“Babies are tougher than we give them credit for: We’re about to go home from the hospital with our new little bundle. He is so sweet, such a champ! He’s really taken this whole being born thing in stride.” –CurlyQ’s Facebook status, August 2012
Newborns – An Instruction Manual
Newborn babies are so little, so fragile-looking. But they’re tough little boogers! If they can handle being born, they can handle almost anything, right?
There are a multitude of things to worry about, though, during those first few weeks, especially if you haven’t spent much time with babies. Below are the different aspects of caring for a newborn that may seem intuitive to you or they may seem totally foreign. Either way, I’ve written about my experiences with 4 newborns, my successes and my failures, to offer you some guidance. You’re gonna do great!
|Diapering||Breastfeeding||Sleeping through the night|
|Umbilical cord care||Bottle feeding||Illness|
|Circumcision care||Feeding baby at night||Weight gain|
Diapering. Newborn diapers have two cool features. The first is that many have a little cut-out so that they don’t push on the baby’s umbilical cord stump. The second is that they have a line that runs down the front of the outside of the diaper that changes from yellow to blue when the baby is wet.
If you’ve never changed a diaper, dirty diapers can be intimidating. One thing my sister taught me with my 1st baby was this…after undoing the diaper tabs, pull the front of the diaper away from the baby and use it to wipe off the poop from front to back. It leaves less mess to clean up with the baby wipes. Secure the diaper tabs snugly, both reaching toward the baby’s umbilical cord.
Stool color. Let’s talk about poop. Newborn poop looks nothing like other people’s poop. During the 1st few days, it’s going to look like sticky tar. It’s nasty and hard to get off of the baby’s skin, but it’s only there for a few days. Once the tar-poop it’s gone, your newborn’s poop will become yellow and seedy. Yes, it looks like it is full of seeds, and, yes, this is normal. I’ve found that when I supplement with formula, the poop is browner in color than when I’m just breastfeeding.
Diaper explosions. Newborn diapers are so little! They also leak pretty quickly because your baby’s poop is very watery during her first several weeks, so as soon as you notice that the diaper is dirty, change it quickly to avoid an explosive mess. I have had many diaper changes end in the bath tub because the poop can get everywhere.
Ointment. Newborns skin is so sensitive, especially skin that is in contact with a lot of moisture. It may feel like you’re changing your baby’s diaper all day long, but that’s the norm with newborns.
With baby #2, I was determined to have him sleep well at night, so when he woke up to nurse I’d only change his diaper if it was dirty. He ended up having the worst diaper rash I’ve ever seen. His sweet little biscuits were bleeding!
Newborns really do need their diapers changed with great frequency to keep that delicate skin protected. Get a good diaper cream like A&D or Boudreaux’s (my favorite). I really don’t care for Desitin—it doesn’t protect the skin very well, in my opinion. Oh, one more thing! Don’t put baby powder in your baby girl’s diaper! It’s unnecessary and it increases the risk of ovarian cancer in women (so I assume the same holds true for baby girls).
Diaper changing hygiene. If you get poop on your baby’s clothes or on the changing table, you need to change them as soon as you’re done. Don’t mess around with that nasty bacteria. Also, wash your hands after changing a dirty diaper every time, even if you don’t think you got anything on your hands. I guess you should do the same when you change a wet diaper…but I don’t! :)
Umbilical cord care. You really want to keep the umbilical stump dry or it can get really goopy and possibly infected. With my 1st son, I was sent home with alcohol wipes to clean around the umbilical cord stump. The alcohol helped to dry it out and prevented infection.
With my 2nd and 3rd sons, I wasn’t given any instructions about umbilical cord care. I didn’t do a thing to them and they eventually fell of and healed all on their own. I’m not sure if the protocol has changed, if different hospitals have different instructions (my kids have all been delivered in different hospitals), or if my nurses just forgot to tell me. Either way, it’s not something to make a fuss about.
Circumcision. With all three of my boys, we have opted to have them circumcised. (I remember reading a funny book saying that 11-year-old boys wants the same scooters their friends have, the same kind of shoes their friends have, and they want their penises to look like their friends’ too! Maybe it was The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy?)
