You Have a Baby–Now What?

newborn-baby-care5A new born baby has landed in your arms. Now what? I remember sitting in my hospital bed with my firstborn in my arms wondering how everything outside the window could go on as usual when everything inside my hospital room and in my life had changed.

The trip home from the hospital took a while. My husband, who usually entered the freeway like a teenager with a death wish, now drove below the speed limit in the slow lane. All the way home. At a horse and buggy speed we slowly approached our daughter’s first home. Less than twenty four hours after leaving the home as a couple,we returned,a family of three.

If You Forget Everything Else, Just Remember This

If you have no, or very little experience taking care of a child, don’t worry. There are plenty of books out there that will help you figure out all of the technicalities of caring for a newborn baby. If you’ve read numerous books and still feel nervous, just remember the three main components to caring for a newborn: feeding, changing, and supporting the head.

The first weeks probably seem like one long period of nothing but feedings and diaper changes. Sleep deprivation can be tough. Make sure you sleep and rest whenever you get a chance. If you own a bassinet that is level with your bed —great. (They also have the ones that hook onto your bed frame which is even greater.) I prefer this to the family bed at this early stage. Having the baby in a separate bed next to yours makes it easier for you to get the sleep you need without worrying about the safety of your baby. Yet, you can easily reach over to that tiny little creature when you feel the need to.

How to Create Some Sort of Structure

After a few weeks, you’ll hopefully discover that your days will form some sort of pattern. Your confidence grows as you learn to read your baby’s signals. If you feel as though things are still a big blur with no beginning and no end, here are a few tips to get into some kind of flow:

Since the strongest urge, for small and large humans alike, is to fend off hunger, start by feeding your baby as soon as she wakes up. When she is about halfway done eating, take a break, burp her and change her diaper. Then finish the feeding until your baby is absolutely full, followed by burping your little one once more. That last bit of nourishment is usually what makes a baby feel secure enough to go to sleep.

When your baby is five or six weeks old, you might want to start separating days from nights. This means keeping the noise level low and the room as dark as possible during the night feeding. Even the youngest of babies can get over stimulated, so this is not the time to bring in the disco balls and the high school marching band.

I found that bathing a baby late in the evening also helps her relax and prepare for a longer sleep period. (This also helps a colicky baby.) Don’t bother getting one of those bath tubs with a built in seat. There is nothing relaxing about having half your body above water while you’re being splashed like a beached whale. Instead, get a tub that lets your little one float in the water while resting her head on the inside of your lower arm. Grasp her upper arm with your hand to keep the baby secure, while you gently wash her with your free hand. I have seen too many parents (and overworked nurses) scrub newborns like these tiny things have been mud wrestling. You are not cleaning your skunk sprayed dog. This is supposed to be an enjoyable, relaxing, soothing and quiet experience. When the bath is over, dress her in soft pjs, see if she’ll take a bit more food, burp her and the baby will usually fall asleep. (Still awake and crying? Continue reading here.)

These first weeks, when daylight and darkness might be the only ways you mark time, can be exhausting. Take lots of pictures. A lack of sleep can erase precious as well as not so great moments from your mind. With pictures you have future proof that you were actually present.