As a new parent, you will likely have numerous questions about newborn care and your baby’s development. The internet, bookstores, family, and friends can offer a wealth of information, but at times, too much help may feel overwhelming.
In addition, as you approach your due date, your questions may multiply, and it can be challenging to figure out what is old baby information versus the most current tips and guidance.
Consider this article your new parent guide as we walk through the essential tips and information to get life with your new baby off to a perfect start!
The Baby is Born, Now What?
Once the whirlwind of labor and delivery has passed and you’re home with your new bundle of joy, you may wonder, “what do I do now”? Many first-time parents feel an overwhelming sense of doubt on how to care for their new baby.
The first days home will seem long and tiring; however, it is important to remember that you can do this and that asking for help is OK!
Asking for Help
The old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” exists because, in many cultures, new parents have their mother, sisters, and neighbors to assist. However, in our modern society, families often live far apart, we may not know our neighbors, and we may be the first of our friends to have a baby. Our village can seem incredibly small when this is the case, but remember that you are never alone.
- If your family isn’t close, arrange for a grandparent or aunt, or uncle to stay with you the first week or two after the baby is born.
- If possible, have your partner take parental leave for the first few weeks.
- Consider hiring a mother’s helper to assist at home. Mother’s helpers are like babysitters, but they help the parents out while they’re still home.
- Ask friends to come by and cook and clean and take care of the baby, so you can take a nap, a shower, or go for a walk around the neighborhood alone.
- Work with a lactation consultant if you need help breastfeeding and ask your pediatrician about any concerns or questions you may have about your baby’s development.
- Ask nurses and doctors at the hospital for tips on breast or bottle feeding, how and when to use a pacifier, and the correct way to swaddle.
Before bringing your baby home, there are a few baby basics you need to be familiar with to take care of your baby’s needs and to keep everyone healthy. Your pediatrician is an excellent source of information, and there are many wonderful and helpful baby and parenting books available.
1. Prior to leaving the hospital, you must have an infant car seat properly installed. A nurse will check the installation of your car seat before your departure.
2. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
- Before and after diaper changes.
- Before and after eating or preparing food.
- After using the restroom.
- When coming home or in from playing outside.
- After coughing or sneezing into your hands or using a tissue.
3. NEVER shake or roughly handle a crying baby
- Set your baby down in a safe place like their crib when you feel overwhelmed and take a 10-15 minute break.
- Call a friend or family member to vent or seek support.
- Listen to music or do some deep breathing exercises.
4. Always support your baby’s head when holding them for the first few months. Your baby should be able to support their head by 4-months old.
5. Because a newborn’s immune system is weak, and because of the added concern of the coronavirus pandemic, it is wise to limit who can visit and hold your infant in the early days. You may even consider asking any visitor except you and your partner to wear a mask while holding your baby.
Create a low SIDS risk environment
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS is the unexplained death of a child under the age of one. While there is no full-proof way to prevent SIDS, there are many steps that parents can take to reduce the risk.
- Keep the baby’s room cool, 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Do not use pillows or blankets in the crib.
- Do not place stuffed animals in the crib.
- Have your baby use a pacifier when sleeping.
- Use a firm mattress and a fitted sheet.
- Do not place any cords near your baby’s crib.
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep. To prevent soft spots from forming, regularly engage your child in tummy time while he or she is awake.
- Do not smoke around your baby or expose them to cigarette smoke.
Growth of a Newborn Baby
A newborn baby grows rapidly during the first year, and new parents often have a laundry list of questions about developmental milestones. This section will address baby sleep, growth and development, feeding schedules, and other health information.
Factors that Affect Baby’s Size and Growth
Several factors may affect your baby’s birth weight and growth.
- Length of the pregnancy; was the baby preterm or delivered late?
- Size of the parents; obese mothers are more likely to give birth to overweight babies.
- Multiple births: twins and triplets will weigh less than single births.
- Birth order, as first babies, tend to weigh less than second or third ones.
- Gender, boys tend to weigh more than girls of the same age.
- Health and nutrition during pregnancy.
- Your child’s health and medical conditions.
Newborn Growth & Feeding
- Most newborns lose weight the first week that they are home, but after two weeks they should gain about an ounce a day for the first six months.
- Breastfed babies grow slightly faster in the first three months than formula-fed babies.
- 0-6 months babies drink about 25-40 ounces of breastmilk or formula a day.
- Newborn babies may eat every 1-2 hours, especially if breastfed.
- Burp your baby after each feeding. You can hold them over your shoulder or lean them forward by supporting them with your forearm and hand. Pat their back with gentle force until they burp.
- Your baby should grow an additional one to one and a half inches in length by one month old.
Newborn Sleep Schedules
- Newborns will sleep 14-17 hours over 24 hours; however, they should not sleep more than 5 hours at a time without feeding.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing but not bed-sharing for infants under four months old.
- Use a bassinet or side sleeper for the first four months of life.
- By four to five months, transition your baby to a crib so they can learn how to self-soothe and begin sleeping through the night.
Feeding your baby solids early DOES NOT help your baby sleep through the night. Your baby will begin sleeping through the night (5-6 hours at a time) once they are developmentally ready, around four to five months.
What Can A Newborn Baby Do?
