Taking Care of Your Newborn
Taking care of a newborn is both the simplest and most difficult thing you have probably ever done in your life. Here is this little bundle of humanity whose only method of communicating is crying and screaming. He is entirely dependent on you and your partner for everything. The sense of responsibility, particularly after years of being responsible only for yourself, can be overwhelming. So here’s your first bit of advice: Breathe. And the second: Relax. Your baby knows when you’re uptight and anxious. You transfer that anxiety to him and then he can’t relax!
First, know that your baby will sleep much of the time. Newborns generally sleep up to 20 hours a day the first few weeks. Unfortunately, it may not be in large chunks! That’s because they also need to eat quite often. Their tummies are tiny and their nutritional needs enormous. If it feels like you spend every hour of every day with your breast or a bottle in your baby’s mouth, that’s not unusual.
The most common reason for Baby’s crying is hunger. Not hungry? Check the diaper. If that’s not the problem, try swaddling her—wrapping her tightly in a receiving blanket. Newborns are used to the tight confines of the womb; being out in the world and having their arms and legs flapping around can be scary. Holding her and walking around, “wearing” her in a sling or front pack, or, if all else fails, putting her in the car seat for a drive are other time- and parent-tested options to soothe a crying child.
After feeding and crying, the other new thing you have to get used to is washing your baby. Until Baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off, just use a warm washcloth to wipe around her face, bottom and hands. When it’s time for her first bath, fill the basin or sink with about an inch or two of warm water with a couple of squirts of baby wash. Make sure you have everything you need at hand before you undress the baby. That includes baby wash, shampoo, washcloth and towel. Holding Baby against one arm, slowly lower her into the water and, using the other arm and hand, wet the washcloth and begin gently washing her. Don’t let go and don’t ever leave any young child unattended around water. You can use the washcloth to wash her hair, too. It’s best if you have two people doing this—one to hold her and one to wash her—but you can do it on your own.
When you’re finished, lift her out of the tub and lay her on the towel. Wrap her securely in the towel and take her off to be diapered and dressed. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?