The uncertainty and fear of bringing a new baby home can be overwhelming. Most mothers-to-be believe pregnancy is difficult until they are faced with the real challenge of having to take care of their new born gem! Why is it that women these days are so confident and driven, but when it comes to taking care of this small, helpless and fragile creature, they become so doubtful and question every decision they make? The truth is, moms, there is a lot we get wrong, but there is a lot we also get right.
Botching something only means getting it right the next time, and listening to that little voice inside is always the right way to go. Is that voice wrong sometimes? It can be. Will it ever put your baby's life at risk? Probably not.
Most moms-to-be are so well read before baby comes along that they can probably teach a class, but theory is not practice, and practice can be scary. From knowing how and when to change a diaper, to admitting you had to throw 3 away before finally getting it right, is just the beginning in a long list of mishaps that can occur during the first few days at home. Being alone with your baby for the first time can be a magical adventure, and as with any adventure it can sometimes take a not-so-exciting turn.
Some of the topics may be controversial and some readers will already have an opinion on them, but knowing the facts is essential.
These are just some of the things we can learn from and hope not to repeat! How many of these are you guilty of?
15 Not Waking Baby Up During The Night
With some quick research I immediately learned that NOT waking up baby during the night for feeding is wrong. Although every baby will be different, healthcare experts suggest new born babies should be feeding at least eight times a day to avoid dehydration and receive proper nutrients for regular development.
Here are some signs that may indicate a baby is underfed:
- sunken spot on head
- darker coloured urine
- baby not gaining weight
- fussy after feeding
- less diaper changes
The bottom line is that parents have to ensure their baby is hydrated and nourished enough to continue on his or her growth curve, and that if, as a new mom you are in doubt, wake up your baby and feed him/her.
14 Keeping Baby Awake During The Day
We worry. We worry when we think our baby sleeps too much and we worry when we believe he or she is not getting enough sleep. A sure no-no is keeping baby awake during the day with hopes he will get more sleep at night. Babies don't work this way...
According to the AAP News and Journals, newborns should be sleeping an average of 16 hours a day, for up to 2-4 hours at a time. You should not trying to set up a sleeping schedule for your baby for at least the first 3 months. The general rule of thumb, as during the night, is to wake up baby every 4 hours (or less if the baby is breastfed) for the first few weeks of life for feedings. After this, once you verify baby is growing and gaining enough weight on his growth curve, you can attempt to regulate the schedule, perhaps by adding an aid, like a pacifier, to the mix.
13 Over Sanitizing Everything
We are all aware that a sick baby makes every member of the family miserable. Stuffy noses, ear infections, pink eye, who needs the extra worry?
Did you know that over sanitizing baby and surroundings, including yourself, can actually be counterproductive? As a matter of fact, baby should be bathed a maximum of 3 times a week to avoid dry and irritated skin. Yes, by all means, rinse the bum, but do understand that baby can't get dirty.
My research as a mom, and previous daycare owner and manager lead me to discover a new line of thinking called 'hygiene hypothesis". It states that exposing infants to germs early on may provide a reduced risk of illnesses as they grow. Of course, we are not going to expose the baby to adult hospitals and such, but maintaining a normal hygiene routine will be more than enough for protecting baby from illness as he grows. What we did notice at the daycare, without fail, was that infants with older siblings already in daycare fell ill much less, probably thanks to a stronger immune system.
12 Calling The Paediatrician For Everything
It is true, we are not all nurses or doctors, nor do we always know how to take care of ourselves when we are not well, but calling the paediatrician every time your baby coughs a little, spits up, or has a diaper rash is a definite no no. It is really like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. You always want the doctor to take your call so don't call for petty reasons.
According to the Canadian Paediatric Society , these are the reasons you should be calling the paediatrician for:
- fever, even if low grade
- persistent vomiting or diarrhoea
- if baby refuses to be fed for an extended amount of time and appears to be dehydrated (dry diaper for over 8 hours).
- appears to have breathing difficulties
- persistent cold for over 10 days
- appears to be in pain
If you are in doubt your baby is not well, do call the doctor. However, if you can call a friend to ease your doubts about a diaper rash, it would be best.
11 Thinking She's Not Ready For Motherhood
Really, who is? Motherhood is a challenge from the very first day you bring your baby home. This doubt follows us throughout the years and really never leaves us completely. Every stage in a child's life challenges us, and that is just fine.
