Many first time parents are so excited when they find out they are pregnant and they are excited to bring their new baby home. Many times when those new parents come home they realize they don’t know how to take care of a newborn. Many parents leave the hospital completely unprepared for what is going to happen.
I was one of those moms, even as a nurse I had no idea what was going to happen. I knew how to take care of a baby, but I had no idea how hard it would be or how sleep deprived I would be and how much I would forget. That is when I decided to write up an introduction to newborn care to help new parents through the first month.
Chances are before you leave the hospital they will teach you about changing diapers and feeding your baby and maybe even how to bathe your baby. Many times though you still go home with a lot of questions such as when should I take my baby to the hospital, how do I know she is eating enough, and so on. This introduction to newborn care will help you answer all those questions.
How much should your baby eat and how do you know she is eating enough? How much your baby will eat will depend on your baby and how you are feeding her. First, if you are breastfeeding you should feed your baby at least 8-12 times per day. Don’t worry if she doesn’t eat from both sides though, she may only be hungry enough to eat off one side at a time. You also shouldn’t worry too much about how long she is on the breast, but try to limit feeding sessions to half an hour at a time because much longer than this and your baby is burning more calories than she is taking in.
Now, if you are bottle feeding your baby, she should take 1-2 ounces per feeding before leaving the hospital. As she gets older she will need more, and she will let you know because she will act hungry even after eating. For the most part, your baby will not eat more than 4 ounces a feeding during the first month, usually 2-3 ounces is the average. Generally your baby will eat about every 3-4 hours.
How much your baby eats isn’t the important part though because there are many signs that you can watch for to tell you if your baby is eating enough. If your baby is peeing and pooping then your baby is getting enough. So, how do you know how much peeing and pooping is enough? Your baby should poop at least once a day. As for peeing, she should have one wet diaper times however many days old she is, up to six days old. For example, if your baby is three days old she should have at least three wet diapers. Once your baby is six days old, she should have at least six wet diapers a day.
How much should my baby sleep?
Another question many new parents have is how long their newborn should sleep. It will seem like your baby does nothing but sleep, and that is about right. Your baby should wake up on her own to eat, but if she doesn’t she needs woken up every 3-4 hours, even through the night. Your baby will sleep around 20 hours a day for the first several weeks. You will notice over time that your baby starts being more alert by the end of her first month. Over time she will be awake more and asleep less.
Should my baby sleep through the night?
Absolutely not, at least not yet. Many times parents let their newborn baby sleep through the night and think they are just lucky. This is not a sign of luck. Until your doctor says that you don’t have to wake your baby up throughout the night, your baby should wake up and eat. You can check out more about when babies should sleep through the night.
When should I worry and take my baby to the hospital?
Many times parents rush their baby to the ER at the first sign of illness, and that is fine, but you may be able to avoid a rush to the ER at 3 AM. Chances are that your baby is fine and it is just first time parent jitters making you nervous. Many parents rush their baby to the ER because they think they have funny breathing or something else. Try to get into your pediatrician’s office if you can, but if you are really worried, you can head to the ER. Times when you should absolutely go to the ER, if your baby stops breathing for more than 10 seconds, if your baby turns blue, if you suspect your baby had a seizure, or if your newborn (under 1 month old) has a rectal temperature above 99.9 degrees F.
What about that funny breathing?
One thing that almost every parent worries about but is not talked about in the hospital is the periodic, or newborn breathing. This is when your new baby takes rapid breaths for a period of time, then stops breathing for less than 10 seconds, then starts breathing again. It is perfectly normal and if the pause in breathing lasts less than 10 seconds and is not associated with a color change, it is fine.
Should I buy an apnea monitor to make sure my newborn is breathing during the night?
Simple answer no, but if you think it will ease your worries then go ahead. Chances are though if you follow safe sleep guidelines your baby will be fine. Your baby can sleep in the same room as you, but not in the same bed, on her back with no blankets or toys in bed with her. She shouldn’t be around cigarette smoke either. There are other guidelines to follow, so make sure you check them out. Here’s the other thing, the over the counter apnea monitors are not regulated and are not very sensitive. Just to give you an idea, even in the hospital our monitors will sometimes say a baby isn’t breathing when they really are. Babies take very shallow breaths and sometimes these are not picked up. My suggestion is that unless you want an alarm going off several times per night, don’t get an apnea monitor unless your baby was born prematurely and your doctor gets you one from a home health agency.
What about the noisy breathing?
Babies are kept safe in the womb and in a sterile environment. The second they are born they are bombarded with germs. Sometimes this causes babies to have a little bit of a stuffy nose and causes noisy breathing, it is perfectly normal.
What about the umbilical cord, how should I care for it and when will it come off?
You don’t have to do anything to care for the umbilical cord, but if you want you can use a little bit of rubbing alcohol to clean it. This will help it dry out and keep it clean. If your baby cries it is not because the alcohol is burning, the umbilical cord is not an open wound, your baby is crying because it is cold. It can take up to 2 weeks for the umbilical cord to fall off.
Is it OK to let a baby cry?
In the first few months there is no reason to let your baby cry. However, as your baby gets older she may have a period of purple crying where nothing works to calm her down. In this time, it may be necessary to let her cry so you can walk away, and that is fine. I promise, it happens to all of us, even me!
When can I take my baby out in public?
This is up to you, and you should base it off of the time of year it is as well. For example, you shouldn’t take your newborn baby out in public in the height of flu season. For me, I had my daughter out at 5 days old because we needed to get formula. I just asked people not to touch her, and it was May, so I felt confident and she never got sick. Again, you have to use your judgement. Some people say to wait until the baby is three months old, others say one month, and yet others say it doesn’t matter when because mom needs to get out of the house too.
Why is my baby’s skin peeling?
This is a perfectly normal occurrence. Your baby is growing rapidly and this causes her skin to peel. Using lotion will not make a difference. Over time your baby’s skin will become smooth, but until then just know that it is perfectly normal.
My baby girl has a period? Or my baby boy has breasts?
First, your baby isn’t having a period and your little boy doesn’t have breasts. These are both caused by the mother’s hormones. Over time they will disappear. It is normal for your little girl to have some white, yellow, or bloody discharge, and there is no need for concern.
What questions do you have about taking care of your newborn baby? I may add your question here and answer it.