A newborn baby boy with a big wound on the tip of his penis is very pitiful thought. Its the most intense red color as it heals; I think they call it “angry red.” If you want to know exactly how red, here’s a picture (warning: not for the squeamish). To keep my babies comfortable while the circumcisions healed, I put A&D ointment on a small square gauze pad with every diaper change. Otherwise, the urine can burn them or the penis can stick to the diaper as it scabs over. There’s no such thing as too much A&D in my opinion when it comes to a healing circumcision! And if any poop gets on it, be sure to gently clean it off.
One other thing I learned the hard way is that after the circumcision heals, you need to pull the skin on the shaft of the baby’s penis back every once in awhile and clean the tip. If it isn’t cleaned it will accumulate white cottage-cheese looking schmootz and can create penile adhesions. In other words, the baby’s skin sticks to the tip of the penis and will need to be released. I understand that it is supposed to self-correct by the time he becomes a toddler, but save him (and yourself) the pain and remember to clean it.
Vaginal care. Baby girls’ vaginas tend to be swollen from Mom’s hormones after childbirth. The most unusual side-effect (in my opinion) of Mom’s hormones on a baby girl is that they can cause a little vaginal bleeding in the baby (like a period). Don’t panic, if you see blood-tinged mucus in her diaper. It’s completely normal and will go away once her hormones balance out.
When baby girls poop, the poop doesn’t stay put in the diaper. It can often creep toward the vagina (or belly button!). If you see any poop, especially poop that has mirgrated from in the diaper, be sure to wipe all of it off. It’s important to keep the vagina really clean.
Bath time. Newborn babies don’t get dirty at the playground or get ice cream in their hair. They really don’t need baths like we do. In fact, you aren’t supposed to bathe your baby until the umbilical cord falls off (usually when the baby is around 10 or 12 days old if I remember correctly).
That being said, if your baby spits up like my babies do, they smell like sour milk long before that stump falls off. I have used baby wipes on my babies’ heads and necks, fingers, and toes before their 1st bath because they do get stinky.
Once your baby’s cord falls off, it’s a beautiful day! Get out the camera and give that little stinker her 1st bath. Fill the baby tub with warm water. Try to keep the room you bathe her in as warm as possible, too. Since the baby isn’t immersed in water, she’ll get cold quickly. And don’t think of this as a long soak. It’s a quick in and out, dry that baby off, and put her in a warm romper. Please kiss that sweet-smelling head for me!
Going forward, I recommend making bath time Daddy time. It can be a really special time to bond, unless your baby hates baths. Then it can be kind of miserable. You may also find that baths make your baby sleepy, so a bath right before bedtime may send her on her way to Dreamland. Lastly, bathe your baby at a frequency you’re comfortable with. Some Moms bathe their babies every day, while others bathe them every week or two. There’s no hard and fast rule here.
Feeding Your Baby
Breastfeeding. If you’re open to breastfeeding, nurse that baby as best you can, as often as your baby is hungry, even if it hurts. Prepare to have a lot of down-time as a breastfeeding Mom. I got really good with breastfeeding while walking with #4 because it was too much of a luxury to sit down for 20-30 minutes!
My 1st successful breastfeeder was baby #3. By the time I decided to wean him, I was very sad. With the previous two, I wanted to throw a party! Women have such different experiences from one another and even from baby to baby.
If you’re afraid your baby is not getting enough breastmilk, count her wet and dirty diapers. Your pediatrician can let you know how many of each she should be producing in a day. If you determine that your baby isn’t getting enough milk, you can work to increase your milk supply or supplement with formula.
Formula isn’t the enemy. I know it can be hard to supplement if you’ve had your heart set on breastfeeding, but making sure your baby is getting enough milk is the most important thing, whether it comes from you or a bottle.
Colostrum. Your baby needs very little to eat during the 1st few days of life. Right after your baby is born, you’ll notice a yellowy substance that can be expressed from your breasts. It’s colostrum, a high-calorie, high-fat superfood to hold your baby over until your milk comes in. There isn’t much of it, but it packs a punch.
Foremilk and hindmilk. Once your milk comes in, your baby should get foremilk and hindmilk at every feeding. Foremilk is the waterier, almost blue-tinged milk that is present when you 1st latch your baby on. The hindmilk is the milk that is released at the end of the feeding that is high in fat. Babies need this hindmilk to gain weight properly and to feel full, which is why it’s important to nurse your baby long enough on each side.
