Your baby’s entrance into the world is an exciting, yet challenging time. After nine long months of waiting, you now find yourselves ready to take your little one home from the hospital and start your new lives as parents. Many first-time parents feel anxious when it’s time to take their baby home – after all, taking care of a newborn is not an easy feat! You’ll probably find yourselves going home with more questions than answers, more unsure of your roles and responsibilities as caregivers than you imagined you would be at this point in time.
Don’t fret – here is a list of some important things new parents should remember as they embark on the journey of caring for a newborn baby. It isn’t easy, but keeping in mind these do’s and don’ts can help empower you to feel more comfortable in your new role as caretakers.
Here is a quick list of dos and don’ts for after your baby arrives:
Do interact with your newborn baby.
You will probably notice that your newborn sleeps a lot – but when he or she is awake, take advantage of that time and be sure to have plenty of face-to-face interaction with your sweet new baby. Be sure to spend lots of time doing skin-to-skin contact, talking and singing, tummy time, and fostering positive parent-child bonds.
Your newborn won’t be able to see very clearly, but they can recognize your voice and scent. Babies are responsive to the way their caregiver will talk to them and play with them. Newborn babies want to spend most of their time nestled up against the caregiver’s body, staying warm and secure. Skin-to-skin time, baby wearing, and contact naps are wonderful ways to interact and bond with your baby.
Do put your newborn baby to sleep on her back.
Newborn babies should always be put to sleep on their backs. This reduces your little one’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS. You can swaddle your newborn to make them feel more comfortable in their crib or bassinet for the first several weeks. Newborns are at risk of suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome, and being put to sleep on their backs is the safest method according to modern research.
Do ask for help when you need it.
One of the best tips for new parents is to remember to reach out for help when needed. From help with feeding the baby, taking care of basics around the house, organizing the baby’s clothes and accessories, bringing over a meal, and assisting in the daily routine, having help can make a huge difference. Guests can easily help wash dishes, keep an eye on a sleeping baby, assist in soothing the baby to sleep, and bottle feeding. First-time parents shouldn’t feel guilty for asking friends and family for help when they need it.
Do have visitors (within reason).
Taking care of newborns can be a lonely feat. They’re awake at all hours of the night, and tend to sleep all day. Friends and family can be a good support during this adjustment period for parents. Your mental health can take a nosedive after several weeks of caring for a newborn baby at all hours. Visitors can give advice, hold the baby so you can eat or sleep, and allow you to slowly ease back into “normal life” as you establish a routine.
Do make sure your newborn baby eats enough.
Newborn babies eat frequently and have plenty of soiled diapers to show for it. Do not let your newborn sleep through feedings, unless your pediatrician has approved it. Newborns will often sleep all day if you allow them, but it is important for them to get enough nutrition during the day as well as at night.
A typical newborn feeding schedule:
On average, newborn babies should eat every 2-3 hours, around the clock. It might be difficult to wake your sleeping baby in the middle of the night, but most newborns wake on their own when they are hungry. Middle-of-the-night feeding sessions can be grueling, so be sure to have plenty of snacks and beverages nearby for your own comfort. For the first few weeks, babies often have their days and nights reversed – meaning they tend to sleep all day and stay awake at all hours of the night, but parents should still keep a watchful eye on how much their baby is taking in during each feeding. Clues that your little one is eating enough include a soiled diaper every few hours and if your baby is generally in a good, calm mood.
Do use a safe infant car seat.
A car seat that is designed for infants is a must when you bring your baby home from the hospital. Car seats often come with a newborn insert that helps support your baby’s head and body when they are still very small.
Newborns should use a car seat that has a 5-point harness, and always be sure the chest clip is actually at their chest. Check that the seat belt is not too loose or too tight, and do not place an infant in a car seat with a bulky jacket or sleep sack on.
Do not add anything to the car seat that did not come with it. Pillows, head supports, and seat belt pads are not considered safe by car seat safety technicians.
Do not put your newborn infant to sleep on her stomach.
Newborn babies should not be put to sleep on their stomach. The “back is best” movement has greatly reduced infants’ risk of SIDS. Always put your baby to sleep on his or her back. Once your baby can roll over, it is safe to allow them to roll over and sleep on their belly.
Do not dress your baby in too much clothing.
Babies can overheat easily, and they do not regulate their body temperature as efficiently as children and adults. Typically, you can dress your newborn in one extra layer than what you would wear on that given day. If it’s warm and sunny outside and you’re wearing a t-shirt and shorts, you can dress your newborn in a lightweight cotton sleeper or pants, a onesie, and a jacket if needed.
Even if you worry about your baby’s head being cold at night, do not put your baby to sleep in a hat. Hats are not considered safe for sleep, and chances are, your little one is just fine without it. Hats can trap in body heat and cause your infant to overheat while they sleep.
Your baby’s extremities (the hands and feet) will usually feel cold. Check your baby’s temperature by feeling their forehead or the back of their neck. If these spots on your baby’s body feel chilly, your little one might need an extra layer or a blanket.
Do not expect your newborn to sleep through the night.
Newborns wake up every 2-3 hours on average throughout the night. Although it is exhausting, do not expect your new baby to sleep through the night or attempt any form of sleep training. Until your little one reaches their birth weight, they’ll need to eat frequently throughout the day and night. Under the approval of a pediatrician, your baby will eventually be allowed to sleep longer stretches at night, but many babies wake during the night well into the first year of life.
The newborn phase is a short period.
Caring for a newborn can be tough, but education for parents on the basics of newborn care can alleviate some of that stress. Before you know it, all the sleepless nights will be long gone as your little one grows and develops. As much as possible, reach out for help and try to enjoy the newborn phase – as challenging as it is, many parents look back on these days and miss them when they’re over!
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.