The idea of being a first-time parent could bring on a range of emotions. It will be an exciting time to finally meet the little one you’ve been expecting for the past nine months. However, certain thoughts, like the thought of bringing home your baby, could bring on a little anxiety, too.
This is normal. You’re starting a new chapter of your life and taking on responsibilities that you’ve never had before. Knowing what to expect could help ease some of your and your partner’s anxiety.
Checklist: How to Care for a Newborn
If you haven’t spent time around a newborn, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Handle with care. They’re fragile, so the thought of handling your newborn could be frightening, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Wash your hands –A newborn’s immune system isn’t as strong as ours. Keeping clean when coming into contact with your baby is extremely important.
- Be his or her support system – Literally. When holding a newborn, it’s important to support his or her neck and head, especially when carrying the baby upright. Cradling your baby might be more comfortable at times and is also an easy way to provide support to the neck and head.
- Be gentle – Never shake, bounce or quickly pass around your newborn. Your baby will not be ready for rough play as his or her skull is still developing after birth.
2. Proceed with confidence, every day. The every day tasks, like feeding your newborn and changing him or her, will become second nature. If you find you’re having trouble with things the first few times, though, follow these steps to gain a little confidence.
- Be prepared – Clean diapers, ointment, wipes. You can never have enough of these three items. You’ll want to be sure that your newborn’s diaper is always clean and when changing the diaper, have your baby lay on his or her back on a comfortable surface.
- Bathing – For the first year, a bath about two or three times a week will be sufficient. Bathing your baby more than that could cause dry and cracking skin. It is recommended that you use unscented soap and shampoo with soft washcloths. And, always test to make sure the water is warm and bathe your newborn in a safe environment.
- Feeding your newborn – Your newborn baby, whether you decide to breastfeed or formula-feed, is going to need to be fed approximately every two to three hours. Keep an eye open for cues from your newborn such as if crying is occurring, fingers are being put in his or her mouth and sucking noises/gestures are being made with his or her mouth. If the baby is sleeping, you can lightly tickle his or her feet to wake and feed him or her.
3. Take care of you, too. While it’s important to handle your newborn with care, you and your partner have to think of yourselves as well.
- Create a routine – This one might come by trial and error. Learning to manage your time and creating a routine will be tough at first, but once your baby gets the hang of being home you’ll find the right time to clean, do laundry, shower, grocery shop, etc. Sit down with your partner and decide which tasks you’ll alternate so you each get equal bonding time with your newborn.
- Get sleep –On average, newborns sleep about 16 hours a day. Don’t expect them to sleep in normal adult-hour increments over night, though (i.e. a full eight hours straight). This won’t happen until your baby is about three months. It is recommended that you sleep when your baby sleeps and take naps when your chores are complete. Going to sleep early is also helpful for your well-being. And, be sure to take shifts with your partner each time the baby awakes overnight or alternate nights.
- Be accepting – This is your first time as a parent. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You and your partner decide what’s best for your new family. Accept advice given, but make sure you make the final decision based on your beliefs.
In being a first time parent you’ll run into things that you didn’t expect. Accept them and learn from them. You can then pass along advice to new parents, as you will find yourself becoming an expert very quickly. The most important part of being a first-time parent – enjoy every moment! You’re only a first-time parent once in your life and it’s a beautiful experience.
If you are pregnant, we encourage you to speak with your obstetrician, family doctor or participate in childbirth classes to help you prepare for your baby’s arrival.
If you live in the area, call us and schedule an appointment with our Board-certified Pediatrics and Family Practice doctors in one convenient office location. We offer same-day appointments and often accommodate parents and children during the same visit.
Good luck with your pregnancy!
From all of us @ Little Silver Pediatrics & Family Medicine
Now you know more about how to handle having a newborn as a first-time parent, pass it on!