The miracle of birth! Bringing a brand new baby into the world is an experience all on its own, yet not long after the birth, first-time moms are struck with the daunting thought that they will be the primary caregiver for the precious bundle of life – and this is enough to cause a flurry of butterflies in the most confident of mom’s tummies.
Help is close at hand, and here is a list of the dos and don’ts when caring for a newborn which will help moms to find their feet and carry out their new role with confidence.
- Accept any help that is offered. Life with a newborn can be challenging and moms often find that they just don’t have enough time or hands to get things done. Willing friends, aunts and grandparents will usually be more than happy to extend a helping hand – even if it is with household chores or shopping.
- Keep hands clean when handling baby. A newborn baby does not have an incredibly strong immune system, and as such, hands should always be kept well sanitised when caring for baby – keep a waterless hand sanitizer readily available.
- Swaddle the newborn. It has been proven that swaddling a baby will help them to relax and will also give the baby a sense of comfort and security. Swaddling is done by keeping baby’s arms and legs close and wrapping them securely (not too tight) in a receiving blanket. The startling reflex (when babies throw their arms back and kick out their legs) is also reduced by swaddling. A newborn has been -swaddled’ in the womb and to this end, swaddling will help to recreate the secure womb environment.
- Support baby’s neck and head at all times. When carrying a newborn, make sure that its head is supported by your hand. A baby’s neck muscles are not underdeveloped and as such their heads need additional support.
- Keep the umbilical cord stump clean and dry and watch for any signs of infection, such as the area around the cord stump becoming red and swollen or oozing pus. Consult a doctor if any of these signs occur. It is advisable not to submerse the baby in water until the cord stump has fallen off and a lot of moms prefer to sponge bath their babies during this time.
- Always test the temperature of the bath water with your elbow. Make sure that you have baby’s nappy, lotions, towel, etc, ready before bathing.
- Ensure that all bottle teats, dummies and bottles are sterilised before they are used for baby.
- Make sure that the instructions on the formula tin are followed when preparing baby’s feeds – do not increase the volume of formula in the hope that the baby will sleep longer. Incorrectly prepared formula can result in diarrhoea or vomiting and the baby will not thrive.
- Demand feed, no matter if you are breast or bottle feeding your newborn baby. As a rule a newborn will require feeding at least every two to four hours. During feeds a baby will regularly swallow air which causes pain and discomfort, burping babies repeatedly during feeds will help them to expel any trapped or swallowed air. It is recommended that bottle-fed babies are burped after 90 millilitres of formula and that breastfed babies are burped when switching breasts.
- Remember to put babies down to sleep on their backs as this will lessen the risk of SIDs.
- Ensure that a baby is securely fastened into their car chair or carrier and try to avoid activities which are rough and will cause baby to bounce around in their carrier or seat.
- Realise that your baby is its own unique individual and never compare weight gain, or sleeping patterns to your friend’s or neighbour’s babies.
- Respond to your baby’s cries and trust your instincts, remember -mom knows best!’
- Expect your lifestyle to change considerably and take some time to grow accustomed to your new role!
What not to do…
- Don’t smoke near baby and do not take a baby any place where it will be exposed to smoke.
- Never shake a newborn. Vigorous shaking can be fatal for a newborn and can cause bleeding of the brain – in desperation and due to sleep deprivation, well-meaning and very loving parents may shake a baby, however it’s better to walk away and regain composure. Seek help if caring for a newborn becomes overwhelming!
- Don’t wake a baby up with shaking. If you need baby to wake up, you can try gently blowing on its cheek.
- If bottle-feeding a baby, don’t test the temperature of the milk by drinking it, test the temperature of the formula by dripping a few drops of the liquid onto your wrist. Test the temperature before every feed.
- Don’t miss scheduled checkups and always make certain that the baby is taken for its inoculations. The scheduled checkups will monitor baby’s weight gain and it will give mom the confidence of knowing that her baby is thriving and doing well. The clinics are on hand to offer advice on all aspects of childcare.
- Never leave a baby in a soiled nappy. Regular nappy changes will reduce the risk of nappy rash.
- Don’t turn your home into a muted and hushed environment. Continue with regular activities while baby is sleeping. Babies will sleep through just about any noise!
- Avoid putting baby down to sleep with a menagerie of stuffed toys and pillows. These items can cause a baby to suffocate and can cause SIDs.
- Never prop a newborn up with a bottle. Always hold baby while feeding to avoid chocking.
- Don’t offer a newborn baby juice or water. Formula or breast milk is enough to quench a newborn’s thirst.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You may think that you are the only mom in the world who does not have it all under control – think again, virtually all new moms doubt their ability to care for her baby but with a little help and by relying on her instincts, moms will quickly fulfil the demands of her new found role.