to want to be with your baby 24/7, it is really important that you do not wear yourself out. Take the help when it’s available and offered. A tired mom makes a grumpy mom
• Cook in batches and freeze food so all you have to do is reheat it later on when you are hungry
• Have your significant other help with baby duty as well. I have heard people complain they do not know how to carry a baby, that they do not know how to change a diaper, etc.. no excuse! You are both learning about how to take care of your baby and practice makes perfect – ask friends & family – they will be happy to show you – everyone loves a new born baby!
As mentioned earlier, babies eat often! They generally eat anywhere from 1 to 3 ounces at a time. You will know he/she is hungry when you hear them crying – which is an obvious alert – however if you see your baby sucking his hand, rooting (this is when they turn their head towards your breast/bottle) or smacking their lips, then this is also a sign that they are hungry. A breastfed baby will eat more often than a formula fed baby because breastmilk while nutritious is watery.
You will know if your baby is eating enough if she has at least 5 wet diapers a day. If their breastfed, then there may be as many as 10 wet diapers a day. Breastfed babies have more pee diapers and less poop diapers. Formula fed babies have more poop diapers than wet diapers. The reason is it takes longer to digest formula than breastmilk. When it’s time to change your baby’s diaper, have everything that you will need handy:
- A diaper
- Baby wipes
- Diaper rash cream
- Wet towel
When cleaning a boy, never push back the foreskin if he is not circumcised. As for girls, always wipe from front to back to avoid bringing fecal bacteria to the vaginal area. The umbilical cord does not require any particular care except that you must keep it dry. If for some reason it becomes dirty, then simply use a q-tip or soft washcloth to clean it.
Change your baby on a sturdy surface. If you are using a changing table, use the straps on the changing pad to secure your baby on the pad. You would be surprised how quickly a squirming baby can move – better safe than sorry! Keep track of how many bowel movements the baby has so that you can report it to your pediatrician during your baby’s checkup.
Bathing Your Baby
Until your baby’s umbilical cord falls off, you cannot fully bathe them. The way to keep baby clean until you can officially bathe him is by giving them a sponge bath. A sponge bath means giving the baby a cleansing bath without any submerging or dousing with water.
Have the following ready:
- A flat, safe surface to lay the baby on. Spread a towel or changing pad on this area
- A warm room
- Bathing supplies such as baby soap, a wash towel, cotton balls, baby shampoo, a towel to wrap the baby in before the sponge bath and a clean towel to dry him with afterwards
- A small basin filled with warm water – please check to make sure the water is not too hot or cold
Once ready, undress the baby, wrap them in a towel and then get to work. Do not put too much soap on the towel because then you will have soap on the baby that you may not be able to completely rinse off. Here is a tip: Place a few drops of soap in a basin and dip the wash towel in the sudsy water. You can use cotton balls to wipe the baby’s eye lids paying extra attention not to leave any lint behind that can get into the baby’s eye.
What to wash? Everywhere you would normally wash yourself; the head, ears, behind ears, face, hands, torso (skip the umbilical area, this must stay dry until the stump falls off), armpits etc.
Once the umbilical stump falls off, then baby is ready for a real bath! Click here to read how to properly and safely give your baby a bath.
When to See a Doctor
A pediatrician must exam your baby within the first 36 hours of birth. After that you will be visiting your pediatrician every couple of weeks for immunizations and wellness visits. Every doctor is different some may request to see the baby right after he/she is born and then again a couple of weeks or days later. Things like jaundice and problems eating will not be apparent until 3-4 days after birth.
What Will the Doctor Check For?
Immunizations, monitoring and keeping track of baby’s growth and development & eating habits are a few items your pediatrician will check. These visits are also for you to ask any questions and voice any concerns you may have about your baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your baby get well visits at 2 week intervals than at 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18 months after which once a year. In between these visits if you notice anything out of the routine for your baby then it’s time to visit your doctor. You should contact your pediatrician for some of the following:
- Excessive crying especially after eating
- Eating less
- Seems cranky, cries more than usual
If you need help finding a pediatrician, we would be more than happy to refer you to one of our amazing team of doctors. Just stop by, call or email us and we can get you started on your journey to find the right pediatrician for you and your new, beautiful baby!