From a Facebook survey I initiated in a mommy group, one of the recurring threads moms brought up that affected them most and made them feel insecure was feeling compelled to breastfeed. The majority of women having children nowadays are highly informed on the benefits of breast feeding, and it is rare that once given birth, a mother intentionally decides not to breastfeed her baby.
Some do it with ease, others have health issues, others face challenges with going back to work. Whatever a mother decides, she will have her reasons and should not doubt herself in the process. Every decision we make during the first few days of a baby's life, and for years ahead as parents, always has the child's best interest at heart. It is ok if you cannot breast feed, your child will grow up to love you nonetheless.
Don't get upset or enter a downward spiral, your baby will need you. Just do the best you can as a mother. If you need help, ask for it. You are ready.
10 Not Leaving The House
One of the things new moms must do is take a "mental break" . This doesn't necessarily mean taking a break from your baby, but just breaking from the routine. Regardless the season you give birth, stepping out alone or with your newborn is never a bad thing. As a matter of fact, the fresh air and change of scenery (and yes it can be the mall) will contribute to fighting off that feeling of loneliness mothers can have the first few weeks.
What you should be doing instead of arguing with your mother on what's best for your baby, is reach out to other mothers in the same situation. You will soon learn you are not alone.
In their book, "Postpartum Depression Demystified: An Essential Guide for Understanding and Beating the Most Common Complication after Childbirth", authors Joyce A. Veins and Suzanne McCloskey write that finding strong emotional support and other women in a similar situation will reduce the chances of suffering from postpartum depression.
There is so much to discuss with other moms, and you'll soon realize others feel the same way. It will give you a new perspective on the little things that make you feel insecure.
9 Keeping A Strict Feeding Schedule
As we saw in point 9, keeping a strict feeding schedule is impossible for the first few weeks. Depending on whether baby is bottle or breastfed he or she will be eating anywhere between every 1 hour to every 4 hours. This will obviously depend on the amount of milk the baby takes in at one time.
On demand feeding, where you keep an eye on your child and not the clock, is generally the best way to understand how much your newborn needs to eat. You don't count feedings, nor their length.
Some indications that your baby wants to be fed are:
- sticking out the tongue
- licking his lips
- turning towards your breast when he is in your arms
A sure indication baby is eating well is the number of diaper changes he will require throughout the day, as well as the points mentioned in number 10 of this post. Keeping a strict schedule will not only cause your baby stress, but will also increase your insecurities as a first time mom. In this I would certainly say to trust baby.
8 Assuming Baby Won't Move
We see baby laying in the crib, so helpless, feeling we are the only one that can protect this beautiful creature from harm. Yet, we sometimes underestimate how easy it is for the baby to have an accident if we turn our backs, even just for a second. Infant injuries are more common than we think.
According to a CDC Child Injury Report, accidental falls are still among the most common cause of injuries, and sometimes death, for children in their homes. Over 3,000 babies a year fall from their changing tables in the USA alone. When we are dealing with infants, assuming the baby will not turn will put your baby's life at risk.
Consumer Reports suggests a few ways to help avoid this type of accident:
- use a changing table with barriers on all four sides
- use a contoured changing pad
- always use the safety straps included with the pad or table
- NEVER leave your baby unattended
- keep one hand on baby at all times
- make sure drawers and shelves are easily accessible to you
As a parent, your child's safety and security must supercede all other responsibilities you have, and being distracted can cause great harm to your child. If you are tired and feel you need help, ask for help.
7 Not Packing A Change Of Clothes For Mom
One thing we often neglect during the first few days of motherhood is ourselves. When we finally decide to go out for a breath of fresh air with our gem, we check the diaper bag 2 or 3 times to make sure we have all we need. Diapers? Check. Bottle? Check. Changing pad? Check. Extra pacifier? Check. Change of clothes for baby? Check.
Change of clothes for mommy? Oops! Believe me, once you make this error you will not repeat it. Just think of all the times you may have to change your top at home? What makes you think you will not have to do it if you are out a couple of hours with your baby?
What can go wrong you ask? Leaky diaper, vomiting and spitting up, leaky breast... If you are out for a couple of hours you do not want to be caught off-guard.
6 Not Burping Baby
Babies cry, and they do so for many reasons. They are hungry, they cry. They are tired, they cry. They have gas, they cry. You get the picture.
