You may have thought about being a mother for years, and certainly had nine months to prepare for this special moment. But after delivery, you’ve brought your little bundle of joy home, and there’s only one thought going through your mind: Now what do I do? Don’t panic. As a general pediatrician for the past 25 years, I’ve seen a lot of parents (including my wife and me) have that look of panic. Here are some of the most important things for you to know at this time. For information on newborn feeding and sleep, see the article, “All He Does Is Eat, Sleep, and Poop: Advice for New Parents.”
It Takes a Village
People are very willing to help when there is a new baby in the family. So accept that help. When people call, they usually ask something like, “Is there anything I can do?” YES, and be sure to tell them exactly what they can do: go to the store and get me XY and Z, bring me a casserole to eat, come and watch the baby while I take a nap, come and do a load of laundry for me while I feed the baby. Anyone can help: neighbors, family, friends, church members, sorority sisters, and coworkers. And anyone can do most jobs, so hand them out. Prepared food (a lasagna, for example) that just needs to be cooked or heated up is ideal, and plenty of people are willing to make a meal for you at this time. If you are breastfeeding your child, only one person can do that. Anyone else can write thank you notes from the baby shower and scrub your toilets, so farm out those tasks.
Babies Do Weird Things
Although some of these findings may seem strange, they are all completely normal:
- Sneezing, hiccups, and inconsistent startle
- Intermittent eye crossing until 4 months of age
- Newborns often have acrocyanosis: blue palms and soles of feet
- Newborns often have some breast bud enlargement, and if they are breastfed, the babies may even produce a little breast milk themselves (even boys). This is due to the transfer of a hormone, prolactin, from mom to baby.
- Girls may have a little milky discharge in their vagina
- Newborn urine may sometimes have a pink tint to it or pink crystals in the diaper (this is not blood)
Keeping Baby Safe
- The home should have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor.
- The car seat should be in the back seat in the center (if a bench seat) and facing the rear.
- Check your water heater: should be at 120 degrees or less (when water is at its hottest coming from the faucet, it should not burn you).
- No one should be smoking in the house or around the baby
- Everyone who is around the baby regularly should get a Tdap booster vaccine (Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) to prevent spread of whooping cough (pertussis). If it’s fall or winter, everyone around the baby should get a flu shot, too.
- If someone comes to the house or you go somewhere to visit, ask that no one handle the infant if they are sick. And have everyone wash their hands before handling the baby. Babies are like pregnant women: no one respects their personal space. So for the first two months, try to avoid places where strangers are apt to come up to the baby and touch her or kiss her: the grocery store, the mall, the library, Target, etc. Church is another place that this happens, so if you want to go to church during this time, arrive late and leave early.
- Except in extreme circumstances, the weather will not harm your baby, so unless it’s extremely hot or cold outside, feel free to take your child out for a stroll.
Last But Not Least
- After 10-14 days, start tummy time: put baby on tummy while awake 6-8 times a day until baby starts to cry or falls asleep, then turn her over or pick her up.
- Your baby can hear quite well, so talk to her. A lot. If you don’t know what to say, read the paper, narrate your day, read a book to her, or sing to her. The more words she hears at this stage, the better her language development.
- Exercise is one thing hat helps prevent post-partum depression, so moms should try to exercise as soon as they are physically able. Walk as soon you can, but for more than that, call your obstetrician to get clearance to do very vigorous exercise.
- Just spend time and hold your baby. Most moms don’t need to be told this. But the time goes so quickly, and in just a few months, your baby will be moving more and wanting to do more. And before you know it, she won’t want to just lay in your arms and be cuddled. So do that as much as possible now. As a wise mother once told me, “The days are long, but the years fly by.”