When looking at a newborn baby, it may seem there is little they can do, but newborns are developing rapidly and picking up new skills daily! Much of your baby’s initial development will revolve around reflexes; however, they will also learn new skills as they observe and interact with their environment.
- Rooting reflex.
- The rooting reflex helps your baby find the nipple or bottle to feed. Stroke your baby’s cheek to have them turn in the direction needed.
- Sucking reflex.
- The sucking reflex helps your baby feed. However, by 2-3 months, it will be a learned behavior and no longer a reflex.
- Moro reflex.
- The Moro reflex is also known as the startle reflex. When your baby is startled, their arms and legs will reflexively go out, and they may have a startled look on their face. This reflex typically disappears between 2 and 4 months.
- Tonic neck reflex.
- The tonic neck reflex occurs when your baby is lying on its back. Their arms and legs will form the “fencing “ position when their head is moved gently to the side.
- Grasp reflex.
- The grasp reflex occurs when you place something in your baby’s palm. When they feel the object, they will instinctively form a fist around it.
- Babinski reflex
- The Babinski reflex occurs when the bottom of your baby’s foot is stroked. When your baby’s foot is stroked, their big toe will arch backward. This reflex should disappear by the age of two.
- Step reflex.
- The stepping reflex occurs when you hold your baby to bear weight on their feet. It will appear as if they are stepping forward.
Crying is your baby’s primary method of communication, so you must learn to interpret their cries and meanings. For example, babies will cry when hungry, tired, need a diaper change, are over or under-stimulated, in pain, sick, or scared.
Non-Verbal Infant Communication
- Your baby will turn their head away from the breast or bottle when full.
- Your baby may scrunch their face up or turn red when having a bowel movement.
- Your baby may rub their eyes or yawn when sleepy.
- Your baby may reach for you or a toy when they want to play.
- Your baby may look around and begin to fuss when they are bored or lonely.
Ways to Support Your Baby’s Development
- Hold your baby face to face; babies love human faces. Use mirrors and read books to them with pictures of faces.
- Maintain a soothing tone and a friendly voice. The more you speak to your baby, the more it helps their language development.
- A baby’s eyes are not fully developed and can only see objects 8-15 inches away. They also initially prefer objects in black and white or with stark contrasting colors like red, yellow, and blue.
- Sing to your baby. Babies are soothed by music and by your voice. You don’t need to sing actual songs or use words. Instead, you can hum or speak in a sing-song voice.
- Take your baby for strolls. Babies can become bored and understimulated by always being in the same environment. Put them in a stroller or a baby carrier and go for a walk; it’ll be good for your health too!
- Swaddle your baby. If your baby has difficulty settling down or sleeping, use a swaddle or blanket to mimic the comfort of the womb.
- Gently rock your baby to calm them. A Nurture& Glider is the perfect place to relax while you sing, comfort, and feed your baby.
- To help your baby create a secure attachment, respond quickly to your newborn’s cries. You cannot spoil a newborn with too many cuddles or too much love.
- However, if you are overwhelmed by a baby you cannot seem to soothe, it is better to take a break and allow them to cry in a safe spot, like their crib.
- After four months, you can begin delaying your reactions and allow your baby the opportunity to learn self-soothing techniques.
Newborns go through a lot of diapers, on average 10-15 per day! So to prepare you for your new baby, here are the ins and outs of changing a newborn’s diaper.
- Before changing your baby’s diaper, assemble the needed supplies on the changing table: a clean diaper, diaper wipes, ointment.
- Until your baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off, you must fold down the front portion of your baby’s diaper so it doesn’t rub and irritate your baby’s skin.
- Clean your baby’s genitals from front to back. This is especially important for girls, who are more prone to UTIs.
- Be aware that if you have a boy, exposure to the air could cause him to urinate. Keeping a clean diaper handy to place over his genitals immediately could prevent a big mess!
- If you decide to have a circumcision for your son, you must take care when changing his diapers until the wound heals.
- Clean the wound with every diaper change.
- Allow the wound to air dry before putting on a clean diaper.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s advice on how to dress the wound to prevent abrasion.
- Diaper rashes can and will occur. A thin layer of Vaseline works well to prevent diaper rash in most instances. Some babies have sensitive skin and may be allergic to the ingredients in different ointments.
- If you notice your baby’s rash becoming worse when ointment is applied, talk to your pediatrician about allergy-free options.Allow your baby to go bare bottom for part of the day, which can also help prevent diaper rash.
- NEVER leave a baby unattended on a changing table.
Newborns and young infants do not need to bathe daily; in fact, too many baths can dry out a baby’s sensitive skin. Until your baby’s circumcision and or umbilical cord wound heals, you should give your baby sponge baths and avoid submerging the wound in water.
Baby Care Bath Tips
- Use warm, not hot water.
- Use soft baby washcloths.
- Use unscented soap.
- Use a soft-bristled, baby hairbrush.
- Use a soft, hooded infant towel.
Having a newborn is a lot of work, but the rewards are greater! Remember, help is always there for the asking, and if needed, you can hire a local high school or college student to work as a mother’s helper.
In addition, take breaks when needed to support your mental health and use your pediatrician and childcare provider as a trusted source of information and guidance.
Finally, be sure to bookmark this article as your go-to source and guide for newborn care!