How to care for a newborn baby

How can a woman care for her newborn baby?

The first weeks of parenthood are a wonderful time. Getting to know your brand new son or daughter for the first time is a magical experience for any woman. However, this time can also be fraught with worry. This is especially true if this is your first baby. Knowing how to care for your newborn baby can be tricky for new moms, and unless you have experienced mothers on hand to offer their wisdom, you may find yourself worrying about whether you are doing the right thing for your little one. To help you out in these early days, our experts have compiled a list of top tip to help you be a great mom to your new arrival whilst taking care of yourself, too.

Know how to put baby to bed safely

In the olden days, little thought was given to how baby slept. In fact, people were even known to pull out the bottom drawer of their dresser and put little one to sleep in there. However, it’s now known that safe sleeping habits are vital for your baby’s development and also to prevent SIDS, which is why baby’s bedtime can be such a source of worry to parents. So, that’s why establishing how to put a baby in bed safely is smack-bang at the top of our list.

The safest sleeping location for a brand new baby is on a safe surface within an arm's reach of mom. Cosleeping comes in many forms (whether a cot or side-car crib next to the bed, or on the same surface). For those choosing to cosleep on the same surface (bedsharing) a firm mattress without dips and pockets and pillows is important. Are there any times when cosleeping should not occur with a newborn? If your baby was born significantly early, with a low weight, if you or your partner smoke, are otherwise intoxicated (drugs or alcohol), then cosleeping is likely not best.

For those who choose to put your baby to bed in a crib of their own, the best position for them is on their back. This leaves their face completely open to the air, which significantly reduces the risk of SIDS. For the same reason, you should not use a pillow in the crib as these can cause suffocation in young babies. Also, putting them to bed with their feet at the foot of the crib prevents them from wriggling under the covers, as can using a baby sleeping bag instead of blankets or a quilt. Make sure that the crib is away from heaters so baby doesn’t get too warm in the night.

A final word to the wise: you may find that, after a long period of lying on their back, your newborn can develop a flattened area on the back of their head. Why does this flattened patch occur? Well, you baby’s skull bones are still quite soft at this stage, and not yet fully fused together. The solution to this is to allow your baby to lie on their front for a while - for naps, for example. However, you should always watch your baby extremely diligently when they are on their front to notice any breathing difficulty. Never leave a baby alone lying on their front. Babywearing during the day is another perfect solution to flat head formation.

Choose the best baby crib mattress

Following on from our first tip, the mattress that you use in baby’s crib is just as important. However, relatively few parents know how to choose the ideal mattress for a newborn infant. So, what should you look for when you’re crib mattress shopping?

The first thing you should look for is a mattress that’s very firm to the touch. This may sound counterintuitive: after all, wouldn’t you want your baby to have a soft and cosy bed? However, there are some very good reasons for opting for firm. First of all, a firm crib mattress gives your baby’s body the support it needs to grow healthy bones and joints. This is absolutely vital for their overall physical development. Also, a firm mattress does not allow baby’s head to sink in, which protects against SIDS. So, when you’re looking at crib mattresses, test it by pressing down with your hand. Remember, a mattress that is suitable and comfortable for a baby is much firmer than what will feel comfortable to your adult tastes.

Furthermore, you should look for a mattress that fits flush to the sides of your crib or Moses basket without any gaps. For this reason, it’s important to measure the dimensions of your baby’s crib before you head to the store. Gaps can be dangerous because tiny limbs or even heads can easily get stuck in the gaps, which can cause some nasty injuries.

What about a second-hand mattress? Lots of new parents are offered a used crib mattress by friends or family but don’t know whether it’s safe to use. In general, the best thing to do is to buy a brand new mattress for each baby. However, if the mattress is in very good condition and has been kept hygienically, then this can be a great way to save some money and also recycle a product that can still be used. However, if the mattress has any visible sagging, feels lumpy, or has staining, then it’s best to avoid it and buy a new bed.

