At this point of social evolution, it's pretty understood that parenting doesn’t come with a user guide. Well, there are attempts at ‘how to’ books to ease new moms into parenting, but it takes about 0.5 of a second to realise that these are just words which are great in theory, but in practice go well and truly out the window. Parenting guidelines are great, but let’s be real – they’re not real.
When it comes to newborn care, whether you’re a first time mom or three children deep in the game, nothing can be predicted. A bunch of guidelines, estimates, measurements, and the like are tossed around the pre-natal doctor clinic. These are here to give you an idea of what to expect and roughly when to expect them. And of course, to instil some irrational post-natal panic that takes things to the next level if certain points aren’t reached when expected. Wow, thanks. Just what new moms ordered.
Nonetheless, most people out there with their head screwed on right know that newborn care is hectic and chaotic. You’re doing a good job every single day when you’re able to get out of bed and get dressed and tend to your newborn. Actually, forget getting dressed. Newborn care can be handled in your pyjamas.
The main piece of advice we can give is that newborn care involves expecting the unexpected. So here are some unexpected things to start you off on the right track to newborn care 101.
15 The Head Will Be Smushier Than You Expect
Most people having a baby know that their baby’s head is going to come out of the womb a little bit squishy. The skull takes a while to harden so things stay soft around the top end for a bit. But just a day or two, right?
Actually, the opening of the skull which is called the fontanel takes a while to harden up. Even with a full of head of hair, parents can still feel this soft spot and be quite worried about what to do with it. Ironically enough, the soft spot is stronger than you may think at first. The spot may pulsate a little because it is located directly over a bunch of blood vessels which cover the brain. This can be a weird sensation, especially on such a squishy part of the head, but is totally normal. Be aware of the soft spot on your baby’s head, but don’t fear it!
14 What To Expect Books Are More Like Guidelines
Just about everything with parenting is a guideline. Basically, the only person who knows if they’re doing it right if mom herself. But hey, that won’t stop someone in society thinking that they know best, and publishing their thoughts in a What to Expect book or something of the like.
There is certainly merit in these books and good to get an overall sense of parenting. But a lot of the entries in these books, such as ‘what to expect with your baby’s first rash’ will be filled with a bunch of ‘maybe this caused it’ or ‘it might be due to this’, culminating in ‘you should probably go see the doctor’. So really, there is no practical advice, except to follow your mother’s intuition and trust your gut more than words by someone who has never, and most likely will never, meet your baby. For peace of mind, invest in a few What to Expect books, but take it all with a grain of salt and don’t expect solid answers to your endless questions.
13 The First #2 Isn’t Pretty And It Only Gets Worse
Really, it’s lucky that the first poop from newborn baby occurs in the delivery room so that there is some professional around to clean it up. Because it is disgusting. On all levels.
The first poop is a weird make up of meconium. Meconium is made up of what your baby eats while its been hanging out in the uterus for the past 9 months. Yes, this poop has been brewing for quite a while. Meconium is basically whatever has been floating around the amniotic fluid, including your baby’s lanugo, which is their fine fur coat that has grown on the body and then been shed.
When the meconium comes out the rear end, it resembles something that could pass as tar or a black bubble gum bubble. Don’t panic, otherwise the nurses will laugh at you. Just remember, nothing about baby’s poop is going to get prettier when breastfeeding and weaning onto solids comes into play. Enjoy!
12 SIDS Will Never Make Sense
It’s pretty much parents' biggest fear: their newborn baby dying without any warning. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is terrifyingly real. It will dominate the first six months of your baby’s life and contribute to your total lack of sleep for worrying each night after you put them to bed in the nursery.
Literally nobody knows why SIDS happen. Doctors are still trying to figure out why 4,000 babies die each year without warning or explanation. For some reason, again unknown, babies who sleep on their back halve the risk of SIDS. But that’s only half the risk! There are other factors, such as not sleeping with toys, blankets, or in mom’s beds, but no real definite explanation for SIDS. Basically, you’re just going to have to accept that the first six months of baby’s sleeping life is precious and scary. You’ll love them even more when they wake up in the morning, at least.
11 Baby Smiles Take Time
That basic muscle reflex that brings tears of joy to everyone’s eyes and causes grown adults to coo in delight. Yep, a baby’s smile. Everyone loves a baby’s smile. Baby’s love that everyone loves their smile because peoples’ reactions make them smile even more. It’s a winning cycle.