Let-down sensation. Most breastfeeding women notice a tingling sensation in their breasts when they start to nurse or pump. You may also notice it other times, too! If it wasn’t time for my baby to eat and I felt the let-down sensation coming on, I would push on my nipples to stop the sensation and minimize leakage. It’s hard to do it discretely, but symmetrical wet spots on your shirt are even less discrete. For me, the let-down sensation was painful; it felt like someone was pinching my nipples really, really hard.
Leaking. I leak more breastmilk than I make, it seems. I always had to have on a nursing pad to absorb the milk that would leak when I would let-down, sleep, or accidentally put pressure on my breasts. You can get disposable or washable nursing pads. Like sanitary napkins, they come in different absorbency levels, some with sticky tabs on them, some without.
The Nuk brand nursing pads are very inexpensive so I would buy them with every baby, forgetting that they don’t absorb very well and don’t stay in place. I guess you get what you pay for in this case! I have a dear friend who has never, not ever, leaked breastmilk despite having 4 children. You’ll know soon enough which group you fall into.
How long should I nurse at each feeding? This really depends on your style of breastfeeding. Since I always have struggled with enough milk, I kept a feeding log to make sure my babies were nursing enough each day. I’d nurse on both sides every time, alternating which side I started on from feeding to feeding to make sure both sides were equally stimulated. I’d nurse for about 10-15 minutes on each side.
I know lots of Moms who would say they “just nursed;” there was no method. They just nursed and nursed, not paying attention to which side or how long. And for the most part, those Moms were able to nurse their babies for longer than I was! I think milk supply is the biggest factor in what your comfort-level will be whether you are a structured breastfeeding Mom or one who just goes with the flow.
Cluster feeding. Newborns go through growth spurts throughout the 1st few months of life. During these growth spurts, it seems all they want to do is eat and sleep. (With baby #4, I learned that babies only grow when they’re sleeping. So don’t be concerned if your baby seems to be sleeping more than usual—he’s probably growing!)
If you’re breastfeeding, you’re going to want to nurse him even if you feel like you just finished nursing 30 minutes ago. Welcome to cluster feeding. It can be exhausting (or painful if you’re already sore). The baby needs more milk and the way your body knows to produce more milk is to have more breast stimulation through nursing. Simple supply and demand. These growth spurts can wipe you out and can cause you some anxiety if you don’t think your milk supply is keeping up. Hang in there! It’s only temporary!
Painful breastfeeding. Everything you read and everything lactation tells you in the hospital is that if breastfeeding hurts, you’re doing something wrong. After nursing four children, I can say that that is absolutely not true for everyone.
I had a nurse call me a “pale petal.” She said that fair skinned women tend to have more pain when breastfeeding. Finally, with #4, the lactation consultant said indignantly, “You are not a pale petal!” Apparently, that’s lactation code for being wipmy!! The consultant whispered to me, “Your latch looks perfect. You’re not doing anything wrong. For some people, it just hurts.” Finally, the truth!
I wasn’t able to nurse 3 of my 4 babies as long as I wanted to and supplemented at least once a day with most of them. With my 3rd, my most successful nurser, 2 things were different. I used gel pads (Soothies by Lansinoh or Hydrogel Pads by Medela) to ease the nipple pain, and for 2 months I pushed through the bleeding, scabbing, and feeling as if 100,000 needles were being shoved into my nipples every time the baby latched on. Yes, I pushed through all of that and was able to almost-exclusively nurse baby #3 for 8 months.
My husband would give our babies one bottle of formula after I went to bed, before he went to bed, whether the baby was crying for a bottle or not. We read a book that suggested this and they called it “the dream feed.” It was a life saver because I was able to get one good stretch of sleep, and our baby had a full tummy for longer.
I didn’t nurse baby #4 nearly as long as #3, but after 2 weeks of nursing it was pain free! The only thing I did differently was use Dr. Jack Newman’s All-Purpose Nipple Ointment (you can have your OB call in a prescription to a compounding pharmacy). It’s an anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-yeast lotion that you put on your nipples after every feeding. Instead of 10 out of 10 pain for 3 months every time I nursed my baby, it lasted 2 weeks. It was miraculous, in my opinion. If only I could have gotten my supply up!
Breastmilk supply. I have had major issues with low milk supply with each of my kids. With #4, I was pain-free so quickly, but my supply was still poor. I did everything in the “How To Increase Your Milk Supply” article, and nothing consistently worked well for me. I spent weeks having major anxiety about whether my baby was getting enough milk, so I decided it was in everyone’s best interest to go to formula only. I could have done some nursing with supplementing, but I was eager to know where I was fertility-wise, so I stopped breast-feeding cold turkey.