A final tip: you could consider opting for a foam or coil crib mattress. These are great value because they have a firm side that is safe and suitable for a new baby, and a softer side which is better for a toddler’s needs. So, your child will be able to continue to use their mattress until they’re ready to graduate to a real bed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

As you’ll no doubt have discovered, with all the excitement can come a whole heap of new worries. For this reason, it’s important that you have support around you in the early days, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed. If you and your partner are first-time parents, this can be even more important.

Before you even set foot out of the hospital, ask to find what expert advice and support is available for you. Many hospitals have advisers who can help you with all manner of mattress relating to newborn care including breastfeeding advice.

Friends and family can be a great source of practical and emotional support during the early days of parenthood. People who have already experienced the challenges of raising a newborn can be a wealth of knowledge and can provide you with the reassurance that you’re doing just great. Furthermore, you’ll probably find that loved ones are more than happy to pitch in and help if they’re rewarded with plenty of baby cuddles.

If you don’t have friends and family on-hand or need extra help on top, you could consider hiring in help. There are various options available, and which one you go for depends on your family’s circumstances. You could hire a full or part-time nanny who is able to take sole care of the baby if you need a rest, or a mother’s help to support you to look after baby yourself and help out with chores around the house. Although less common, some mothers like to hire a specialist post-birth doula to support them through the early days of parenthood.

Learn how to hold your baby

Some parents are surprised by how delicate their newborn baby feels, and it’s perfectly normal to feel afraid of hurting your baby. However, by bearing a few simple tips in mind you’ll be able to handle your baby confidently, knowing that they are safe and secure. Make sure that everyone who will be holding your baby is educated on how to do so properly.

First, know that hand-washing is obligatory before you pick up a newborn baby. This helps to prevent germs spreading from your hands to your little one, as their immune system is not yet fully developed. Do not allow guests or loved ones to touch your baby without clean hands, especially if they are a smoker. As a rule, it’s best to keep anyone who has recently been unwell away from your baby until they are fully recovered.

When you pick your baby up, it’s important to support their head fully with your hand. That’s because a new baby has not yet developed the ability to hold their head up independently, so their head will flop back if left unsupported. It’s also important to remember that your baby isn’t yet old enough for any type of playing that involves jiggling. That’s because any kind of shaking motion can cause brain damage in infants this young.

Practice proper diapering

You won’t be at all surprised to learn that new babies need their diapers changed a whole lot. In fact, you should expect to be changing those diapers on average around 10 times daily or even more during the early days. So, knowing how to change a diaper is of course of key importance.

The first thing you must remember is to get everything you need ready to hand before you even go near that stinky diaper. That’s because leaving a baby unattended on a changing table or mat is very dangerous, so you won’t be able to go fetch anything once you’ve started. So, make sure that you have fresh diapers, baby wipes, ointment and disposal bags before you embark on the diaper change.

You should change your baby if the nappy feels wet, or if you are aware that they’ve pooped. It’s unhygienic and uncomfortable for your baby to be left in a wet or soiled nappy, and this can also cause diaper rash. If you’ve got a bouncy baby boy on your hands- watch out! Removing a nappy from a baby boy hastily can lead to major regrets, as the sensation of sudden cold air can cause your baby to start peeing. If you have a baby girl, make sure you wipe her clean from front to back. Otherwise, bacteria from a bowel movement could cause her to develop a urinary infection. If you see any signs of diaper rash, apply ointment once your baby is clean before putting on the fresh diaper.

The final word

Although those first days with your newborn can be thrilling, they can also be challenging, exhausting and worrying. For this reason, it’s important to take care of yourself as well so that you can be the best possible mom to your newborn. Never be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help or support during these early days, especially if you are struggling to cope or are feeling in a low mood. What you are experiencing is a common part of new parenthood, but you should not feel you have to suffer in silence if you are finding things tough.

Hopefully, you now feel a bit more confident on some simple ways to care for your little one when you first bring them home. Remember, no new parent is perfect and as long as baby is safe and healthy, you’re doing a great job! Congratulations and enjoy bonding with your new arrival.

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