Those nine months with a baby on board fly right past.
Even if you read every pregnancy and child care manual you can get your hands on, becoming a new mom is still overwhelming!
Here are ten reminders that will help you take care of your new little one – made for those days when you’re operating on three hours of sleep and need a helping hand:
1. Understand Your Crying Clues
During the first few months of your newborn’s life, you’ll hear quite a lot of crying – and that’s ok!
This is baby’s primary way of communicating with you. But don’t expect that you’ll automatically understand what’s got your infant in tears.
“It’s a myth that you can tell what’s wrong by the sound of the cry,” Dr. Harvey Karp told Parents.
You can, however, use other clues to determine whether your baby’s hungry, in need of a diaper, or ready for a nap, says Parents contributor Sarah Bowen Shay.
“If she last ate two hours ago, chances are good she’s hungry,” Shay advises. “Or if she’s been awake for 90 minutes or more, she’s probably tired.”
It’s not an exact science, but you’ll soon hit on a solution that should soothe those tears away.
2. It’s All About the Scale
Making sure your baby eats enough formula or breast milk to gain weight is one of the most important jobs of any new mother – besides loving your little one, of course.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Steady weight gain is often the most reliable sign that a baby is getting enough to eat. Although most babies lose weight soon after birth, it’s typically regained within one to two weeks.”
Another good way to tell your infant’s getting enough calories? Check those diapers.
“Look for six to eight wet diapers a day and three or four with stool,” lactation consultant Carol Huotari suggested to Parenting.
If you’re still worried, book an appointment with your pediatrician to discuss the matter one-on-one.
3. Soft Spot 101
If you’ve ever been around a newborn before, you know all about the dreaded “soft spot” – the ultra-sensitive part of a baby’s skull that’s not yet fully formed.
While it is important to avoid putting pressure on the soft spot, there’s no need to be frightened of picking up your baby.
“It’s okay to touch the soft spot and baby’s hair near it,” Dr. Tanya Altmann explained to Parents.
Gently cradle your infant’s head in your hands or arms, supporting their neck – which they can’t support on their own. Instead of worrying, think about how cuddling will help you bond!
4. Baby’s First Baths
While you’re waiting for the scab from baby’s umbilical cord to fall off, it’s important to keep your infant high and dry. Sponge baths will help you clean your infant without putting the scab at risk for infection.
“Maneuver carefully around the umbilical cord if there’s still a stump; it’s okay to gently wipe away any crustiness around it,” advise the editors at What to Expect.
“Next clean under his arms and between his fingers. Be sure to get into those little creases and skin folds.”
Before you know it, your baby will be ready to graduate from sponge baths with a warm washcloth to the baby tub.
From our catalogue: Once your infant is more than a few months old, it’s safe to start using hypoallergenic cleansers in their baby bathtub. Try our Extra Gentle Baby Wash to add a little extra TLC to bath time.
5. Soothing Baby’s Skin
After spending nine months swishing around in amniotic fluid, your baby’s skin will be a little bit shell shocked after birth – it’s never had to contend with so much air before!
“Newborns’ skin (especially the face) is prone to peeling and irritation, and isn’t always quite as beautiful as you might expect in the beginning,” cautions Vicki Papadeas at The Bump.
Dry skin is common in infants and can be treated with hypoallergenic lotion to make their days more comfortable.
From our catalogue: Soothe your newborn’s dry skin with our Extra Gentle Baby Lotion between trips to the bath or changing table. If your little one has an irritated bottom, use our Extra Gentle Diaper Balm a help prevent diaper rash.
6. Take Care of Those Chompers
Okay, so your infant doesn’t have teeth – yet. But good oral hygiene is still important – even long before their first teeth come in.
“Before a tooth breaks the surface, there may be a small opening in the gum where bacteria can hide and cause a cavity,” she adds.
You can expect to see baby’s pearly whites around the three to six month mark – and then you’ll have to spend some extra time wiping those chompers down with a washcloth to avoid the possibility of cavities.
7. Master the Swaddle
Lately swaddling has been on the receiving end of some bad publicity. In particular, a study released by Pediatrics found a correlation between swaddling and increased risk of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome.
Proponents of swaddling will tell you that it helps your newborn feel safe and protected in their first months out of the womb – not to mention it helps to keep flailing limbs safely tucked away.
Still, if your newborn is really new, they might benefit from a few – carefully monitored – hours of swaddling. Need to learn how to burrito your baby? Here’s a play-by-play tutorial from What to Expect.
8. Learn to Handle Anxiety
There’s no getting around it – being a new mom is tough. That feeling that you might be doing everything wrong? While it may get quieter, it might not completely go away.
First-time parents often have trouble with anxiety – constantly worrying whether you’re baby is sick or quadruple-checking every manual in the house is totally normal.
Remember to stop. Breathe. Relax.
It’s important to learn how to handle your anxieties – both for your own health, and the baby’s.
Read up on all the – perfectly normal! – bodily fluids and behaviors you can expect to see during your first few months as a new parent. That way you’ll be prepared – and your baby will only detect your calm confidence.
9. Live Your Life
Having a newborn will change everything in your life – from your priorities to your exhaustion levels. But having a newborn shouldn’t keep you from doing the things you love to do, either.
In fact, it’s crucial for new parents to head out into the world – run errands, see friends, work on your marriage and friendships. Your baby can tag along for some – or all – of these activities. They’re remarkably resilient!
Like Tolcher advises, just be prepared while you’re on the road – keep your baby in shade, bring lots of formula, and use clean hands when handling your infant.
10. Spot an Emergency – And Handle It Like a Pro
We know it can be difficult to fight the feeling that every little cough and sniffle deserves an immediate doctor visit.
In order to avoid extra stress, learn to tell the difference between baby’s discomfort and cause for concern. When you’re talking newborns, fever is a real danger.
Other health and wellness tips? Learn the difference between spit-up and vomit before racing off to the emergency room.
Learning what constitutes an emergency – and what doesn’t – can save you a lot of anxiety. Plus, when something does happen, you’ll be totally prepared to handle the situation calmly and effectively.
The life of a new mom might not be glamorous, but you can absolutely weather it. With your friends and family at the ready, your child care manuals stacked two deep in the living room, and this handy guide, you’ve got nothing to fear, Mom.
What’s the best advice about newborn care you’ve ever received? Tell us your tips in the comments below: