Bringing Baby Home
Arriving home with a newborn and no midwife standing by to help or encourage you can be daunting. You may find you can’t take your eyes off your newborn and burst into tears for no good reason. Your breasts leak and you can’t sleep despite being exhausted. Don’t worry it’s all normal. Surviving the first weeks at home requires a calm attitude.
Expectations and Support
If you have been a person that is always in control you may need to relax a little, as the first few weeks are going to feel out of control. Go with it – there is plenty of time to sort things out later.
Don’t be a martyr – accept any help that is offered to you by close friends and family and know that accepting this help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It’s all about surviving the madness, however you can.
Surviving the first weeks at home requires a calm attitude, not perfected parenting skills. Get your partner involved with changing nappies, burping, settling and bathing as soon as you can.
Crying is your newborns first form of communication. They will cry for hunger, discomfort, tiredness, in pain and needing a comforting cuddle. You may learn which cry means what after a while.
To begin with, your baby will need milk feeds every three to four hours during the day and overnight. This will lead to the need for frequent nappy changes and a bath every day or two.
During the first few weeks your newborn will need 16-18 hours sleep in 24 hours for growth and development. They will not be awake for very long – usually just enough for a feed, burp and nappy change. The length and what your baby does during this wake time will change as they get older.
While all babies will be slightly different, newborns will roughly sleep for an hour or two at a time during the day and longer stretches at night – unless they have their nights and days around the wrong way.
The key to surviving the first weeks at home with your newborn is to relax. Getting your baby regularly checked by a health care professional will give you confidence to see that what you are doing is right.
Visits will also give you the opportunity to ask any questions.
You are not going to get everything right straight away but there’s plenty of time to learn – parenting is something that is picked up over a lifetime.
A routine is a sequence of activities. In the early days you and your baby won’t know what sequence to do things in, so for the first few weeks just relax and go with the flow of what your baby wants.
That involves sleep; a comforting breast feed, cuddles, and cares such as nappy changing, bathing and warmth.
After a few weeks your baby can be encouraged into a more specific feed and sleep sequence.
Routines are a great guide to follow but try not to get yourself bent out of shape if your baby does not conform to your plan every day. The best plan becomes the one that works for your family. Your baby is developing new skills everyday but there can be reasons preventing your baby from eating and sleeping well such as birth trauma, environment, intolerances and reflux. Seek professional advice early if your baby is not comfortable and settled. In the early months try and stay calm and relaxed – your baby mimics your mood.
As your baby gets older the sequences remain similar but the type of feed, type of play and length of sleep varies.
Baby Health Checks
It is advisable to see a child health nurse or general practitioner a few times during your baby’s first six weeks of life – weekly if you can manage it. It is important to know that your baby is growing and progressing appropriately and if not, an assessment of why not is carried out and managed. As your baby gets older these visits can be fortnightly, monthly and three monthly unless otherwise advised.
How you space visits can also depend on what support you feel you need to confidently care for your baby.
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