Newborn care: the FAQ for babies!
You read all the books, listened attentively to other mothers's advice, and proudly graduated your Lamaze and Newborn Care Class....Now you've brought home your beautiful little bundle of joy and he's been fed, burped, changed, rocked, read and sung to, not to mention being gently bounced while pacing the floor..."So please, oh please tell me why he is still crying??... And more importantly how do I get him back to sleep, so that I can get some sleep?"
Sound familiar? Your newborn's first few days at home can be challenging, and every new parent is bound to have some questions...So I have gathered what seems to be the most frequently asked questions by new parents that I will answer for you so that you can get started off on the right foot.
HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN MY BABY IS HUNGRY? AND AM I FEEDING HIM ENOUGH?
Do not wait until your baby is crying to feed him. This is often one of his last cues to give you that he is hungry. Attempting to feed while both of you are frustrated and stressed can be difficult and very trying for you and baby. Instead, learn your baby's individual cues to let you know that he's ready for a feeding. Look for things like suckling lip movements, bringing his fist to his mouth or if you gently rub his cheek and he turns toward you with an open mouth like he's rooting around or searching for a nipple.
While your little one is in his first two weeks of life he should eat every 2-4 hours. You may even have to wake him for a feeding, which is perfectly normal. If you are breastfeeding you can expect to feed for about 15 minutes on each breast, and have between 8-12 feedings a day. If your baby is formula-fed he will take somewhere in between 2-4 ounces per feeding and will eat about 7-10 feedings per day.
You will know your little guy is getting enough to eat by what he is "putting out" in his diapers. His first couple days he may only have 2 or 3 wet/soiled diapers. This will pick up over the next few days, and he should have at least 3-4 wet/soiled diapers. During your baby's first month you should expect at least 5-6 wet diapers and 2-3 soiled ones each day. If your baby is "going" quite a bit less than this, or you notice any drastic changes in his diapering habits contact your Pediatrician.
WHAT COLOR SHOULD MY BABY'S STOOLS BE?
During the first 24 hours of life your baby's stool will be brown to black in color, very sticky and thick. This first stool is called Meconium.
Many parents aren't sure what to expect when changing baby. Babies stools are very different from even a young child's. Baby stools tend to have a thinner consistency and can vary in color dependent upon how they are fed. Breastfed babies tend to have stools that are greenish in color and thinner a consistency. This is because their bodies use more of the breast milk leaving little waste behind. Babies that are formula fed have thicker stools that are usually light brown in color. The stool color of formula fed babies can vary a bit depending on brands and whether the formula has a milk or soy base.
HOW MUCH SPIT UP IS NORMAL?
It is completely normal for your baby to spit up after a feeding. As long as your baby is gaining weight, there is usually no reason to be alarmed. If you notice that the amount your baby is spitting up has greatly increased, seems to hurt or bother him, or is forceful in nature or is accompanied by a hard or distended belly, you should contact your Pediatrician your baby may be showing signs of trouble. You should know that there are a few reasons that babies spit up after feedings, and some babies spit up more than others. Here are the most common causes of spitting up....
- You may be over-feeding your baby, and can easily reduce spitting up by giving your baby smaller, more frequent feedings.
- Reflux is also a common cause of spitting up. Reflux happens at your baby's gastro-esophageal junction (where his throat joins his stomach). This junction has a valve that may be weak or relaxed and is allowing liquid (milk) to easily come back up the esophagus, and out of your baby's mouth.
- Swallowed air while feeding may be the most common reason for spitting up. An easy post-feeding solution is to keep your baby upright for 15 minutes or so while patting his back firmly *not with force* and rubbing it in an upward circular motion will help your baby move bubbles of air out of his little tummy and reduce his amount of spit up. Most parents refer to these actions as "burping" their baby.
HOW DO I GET RID OF MY BABY'S DIAPER RASH?
The most common cause of diaper rash in newborns is from their skin adjusting to it's new environment and the wetness of their diapers. A great deal of the time you can prevent this by applying either baby powder to absorb excess moisture or apply a thin layer of vaseline to the skin to act as a barrier against the moisture. If your little one already has a diaper rash, a zinc-oxide based ointment quickly helps baby's bottom heal. Simply apply the ointment to baby's tush every time you change his diaper until the rash is gone.
If you notice that your baby's rash has raised bumps, and is bright pink/red, he may have a yeast rash and this should be looked at by his Pediatrician. He may prescribe a special miconizole based ointment and is should be applied the same as described previously.
A good prevention rule of thumb for diaper rash is to change your baby's diaper often. Do not wait until the diaper is *full*. If you do, this means that baby's skin is in constant contact with urine and feces which is very acidic and will make diaper rashes not only a constant issue, but can actually eat skin away and create full blown sores which may even bleed and are very painful for your little one.
HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY BABY IS SICK?
