Looking After A New Baby
Looking after a new baby can be very daunting. You have a small being totally dependent on you for everything.
Fortunately, new babies, although demanding, have fairly limited needs. Learn to address those needs and both you and the baby will be just fine.
The most important thing to remember is that with small babies, there is no difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’.
There is no need to worry about ‘spoiling’ babies by picking them up, or “getting them into bad habits”: if that’s what they want, it’s what they need. And you will know what they need because they will cry until you have satisfied the need.
Four reasons to complain
Babies basically cry for four main reasons:
- They are hungry;
- They are uncomfortable for some reason (usually either because they have wind, or need a new nappy/diaper, or perhaps because they are too cold or hot);
- They are tired and need to sleep; or
- They have been abandoned (in other words, you have left the room, or are out of their line of sight).
It is usually fairly easy to work out which of these applies, especially with a bit of practice.
For example, if you have just fed your baby, it is unlikely, though possible, that they are still hungry. It is much more likely to be that they need to burp. If the baby has been awake for a couple of hours, the chances are that he or she needs to sleep.
The hardest to manage is the last, because you do, on occasion, need to leave the room, for example to go to the bathroom. It can be helpful to time your shower with your baby’s sleep time, or use a mobile and/or music system to provide entertainment in your absence.
If you are really not sure of the problem, you may need to try different options until you find the one that works.
Remember, anxiety is catching.
You are most likely to be able to settle your baby if you are calm and confident. Stay relaxed if possible.
Babies and Routine
Many people will tell you that routine is vital with babies and small children. They need predictability, you will be told.
This is true in general, but doesn’t really apply to most newborns.
Most babies do not start to fall naturally into a routine for at least a few weeks, if not months. Trying to impose one is possible, but not easy, at least until about three months in. It is often better to simply go with the flow, and allow the baby to dictate what you do and when.
Unfortunately, this may mean that you spend some days feeding the baby constantly. On the other hand, there will be days when all they do is sleep, waking occasionally for a feed.
You may also find it a bit wearing if your baby decides that night time is the ideal time for being awake. Under these circumstances, you may decide that you need a different approach.
If you do want to try imposing a routine, the Queen of Routines is Gina Ford.
Her The Contented Little Baby Book will guide you through the process from the first day, explaining how the routine should change over time. You can also pick up her routines at any stage, so you can decide to adopt this approach later if you wish.
Whether or not your baby falls naturally into a routine, however, you need to remember that new babies need to sleep. Some more than others, it is true, but most new babies need to sleep for at least an hour, every couple of hours, and some much more. They may or may not be keen on this, but they will be thoroughly miserable without it.
There is more about this on our page: Babies and Sleep.
Many babies will fall asleep quite naturally after feeding, then wake up after an hour or so, be interested in the world for half an hour to an hour, and then demand food.
You will find that you rapidly learn how your baby operates, and be able to work with that, although there will always be events that catch you out.
“The Randomiser” – A Doctor’s Story
Sarah was visiting her GP for her six-week check, the medical check-up that happens six weeks after giving birth. She was asked about how she was managing and said that she thought everything was fine.
Her female doctor smiled and said, “Well, you made it here on time. I always think that’s a good sign.”
They both laughed. The doctor continued,
“We used to call our son ‘The Randomiser’ when he was tiny, because we never knew what would happen just as we were leaving the house, or whether we would get anywhere on time. Before I had children, I used to tut at mothers who were late for appointments. Now I have children myself, I know that anything within 10 minutes of the appointment time is absolutely brilliant!”
Colic and Wind
Many babies suffer from wind and colic, which is basically stomach pain of unspecified origin.
This manifests as continual crying, often in the early evening, which can be very wearing. It can start at around two weeks, and usually disappears by about four months.
Some people will try to tell you that breastfed babies do not get colic.
This is a myth.
There are various medicines and remedies that you can buy to treat or prevent colic, such as Infacol and gripe water.
If you are bottle-feeding, you can also try anti-colic bottles as they are are supposed to prevent the baby from swallowing so much air.
Winding your baby well during and after feeding can help. This may take almost as long as the actual feeding. Jiggling the baby gently in an upright position, or holding them against your shoulder and patting or rubbing the back can help, as can going for a walk with the baby.
You may also find that what you eat affects your baby, especially if you are breast-feeding. Some people report being unable to eat brassicas, for example. If colic is a frequent problem, but not every day, try keeping a food diary for a few days to see if there are any patterns.
Getting Things Done – Managing with a Baby
However organised you are, and however efficient, there will be days when you have no time for anything except the baby.
This is absolutely fine.
If you are the sort of person who likes to eat home-prepared food, then cook when you have time and freeze spare portions. Think of it as one of the reasons why you have a freezer.
The kindest thing that you can do for yourself and for your baby is just to go with the flow. You will be more relaxed and happy and so, therefore, will your baby.