Whether you are pregnant or you just had your baby, I say congratulations. But this article won’t be complete without sharing some newborn care basics with you. I know you have anticipated your EDD and have made out lots of plans on how to take care of your newborn, but in the long list you have made, I will urge you not to lose sight of the basic care your baby needs now than ever.
I have listed the basic things to note and do under different categories as your baby grows from days to weeks and months till when you finally start celebrating years. We often tend to do a lot for our newborn, this not only suck up the little energy you have in the first few days after delivery, but you stand the risk of leaving out the most important things which I have listed below.
Basic care for your newborn on delivery day
I believe your doctor will guide you through most of these steps, but I write this so that you can have a little idea on why these should be done:
As soon as you give birth and post-delivery steps have been taken on the newborn, your baby will be given to you to hold on your bare skin. This is called skin-to-skin holding, and there are a lot of benefits this gives to both you and your newborn.
Skin-to-skin holding helps to stabilize your baby’s temperature as it adjusts to life outside the womb. This process also helps your baby to have a stabilized heart rate and breathing as it blends with yours and what it feels through your skin.
Your holding soothes the baby as it tries to balance with the strange environment it finds itself. And because you are holding your baby, the excitement and pleasure also do so much in your body, and you feel this in the way your uterus relaxes in motherhood satisfaction and out of pleasure, the milk hormones (prolactin) get stimulated in readiness for your baby’s first feeding. So you see that this basic step is very important and shouldn’t be passed.
After a day or two after birth, you must ensure that your newborn goes through a series of tests to confirm its medical condition. There are varieties of tests conducted on a newborn, such as the PKU test to determine proper hormone functioning, liver tests, blood test, among many others.
Once your baby passes these tests, you are good to go with some medical advice and scheduled appointments with your doctor. In cases where the baby fails a test or does not meet up with some, treatment will be administered to correct or prevent whatever it is.
Basic care for the newborn after delivery day
Once you are discharged from the hospital, your baby is now under your full care and monitoring, and here are some basic care tips you should ensure from day to day. The good thing is that newborns don’t require a big deal of work, but a greater deal of care and attention is needed because a lot of things change and happens as they adjust to a new life, which you can easily spot if you are attentive.
You have to put a plan in place on how to ensure that your baby is fed regularly and promptly. Your baby should be fed only on demand, which is usually every 2 to 3 hours. While nursing, it is advisable to change between breasts at 10 to 15 minutes interval.
Babies alert you by crying, making suckling sound, or by sucking their fingers, but there are times when you may have to wake your baby to nurse.
Another instinctive way to tell when your baby is hungry or if the child is feeding right is by the fullness of your breast before feeding and how less full it becomes just after.
While your baby feeds, there is a high tendency for him/her to swallow air often, and this can get them agitated, but burping them as you switch breasts, pause if feeding with a bottle or once they are full makes them feel better.
To burp your baby, you can hold the child upright while placing the head on your shoulder and pat the back gently. Another convenient way is to lay the child on your lap with face down while ensuring that the head and neck are well supported, and then pat the back gently.
P.S. watch out for signs of disinterest in feeding, sluggishness, or if you have to wake the child often before they nurse. Don’t hesitate to report it to your doctor.
Newborns sleep between 2-4 hours at intervals once they are fine and well-fed. So, don’t expect them to sleep through the night until they are around 3months and above. It is important to properly pace your baby in the crib to avoid discomfort.
Babies sleep better when placed on their back, but try to change the head position frequently so that they don’t get a flat spot from sleeping in the same position every day.
As much as possible, try to avoid keeping shawls, blankets, or stuffed toys around a sleeping baby to avoid the risk of suffocation. Ensure that your baby is close to you always for the first six months. It is during this time you get to identify if your baby is nocturnal or diurnal.
Some babies stay wide awake and very active at night while they spend most of the day sleeping, this may be because they don’t know the difference yet, you can teach the difference by trying to keep them active during the day, and reduce any activity(sound, light and the likes) at night. But if that doesn’t work, it means you have to use the day to relax as well until the routine changes.
As your baby grows, you need to keep appointments with the doctor for checkups and vaccines needed for the good and healthy growth of the child. For no reason should you skip appointments, and if you have to, ensure you reschedule and follow through with the visit.
There are also days when you may see signs and changes you don’t understand, for the first three months of your baby’s development, your doctor should be your friend. Never take any sign or reaction for granted and do not try self-medication on your baby except as prescribed by the doctor. The first few months of newborns are really delicate and should be handled with care.
Newborns have a very weak immune system and are therefore easily prone to infections. This is why you have to ensure safe and good hygiene each time you are around them. Ensure you wash your hands always before you carry your baby and keep sanitizers within close reach for anyone that visits and may have to touch the baby.
Try as much as possible to avoid people kissing your baby, sucking their fingers, or not being hygienic around your child. Ensure that toys, feeding bottles, and other things around the baby are well sterilized and in clean condition.
There are two bathing methods for infants; a sponge bath or tub bath. Sponge bathe is best for newborns until the umbilical cord falls off and heals completely. This takes about 1 to 4 weeks, depending on your baby, while circumcision in male children takes about 1 to 2 weeks to heal.
During this time, the sponge bath is safer as it doesn’t let you submerge the child in water until the cord falls off and heals. When the area is exposed to water, there is a high risk of infection and delayed healing process. To know if the umbilical cord is completely healed, the cord spot changes color from yellow to either brown or black.
Reddening of that area or discharge of puss or foul smell means the danger of infection, and its best to call a doctor to check.
Introducing your baby to a tub bath is a gradual process. You try it at first, and observe their reactions if the baby gets fussy, go back to sponge bathing, and you can try again after a week or thereabouts. But ensure that the bathwater is warm.
You can either choose between disposable diapers or cotton towels (nappies), but either way, I think you should know that newborns can have a change of diapers up to 10 times in a day, that’s how messy it can get. This is only because they love to be comfortable and can’t wear a messed diaper for a long time before getting all fussy.
Whenever you want to change the diapers, ensure that all you need are within your arm’s reach so you won’t have to leave your baby all alone in search of clips and diapers.
You can either wash the bum with warm water or use wipes, but some babies often react to wipes. Most baby skins are sensitive to diapers and wipes, which often cause rashes, this is why you need to change diapers often and also allow days for your baby to play around without wearing diapers or nappies so that their bum area can breathe freely.
In case of rashes, rub the area with a generous amount of rash cream or ointment (make sure it is one with zinc oxide) before wearing the diapers or nappies.
One major benefit of swaddling your child is to provide warmth and give your child a sense of comfort and security. If you are not good at swaddling, you can try carrying your baby on your chest/front side using carrier bags.
Should you plan on swaddling, ensure the swaddling cloth is long enough to wrap your child on your back, and try not to wrap too tight to prevent hip dislocation. In some parts of the world, babies are swaddled for as long as 3-6 months, but this basically depends on what works for you.
Babies are fragile, and this could make you wary at times, but within a few weeks, you’d be able to understand the trick and identify routines that work best for you, and then you become an expert in caring for your newborn. There are many other newborn care basics, but I’m sure with these few highlighted points, you are well prepared to take care of your baby.