Your baby can't tell you that he is sick, however he will show you by changing his normal behavior. Get to know your baby's habits by spending time with him, touching, holding, kissing and playing with him. This will not only strengthen your bond with baby but will also help you to notice behaviors that are out of his norm. You can look for signs like being overly sleepy, not eating well, being overly irritable, or if his skin feels warmer to the touch than normal. If you notice one or more of these signs you will need to take baby's temperature. Contact his Pediatrician if his temperature reads 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Babies are more susceptible to infection than adults and infections can quickly escalate to a more serious matter if not caught early on. You should always 'error on the side of caution' as they say. You would much rather annoy the doctor's office with questions than potentially risk the health of your baby.
Contact your baby's Pediatrician immediately if he shows any of the following signs as he may be in more serious trouble.
- blueish or grayish skin-color
- blueish color around the mouth
- a decrease in number of wet diapers
- vomiting or projectile spit up
- sweating while feeding
- refusal to feed entirely
- rapid or very shallow breathing
HOW DO I GET MY BABY TO SLEEP?
If you find that your baby doesn't want to or can't sleep, you should first make sure that the basics are covered. And here they are...
- fed him
- burped him
- changed his diaper
- changed his clothes if he is either too hot or cold
- cuddled, rocked, or gently bounced him
- given him his pacifier (if he takes one)
If you have answered yes to all of these things and your baby is still unable to sleep, here are a few tricks you can try. You may find that some work great while others, not so much. Every baby is different so don't worry if not everything works wonders for your little guy. These are a few things that parents have discovered put their babies to sleep.
- run the vacuum cleaner
- place your baby in his car-seat, set him on the dryer and turn it on (always supervise, never leave baby unattended)
- put baby in his car-seat and go for a drive
- swaddle him
- pace the floor while gently bouncing up and down with him
- place baby face down across your lap and bounce your legs up and down while patting his back
- give baby a bath using a lavender scented baby bath followed by a gentle massage with his baby lotion
- turn on some ambient sound or music, dim the lights and rock baby without making eye contact or engaging him
- lie down with baby, he is used to the sound of your heartbeat and the rhythm of your breathing and these sounds combined with your scent and body warmth are very soothing to him. You can try either lying him on your chest or snuggled up next to you.
SHOULD I BREASTFEED MY BABY AND WILL IT HURT?
Breastfeeding is literally made for your baby. It requires no prep, is easily digestible, helps your baby fight off bacteria, viruses and infections. Breastfed babies have been proven to contract fewer infections, and have a lower risk of contracting certain childhood diseases. Not to mention it's free! Your first milk that you give your baby is called colostrum and is extremely nutrient-rich and full of anti-bodies and fatty acids for your little guy's new body, growing brain, and developing eyes. During your baby's first two weeks you can expect to feed him about every 3 hours and will have somewhere between 8-12 feedings per day. Breastfeeding isn't just great for baby, it's good for you too! Breastfeeding your baby will jump start the shrinking of your uterus and will also help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight, regaining your figure quickly and reducing your risk of cancer.
Breastfeeding should not be painful. You may be a bit uncomfortable at first, it can be a bit painful if baby is not properly latched on to your breast. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you are having difficulties with latching on properly, this is a very common challenge for new mothers. You can get hands on help while still in the hospital from lactation nurses, or even ask baby's Pediatrician if you're having difficulties later on. Remember that the entire nipple and good amount of the areola should be inside baby's mouth when you're feeding. Also both baby's top and bottom lips should be flared out towards your breast creating a seal or 'latch'. When detaching baby from your breast it is easiest to gently slide your finger into the corner of his mouth to break his 'latch'.
The most common thing I have found that new breastfeeding mothers are experiencing is sore or cracked nipples. The easiest way to prevent this is to frequently apply lanolin ointment on your nipples. Make sure the ointment is 100% lanolin. Pure lanolin ointment is safe for your baby to ingest, what small amounts he may get from it being on your nipples will not harm him, is not bad for him, and is the easiest and best way to prevent or combat sore and cracked nipples.
WHAT KIND OF FORMULA SHOULD I FEED MY BABY?
If for some reason you can not breastfeed or if you choose not to science has done a wonderful job of creating formulas both milk and soy based to replicate breastmilk the best they can. Manufacturers have even added important components for growth and development commonly known as DHA and ARA. Scientifically they are known as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Your baby received these from you r body during pregnancy and can also get them from your breastmilk and is very important to baby's eye and brain development as well as his growth. Choosing a formula is something you should discuss with your Pediatrician, he knows you and your baby, and can recommend specific brands and formula types to meet your baby's individual needs.
HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY BABY IS GAINING ENOUGH WEIGHT?
It is normal for babies to lose as much as 10% of their birth weight within the first few days of life. By the time they are two weeks old they should have regained the lost weight and be very close to their birth weight. The majority of babies will double their birth weight by the six month mark and should triple their birth weight by their first birthday. Your baby's Pediatrician will see them fairly often during the first year and will keep a close eye on their growth.
Hopefully I have answered the important newborn care questions you have been wondering about, if there is something that you would like to know about newborn care that I have not covered here please ask your questions in the comment section below. I will do my best to answer questions swiftly.