As a new mom, of course you’re looking forward to seeing your baby smile for the first time. In fact, you’re probably going to make it your mission throughout each day to keep on making your baby smile just to see how gorgeously adorable it is.
However, that beautiful baby smile might take longer than you expect to fill your world with unconditional happiness. It takes about 6 weeks for the muscles to really develop and for baby’s to be able to form a smile. Before that, you’ll just have to believe that baby loves your comfort even if they aren’t showing it. After then, however, it’ll be smiles all round!
10 Invest In Picture Story Books That Are Tolerable
It’s no secret that reading to babies does wonders for intelligence levels, empathy development, and imagination. It is never too early to start reading to a baby. Even though it looks like newborn babies are getting nothing out of a picture story book, their brain is absorbing a lot more than may be first realised. From day one at home, it isn’t crazy to start reading to baby.
However, you really want to invest in picture story books that are enjoyable to be read time and time again. And time and time again. And then maybe some more. That is exactly what is going to happen. Parenthood means becoming a mobile library, reading with intonation, expression, and enthusiasm even when there is none. Over and over again you’re going to have to make bunny’s adventures in the forest the most exciting thing in the world and display the utmost joy for little duck floating in the pond. It’ll be all the better for your child all the more enthusiastic you are, so buy some books that you’re not going to resent after two reads.
9 Embrace The Inevitable Tired And Cranky Mood
There are many reasons for the inevitable fatigue of a new parent with a newborn baby. These reasons are often overlooked in the hope that new parents will just snap out of it, or that they don’t really want to focus on it.
Commonly someone might say to their friend who’s just had a baby, ‘oh, you look tired’ and in return receive a death stare right into their soul. This is because new parents are tired. One of the main reasons for this fatigue is the fact that the human body has just gone through, well, what is close to torture. Delivering a baby is anything but easy physically, but also emotionally it takes its toll thanks to all those hormones changing around and messing things up in the past 9 months. Not to mention now new moms have to wake up to feed baby, generally three or four times in the middle of the night. And feeding means changing the diaper and settling baby back to sleep, so we’re not talking about just 10 minutes. So yeah, get used to being tired. Call it your glow. A fatigue glow.
8 Projectile Spew Is A Real Thing
It’s real, and it is going to happen in a home with a newborn baby. It will come without warning, it will come just as disgusting as the movies make it out to be, and eventually it will come to be accepted as the norm.
Babies do spew a lot, even when it’s just breastmilk that is coming up. They can spew when they’re crying, when they’re laughing, or even when they’re smiling. They can really catch you off guard. It is just a matter of fact that, time to time, some projectile spew is going to come flying from your baby’s mouth. You might want to get good at cleaning it and doing so immediately so that it doesn’t stick. It is worth finding a reliable floor or wall cleaner, depending on where it lands. You might even develop a technique to catch it. You know, keep a casual spew-mit on hand. Parenting strategies right there.
7 Soft Baby Skin Isn’t 24/7
While that gorgeous soft baby skin is a dream of new moms, it doesn’t last forever. The skin starts off soft and silky, but it changes pretty quickly. Basically, for the past 9 months, baby’s skin has been soaking up the amniotic fluids. Once the fresh air of reality hits, that skin dries out at a rapid rate.
In the first few weeks of bringing your newborn baby home, they are going to shed their skin. Not like a snake or anything, but flaky bits of dry skin will peel off on their own. You don’t have to do too much about this, just be aware of it. This starts happening after the first month, so take all those cute baby photos early on! If you want to moisturise your baby’s skin, use a hypoallergenic lotion that is fragrance free. The more natural the better for such sensitive baby skin!
6 Keep High Used Areas Clean
It’s something that not every new moms thinks about, but there are certainly parts of the body that are going to get a lot more attention than before. When it comes to breastfeeding, a whole new world is opened up to new moms. It is just another inevitable thing that comes with a newborn baby.
So baby is going to be breastfeeding many times a day, and don’t forget about the night time as well. The nipples go through a lot when the milk is being produced. In fact, the breasts go through a lot. From tenderness to tightness when they are full, the breasts are dealing with plenty. However, it is actually the nipples that get all the attention from baby, as this is where the suckling happens.
