Tips for a successful transition
You made it through the birth, now you have a new baby at home. Congratulations! If it’s your first baby you are likely feeling a little unsure about how to do everything. If you’ve been through this before, you may need a few reminders of how to tackle some of those early challenges, including sleep, calming your baby, and feeding.
Sleep, sweet sleep
Since newborns have to feed every 2 to 3 hours, sleep is going to feel elusive for a few weeks. Find comfort in knowing that as each week passes, your baby’s on his or her way to sleeping longer. The best advice in the early weeks is to sleep when your baby sleeps, no matter how tempting it is to do chores or fulfill social obligations. By 6 to 8 weeks, your baby’s need to eat stretches out and you’ll get chunks of sleep. By 12 weeks you hit pay day—most babies sleep 6 hours a night.
If your baby is close to eight weeks old and you hear her fussing (not crying) during the night, wait and see if she can get herself back to sleep before going to her. That’s because babies naturally cycle through lighter and heavier sleep periods every three hours. At three hours, she might come into a lighter sleep and wake a bit, but if she’s not stimulated she may fall back to sleep on her own. As she ages, falling back to sleep on her own becomes more of a habit.
Remember the 5 S’s to calm your baby
Have you heard of Harvey Karp, the founder of Happiest Baby on the Block? He coined the 5s technique to calm and soothe newborns, which basically advocates that you mimic the environment of the womb. By doing so, you turn on your baby’s natural calming reflex. The 5s’s are swaddling, swinging, shushing noises, sucking and side-lying, and research shows they reduce crying by up to 40 percent.
First up, swaddling. The trick to swaddling is getting a big enough blanket—at least 40” across—and swaddling your baby tight with his hands by his side. Tight swaddling mimics the womb and eliminates babies waking themselves by poking or scratching themselves. Next, there’s swinging. Think of it more as jiggling rather than a back-and-forth motion. Shushing noises can be mimicked with white noise machines, fans, humidifiers, or air cleaners at night and keeping the house noisy during the day. Sucking is simply for comfort and can be achieved by a thumb or pacifier. Finally, side-lying and spending time on their tummy while awake decreases the startle reflex in babies.
If baby’s gaining weight, he’s eating just fine
It’s a common worry of new parents that their baby isn’t getting enough food, but if your baby is gaining weight at each well visit, you can let this one go. By two weeks, most infants are up to their birth weight. Newborns need to eat every two to three hours, and sometimes feed more in the evenings. Typically, babies double their birth weight by four months and triple it by one year.
Many women think breastfeeding should come naturally, but learning proper latch on takes a little work for both you and your baby. Proper latch on avoids problems such as nipple soreness or low milk supply. If you need help, ask. Research shows that moms who have support—whether that’s from a lactation specialist, a support group, family, or from other moms who are breastfeeding—are much more successful. For many women, it’s smooth sailing after they’ve made it through the first three weeks.
A side benefit of breastfeeding is plenty of bonding skin-to-skin time. Skin-to-skin closeness not only promotes bonding and attachment, but it also allows new moms to tap into early feeding cues, such as rapid eye movements, clenched fists, hands to mouth, licking, smacking, sucking and finally, crying.
Enjoy this precious time. It may have its challenges but your baby’s first smile around two months will make it all worth it.
Lynn U Nichols is a longtime Fort Collins-based freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness content. She raised two boys while writing for RM Parent Magazine, gratefully applying the wisdom she gleaned from interviews with child experts along the way. Learn more at healthwritecommunications.com.