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Breaking Down the Basics of Newborn Care for First Time Parents
Today, we’re sharing some newborn care tips for new moms (and dads!) and breaking down the basics of newborn care — whether your baby is already here or you’re still awaiting their arrival.
When a new mom brings her newborn home from the hospital, it can be intimidating thinking about all of the needs that your newborn will have. You may worry about whether or not you have all of the baby items that they will need.
It’s understandable if you feel worried or intimidated. But remember that you were made to do this (and that babies don’t need as much equipment as we tend to think).
As long as you have the basics to take care of your newborn, you will be set. Here are some newborn care basics and tips, as well as a list of handy items that help to meet those basic infant needs.
Newborn Baby Care Basics
Your newborn’s basic care needs are:
- temperature regulation
- diaper changes
- human interaction and comfort
The rest of the little details tend to fall into place!
You could also benefit from learning your baby’s cues, cries, and sounds. I have found that they have different sounds, body movements, and cries according to their needs.
Some reasons for baby signaling your attention could be being hungry, tired, having a tummy ache, discomfort somewhere with their body, needing their diaper changed, being too hot or too cold, or something else.
But don’t stress yourself out trying to figure out your baby’s cries and cues! Being a new mom is hard enough.
Sometimes the best way to figure out their needs, especially in the beginning, is by the process of elimination.
Feeding Your Baby
Feeding your newborn is one of the first things you will do for your baby, and it’s one of the most important.
The decision of HOW to feed your baby might be obvious to you — or it might prove a little more difficult.
The first thing that I would like new moms to know: in the end, it doesn’t matter whether or not you breastfeed or bottle feed – you have to do what works for you.
There are so many benefits of breastfeeding, although you might prefer (or need) to bottle feed. The decision is usually based on your personal circumstances.
If you’re hoping to breastfeed your newborn and want to get the best start to your breastfeeding journey, I encourage you to read these 21 breastfeeding tips for first time moms who want to exclusively nurse.
But sometimes new moms just aren’t able to breastfeed (or pump). It may be frustrating as well as discouraging.
You are not alone. You are not inadequate. You have not failed your newborn.
As long as your baby is happy and fed, that’s the most important thing.
How Often to Feed Your Newborn
New parents are often surprised to find out how small their baby’s stomach is: on Day 1, it’s the size of a marble or small cherry (source).
This means your baby won’t need to drink as much milk as you might think. If you’re breastfeeding, feed on demand and the small amount of colostrum will be enough to nourish your newborn.
With each day that passes, a baby’s stomach gets a little bit bigger and can hold a little more.
When bottle feeding, you might find yourself feeding your baby every 2-3 hours. Your pediatrician should be able to give you information on the required amount of breastmilk or formula to offer as your baby grows.
Dressing Your Baby
Newborns have a hard time maintaining their own body temperature, so keeping your baby warm enough (but not too warm) can sometimes be difficult depending on the season.
Don’t overthink it, but it is something to consider.
Where we live, it is cold most of the time. We have found that, especially at night, swaddles (such as Halo) and sleep sacks work wonders.
Because it is not safe for a newborn to sleep with a loose blanket, sleep sacks are fantastic!
They are a worry-free option to keep your baby’s body temperature regulated and comfortable when napping during the day, and while sleeping at night.
Quick note: If you are bedsharing with your baby, sleep sacks can cause overheating, so only use them if your baby has his/her own sleeping surface.
We have used both thin cotton sleep sacks and fleece sleep sacks, depending on the season. If your baby is not comfortable with the temperature that they are experiencing, they may not sleep very well.
Dressing for the Outdoors
If you’re looking to take your baby outside, it would be a good idea to take note of the temperature and what your baby may need to keep them warm enough or make sure they don’t get too hot.
The general rule of thumb is that babies need one more layer than adults to be comfortable.
For example, if mom needs to wear a long-sleeve shirt outside to be comfortable, baby may need a jacket, socks, and depending on the season and time of the day, a hat.
Baby Sleep Needs
Sleep is another important aspect of a baby’s life and is a part of meeting their basic needs.
As a newborn, though, they should sleep most of the time. They don’t need to spend lots of time awake, taking in a lot of stimulation.