Pumping. If you want to breastfeed, it’s good have a hospital-grade breast pump. I have used the Medela Pump-In-Style for my kids and it’s been awesome. One day out of laziness I put the pump pieces (see picture) in the refrigerator because I was going to pump again soon and didn’t want to have to wash them. A light bulb went off. If breast milk could be stored in the refrigerator, then the pump pieces that touched the breast milk could be stored in the refrigerator and reused, too. I kept them in the fridge all day when I wasn’t using them, put them in the dishwasher at night, and started over again in the morning.
One more thing—if you pump and put the milk in the fridge, you may notice that it separates a bit and leaves a ring around the top of the storage container or bottle. That’s the hindmilk—when you see it, it means you pumped some fat to put weight on that baby. Way to go! Be sure to shake it up before feeding it to your baby.
Nipple confusion. Nurses and pediatricians warn of nipple confusion. That means that babies who are nursing and then given a bottle may have a hard time going back to the nipple. I’ve never had an issue with this.
In fact, many of my girlfriends who exclusively breastfeed had the opposite problem. Since their babies had never had a bottle, when it was time to offer them cow’s milk at a year, they refused. They didn’t like the bottle and only wanted the breast. I recommend getting them used to the feel of a bottle just to avoid that hassle in the future.
Weaning your baby. If you want to wean your baby pretty quickly, it’s probably going to be uncomfortable. You don’t want to get too engorged and then get mastitis, so pay careful attention to how full you are.
With baby #4, I leaked for several days, especially at night, and I think I pumped once to alleviate the pressure. It took about 2 weeks to be completely dry, although women have been able to manually express breast milk from their nipples for up to a year after weaning their babies! My breasts were smaller than they were before I got pregnant (and that’s saying a lot), but my mental health from my leveled-out hormones was much better for it.
Bottle feeding. If you need to supplement with formula or give your baby breastmilk in a bottle, it’s important to have the right bottle. Bottles come in many different varieties. You really won’t know what type you will need until your baby lets you know. They make bottles for colicky babies, reflux babies, etc.
I used the Playtex bottles with the disposable liners for my 1st three kids. With my youngest, I was tired of buying the disposable liners for the Playtex bottles, so I used the Tommee Tippee bottles, and I really like them.
Making a bottle. For powdered formula, if you want to make a 4-ounce bottle, you should put 4 ounces of water in the bottle before adding the powdered formula. Always put the water in 1st. If you add the powder 1st, it’s very hard to know how much water to add. For every powdered formula I’ve ever used, you add one level scoop of formula to make two ounces of milk. If you want to make a 3-ounce bottle, you would add 1-½ scoops.
Sometimes the formula powder doesn’t complete mix into the water and may clog the nipple. Just roll the top of the nipple between our fingers and shake it up. I try to pour some milk out by shaking it onto the burp cloth. Once I am able to get a few drops out, I know the clog is gone. This may happen several times in a feeding and can be annoying if you think your baby’s been drinking the bottle but has really just been suckling like on a pacifier. If you pay attention, you’ll soon be able to tell the difference between sucking and then swallowing versus just sucking.
At some point, your baby will begin draining every bottle you make. At that point, you may want to make one or two more ounces per feeding to see how much he takes and adjust your future feedings accordingly. Here is a great chart that tells you how much milk your baby should be getting each day.
Most bottles come with level 1 nipples, so as your baby grows, you’ll want to get the faster nipples. Your newborn should use a level 1 nipple or he’ll choke on the fast-flowing milk. You’ll get to a point in about 3 months where giving the baby a bottle seems to take an eternity. That’s the time to try out the level 2 nipple. If he chokes a bit, go back to level 1 and try again in a few days. At around 6 months, your baby should be ready for a level 3 nipple.
Cleaning. I’ve never sterilized a bottle in my life, and I have 4 healthy kids. I put the bottles upside down on the top shelf of the dishwasher and the nipples and rings in a handy little basket. They get plenty clean. In fact, the steam at the end of the wash cycle sterilizes them…in my mind, at least. :)
Also, I try to use only one bottle per day. Yes, only one bottle. Breast milk and formula can both be stored in the fridge for at least one day, so I decided that it’s okay to use a bottle, have the baby drink all the milk, and put it in the fridge so I can use it for the next feeding.
