10 Things to Know About Newborns

Newborn Tips#1: Don't Hush-A-Bye-Baby
You don't have to be quiet while the baby is sleeping. The womb is loud, and newborns are used to the noise. When ours first came home, we watched television and I would vacuum, wash dishes and talk on the phone around her while she slept. She got used to sleeping with noise, and I could get stuff done. I am still able to vacuum in her room while she sleeps (she is 14 months), and she is peaceful and well rested when she wakes up.
Newborn Tips#2: Soothe Your Wailing Newborn
When my baby cries, I comfort her by patting her back in a heartbeat-like rhythm. That helps her burp more quickly, and it also helps her relax if she's crying from insecurity. If this doesn’t work, I also try one or all of Dr. Harvey Karp's five calming moves: swaddling, shushing, holding her on her side, swinging her or letting her suck. Sometimes it takes all six!

Additional Information:

Baby may be, well, a little funny-looking.

His head may be smooshed from his journey through the birth canal, and he might be sporting a “bodysuit” of fine hair called lanugo. He could also be puffy-faced and have eyes that are often shut (and a little gooey). After all, he just spent nine months in the womb. But pretty soon, he’ll resemble that beautiful baby you imagined.

Don’t expect rewards — smiles or coos — until about the 6-week mark.

Up until then, you’re working for a boss who only complains! To get through the exhaustion and emotional upheaval, keep this in mind: your efforts aren’t lost on baby in those early days. “He feels comforted by his father or mother, he feels attachment, he likes to be held,” says Los Angeles-based pediatrician Christopher Tolcher, MD.

Give baby sponge baths until the umbilical cord falls off.

Image courtesy of Pinterest.com


If it’s kept dry, it falls off faster — usually within two weeks. Besides, newborns don’t get very dirty! If the cord does get wet, pat it dry. And if the stump bleeds a little when the cord falls off, that’s okay, too, as Alyson Bracken, of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, learned. “It scared me at first,” she says, but then she found out that, as with a scab, mild bleeding was normal.

The soft spot can handle some handling.

“I was terrified of the soft spot,” admits April Hardwick, of New York City, referring to the opening in the skull, also called the fontanel, which allows baby to maneuver out of the birth canal. “Gemma had a full head of hair at birth, and I was initially afraid to comb over the soft spot,” Hardwick says. But there was no need to worry: “It’s okay to touch the soft spot and baby’s hair near it,” says Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls. The spot may pulsate because it’s directly over blood vessels covering the brain.

The soft spot can handle some handling.

“I was terrified of the soft spot,” admits April Hardwick, of New York City, referring to the opening in the skull, also called the fontanel, which allows baby to maneuver out of the birth canal. “Gemma had a full head of hair at birth, and I was initially afraid to comb over the soft spot,” Hardwick says. But there was no need to worry: “It’s okay to touch the soft spot and baby’s hair near it,” says Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls. The spot may pulsate because it’s directly over blood vessels covering the brain.

She’ll let you know if she’s getting enough food.

Newborn Tips#3: Help Get Your Baby to Latch
If you are having latch-on issues while breastfeeding your baby, you can use breast shields to help the process. This was a wonderful tip that I learned from my lactation consultant. I had to use the shields for an entire month before my baby would latch onto my own nipple without them. Had it not been for the breast shields, I would not have been able to continue nursing my baby.
Newborn Tips#4: Get Prepped
At 3 weeks, babies’ days and nights become more predictable, and you can focus on yourself in addition to your newborn. One way to do that is by reducing your stress level - and having everything ready for your hungry baby and yourself is one way to do that. Start by prepping for the next feeding as soon as the previous one is over. For example, after an 11 p.m. feeding, get ready for the 2 a.m. one by prepping whatever you need for feeding and putting out fresh drinking water for yourself so you don’t have anything to think about in the middle of the night. During the day, take advantage of the baby’s naps to work out, shower or catch up on e-mail, or take a nap too.