As they get older and establish a more normal sleep pattern/routine, you should begin to notice how much sleep your baby needs.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine infants four to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
Interacting and Comforting Your Baby
Your newborn needs you to interact with them and to hold them. Holding them and interacting with them helps them know that they are safe and loved, and it helps with their brain development.
Here are some tips on how to interact with your newborn to help know that they are loved, feel secure, and help with development and growth:
- Hold your baby while feeding them.
- Look into their face and smile at them.
- Say baby’s name.
- Sing to them. (The more you talk to them, the better communication skills they will develop!)
- Talk to them – tell them about what is going on around them and explain what you are doing when taking care of them.
- Play with them!
Playing with them is very important; even though they are unable to do much as newborns, play is still essential. You can play peek-a-boo, make funny faces, count their toes, read a story, etc.
Newborn Baby Care Basics
Sometimes tools are a great way to make meeting your infant’s basic needs easier! (Let’s be honest, it’s worth having the right tools to save a little time and a little sanity!)
1. Nasal Bulb
A nasal syringe, such as the NoseFrida, has been one of our number one used tools while having babies.
It’s not easy to clean out a baby’s nose, and if their nose is full, they may struggle with breathing, sleeping, and eating. This makes for an unhappy baby and a frustrated mom/caretaker.
Use some saline drops, then clean baby’s nose out.
They may not be able to say thank you yet (or appreciate the process of getting their nose cleaned out), but once they are able to breathe, everyone will be happier!
2. Diaper Cream
Diaper rash cream is another item that is a must have. It’s not that we plan on our babies having a rash, it’s just that it will happen at some point.
When babies have diapers on, it’s the perfect environment for rashes because it’s dark, warm, and moist. Any type of diaper cream that that creates a barrier should work, though your baby may not be able to use just any brand.
You’ll find a list of some of our favorite diaper rash cream options in this article.
One item that is handy to go along with the cream is a diaper cream brush. This tool really comes in handy when applying cream or ointment.
(You don’t have to get your hands full of cream, extra bacteria on the diaper rash container, extra bacteria on your baby’s bottom, and it’s incredibly quick and easy to clean.)
A forehead thermometer is an essential item (especially with the illnesses that are going through our world right now).
Babies’ temperatures tend to run different than adults and may record temperatures differently, depending on the style of thermometer that you have.
It is important to not rely on what you think you know about body temperatures, but what the user manual and instructions that come with the thermometer says.
If you are concerned about a high temperature and what that would be for your baby, the first place to check with is your baby’s pediatrician or family doctor.
^^ These are just a few of the things you’ll want to have on hand when you have a newborn.
Wondering what else you might need before baby arrives? Go to this post for a list of newborn essentials to buy before baby arrives.
You’ll Do Great!
Now you know that you don’t have to be as intimidated or feel unprepared for your newborn. You’re going to do a great job as a new mom.
We know this because by finding and reading this article, you’re looking to do the best job that you can for your baby.
- Whichever way you choose to feed your baby will be great. They will be fed, which is the most important thing.
- Making sure their body temperature is regulated properly won’t be hard because you now know the general rule of thumb: what mom’s wearing to be comfortable, plus one layer.
- Your newborn will be happy and rested because you know that they need a lot of sleep, and that as they grow older, they will establish a more consistent sleep routine.
- Your baby will feel loved and secure because you know that talking, smiling, and interacting with them is important for many aspects of their life.
You’ll also be prepared for your newborn with those tools listed to make life just that much easier with such a huge life adjustment!
Newborn Care Tips for New Moms
Before I conclude this post, here are a few additional newborn care tips for new moms:
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Make sure everyone washes their hands before holding your baby.
- Support your baby’s head and neck while holding them.
- Learn car seat safety BEFORE baby’s arrival.
- Put a night light in the bedroom for nighttime feeds.
- Burp your baby after feeding.
- Invest in a good quality carrier.
- Forget about housework (for now).
- Get outside! Go for a short walk.
- Figure out what works for YOU and stick with it.
Do you know of any expecting moms that might need a little bit of encouragement or advice about the basics of newborn care?
If you do, consider sharing this article with them! This may be just the advice that she was needing to hear to calm her nerves or just remind her of the basic cares and handy tools for newborns.