Bringing a newborn home is one of the most exciting – yet overwhelming – experiences in life. During this adjustment period, both the baby and the parents must adapt to a brand-new lifestyle that requires patience and trial and error.
These expert tips will address the most common parenting concerns, so you can confidently enter the next chapter of life with your family’s new addition.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Before you head to the hospital, make sure to set up a few things ahead of time. Buy plenty of diapers, wipes and onesies and find a designated safe spot for your baby to sleep. You and your partner should stock up on frozen meals or ask family members and friends to prepare food for you. You likely won’t have time to cook for yourselves once your newborn arrives.
Additionally, you should establish a relationship with your pediatrician before your baby is born. Attend a prenatal visit to talk to the doctor, get familiar with the office and decide whether your parenting preferences align with the clinic’s.
Every baby is different, but normally young infants can sleep anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours at a time. During the first month, your baby may sleep up to 16 hours per day.
At first, many newborns will confuse day and night, much like “jet lag.” This is because they are used to sleeping during the day, since they find mom’s movement soothing, and staying awake at night when the mother is still.
It can take some time to adapt, but there are ways you can help your baby adjust to the real world. During the day, keep your shades are up, your lights on and provide plenty of noise and stimulation. At night, dim the lights, stay quiet and avoid playtime.
Most babies cry between two to four hours throughout a 24-hour period, despite being asleep for up to 16 of those hours. It takes time and trial-and-error to understand what each cry means. Pay close attention to your baby’s schedule and keep track of their sleeping, eating and diaper changes on a piece of paper or through an app. Then, you can use the process of elimination to find out what your baby needs.
Aside from the big three reasons for cries — hunger, tiredness or a full diaper — keep in mind that your baby may also be upset because they are overstimulated, uncomfortable or too hot or cold.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk for the first six months of life. After, you can begin to breastfeed less as the baby is introduced to purees.
Sometimes, this can be a struggle for both the mom and baby — and that’s okay. It may be a matter of simply talking to a lactation consultant or using Valleywise Health’s 24-hour Breastfeeding Hotline and other resources. If this doesn’t work, formula is a great alternative either as a supplement or the sole source of your baby’s nutrition.
If you’re breastfeeding and want to give your newborn the occasional bottle, wait until your feeding routine is established before introducing one. If you are pumping or using formula, you can introduce the bottle right away.
Regardless of which method you choose, strive to feed your baby eight to 12 times per day — or every two to three hours from the start of one feeding to the next.
Most babies can start eating pureed foods between four and six months of age. Baby oatmeal, vegetable purees and fruit purees are soft and easily digestible.
Be sure to talk to your doctor often during the first few months of feeding. They can provide valuable assistance when breastfeeding, bottle feeding and introducing new food to your baby.
So, how often should your baby poop? You can determine whether your newborn is getting enough nutrients based on the number of wet diapers they produce. In the first weeks, you should expect at least five to six wet diapers per day, or better yet, one after every feed. Between six weeks and three months, this number will decrease significantly. But don’t worry — as long as they have a wet diaper at least once per week, it’s no cause for concern.
With all those diapers, many babies are prone to rashes. To avoid this, check your baby’s diaper every couple of hours and change them as soon as you notice wetness. You can also use creams and ointments to protect their skin and allow it to heal between changes.
Aside from messy spit-ups and blowouts, babies usually don’t get very dirty. You should not bathe your newborn daily. Rather, give them a gentle bath with a soft sponge or washcloth every two to three days. Be sure to keep the umbilical cord area dry until it falls off.
You’ll probably find that bonding with your baby comes naturally — in these first moments of life, their greatest interest is you. Here are some easy ways you can bond with your baby on an even deeper level.
- Hold them close to your body and provide skin-to-skin contact.
- Let your baby hear your heartbeat.
- Talk to them. They may not be able to understand you, but they love hearing your voice.
And remember: you can’t spoil a baby by holding them too much or by responding to their cries too soon. Give them all the love and comfort you desire, as this will help them feel more confident in exploring the rest of the world later on.
Newborns are expected to lose weight shortly after birth because they carry a little extra baggage to get through the first few days. Your doctor should closely monitor your baby’s weight, but they should return to their birth weight after about two weeks. Then, they will gain roughly one ounce per day for the first few months.
Once your baby is born, they should see a pediatrician at the following times:
- Within 24 hours after birth
- Every day in the hospital until discharged
- Three to five days after discharge
- Two weeks after birth
- One month after birth
- Once every two months (up to 18 months)
What To Expect
During visits, you can expect your pediatrician to weigh the baby, ask about feeding and diaper changes and evaluate how your family is adapting the lifestyle change. The doctor will draw blood 24 hours after birth and again at the following checkup by poking your baby’s heel, allowing them to scan for 29 metabolic and genetic disorders. You will get those test results back within a month.
Other Common Questions
Jaundice is a condition that makes your baby’s skin appear yellow due to an elevated level of bilirubin in their blood. This is extremely normal in the first one to three weeks. However, if the yellow color increases or persists for longer than a month, talk to your doctor immediately.
Umbilical cords can fall off anywhere from one week to one month after birth, but most commonly detach after two weeks. Keep the umbilical cord dry during sponge or washcloth baths, and do not use alcohol swabs to clean around the area.
Your newborn is used to small, enclosed spaces. Swaddling can comfort your baby, help them fall asleep and muffle their startle reflex. Just be sure the swaddle is not too tight around the lower part of your baby’s body, as this can cause leg and hip problems.
In the first month, your newborn won’t do much other than eat, sleep and wet their diaper. They will then begin to interact with you by smiling and following you with their eyes. You can expect your baby to start laughing around the two-month mark.
Your tiny newborn will be crawling and standing before you know it. Baby-proof your home by getting down on your knees to see from their perspective. Make sure you hide all small objects. Anything that can pass through a toilet paper tube is considered a choking hazard. Additionally, lock up your chemicals, medicines and cleaning supplies or put them in a high, out-of-reach place.
As you become more accustomed to being a parent, never hesitate to ask your pediatrician questions. They are always here to guide you through the many ups and downs of parenthood.