Congratulations on the birth of your baby! Especially if it’s your first baby, you may be wondering how to take care of him/her. Your baby looks small and fragile and is completely dependent on you and your partner. Yeah, you are probably feeling overwhelmed, daunted and overjoyed all at the same time! My husband and I went through the same feelings. A surreal time, to say the least.
Here’s the good news, your baby is tougher than you think. You are going to be great parents; actually, you already are. How can I say this? The facts speak for themselves. Your baby has made it into the world, right? So well done.
To help you through the next 6 weeks as you adjust to life with a baby, I’ve put together 8 tips on how to handle your baby. After reading this article, you should feel more informed and confident in your interaction with your new-born.
1. Holding your baby
Whenever you pick your baby up, always slide one hand under the neck with your fingers cradling their head. Use your other hand to support the rest of your baby’s body. Use the crook of your arm to support your baby while you hold him/her in your arms. You can also pick your baby up underneath the arms with your fingers and hands reaching up to hold their head while you place your baby against your chest.
As you get to know your baby, you will become more comfortable holding him/her. Before you know it, you will be finding your own ways to pick your baby up all while supporting their neck and head.
2. Diaper changes
When your baby needs a diaper change, be prepared. Have a diaper, wipes, and diaper sack on hand. Ideally, you want to stay away from scented wipes because your baby’s skin is sensitive.
Depending on your baby, you will probably find yourself changing your baby after every feed.
- When you are ready, place your baby on a changing mat or lay him/her on a burping cloth next to you on the sofa.
- Undo the diaper.
- As you pull the diaper away, wipe down with the diaper to wipe the majority of your baby’s poop. Using a baby wipe, clean your baby’s genitals and bum. Always wipe down. Place a new open diaper under your baby.
- Apply some baby bum cream to your baby’s bum. The bum cream will help protect your baby from developing a diaper rash.
- Pull the top of the nappy over your baby’s genitals and secure it.
Voila, your baby now has a clean diaper.
3. Bath time
Don’t worry about bathing your baby in a big tub. You don’t need to bathe your baby daily but you can if you prefer.
- Make sure that the water in the baby bath tub or sink (yes, you can use the bathroom sink if your baby fits) is lukewarm. You can check by touching the water with your elbow.
- You can place the baby bath tub in different places: on your bed, in which case you should place a towel underneath it; on top of the changing cabinet; in your bathroom’s bath tub or simply on the floor.
- Next to the baby bath tub have an open baby towel, baby soap, a diaper, a change of clothes, and baby bum cream.
- Now for the tricky part, bathing newborn babies is similar to holding a bar of soap. They are a little slippery. Before you put your baby in the bath tub, rub them with acqueous cream (I preferred cream to soap because it is much gentler on their skin) or soap.
- Use one arm to support your baby’s chest by cradling their chin in your hand. Remember to support your baby’s head all the time. Place your baby in the bath tub. Using your other hand, gently rinse your baby.
- Switch hands. Support your baby’s head while you help them sit and quickly splash the soap or cream away.
- Lift the baby out of the bath tub into the already open baby towel.
- Wrap your baby up and carry on drying and changing your baby.
Babies cry! There is no getting round it. Babies always have a reason for their crying; your job is to find out what your baby is trying to tell you.
Usually babies will cry because they need:
- A feed
- A fresh diaper
- Have wind thus they need to burp
- Want to be cuddled
- Need to sleep
- May be hot or cold depending
When you find out your baby’s need, they will stop crying.
When your baby cries, check the time. Does your baby need a feed? If so, you will know your baby will need a feed, burp, and a new diaper. If you have already fed, burped, and changed your baby, your baby might need some more help burping or a cuddle until he/she falls asleep.
If your baby is crying for a reason you can’t figure out, try giving them a bath. Often a bath will help relax your baby’s muscles and regulate their temperature.
Depending on your baby, swaddling may help your baby feel secure and warm. Swaddling is used to mimic that snug feeling your baby experienced in the womb. Not all babies like swaddling though so see how your baby responds to it. For example, one of my babies loved being wrapped up in a blanket but insisted their arms were left out the blanket.
If none of this works, put your baby down to cry for five minutes. Take a deep breath. Trust your instincts. When you are feeling more composed pick your baby up again. Try singing, walking, rocking, or any other slow, soothing movement. If you are alone, see if you can ask someone to come and help you. This is the time to call on the people who have offered help; don’t feel guilty, they offered so they are happy to help. Remember you are not alone.
5. Feeding and Burping
If you are breastfeeding your baby, burp your baby between breasts. Make sure your baby latches on correctly since an incorrect latch will cause your baby to suck in unnecessary air.
If your baby is being bottle fed, hold your baby in your arms as if you were breastfeeding and tilt the bottle to around a 45-degree angle. Not too low that the baby drinks air and not too high that they gulp down the milk. Interrupt the feed regularly to burp your baby.
To burp your baby you can use one of these 3 methods:
- Hold your baby against your chest with his/her head peeking over your shoulder. Don’t forget to drape the burp cloth over the shoulder you are burping your baby on. Gently rub up and pat your baby’s back.
- Sit your baby gently on your lap. Tilt the baby slightly forward. With one hand support your baby’s chest by holding his chin in the palm of your hand. With the other hand gently pat your baby’s back or rub it up. You can alternate between rubbing up and patting.
- Lie your baby on their stomach using your legs as support, gently rub your baby’s back and pat.
Babies don’t always make big belches. You will know your baby has burped when you see some milk coming out of their mouth or you may hear a gentle burp. After three months, your baby will be burping more on their own.
6. The umbilical cord
The umbilical cord is easy to care for. Once a day, take surgical spirits and dab around the cord clockwise. Do this until the cord falls off. After a couple of days, the cord will start to dry up. It is normal for your baby’s clothes to have a brown spot where the umbilical cord is. After a week, the cord will fall off on its own. Don’t worry it won’t hurt your baby. Once the cord has fallen off, your baby will have its belly button.
New-born babies sleep roughly 16 hours a day averaging two to four hours of continuos sleep. Usually, babies will wake up when they need a feed which will be within the two to four hours’ window. Most babies only start sleeping through the night when they are 3 months old; however, this doesn’t apply to every baby. Allow your baby to find his/her sleep pattern. If your baby needs to be fed more during night to help gain weight, do follow your doctor’s guidelines.
Ideally, you want your new-born to sleep on their side. This helps prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Be sure to rotate your baby each time you place them down to sleep: one sleep on the right, the next sleep on the left, and so on.
Most babies have their nights and days muddled up. Almost all new-born babies sleep a lot and are not bothered by a lot of noise. To help your baby differentiate between night and day, follow these tips:
- During the day, let your baby sleep with you wherever you are. This is where carry cots are handy. Don’t worry about noise or light. It is good for babies to learn to sleep through noise. Also the baby needs to fit into your life too. I used to watch TV while my baby slept in the carrycot next to me in my lounge. All of my children sleep through noise.
- When it’s time for your baby to go to sleep at night, close the curtains. Be quiet with little conversation and minimal touch. It’s sleep time.
- If your baby fusses, attend to your baby quietly.
- When you feed your baby at night, use a dim light and keep your interaction quiet.
- When your baby wakes up for the first time in the morning, open the curtains and greet your child enthusiastically and normally. By not being quiet you show your baby that noise is part of daytime activity.
- Play and stimulate your baby only during the day.
Above all else, your baby needs your love. Don’t be shy with cuddles, kisses and snuggles. The more you hold and love your baby, the better he/she will develop. Your bond with your baby will strengthen each time you hold, kiss, snuggle, feed, and tend to your baby. Love your baby with all your heart. Your baby already loves you.