What to Expect When Taking Care of a Newborn
There is no greater feeling than holding your child for the very first time. After my baby girl was born, I did not want to let her go...
But to be honest, I kind of thought I’d have to on the first night...
I thought she would be taken to the nursery (some hospitals do this).
That was not the case. Our nurse informed us, “she’s all yours.”
I was thrilled, but wow I was scared too. I never even changed a diaper before then!
I couldn’t sleep, partially due to the adrenaline, but I wanted to stay up all night just to watch her—make sure nothing bad could happen to her.
The good news is, while taking care of a newborn, you learn on the job and you learn QUICKLY.
The first few weeks are simple but not easy. Sure it’s exhausting, but your little one actually has a pretty short list of needs:
- Too hot/cold
- Needs to be changed
- Gassy (or doesn't feel well)
Since your baby’s only way of communication is crying, don’t panic when you hear him or her scream! It’s just a matter of figuring out what they're asking for.
Also remember, there are no absolutes when it comes to this parenthood thing. No two babies are the same, so don’t think twice if you are handling a situation differently than your neighbor.
MASTER HOW TO PUT A BABY IN A SWADDLE
Swaddling is truly an art form. It looks a lot easier than it is; however, this technique is worth the practice.
The tightness and warmth of a swaddle are calming to most babies and it make them feel secure, replicating their time in the womb.
Swaddles are also safer for babies when they sleep because they are less likely to turn on their stomachs and suffocate.
FIND A GOOD ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR BABY
My husband and I were confused when our baby would not go to sleep in the bassinet the first night we were home, although, we had a theory that it might be too cold.
The temperature in our hospital room was not as chilly as our house. It was the middle of summer, so our air conditioning was on 64 degrees. We turned the temperature up to 72 degrees and what do you know, we had a much happier baby!
Make sure your little one isn’t too hot or too cold if they’re fussy. The rule of thumb for clothing is dress them in same the amount of layers you are wearing, plus one.
LEARN HOW TO GIVE A NEWBORN A SPONGE BATH
The first couple of weeks you will be giving your baby sponge baths because you need to avoid getting the umbilical cord wet.
Here’s a run-down of how it should go:
First, clean the baby’s eyes. Use different parts of a damp washcloth for each eye and wipe down the eyelids gently (use only warm water on the washcloth—no soap). Then use the damp washcloth to clean the rest of the face and ears.
Next, add some soap to the washcloth. Work your way down the neck, making sure you get under those rolls; milk can dry on a baby’s neck after a feeding and get yucky and gross.
Continue to get all of those crevices, such as behind the knees, armpits, and elbows. Wash the belly, back, arms, legs, feet, and hands… saving the private parts for last.
Before you clean the genitals, you also want to wash your baby’s hair. Using baby shampoo, gently massage the scalp just as you would wash your own hair. Be extremely careful not to get water/soap in the baby’s eyes.
Wash the baby’s genitals thoroughly last and then give him or her a fresh diaper. Pat dry with a towel!
HOW TO FEED AN INFANT
There are many different ways you can go about this. You could breastfeed, pump, use formula, or any combination of those three.
I actually did all of the above. My milk supply was too low at first, so I had to supplement at least once a day with formula.
Everyone is different and I’m not here to tell you which way to go… the important thing is that your baby is fed.
Make sure your baby eats at least 8 times in a 24 hour window. Until you establish a schedule, write down when you feed the baby and how much they drink. My husband and I wrote everything down on a dry erase board on our fridge.
Some people will advise you to wake your baby up every 2 hours to feed, but if my girl was sleeping, I did not wake her unless I had to. Again, as long as your little one is eating enough (and you’ll know based on the weight they gain), then you’re doing fine.
HOW DO YOU GET SLEEP WITH A NEWBORN?
Newborns sleep 16-18 hours a day on average. Your baby will hopefully sleep in at least 2 hour increments. If you’re lucky, maybe longer…
How do you handle this irregular schedule when it's time for you to sleep? Your call!
You and your partner could take turns. Every time the baby cries, you switch who handles the situation.
Or you can work like my husband and I did, which is by "shifts." My husband would watch our baby from 6:00pm-2:00am and I would watch her from 2:00am-10:00am. The reason we did it this way is so that we would both get a turn at uninterrupted sleep. We knew that even if we took turns (the way most people do) we would still wake up every time the baby cried and then struggle to fall back asleep.
Now of course my turn to sleep was not exactly consecutive… I did have to wake up to pump in the middle of the night. I would also pump breast milk ahead of time so my husband could feed our girl during his shift.
We also agreed that if we needed help during our shift, we would wake the other one up without any hesitation or consequences. Communication is key!
HOW OFTEN SHOULD MY NEWBORN POOP AND PEE?
There’s pretty easy potty guidelines to follow the first few days of a newborn’s life. You need to keep track of your baby’s progress to make sure he or she is getting the nutrition they need. If you can remember, write down the times of poops and pees in a day… your pediatrician will ask.
Day 1, expect 1 poopy diaper.
Day 2, expect 2 poopy diapers.
Day 3, expect 3 poopy diapers.
Day 4, expect 4 poopy diapers.
Day 5, expect 5 poopy diapers.
When it comes to wet diapers from urine, you should see a similar pattern.
Day 1, expect at least 1 wet diaper.
Days 2-4, expect 3 or more wet diapers daily.
Days 5-6, expect 4 or more wet diapers daily.
Day 6+, expect 5 or more wet diapers daily.
If you’re breastfeeding, the number of wet diapers may be lower until your milk supply comes in.
After the first week, your baby’s pee pattern should remain at an average of 6-8 wet diapers daily and your baby’s poop pattern will actually become more sporadic. As long as the colors and texture are normal, you should be fine.
Color & Texture of Healthy Poop:
Your baby’s first poops will be a blackish/greenish color and have a sticky texture like tar. After a few days, for breastfed babies, the poop will turn to a mustard yellow/brown color and have a liquidy, seedy texture. For formula fed babies, their poops will be a tannish/brownish/greenish color and be a bit thicker.
BONDING WITH MY BABY
There are small things you can be doing every day to bond with your baby.
Positive interactions between parent and child are essential for your infant's social, emotional, and cognitive development. Additionally, by connecting with your sweetie, you can foster a safe environment and establish trust.
Things like eye contact, skin-to-skin contact, responding to cries, talking/reading/singing to your baby, dancing, rocking, being silly, kisses, and tummy time are all ways you can build a relationship with your newborn.
ALL IN ALL...
There will be crying.
There will be poop.
There will be fighting with your partner (if you’re human).
But, there also will be milestones. Adorable ones.
Snuggles, smiles, and hand-holding!
When it comes to every decision you make about your newborn, embrace whatever works for your family—guilt free! Communicate with another and never compare your journey to someone else’s. Comparison is the thief of joy, and you are not a failure if something doesn’t go as planned.
NUMBER ONE RULE:
Make self-care a priority.
Don't forget about you. You’ve just gone through a trauma and postpartum recovery is nothing to take lightly. Let your support system help you in your fourth trimester because taking care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby.
- Samantha Colandrea