You’ve no doubt been dreaming about your baby for months: what he’ll look like, whether he’ll be laid-back like his dad or a Type A like you. But chances are, if it’s your first child, you don’t know much about taking care of a newborn.
Well, we’ve been there, and we’re here for you, with everything you need to know to care for yourself as well as your baby in those exciting but often frustrating first weeks. Let’s get started!
First Things First
How to get motherhood off to a great start while you’re still in the hospital.
Have your newborn “room in” with you rather than stay in the hospital nursery, and ask the nurses not to offer him anything in a bottle. Even if the baby doesn’t actually latch on [Watch our How To Breastfeed: Deep Latch Technique video for step-by-step tips], you can squeeze the yellowish colostrum—the precursor to real breast milk that’s packed with immune-boosting nutrients—directly into his mouth. For more information, see The Ultimate Guide To Breastfeeding your one-stop resource for everything you need to know about breastfeeding—from buying that first nursing bra to deciding when to wean.
Stall the Visitors
Family and friends will want to visit as soon as possible, but you may want to keep them at bay for a bit so that you and your partner can spend time alone with your baby. Because a newborn is usually alert and receptive immediately after birth, it’s the perfect time to bond, so look him in the eyes and talk to him. He knows your voice from being in your body and may find it soothing.
Dress Your Baby Right
A cute going-home outfit is irresistible, but remember that babies cannot regulate their body temperature until they’re about 6 months old. So dress your newborn carefully. Generally, he should wear the same amount of clothing as you, indoors or outdoors. Don’t over bundle him—sweating can cause him to become chilled. Layers are a good way to go.
Know How to Use the Car Seat
A few weeks before your due date, visit seatcheck.org or call 866-SEAT-CHECK to locate a certified child passenger safety expert who can make sure the car seat is installed properly in your vehicle. Ask your partner to bring the seat to your hospital room when it’s time to go home. The basics:
- If your baby has too many clothes on, the harness may not fit properly. If it’s cold out, put your baby in the seat first, buckle him in, then place blankets on top.
- The harness must be snug against the hips and shoulders.
- The chest clip should be level with your baby’s armpits.
- The seat must be installed at a 45-degree angle so that the baby is semi-reclining; his head must not flop forward.
- Once the seat is installed, push on it—hard. It shouldn’t move more than an inch in any direction.
Nursing may be natural, but it can prove difficult for some women. These strategies will help.
- Don’t Delay
Breastfeeding seems to go more smoothly for women who nurse within an hour of delivery. Don’t be afraid to request help—most hospitals have lactation consultants on staff.
- Nurse on Demand
During the first six weeks, it’s essential to let your baby nurse whenever he wants. Trying to establish a feeding schedule too early can backfire by interfering with your milk supply. Don’t worry about having enough milk—the more your baby eats, the more you’ll produce.
- Learn to Latch
Your baby needs to have a deep latch in order to get enough milk and to prevent your nipples from becoming damaged and sore. Before you put him to your breast, position him on his side so that his belly is right up against yours. Then tickle his mouth with your nipple to encourage him to open wide; make sure he takes the entire nipple and a good portion of your areola in his mouth.
- Create a “Nursing Nest”
Though not essential, a glider, rocker or cushy chair with an ottoman or footstool are helpful. Wherever you nurse, have plenty of pillows (for back support and to help position the baby properly at your breast), water, snacks, a good book and the TV remote.
- Feed Your Milk Supply
Drink at least eight glasses of liquids a day. Depending on your age, metabolism and activity level, your calorie needs will likely be 2,200 to 2,400 daily. The good news: Breastfeeding moms tend to lose 1 to 4 pounds a month even with the added calories.
- Formula Facts
Some women cannot breastfeed; others need to supplement with formula occasionally. Commercial formulas are largely the same as The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates formulas to ensure they’re safe and contain the most important nutrients. Ask your pediatrician if she recommends a formula with added iron, DHA or other nutrients. Your choice of powder, liquid or concentrate primarily boils down to issues of cost and convenience.
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