JACKSON, CA – Ask any new parent, and they will say describe the happiness and excitement of bringing a new baby home from the hospital. While joyful, new babies can be an adjustment for all. Hillary O’Neill, R.N., a pediatric nurse at Sutter Amador Hospital and mother of two, provides advice to help expecting parents master the first few weeks at home.
1) Communicating with baby
“Babies have one way to communicate,” said O’Neill, “and they are enthusiastic to use it.” For new parents, deciphering when and why a baby cries can be at times difficult and plain frustrating, but your baby can help offer cues, suggests O’Neill. Opening their eyes and moving their limbs, holding their fists near their face and making noises with their tongue can tell you that your baby is ready to eat.
Are they tired? Hungry? Overstimulated? Start to look for patterns and indicators to help you figure out why your baby is crying and what need you can provide to make them feel comfortable again.
Few things in life can prepare you for life with a newborn. The constant feedings, diaper changing and sleepless nights can catch up to you, leaving you feeling depleted.
“It is an emotional process so with those moments of joy, you may also feel stressed, tired and anxious,” says O’Neill. New mothers are at times dealing with the physical trauma to their body from giving birth as well as emotional aspects such as depression, isolation and anxiety. Make sure you take time to let yourself sleep and get rest. If you are concerned about your emotions getting the better of you, discuss it with someone you trust, ask for help from your baby's pediatrician or obstetrician, who are there to help connect you with the best resources.
“I recommend having a supportive network with your partner, parents and friends in place prior to giving birth,” said O’Neill. “It’s important to have people that you can call on to help prepare a meal, do laundry or help out while you take time to sleep. Having help with keeping your home running means you can spend your time taking care of yourself and your newborn - your most important job right now.”
3) The importance of touch
Recent studies have shown the importance of touch directly after birth as well as the most effective way to bond with a new baby. “When a baby is born it has highly limited vision and hearing,” said O’Neill. “So touch is the most significant way for your baby to associate with the world as the brain and other senses more fully develop.”
Holding, kissing, soothing and touch is as important as food, says O’Neill. The stimulation and connection will help your baby thrive. Remember, you can't spoil a baby with too much affection.
4) Bathing a newborn
Bath time can be difficult with a newborn because you are trying to provide the correct level of head support while keeping your child comfortable. O’Neill recommends that you prep the bath area in advance to make sure you have everything you may possible need as you won’t be able to leave your child for a nanosecond while administering a bath. Make sure the room is warm and you have several towels nearby and support your baby’s head well above the water.
“A baby needs a full bath only about once or twice a week,” said O’Neill. “But the baby’s head, face and bottom should be washed daily and properly towel dried.”
5) Knowing when to feed
Newborns may eat ten or more times a day, says O’Neill. I encourage watching for feeding cues rather than watching a clock to know when baby needs to eat, even if they've eaten recently. Infant feeding is a big focus the first few months so O’Neill recommends moms connect with their pediatrician to learn the most updated information or join Sutter Amador Hospital’s weekly breastfeeding success support group. “Our lactation consultant, Jane Snyder, R.N., IBCLC provides weekly advice and other mothers share valuable tips to support and educate members of the community on breastfeeding,” said O’Neill. “The group also weighs babies prior to each session to help moms monitor weight gain over time as well as to help determine how much milk the baby is getting at each feeding.”
The support class meets every Wednesday at the hospital from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. For more information, visit sutteramador.org.
My last piece of advice is to take good care of yourself. Eat healthy food, drink plenty of water, practice kindness, and get enough rest and exercise every day. “You are the best example your children have for how to be a healthy happy person,” said O’Neill.
The hospital also invites expecting moms and their moms to the hospital on October 14 for Grandmother Tea. Grandmother Tea is a free information session for generations of women to
learn the latest in newborn care from hospital experts over a three course tea service with sandwiches and desserts. In addition to discussing these topics, attendees will have the opportunity
to ask our experts personal questions on how to help prepare for a new baby. For more information or to register, please call 209-223-7452.