In fact, if there’s milk leftover after any of the feedings, I don’t throw it out. The books all say you’re supposed to throw out any unused milk, whether it’s breast milk or formula. But breast milk is like liquid gold and formula costs its weight in gold! I never throw it out unless it’s been left out for too long.
Burping your baby. Newborn babies should be burped mid-way through a feeding. For breastfeeding Moms who nurse on both sides at each feeding, burp the baby when you’re moving from one breast to the other. For bottle-feeding Moms, this means stopping when the baby has half of the bottle left, burping him, giving him the rest of the bottle, and burping him again.
My sister swears by crossing her legs, putting the baby on his belly over her thigh, and burping baby that way. I’m most effective when I put the baby’s arms over one shoulder and burp in that position. It puts a little pressure on the tummy to get that air up.
Since my babies spit up so much, I found that as soon as I heard the burp coming up I needed to stop patting their backs or they’d spit up all over the both of us. Once the initial burp was out, I’d pat a few more times to see if there was any air left in there. You’ll soon figure out what works best for you and your baby. And then you’ll begin to take pride in those baby belches. We used to brag that baby #3 “burped like a frat boy!”
Spit up. If your baby spits up a lot, it may seem she spits up everything you’ve just fed her (sometimes even more). It can be upsetting, discouraging (especially if you are breastfeeding and don’t make much milk), and messy. Have a burp cloth on hand to easily catch the mess.
Sometimes babies spit up because they need to burp more. Other times, they spit up because the muscle that keeps food in their stomach is really immature. Others just spit up, no matter how old they are or how well you’ve burped them.
You don’t need to feed your baby after she spits up to “make up for” the milk that came back up; in fact, that may just cause more spitting up if you do that. She may just need her next feeding a little earlier than usual. If you’re concerned about how much your baby spits up, mention it to your pediatrician. Chance are, your doctor usually won’t intervene unless the baby seems to be in a lot of pain or isn’t gaining weight appropriately.
Constipation. Babies aren’t considered constipated until they haven’t pooped in five days. Five days! How awful! Sometimes they may appear to be constipated and then have diarrhea. I remember reading somewhere that this could actually be watery poop making it’s way around the poop that is stuck. I haven’t had trouble with newborns and constipation, just babies who are starting to eat solids. They will poop eventually, but if it’s been 5 days, be sure to call the pediatrician.
I wake my babies up during the day every 3 hours to eat. That way they won’t be as hungry at night and will, ideally, wake up less. I have never woken my baby up to eat at night. Unless you baby isn’t gaining weight appropriately, I really don’t think this is necessary. (Of course, you need to check with your baby’s pediatrician to confirm that this okay for your baby.) In my experience, when your baby is hungry at night, he will cry to let you know.
Feeding baby at night. When you feed your baby at night, keep the lights low, make as little noise as possible, and minimize eye contact. In other words, do your best to not stimulate him. Change him, feed him, burp him, and put him right back to sleep. That’s the way that I was able to teach my babies the difference between night and day.
Baby won’t wake up during the day to eat. This can be tough, especially if you are having a hard time getting sleep at night. Do your best to feed him, but don’t torture him to get him to eat. Undressing your baby to wake him up is gentle enough that it doesn’t seem mean-spirited to me. I know lactation sometimes recommends flicking the bottom of his feet with your fingers or putting ice on the baby to startle him awake. Yikes! That seems a little harsh to me. Just do your best and know that you may be waking up more that night to make up for your baby’s long stretch of sleep during the day.
My daughter slept so well when she was swaddled, but we had a really hard time keeping her from busting out of her swaddle when she moved around in her sleep. We discovered the Swaddle Me blankets and were hooked! They have Velcro straps to keep the blanket in place—brilliant!
You can also change your baby’s diapers at night while keeping the top part of the swaddle on. This was a lifesaver when our little one had trouble going back to bed after nursing and having a diaper change. You can also put the baby in his car seat with these swaddles because they have a place for the buckle to come up between the baby’s legs. It’s not as practical as it seems, but I did use it a few times. Some babies really, really hate to be swaddled, so get a feel for your baby’s preference and follow his cues.
