After the pregnancy and the birth, it’s time to gradually start establishing a daily routine with your baby. You’re having your first experiences with your baby during this unique time.
Feeding, changing and bathing your baby – it may take some time to settle into a routine. Enjoy these moments of feeling close to your baby and don’t worry if things take a little longer or don’t work from the word go. Together, you’ll find out what your baby likes, where they like to sleep and how best to feed.
If you’d like to breastfeed your child, and you can, that’s wonderful. Breast milk offers the best nutrition for newborn babies. But breastfeeding doesn’t always work from the word go. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, or only for a short time. And you might even prefer not to breastfeed. If you have any problems or queries, talk to your midwife or breastfeeding specialist.
Babies feed differently. One may be full in 10 minutes, another might need 30 to 40 minutes. In the first few weeks, your baby will want to be breastfed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. It isn’t just a source of food – it meets your baby’s need to suckle. Suckling relaxes them. How long you breastfeed is up to you – and your baby. Institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding for a full 6 months at least. You can start solids from 4 months. Experts recommend introducing baby food between 4 and 6 months to make sure your child has enough energy.
If all your baby’s needs are met, they’ll sleep peacefully. In the first few weeks, your baby can sleep up to 18 hours a day. Does your child sleep more or less than that? There’s no need to worry. The amount of sleep babies need varies, even at a very young age. Newborns don’t yet have a rhythm and can wake up at all hours of the day and night. They might be hungry, need their nappy changing or just want to be close to you. If your baby has trouble getting to sleep, there might be various reasons. Are you unsure whether your baby is in pain? Your midwife, paediatrician and local services for parents will be happy to help. A lack of rhythm and short bursts of sleep around the clock – the first few weeks can be exhausting for parents. That’s why you should try to lie down and relax during the day when your child is sleeping. Don’t hesitate to get help and support at an early stage.
When it comes to dressing your baby, there’s a useful rule of thumb: count how many layers you have on – then add another for your baby. In summer and in winter. In colder weather, lots of layers keep your baby warm. Babies can’t regulate their own body temperature yet. Cold hands and feet are common. But how can you tell if your baby is too hot or too cold? Put two fingers on their neck. If their skin feels cold, it might be time for warmer clothing. If their skin is warm and sweaty, remove a layer. Is your baby restless and crying? That could also be a sign that they are too warm or too cold.
Wash new baby clothes once or twice before putting them on. You should ideally use a fragrance-free liquid detergent for baby clothes. Avoid fabric softener. This can cause skin irritation. Wash baby clothes at 60°C where possible and rinse them thoroughly. This helps you prevent any allergic reactions.
Just like sleeping and feeding, playing is another key part of your baby’s healthy development. Not long after they are born, your child will begin to perceive and discover the world around them with all of their senses.
Seeing: Early on, babies can’t see very far. They love mobiles over their changing tables or pram. At 3 months old, your baby can fix on a point and follow it.
Hearing: Babies have very good hearing. Your baby knows your voice by now. Sing to them, chat to them, tell them stories. Your baby will be familiar with music you listened to when pregnant or played consciously (e.g. from a music box). Tunes they recognise can help soothe your baby. Soon it’ll be time for their first rattle too.
Touching: Physical contact is important. Carry, rock and cradle your baby. Lots of parents also swear by baby massage.
Moving: Place your baby on a soft blanket so they can move and kick freely. They love discovering their own hands and feet. Your baby will soon also start trying to lift their head and turn.
As a new parent, you’re bound to have lots of questions. Advice, classes and support are available from the services for parents provided by your local authority or in your local area.
The parenting newsletter by Pro Juventute offers useful tips, from the birth until your child turns 6.