Caring for a newborn is a very rewarding and joyful experience. The enormity of the responsibility sets in very early on. This tiny little miracle requires around the clock care, and proper care at that. While every couple develops their own style of parenting, all newborns require the basics of nutrition, changing, bathing and safe sleeping.
Whether from the breast or bottle, most newborns need to be fed at regular intervals during the day and night. The time between feedings may vary from 90 minutes and three hours. Breastfed babies should be allowed to feed until their hunger is satisfied, while bottle-fed babies should start with three ounces of formula.
The amount of formula required to satiate the child will increase as time goes by. My older daughter had a rather large appetite from birth and quickly needed 4, 5 and then 6 ounces of formula to be full and happy at feeding time. It is imperative to follow the directions on the packaging for the formula and the bottle system used. Improper sterilization or preparation techniques can result in severe gastrointestinal illness.
One of the first tips I learned when I brought my older daughter home from the hospital was to change her diaper while I was waiting for her bottle to warm. Providing her with a fresh and clean diaper before she indulged in a meal made it very easy to slip her back into her bassinet once she was finished. Most newborns will fall asleep directly after being fed, so eliminating the need to remove her clothing and expose her to the change in temperature allowed her to fall back asleep quickly.
Occasionally, a bowel movement will occur during feeding or very shortly after, and a diaper change is unavoidable. In the first days and weeks of life, it is not uncommon for a newborn to go through 12 to 14 diapers in a 24-hour period. This number becomes smaller as the baby grows. The proper size diaper should always be used to avoid leakage.
A baby should never be left alone on a changing table or other piece of furniture during the diapering process. All necessary supplies should be on hand before starting. And remember, baby girls should always be cleaned from front to back to eliminate the possibility of infection or illness.
Bathing a newborn baby can be a very daunting task. Most babies respond negatively to the sudden change in temperature and vigorously cry during the process. Those little bodies get very slippery when wet, which can make removing the baby from the water a bit nerve wracking. Turning the heat up a bit before bathing the baby and taking care to get a firm grip on the child can help to alleviate those concerns.
A plastic tub placed in the kitchen sink can be used during the first weeks. This helps to reduce the back pain that can come from bending over the edge of a full-sized bathtub and is safest for the baby. Fill the tub with just a few inches of warm water. Turn the tap to the far side of the sink to reduce the possibility of accidentally turning it on during the bath. Use a soft washcloth and a small amount of gentle soap appropriate for children. Plain water can be used to clean the hair in the first few weeks.
To take your newborn out, lay a towel over your shoulder and gently remove the baby from the water. Lay him or her against your shoulder and use the bottom of the towel to wrap the baby securely. I was quite nervous bathing my older daughter at first, but soon gained more confidence and grew to love this time together.
Newborns require vast amounts of sleep. The first few weeks are filled with little more than eating, eliminating, crying and sleeping. Bassinets are usually used in the early days. This portable piece of furniture can be moved throughout the home and is much cozier for the baby. A clean sheet should always be in place and snugly secured to the mattress. Several lightweight blankets should be used instead of one heavy blanket.
Newborn babies do not require a pillow, and safety guidelines dictate that one should never be placed in a brand new baby’s bassinet or crib. Babies should always be put to sleep on their back, never on the front. When the little angel graduates to the crib, toys and stuffed animals should be removed before bedtime.
A monitoring device should be used to listen for the baby’s cries. Newborns typically do not sleep through the night before six weeks of age, and many take much longer than that. Any questions or concerns about your child’s sleeping patters should be discussed with your chosen pediatrician.
Lastly, and most importantly, all babies need love. Contrary to a belief held at one time, holding a baby too much does not spoil them. Cuddling and holding newborns as much as possible during those first precious days and weeks helps them to feel safe and secure. It helps to soothe them during moments of distress and strengthens the bond between parent and baby.