Back to sleep? We all know about SIDS, and it can make new parents very nervous. That being said, when I was little, the doctors told our parents to put us to sleep on our tummies. Also, I have friends now who always put their babies to sleep on their stomachs because their babies sleep so much better that way than on their backs. Putting my babies to sleep on their tummies makes me nervous enough that I usually put my babies on their backs or sides.
Several of my babies had a hard time sleeping on their backs, so I compromised with them and put them on their sides (especially those who spit up a lot). I have a sleep positioner (or wedge) that I would put on a tight setting and then put my babies on their sides in it. It keeps them cozier than with the swaddle alone, and I’ve found that they seem to be more content in this position than on their backs.
Sleep training. Many babies are very happy in swings. If you need to put your newborn in a swing to sleep at night, go for it. If he’s happiest in his car seat, let him sleep there. Don’t worry about sleep training your baby for the 1st few months if you plan on sleep training at all.
According to the professionals, you shouldn’t let the baby cry it out until he’s 4 months old. I think that’s a little young even. I don’t even think about getting my babies to sleep through the night until I’m certain they are getting enough to eat during the day to sustain them all night.
When I’m ready, I turn on the vent in the master bathroom to create some white noise in my room so that I can only hear the baby when he’s really crying in the nursery. Some babies just fuss a bit and then fall back to sleep on their own if they’re not given a bottle.
When exhaustion set in with two of my babies who were waking up repeatedly to eat when they were 5 and 6 months old, I put in earplugs. I know this makes my attachment parenting friends cringe in horror. It was a survival move for me. Three days with earplugs at night and my kids have been great sleepers ever since. Okay, they’ve regressed from time to time, but for the most part, they’ve slept beautifully. Also, my babies were fine in the morning after letting them cry at night. They were not blotchy-faced or traumatized.
One argument against crying it out is that those babies learn to not cry when they have real needs because their have learned that their cries aren’t responded to. That’s a very pitiful thought. My babies still cried during the day like normal babies; they just didn’t wake up at night. Once we got through the 3 nights with ear plugs, it was a win-win situation for all of us. Well-rested baby. Well-rested mamma. Well-rested siblings. Well-rested Daddy (but he never woke up from the crying anyway!). Figure out what’s best for you and your baby and go with it. Don’t worry about what others tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, just do what works best for you and your family.
Illness. Having a newborn run a fever can be terrifying if you know enough to be terrified. I wasn’t overly concerned when my 6 week old had his 1st fever because he was baby #2 and I was much more relaxed. Too relaxed, unfortunately. By the time I decided to take him to the doctor, his fever was gone, but they said he was really straining to breathe so they sent me to the hospital. I knew he was fine, but my heart was pounding nonetheless.
By the time we got to the hospital, he had spiked a high fever. The doctors looked panicked. I had to consent to a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. The waiver was horrible. Signing a form saying I knew my new baby could be permanently disabled or even die from the spinal tap because he had a fever was agonizing! My baby just had a cold. I had learned my lesson. The lesson was…
When you have a newborn, do your best to keep him from getting sick in general. In particular, wait to expose him to germs as best you can until he gets his 1st immunization shots when he’s around 2 months old.
I know of parents who have kept their babies home all day every day until the 1st shots. I also know that I took baby #4 to Wal-Mart on the way home from the hospital after delivering him because we needed a gallon of milk. I just covered his car seat with a blanket so no one would look at or touch him.
Up until he gets his 1st shots, the only antibodies your baby has are the ones he’s gotten through your breastmilk. If your baby runs a fever before his 1st shots, the doctors may recommend a spinal tap to rule out meningitis.
To prevent illness, ask visitors to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before holding your baby, and limit contact with anyone who is sick, even if it’s just a mild cold. Once you’re taking your baby out in public, politely ask strangers who reach for him to not touch. Be proactive in this regard and it will save you a lot of stress. Also, limiting contact with all children is helpful (but very difficult if you have older children at home).
Gaining weight. Monitoring your newborn’s weight gain during the 1st several weeks of life is important for your baby. It’s one of the main ways that the doctor can make sure that she is developing properly.
If your baby isn’t gaining weight properly, the doctor may give you a target gain rate of 1-2 ounces per day and have you come back in a few days. If you are breastfeeding and your baby hasn’t gained the target amount of weight in the given time, the doctor will likely suggest you supplement with formula.
I know many women who have been told this, refused to supplement because they were committed to nursing, and eventually their babies caught up. The health and wellness of your baby is of the utmost importance, so you need to balance that with your own expectations of feeding your baby.
