How to survive the first few weeks at home with your newborn

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Bringing a new baby home can be challenging.

When you are pregnant, you cannot wait to pop. But once the baby comes, a new world awaits, with its own challenges that are different from pregnancy. Most new moms admit that the hardest times in their lives are the first weeks at home with their new-born baby.

“You’ll probably feel inadequate, overworked and overwhelmed,” says private midwife and neonatal lecturer, Vanessa Booysen, adding that, “As much as you’ve longed for your baby’s arrival, all the feeding, nappy changing and sleepless nights can leave you feeling pretty depleted.” It’s important to take care of yourself so you can tend to your new-born baby. If you are scared of what awaits, don’t be. You can survive the first seven days with your new born with these tips.

Baby’s umbilical cord

When your baby is born, the umbilical cord -which tethers her to you while she’s in your womb providing her with a lifeline – is cut. This leaves a 3 – 5cm yellowish piece of tissue that dries up and darkens in colour. The stump of the cord typically shrinks and falls off within 10 days after your little one’s birth. While your baby’s stump is still in place, it will need a little tender love and care. Apply surgical spirit on the stump to help it dry so that it can fall off.

Also Read: Here’s how you can tell that your child’s umbilical cord is infected

Time to eat

Lactation consultant, Debbie Page says that while some new-borns will feed 13 to 14 times a day, others only need to eat eight times a day. She says moms should feed their little ones on demand and every time their baby shows feeding cues such as smacking their lips, sucking on their hands or arms, stretching or if their eyes move under their eyelids. “Crying is a late sign that your baby is hungry and you should start feeding before your little one has a chance to cry,” she says, warning that your baby will wake up frequently in the night during the first few months.

Also Read: Pregnant? Breastfeeding? Think twice before lighting that joint

She explains that breast milk digests in about 90 minutes which means your baby will be doing a lot of eating. Vanessa adds that your baby will be happier and more relaxed if she learns early on that when she’s hungry, you’ll feed her. “Helping your baby get plenty of milk is the secret to successful breastfeeding and an easier first week at home,” says Page. If, despite feeding your baby more, she’s still fussy or excessively sleepy, contact your baby’s doctor as well as a lactation specialist.

Hush little baby don’t cry

The only way your baby knows how to communicate with you is through crying. Your little one will cry when she feels insecure or uncomfortable, if she’s hungry, wet, too hot or cold, if her clothes are too tight or when she’s ill. “If you can’t soothe your baby’s crying, take a deep breath and relax,” advises Booysen. “If you’ve ruled out all the obvious reasons for your baby’s crying, relax and simply let your little one know that you’re there for her by holding her, rocking her, talking and singing to her. Her crying will stop.” Her primary need is love, warmth and to feel secure.  

Also Read: Kids don’t cry for no reason

Jaundice

Jaundice only peeks three to five days after birth so you might not know your child has it until they are home. According to Booysen, a simple test can reveal whether your child has jaundice or not. Press your finger on your baby’s nose or forehead. When you release your finger, your baby’s skin should be a paler shade of her usual colour. If there’s an underlying yellow tint and you aren’t certain whether or not she has jaundice, it’s best to call your doctor.

Also Read: I just gave birth to twins, and one of them has jaundice

“The best thing you can do to prevent jaundice is to breastfeed your newborn every two hours,” says Vanessa. She explains that the colostrum in the breast milk will allow your little one to pass the meconium (first black sticky stool) in her gut more frequently. The longer the meconium stays in your baby’s gut, the greater her chances of developing jaundice. Doctors also advise that you put your new-born in the sun to get rid of jaundice. If you are not sure whether your baby has it or not and wasn’t checked for it prior to leaving the hospital, see your paediatrician.

Baby’s sleeping patterns

You might be curious to why they say “sleep like a baby”, when your baby doesn’t sleep as much. With many babies, they nod off at a moment’s notice, then wake again abruptly only a few moments later. Vanessa says new-borns sleep as much as 16 hours per day and they don’t sleep all of these hours at the same time, it varies from baby to baby.

Also Read: Some sleeping tips that could change your life

Most new-borns will sleep as much as they need to but they don’t sleep throughout the night. Babies need a great deal of help establishing a sleep schedule. In the meantime, when they sleep also catch a nap.

Bathing baby 101

Unlike adults, there is no need to bath your baby every day, especially in the first week of life. Your baby won’t really need an actual bath until her umbilical stump falls off. “Until then, it’s fine for you to sponge bath your baby with a moistened washcloth,” says Booysen. Remember to wipe off your little one’s face and hands and clean her genital area thoroughly with every nappy change.

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