Becoming a parent is an unbelievable experience, however once the baby arrives it is easy to feel overwhelmed, especially if you are a first time mother. Knowing a few facts about caring for your newborn can alleviate your feelings of insecurity. Below is a discussion of the most common fears and obstacles that new parents face and some helpful tips to know before leaving the hospital with your newborn!
1. Breastfeeding is not easy- In the words of a wise woman, “breastfeeding is natural, but it does not always come naturally to mothers.” For some women, breastfeeding comes very easily but for others it can be an overwhelming task and a source of major stress. I highly suggest educating yourself about breastfeeding before the baby is born. Make a point to attend a class to learn what to expect and how to overcome the early obstacles of nursing. I can’t stress enough how important it is to utilize the lactation consultants while you are in the hospital. After the birth of both of my children, I had the hospital’s lactation consultant come for every feed to educate and guide me. A lactation consultant is not only a great resource to help with any difficulties you might experience during the first few days but also as a contact once you are discharged from the hospital. Most importantly, it is okay if you have tried your best and it doesn’t work out. The most important thing is the ability to bond with your new baby. If breastfeeding is causing a level of stress that is interfering with you ability to bond, please seek out your local resources.
2. Feed on demand (kind of)- As mothers, we never want to hear our baby cry. When we do hear them cry, our first instinct is that they are hungry and of course we want to sooth them. However, it is important to realize that every time your baby cries it is not necessarily because of hunger. On average, a newborn drinks about 1.5-3 ounces every 2-3 hours. As your baby grows, they will be able to eat more at each feeding. By 2 months of age, they should be taking 3-4 ounces every 3 to 4 hours. There are many other reasons your newborn might be crying. Sometimes babies just need to be changed or cuddled. If your baby cries only an hour after a good feeding, there is a good chance they are not crying from hunger but rather something else. They could be hot, cold, wet, uncomfortable, or bored. If you soothe every cry with a feeding, they are going to learn and expect it. This can lead to over-feeding, reflux, and extreme fatigue for the mother, especially if you are breastfeeding. It is important the know how often an infant should eat, write down their feeding habits, and know the signs of hunger. If you have just fed your baby and they begin to cry, investigate the situation before feeding them again.
3. What you need to know about poop- The unfamiliarity of the frequency and consistency of newborn poop can be great source of stress for many first time parents. The reality is that no two babies have the same pooping pattern. Some babies will poop after every feed while others will only have a bowel movement two to three times a week. Babies that are breastfed will poop more frequently than a formula fed baby. Breastfed newborns have an average of 6-10 bowel movements a day. It is not necessarily important how often a baby poops but rather what the poop looks like. If it is soft and pasty, it is a good sign that your infant’s digestive tract is working well. If their stool is hard balls, there is a good chance that they are experiencing some constipation. If your baby is happy then their stool patterns should be less of a concern. However, if he or she seems uncomfortable or unhappy, it is important to consult your physician.
4. Not every fever is created equal- It is extremely important to understand that illness and fever in the first two months of life can be very dangerous. A fever for a one month old is very different than a fever for a 2 year old. One of the most important jobs as a mother of a newborn is to protect your baby against germs. Make sure that every guest washes their hands before holding your newborn and try to limit the amount of exposure to highly congested areas. If you want to take your baby out, please try to find areas that are open, preferably outside. If your newborn feels warm or there is a change in their feeding or sleeping pattern, it is important to take their temperature immediately. The most accurate way to take a temperature is using a rectal thermometer. Anything above 100.4 is a fever and must be addressed immediately. You should contact your pediatrician and take your baby straight to the nearest emergency room.