After all that waiting, excitement and preparation baby has finally arrived! For those lucky enough to have a straight forward birth, it is time to go home and start your life with your new baby… But what happens next? Many antenatal courses focus heavily on the actual birth but less on what happens when Baby arrives. What will it feel like? Will breastfeeding go well? How will it change your relationship with your partner? There are so many aspects to becoming a new parent that it can be easy to feel a bit lost and overwhelmed with all the attention and time baby needs. Help is at hand though and The Parent and Baby Coach offers lots of great advice and pointers for making that first month a little easier, calmer and happier.
When you first arrive home from hospital, the first thing you will likely be overwhelmed by is the amount of people that want to come and visit your new addition to the family; grandparents, friends, aunties, uncles and even Mary next door all want a sneak peak at Baby in his first few days. Remember that giving birth is a huge thing for the body to go through and even if you are feeling up to visitors, don’t over-do it. Ask visitors to run errands, bring meals and do jobs for you whilst they are visiting. This will mean that they don’t spend the whole time holding baby and getting him into bad habits such as sleeping on someone, and will also mean that it makes your life easier in the long run with a dinner ready to pop into the oven in the evening or a clean load of washing for baby when you need it most. Do not be afraid to ask as most of your visitors will want to help but just need some pointers about where to start! If you are breastfeeding and not comfortable with your visitor seeing you do it, then delay their visit until breastfeeding is well established. Breastfeeding takes a huge amount of time and effort to get right and can be painful in the first few days – putting further stress on yourself by having to disappear from your own living room to quickly feed your baby will not help matters so be selective.
Your partner will be feeling many of the same feelings as you even if he is not able to breastfeed and do the majority of baby duties. This can sometimes cause Daddy to feel a little out of place and have low confidence when handling baby. Make sure you allow your partner important bonding time with baby without correcting him and telling him what to do. If you are able to express after your milk comes in, allowing Daddy to give baby one bottle a day will mean that he is able to have some valuable skin to skin bonding time with baby and you can get some much needed sleep! Many books talk about nipple confusion and not introducing a bottle for a while but with my experience of hundreds of babies, there is really no problem in introducing one bottle a day and baby is happy to switch back to breast at the next feed. It also means that further down the line you do not have trouble getting baby to take the bottle – a win win situation for everyone involved.
Baby will happily be snoozing in your arms whilst visitors come and go and you sit down to dinner with your partner, these cuddles can be some of the most precious and memorable you will have from baby so savour every last one. However it is also really important that from a very early age (from birth!) that you teach your baby to settle and fall asleep on his own. This really is the single most important thing that you can teach your child and will be the difference between a baby that sleeps through the night at 12 weeks and one that still wakes three times a night or more at six months. Establishing good sleep associations from the very word go is one if not the only advice I would love every new parent to know about. In the first few weeks your baby will be very sleepy, so there is little awake time but he will still be aware of his surroundings. After a feed and winding, let baby kick around somewhere and then after an hour and fifteen or so of being awake, put him in his moses basket and let him fall asleep by himself. As baby starts to get to a month old you will notice his increased awake periods and this is when you can really start to recognise what pattern baby is already in. Try and feed, play and then sleep on roughly a three hourly cycle for the first month. Baby will thrive on this and even if you do not love the word “routine”, this is a pattern that 100% of my babies are very content and happy in and leads to beautiful, calm and happy babies in the months to come.
A baby who is full of milk and knows how to settle well will fall asleep like an angel, a baby who has an empty tummy or whose tummy is not quite full, will not. Many women find that breastfeeding means that you cannot see how much milk baby is having and therefore are tempted to give baby small top ups throughout the day – this is fine but your baby really needs to reach the hind milk (the thicker, creamier milk) to help baby put on weight. If your baby tried to fall asleep when feeding, change his nappy, tickle him and raise his arms and move his legs about. These are all little tricks that help baby keep awake and feeding. If your baby is showing signs of stopping and no longer wanting to feed, wind him and then put him down on a mat or somewhere that is not on you. A baby cuddling up to his mother will always act asleep and this is a good way to test whether he has had enough or whether baby was just happily snuggling and actually needs more milk to end his feed. Breastfeeding is a truly rewarding experience but can be difficult, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a health visitor or professional if you think you are struggling.
There are so many aspects to becoming a new parent that the list is endless and different people experience having a baby in very different ways. The most important thing is that you are healthy, rested and are able to give baby your full attention in that first month – the floor will not suffer for having extra crumbs on it for a week whilst you abandon housework, but your baby and partner will suffer so recognise that there is no need to stress, you will get back to your old ways soon enough but that right now, it is all about concentrating on functioning as a new family unit – all three of you together – as a team.
Heidi Skudder is The Parent and Baby Coach and specialises in advice and coaching for Parents-to-be and New Parents. Visit www.theparentandbabycoach.com or call 0330 6600 204 for more information.