One way to avoid baby from feeling grumpy during or after a feeding is burping. A burp is the release of gas bubbles from the esophagus and out of the mouth. Breastfed babies will generally take in less air than bottle-fed babies, but it does not hurt to attempt to get a little burp out of breastfed babies nonetheless. There is always the chance these babies have mommies who produce a lot of milk and take air in, along with milk. Helping baby relieve some gas, trapped in the gastrointestinal tract, can hep with digestion and make everybody's day or night run a lot smoother!
Some simple tricks to help burp your little one:
- place baby over shoulder and gently pat his or her back, or bottom with an open palm
- place baby on your lap facing forward and slightly perched, support the head and chin while leaving the neck free, and pat on the back
If the baby does not burp after a few minutes, it might just mean he or she doesn't need it!
5 Overdressing Baby
Women generally feel cold, and as mothers we instinctively cover our children when they are sleeping, no matter the time of day. After all, parents are there to ensure their child is happy and healthy, and feeling cold is never a good thing. But what if I told you babies should not feel hot, and that it is ok if their tiny feet or hands feel cold?
Before 6 months, babies cannot regulate body temperature, and they definitely cannot let you know if they are feeling hot or cold. So how do we gauge this as new parents?
One of the tell-tale signs of being too hot or too cold is fussy crying. A better indication than hands or feet being cold or hot, is checking their tummy or the back of the neck. If you feel these areas to be overheated or under heated, then you should adjust clothes accordingly.
4 Thinking Baby Doesn't Need A Pacifier
Pacifiers can stir up quite a debate, but sometimes they will come in quite handy. There are numerous studies done on the use of pacifiers for infants, and although some experts are against the use of "artificial soothers", other studies have shown pacifiers to help prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
From a personal experience, my first born used a pacifier from early on through the age of 2, but my second child actually only started using one once I stopped nursing her at around 12 months. Every experience is unique, as is every baby. One thing is certain however, you can always wean a baby from an artificial soother, but it is much more difficult to wean a baby from thumb sucking.
Truth of the matter, mommy needs to be healthy as well, and if the use of a pacifier from time to time will give you the time you need to brush your teeth, or put in a load of laundry, why not?
3 Cleaning Baby Girls The Wrong Way
If you have a boy you may not want to read this point, but if you can pass on this info to a friend and avoid a baby girl from getting a urinary tract or yeast infection, please do!
Cleaning from front to back is essential to ensure bacteria is not being spread to more delicate areas of the genitals. Female babies may also, from time to time, have a white or pink discharge and this is perfectly normal. If this is the case, simply wash it off with some water without insistence, and avoid using harsh wipes between the labia. Using a small towelette with water warm or rinsing baby under a faucet if she gets particularly messy is the safest way to go about things.
2 Swaddling Baby The Wrong Way
This is somewhat of a controversial subject because studies have shown that swaddling can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and Hip Dysplasia if not done correctly. Due to these studies, some doctors will recommend not doing it at all to avoid the risk.
If you decide to swaddle your newborn keep in mind the following:
- always place the baby on its back
- beware of how tight the swaddle is
- monitor that the baby does not turn over
- do not add other blankets or pillows to the crib
- do not place baby in bed with you
- consider using a pacifier during naps
- ensure the baby does not overheat
- stop swaddling by the age of 2 months
If you decide to swaddle your baby it is because you want he or she to feel cozy and reduce fussiness. Let's just make sure it is done safely.
1 Thinking Co-Sleeping Is The Right Solution
Dear moms, please don't take this the wrong way, but these are the facts:
"After analyzing data on 8,207 infant deaths from 24 states that occurred between 2004 and 2012, researchers determined that nearly 74 percent of deaths in babies younger than 4 months occurred in a bed-sharing situation, according to the study published in Pediatrics. Among older infants – those aged 4 months to 364 days – the rate was slightly lower at nearly 59 percent."
This is certainly a delicate subject because parents who do co-sleep have found it very beneficial in bonding with their babies. We love the feeling of our baby beside us, the warmth, the sweet smell....and of course not having to get out of bed every 2 hours for feedings. The truth is, you are putting the life of your baby at risk, no matter how remote, every time you co-sleep. It is a subject that divides parents and doctors everywhere.
There are solutions however. You can still have your baby close and keep him safe!
- use a bassinet or crib and bring it close to your bed (sliding the side bar of a crib down can make this process more fluid)
- use a "snuggle bed" or "dockatot" to help protect baby from your weight, or from sliding under you
Motherhood is not easy, and the truth is we are all amazing and fierce protectors of the ones we love. So if at any point you feel you are not ready for motherhood, take a deep breath and know you are!