By the way, I got tired of bringing all of my kids with me to get the baby weighed, so I started weighing him on my kitchen counter on a postage scale. Worked for me! My Mom apparently used to put us in the scale in the produce section of the grocery store to make sure we were gaining adequate weight.
Jaundice. Baby #3 was a month early and quickly developed jaundice. The two things I was told to do were to expose the baby to indirect sunlight and make sure he stayed really hydrated. The extra milk can help flush out the bilirubin and, if he ends up needing to go under UV light or blanket, the light will dehydrate him even more. Lots of milk is key to a quick recovery.
I didn’t think it would make me as nervous as it did. His bilirubin numbers kept going up and we ended up inpatient at Children’s Hospital. If you thought you weren’t sleeping much at night in your own home, it’s much worse in a hospital. Jaundice can be dangerous because the bilirubin can begin to deposit in the brain and cause permanent brain damage, so if your baby has jaundice, take your pediatrician’s instructions seriously.
Eyes. Babies are born with pretty blurry vision. They can only see you well up close, right at about the distance from your face to your baby’s face when you nurse him. As your baby’s eyes mature, his vision becomes clearer and he’ll be able to focus better.
You may notice one of your baby’s eyes wander or looks a little crossed (known as strabismus). I noticed this with baby #1 and it’s completely normal. Her eye muscles weren’t mature enough to keep the eyes from turning inward. It should self-correct. If it doesn’t improve after the 1st few months of life, find a pediatric ophthalmologist to explain to you the options you have for strabismus correction.
I also noticed with baby #1 that her eyes appeared filmy. It almost looked like gasoline in a puddle, kind of a rainbow sheen. I have no idea what caused it (I think dry eyes?) but it went away on its own.
Ears. If your baby is anything like my babies, he will make tons of ear wax. You really shouldn’t use Q-tips on a baby’s ears, just clean what you can see with your finger. I must admit that I have gone in a little but that’s just because I’m a freak about ear wax. I tackle my big kids to get their ears clean because I just really don’t like the sight of wax.
One more confession… One time I went too far with a Q-tip in my 4-year-old daughter’s uber-waxy ear and blood shot out. I was terrified, crying, embarrassed. She initially screamed and then laughed and laughed. It was like we were in a creepy sci-fi movie.
I took her to the pediatrician because I suspected I had ruptured her ear drum, but the doc said everything looked fine. She surmised that my daughter must have had a little blood blister or something like that in hear ear that ruptured when I used the Q-tip. Another lesson learned by this aggressive, ear-cleaning Mommy.
Nose. Your baby may sneeze a lot. It doesn’t mean he’s getting sick (although it can). It usually is just his way of clearing his nose out. Do you blow your nose when you get up in the morning? Do you blow your nose even when you’re not sick? Your baby can’t do this, so sneezing is your baby’s way of achieving the same end.
If your baby seems congested or has boogers that you can’t reach, feel free to use the nasal bulb. I love me a nasal bulb! So satisfying. Remember to squeeze the air out of the nasal bulb before putting it in your baby’s nostrils. If you forget, your baby will let you know. :)
Baby skin. Baby #4 had terrible baby acne. It looked so painful! The pediatrician told me it was cradle cap creeping down from his scalp to his face. She said to use T-Gel shampoo a few times on his head and it would clear up his face in a couple of weeks. Voila! It worked!
Your baby doesn’t need lotion. They do smell really lovely when you put baby lotion on them, but it’s mainly for you. If you notice raw or irritated skin, I recommend Aquaphor. It’s a Vaseline-like ointment that you can put on your baby and it seems to really protect and aid in the healing of delicate skin. It’s expensive, but a little bit goes a long way.
Lastly, I’ve never used baby oil on a baby before. You definitely don’t need it unless you’re planning on doing infant massage. (I received several large bottles of it when I was pregnant with #1 and ended up regifting them at my friends’ baby showers. Yes, I know. Those Moms probably didn’t use the baby oil either.)
Phew! Now, what did I forget to address? Let me know and I’ll be sure to add it!
If you ever see any egregious typos in any of our articles, please let us know! We’re probably typing with our toes because we’re nursing babies, wrestling a wild toddler, and having a cup of coffee. Thanks for your understanding and help!
As always, here is my have-mercy-on-me disclaimer. Thank you!