Baby needs to eat every two to three hours — but if you’re nursing, it’s tough to know how much milk she’s getting. “The baby’s weight is the best indicator in the early days,” says Dr. Tolcher. Your pediatrician will check it within a few days of discharge. A newborn loses 5 to 8 percent of her birthweight within the first week but should gain it back by the second. Diaper-counting can also act as a gauge: her schedule those first five days is haphazard, but after that, you’ll see five to six wet diapers a day, and at least one or two stools.

You don’t have to hole up at home.

“Lead a normal life, but use common sense when you go out in public,” Dr. Tolcher says. Keep baby out of the sun, and avoid sick people (no toddler birthday parties!) and crowded enclosed spaces (such as the mall during the holidays). “Teach older siblings to touch baby’s feet instead of her hands and face, which will help prevent the spread of infection,” he adds. And make your older child the hygiene police, says Dr. Jana. He’ll love telling guests, “Don’t touch the baby without washing your hands.”

Babies cry a lot — that’s how they communicate!

Their piercing wails will let you know they’re hungry, cold, have a dirty diaper, or want to be held. These early “conversations” can be frustrating, but rest assured, you’ll get a better handle on what she needs in time. Laurie May, of Boardman, Ohio, and her husband quickly learned to read their daughter’s hunger signal. When they were brand-new parents, they set an alarm to go off every two hours to wake Carter for a feeding. “We did not need the alarm!” she says. “We love to laugh at that one now.”

Newborn babies also sleep a lot — but not for long stretches.

Those first three months are a free-for-all. Baby needs to eat every two to three hours, so you’re not getting much sleep either. “It does get better,” assures Dr. Altmann. “Most infants can sleep for six to eight hours by 3 months of age.” In the meantime, try to get baby on a day and night schedule: during the day, don’t let him snooze more than three hours without waking him to feed; at night let him sleep as long as he wants once he’s regained the weight he lost at birth.

The newborn stage is fleeting.

Stressed, tired, and lonely? Yes, those early days are hard. But they’ll soon be behind you. Barbara Evans, of New York City, says, “I wish I’d known how quickly the time goes.” The mom to Luella, 8 months, says, “I didn’t take enough pictures or keep notes!” Rabeea Baloch, of Sugarland, Texas, shares some veteran-mom experience: “With my first, I stressed over every single thing, from changing diapers to whether baby was crying more than usual. With my second, I just enjoyed holding her, smelling her, kissing her, and loving the time together.”

Touching the Soft Spots on Baby’s Head

Despite cautions to the contrary, you shouldn?t be stressed if you happen to have touched these areas of Baby?s head. When you touch your baby’s soft spots, known as the fontanels, you’re not touching his brain. So what are you touching? A thick, very protective membrane. The soft spots exist so your baby can safely negotiate the narrow birth canal. Since his skull is flexible, your little one’s downy head has already survived a pretty rough ride with no harm done.

Newborn Tips#5: Keeping Your Baby Awake During Feedings
When our baby was eating slowly and sleepily, my husband and I would massage her cheek to stimulate her to eat faster. A gentle stroke with a fingertip on her cheek was all it took, and on those long sleepless nights, this simple trick was a godsend! Our friends have found it works great with their infants too. When babies eat efficiently until they're full before going to sleep, they sleep for longer between feedings. And that means you’re both likely to be calmer!
Newborn Tips#6: Help Your Baby Bond with Dad
Make sure your baby has ample time alone with Daddy. His touch and voice are different than yours, and this will begin a bonding process and give you a break. Plus, it gets the baby used to being with someone other than you. The first few times can be hard. Make sure your baby is fed and well rested, as this will give you at least one or two hours before you're needed again. Then leave Dad and the baby alone. If you stay nearby, make sure the baby can’t see or hear you, and resist the urge to go into the room and "fix" things if she starts crying. Your baby cries with you and you experiment to find out what's wrong. Dads need time to do this too - in their own way. By allowing this time, your child will learn there is more than one way to receive comfort, which will help immensely when you leave your baby with a sitter or another family member for the first time. You could have your partner bathe her, put her to bed or just read or talk to her.
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