The first days and nights with your baby can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time parent.
“One of the most important things you can do is try to relax, especially if you’ve decided to breastfeed,” said Dr. Jessica Tattershall, a pediatrician with the Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics office in Austintown. “The more you stress, the less likely your milk will come in.”
To help you settle into a routine with the newest addition to your family, Dr. Tattershall offers these tips.
Bringing baby home
The ride home from the hospital will probably be a little nerve-racking with such precious cargo on board. Before baby’s arrival, choose and install a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of your car, so it’s ready to go.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most car seats are improperly installed. Akron Children’s offers car seat safety checks through Safe Kids Summit County and Safe Kids Mahoning Valley. Your local police or fire department may also offer this service.
Feeding your baby
Generally, it’s recommended that babies be fed on demand, whenever they are hungry. Your baby may cry, put his fingers in his mouth or make sucking noises when he’s ready to eat.
A newborn baby needs to be fed every 2 to 3 hours. If you’re breastfeeding, nurse your baby for 10 to 15 minutes at each breast. If you’re formula-feeding, your baby will likely take about 2 to 3 ounces at each feeding.
Some newborns may need to be awakened every few hours to make sure they get enough to eat. Call your baby’s doctor if you need to wake her frequently or if she doesn’t seem interested in eating or sucking.
If you’re formula feeding, you can easily monitor if your baby is getting enough to eat, but if you’re breastfeeding, it can be a little trickier. If your baby seems satisfied, sleeps well and is gaining weight, then he’s probably getting enough.
“Newborns should produce about 1 wet diaper for every day of life and have 2 to 5 bowel movements a day, although more is OK,” said Dr. Tattershall. “If your baby has less than that, she may not be getting enough breast milk.”
Another good way to tell if your baby is getting enough is to notice if your breasts feel full before you feed your baby and less full after.
“Keep the number of the lactation consultant you met at the hospital handy, in case you have any questions or concerns,” she said.
Newborns typically sleep for periods of 2 to 4 hours for a total of about 16 hours a day. Don’t let your baby sleep longer than 3 to 4 hours, because he will need to feed before then.
So that you get enough sleep, try to sleep when your baby sleeps. This can be challenging if you have other children and want to spend some one-on-one time with them. Take advantage of family and friends who want to help to ensure you get enough rest.
Follow the ABCs of safe sleep. Babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs, and in a Crib to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Your baby should be placed on a firm mattress without any fluffy bedding, quilts, stuffed animals or pillows in the crib to ensure she doesn’t get tangled in them or suffocate.
The first bath
“One of the most frequent questions new parents have is when can they give their baby a bath,” said Dr. Tattershall. “Until the umbilical cord falls off, which usually takes about 7 to 14 days, you should only give sponge baths.”
Keeping the naval area dry until it’s healed will prevent infection. If your doctor recommends it, you can dab it with rubbing alcohol. It’s normal for the cord stump to change from yellow to brown to black, but call your doctor if there’s any redness, a strong odor or discharge.
Once you can begin bathing baby, 2 to 3 times a week during the first year is fine. More frequent bathing may dry the skin.
Introducing your baby to visitors
It’s OK to limit visitors during the first couple of months. This will give you more time to rest and prevent your baby from getting over-stimulated. Everyone who visits should be healthy. They should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before holding your baby.
All family members who will be in close contact with your baby should get the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster and a flu shot. Until your baby can be fully vaccinated, making sure those around him are vaccinated is the best way to protect him.
“This is an exciting time in your life and soon you and your baby will settle into a routine,” said Dr. Tattershall. “A great habit to start right away is reading to your baby every day. This will promote bonding, as well as early language and brain development.”