You’ve planned, you’ve anticipated, and the big day has finally arrived: you are bringing home your new baby. Whether the child is biologically yours or you have adopted, you can expect your life to change. For simplicity’s sake, we are going to assume that the baby you are bringing home is a newborn. Introducing older children is a little bit different, but can share some of the same challenges.
The First Two Weeks
Even if you are used to children and have helped care for a baby before, having full responsibility for a new life is an enormity that won’t really hit until you have your little one at home. Baby care can be reduced to four main issues: feeding, clean-up, cuddling and sleep. All four are essential to your baby’s physical and mental well-being. Incidentally, if you are a psychology buff, they follow the first three levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.
You’ve probably already made the decision whether to breastfeed or use formula. Many experienced moms will tell you that breastfeeding is the easiest and most natural way to feed a baby. There are no bottles to clean, nothing to mix, and – usually – less colic, spit-up, or other digestive problems. The new mother is going to be a bit sore, even if she had a textbook perfect natural birth, and she will be a bit tired. It is important to keep her well supplied with nutritious food and lots to drink. She could also use some emotional support – but that is a different topic.
An important piece of furniture for your home is a comfortable armchair-style rocker that will allow the new mother to sit up and to have a nice armrest to brace the elbow that is holding the baby. The goal is to be able to sit or semi-recline comfortably while holding a feeding infant.
If breastfeeding, the mom should have on hand a supply of good-quality nursing pads. These fit inside her bra to help prevent stains from leaking nipples. Change them often, as the moisture can cause chafing.
If bottle feeding, you will want a minimum of one dozen baby bottles, extra nipples, the baby formula your doctor recommends, a tea kettle, a bottle sterilizer, and several gallons of distilled water. Sterilize the bottles by placing them on a rack in a pan, and bringing the water to a boil. Turn off the heat as soon as boiling temperatures are reached, and let the water cool.
Prepare the formula according to package directions. It should be at skin temperature before giving it to the baby – neither too hot or too cold. It needs to be “just right” for your baby bear. Prepping and waiting can be a real challenge at 3:00 am, when the baby wakes and needs to be fed. The formula should flow out of the nipple on the bottle with minimal sucking, but not so quickly that the baby will choke. The child should be held in a semi-sitting position for easy swallowing.[amazon_link asins='B0793GS3NS,B07BRKFS24,0544713583,1419708457,B06XMRCC94,B07682VPVJ,B071S6RCRJ,B003VNKLI4' template='ProductCarousel' store='us-1' marketplace='US' link_id='002c6402-f337-11e8-8d3d-7b06ff466e18']
As your baby nurses, whether at the breast or from a bottle, he or she will make these cute little piggy sounds, and will naturally snuggle in to you. Your instinct is likely to be to cuddle and snuggle back. This is absolutely normal, and you should indulge your little one as much as possible on this front. Human touch is an essential part of baby development, and starts your baby on the road toward socialization. It is part of developing a bond between you. If mom is breastfeeding, let dad take over some of the burping and snuggling – not all of it, of course. But enough to give the new mother some relief and to help begin to build a bond between father and child.
Room sharing with your newborn infant is recommended. Bed sharing is not. Room sharing allows parents to quickly hear changes and to check on the infant at the first whimper or cry.
Babies need to eat often. Newborns have little tummies and cannot hold a lot of food, so they need to eat often. Breastmilk metabolizes more quickly than formula, so breastfed babies are likely to need to eat every two to three hours. Bottle fed babies are likely to need to eat every three to four hours.
Hold your child until he or she is thoroughly asleep. Remove the bottle or breast before the baby is all the way asleep to ensure that the last milk is swallowed. Milk that rests against the gums during sleep can promote cavities when the baby teeth begin to emerge.
Place the sleeping baby carefully on its back on a firm mattress in a crib, bassinet or other contained area so that the little one isn’t likely to roll off the surface during sleep. If your home is warm and the baby is in a warm sleeper, there is no need to swaddle or tuck the infant in heavy blankets. In fact, it is recommended to not have blankets, fuzzy toys or pillows in the crib with the baby. With these best practices for infant care, which were introduced in 1998, incidents of SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – have been reduced significantly.
Change diapers as soon as you are aware that the baby is wet or soiled. Whether you are using cloth or disposable diapers, or some sort of hybrid, keeping the baby clean and dry is a preventative measure that will help prevent diaper rash. Diaper rash can range from a mild, itchy redness to open sores. If diaper rash persists, consider changing diaper brands or types. If you are using cloth diapers, try changing your laundry detergent, diapering ointments or anything else that might touch baby’s skin. Modern parents have a wide variety of diapers from which to choose. Your baby’s health should always be your first consideration.
What All This Means to You
You are going to be tired. Just the feeding schedule alone can be a challenge those first two or three weeks. Your social life is likely to shrink to watching Netflix at two or three am while your infant makes cute little chugging sounds and kneads your pajama shirt like a kitten. Your general housekeeping standards, right at the time when they are ultimately important, are likely to degrade ever so slightly. Your emotions are likely to behave like a yoyo on a string – up, because this is the most important thing you’ve ever done in your life. Down, because this is the most tiring, scariest and biggest responsibility you’ve ever taken on in your life.
It is also the most beautiful time in your entire life. You have a beautiful baby boy or girl entrusted to you. Your new little one is completely dependent on you for everything. In spite of the two am feedings, the spit-up on your best shirt, having to go back and change both your clothes – from the skin out – twice before getting out the door to go to an important meeting, your baby will fill up a part of your emotional self that you didn’t even know was missing until you held this little one in your arms.
Cuddle, pet your baby’s soft, fuzzy hair, treasure the way he or she becomes so heavy and limp when falling asleep. Appreciate the way your little snuggles into your neck with immense trust. Sing to him or her, hold that warmth as long as you can because in just a very short while will come those first steps toward separation – rolling over, first words, first steps, first day of school, and – before you know it – first job and first grandchild.
Babyhood is like a geode, a beautiful, precious moment in time like no other. Collect every moment as if it were gold.
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