Therefore, it is really important to keep the nipples clean. This is for your own hygiene purposes, but also for your baby’s sake since they’re the ones who’s lips are going to be targeting this area. And let’s be real for a moment, breastmilk leaves things a little crusty around the edges that no one is going to appreciate.
5 You’ll Be Learning Day By Day
If there is ever something to call a ‘learning moment’, it is raising a newborn baby. One could even call it the mother of all learning experiences. Literally every single day brings with it new challenges and new hurdles that new moms have to overcome.
The funny thing about these learning moments is that you won’t notice that they’re happening. It will take quite a while for these learning moments to sink in. In fact, it might take up to 18 years to truly reflect on what you have learnt from being a mother. Until you see the semi-finished product of your child entering adulthood and taking on the world, the learning experience might not seem real.
It is really important to remember, even you don’t actively acknowledge, that you are learning every day. You are gaining new skills, new emotional processing capabilities, and overcoming things you didn’t know you were capable of. This is an amazing learning experience and you deserve to be proud of yourself along the way.
4 Accept Help – It's Not Selfish
There is really nothing selfish about motherhood. Nothing at all. Yet, so many new moms feel selfish for emotions that are inevitable, such as exhaustion, fatigue, and the occasional blues. These are very normal emotional waves that are experienced with or without a newborn child.
Accepting help from family and close friends in the early days of bringing your newborn home is something wonderful. There is absolutely no shame in accepting an offer of someone coming over to watch the baby while you catch some sleep. In fact, resting up and taking care of yourself will make you a better mom.
Plus, everyone is just dying to hold the baby and give it all the cuddles in the world. Let them have their time with baby – you’ve got plenty of other time to enjoy with your newborn. In fact, just about every waking and sleeping moment. That’s why some time out to yourself isn’t a bad thing.
3 Go Outside And Take Baby Too
Fresh air and exercise is never a bad thing. Especially after giving birth and spending every waking hour with a newborn baby. Oh, and even more so when new mom is feeling totally sleep deprived and claustrophobic because every waking hour has been about 23 hours. There is nothing wrong with these feelings, but there are plenty of cures.
Taking baby out for a stroll is a logically easy idea. Pack the stroller, pack your own bag, tuck baby in and get out in the fresh air. Take a walk around the block or to a park, just somewhere that you and your baby can breathe in the fresh air and be around some nature. This is a really natural remedy to feeling run down. Even just a 10 minute walk will make a world of difference for the rest of your day. Obviously, if it’s bucketing down rain, wait inside just a little bit until it clears. No new baby has even wanted to dance in the rain, as beautiful as that would be.
2 The Umbilical Cord Hangs Around For Awhile
While there are ideals of bringing home a beautifully clean and soft skinned baby, there are certain bits of a newborn baby that aren’t exactly perfect. The umbilical cord is one of these. This important piece of anatomy has kept baby alive and healthy for the 9 months in the womb, and it isn’t ready to disappear completely even once it has been cut.
The umbilical cord will take around 2 weeks to completely fall off. So yeah, you get to take it home with you from the hospital. Souvenir?
Typically, the umbilical cord will fall off faster if it is kept dry. If the cord does get wet, just pat it dry with a soft towel. The stump might bleed a little when it falls off but that is a pretty normal occurrence. It is really just a scab in the end so there is nothing to worry about.
1 Enjoy It While It Lasts
There is one truth about new motherhood that everyone says and everyone turns into a cliché that is totally true, and that is that it goes so quickly. Just other amazing moments like a wedding ceremony or a beach vacation, the good things fly by.
Of course, you’re left with beautiful memories, but oftentimes these memories are appreciated more in retrospect than in the actual moment. It is so important to cherish the little things that your baby does each day. No matter how tired or frustrated you are feeling, there is bound to be something that makes you smile and fill your heart with affection.
Because it can be so easy to get caught up in in the highs and lows of parenting, actively reflecting each day can be a great thing for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. Writing a journal, drawing or taking pictures, or keeping a photo journal can help key your brain into finding something to appreciate each day, so that you are able to truly enjoy it while it lasts.
Sources: Pajiba.com, Parents.com, Huffingtonpost.com, Baby.lovetoknow.com