By Hor Mei Siew
Whether it is your first, second or third child, as a parent, you will always have concerns and some anxiety when there is about to be a new baby in the home. The following survival tips will help make the first few days easier and allow you to fully enjoy time with your baby. After all, they do grow up too soon.
Tip 1: Take time to get to know your baby and learn what he needs
It may seem like your baby is crying a lot, and no matter what you do, the cries don’t seem to cease. Don’t worry and remember that crying is their way of communicating to you. After a while, you will be able to differentiate between the various cries and how they relate to their needs — whether they are hungry, wet or just need a cuddle.
Tip 2: Learn what soothes your baby and use it
Babies love attention and sounds, so talk, sing, coo, and cuddle them often. If your baby is fussing, try singing or reciting nursery rhymes as they often the find the beats and rhythm of nursery rhymes soothing. Some babies are calmed by the long “shh” sound and can be lulled to sleep with that.
The old adage that picking babies up whenever they cry will spoil them is no longer relevant, so feel free to carry your little when he cries. Once they feel secure because you are there for them, they will naturally settle down. Stay with the baby, be relaxed and receptive. Listen and respond according to your baby’s body language.
Tip 3: Handle your baby with care
Babies are little human beings but they do require some special consideration because they are just developing the skills to live out of their mothers’ wombs. Here are some areas new parents ought to look out for:
- Neck control: Babies have little control over their heads initially as their neck muscles are still weak, so always support their head and neck. Never shake, bounce them on your knees or throw them into the air. When placing them in a carrier, a stroller or a car seat, always make sure that they are positioned correctly and that they are strapped in properly. Use the lift instead of the escalator when travelling with your baby in a stroller.
- Umbilical cord: The stump of cord will turn black and will drop off within two to three weeks. Keep the cord clean and dry, cleaning it as advised by your care provider.
- Posseting or spit up: It is common and normal for babies to bring up a little milk after feeding, especially when they are returned to their cots or when they are have their diaper changed after feeding. One of the most effective ways of preventing spit up is to burp your baby often after feeds and hold your baby upright for a while before putting him down. Lie him on his side and not flat on the back to prevent choking. However, if baby is bringing up most of the feeds, please consult your doctor.
- Pooping and peeing: Your baby’s faeces will initially be dark green before changing to green runny seedy and then to mustard colour when he is four-days-old. Babies usually have four to five wet diapers a day by this time.
Tip 4: Feed on demand
Though breastfeeding can be challenging for new mothers, it is a rewarding endeavour. As newborn babies have an immature digestive system, they feed frequently, as many as 8-12 times a day. Learn to observe for feeding cues and start to breastfeed your baby before he cries for feeds and baby will be more co-operative. Rather than sticking to a predetermined schedule, feed your baby whenever he shows signs of hunger. Once your baby has learnt to latch well and milk flow is good, breastfeeding will become easier and more satisfying, allowing both mother and baby to enjoy the experience. The same philosophy applies if your baby is formula fed.
Tip 5: Stay calm no matter what happens
When you are faced with a hungry baby that wants to be latched onto your breasts all the time or a crying demanding baby who will not be soothed no matter what you do, take a few deep breaths and tell yourself to remain calm. Remember that your baby is communicating with you.
If you can, hand your baby to your husband or another caregiver, take a break and go back to your baby when you are rested, calm and ready. You won’t be of much help if you are flustered and frustrated; it’s better to take a break for a short while.
Tip 6: Get help to get well-rested
Delegate housework and cooking to someone else if you can. Rather than worrying about household chores, it is more important for you, the mother, to be well rested so that you can concentrate on baby. Even enlisting your husband to help with small things such as burping your baby after feeding. One way to enlist your husband’s help and get some rest is to get him to burp your baby after you breastfeed. Every bit of help you can get will allow you to give your best to your baby.
Tip 7: Stay positive at all times
It is important to stay positive when the going gets tough and sleep eludes you. Try not to let negativity affect you and sometimes all you need is a good sleep to feel better, so do what you need to get some time to rest.
Tip 8: Set a sleep routine
Babies tend to sleep during the day, and stay awake at night as they do not yet know the difference between day and night. Help them differentiate between day and night by behaving according to the time of day. Talk to your baby more, play with him, and keep the house bright during the day. At night, keep the lights dim, speak softly and calmly in a lower tone of voice. Reinforce this by developing a bedtime routine where you do the same things every night in a set order (for example, bathing, massaging and then feeding him before placing him in his cot) to prepare him for bed. After a while your baby will recognise that it is time to sleep when these activities occur.
Tip 9: Ensure your baby sleeps safety
Always put your baby to sleep on his back as this reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Also ensure that there are no fluffy toys, pillow, cot bumpers or quilts near your baby to reduce the possibility of accidental suffocation. Babies do not need pillows but you can move your baby’s head position each night (right to left, left to right) to prevent him from developing a flat spot on one side of his head. Avoid putting your baby to sleep in cloth cradles as these are unsafe.
Tip 10: Speak up, don’t be shy
Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Otherwise your loved ones may think you are coping well and your resentment towards them for not helping you may build up and leave you feeling frustrated. Speak to your loved ones if you have any doubts and difficulties about caring for baby or yourself. Having a listening ear is helpful and they may even come up with simple but practical alternatives and solutions.
Hor Mei Siew is a Senior Lactation Consultant at the Gleneagles Parentcraft Centre. The Parentcraft Centre provides interactive programmes to guide new parents through the various aspects of parenthood. Click here to find out more.