Let Dad go home at night.
“Don’t make your partner sleep in one of the horrible hospital chairs. Enjoy the peace of being alone with your baby, or if you crave company, invite your mother or sister to stay. At home, Dad needs to be on baby duty, and if he has slept in a chair for two nights, he’ll be useless. Those of us who are in the business, our husbands all go home, because in two days, honey, it’s all you.” — Joan Diamond, R.N., perinatal nurse manager, Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore
Drop the phone!“If you happen to be chatting or texting when the pediatrician or lactation consultant swings by your room, put down your phone and use that time to get all you can out of the hospital’s specialist while she’s available. Also, keep a notebook and pen by your bed to jot down any questions as you think of them. Then fire them off when you have the specialist in front of you.” — Carole Arsenault, R.N., international board-certified lactation consultant and author of The Baby Nurse Bible
Send flowers (to your house!).“It’s so nice to get gifts, but have Dad take them back to the house, ideally the night before you leave the hospital. You don’t want bouquets, balloons, and stuffed bears all crowding the car when you’re discharged with the baby. You want a safe ride home.” — Joan Diamond
Look for shut eyes.“Newborns are loud. They grunt, gurgle, and make all sorts of sounds while they sleep. It’s startling! Fifty percent of their sleep is ‘active sleep.’ Don’t grab your resting but noisy newborn if her eyes are shut, or you’ll both get exhausted.” — Carole Arsenault
Give regular rubdowns.“Our research shows that babies who are massaged are less irritable and sleep better. Try giving a massage after the bath, 10 minutes before nighttime sleep, with a little baby oil (babies can be allergic to pure essential oils). The key is using slow strokes and moderate pressure. You want to see the skin move. Most people are inclined to stroke lightly, but that’s arousing.” (See our video at americanbaby.com/baby-massage for lots of helpful pointers.) — Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine
Set an example.“To soothe your baby, you have to be calm yourself. Your face betrays how you feel; if you’re frowning, he’ll see that. Smile, be comforting, and talk to your infant. For instance, tell him he has a cute outfit on. Everyone likes a compliment!” — Bev Kantor, lead teacher for infants at the Primrose School of Legacy, in Omaha
Dress for success.“Roll up the sleeves of your newborn’s tops before putting them on to make dressing easier.” — Andrea Syms-Brown, cofounder of Baby in the Family, a support network for parents in New York City
Watch out!“Just because your newborn peed or pooped doesn’t mean he won’t do it again the moment you take off his diaper. Put a clean diaper under him before you take off the old one.” — David Hill, M.D., author of Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro
Pick a side.“If you’re a righty, you want your stack of diapers and other supplies to be on the right. If one parent is right-handed and the other left, put a stack of diapers and supplies on both sides, so that they’re easy to grab.” — Andrea Syms-Brown
Make washing comfy.“When sponge bathing, don’t lay your baby on her back. Instead, cradle her to cut down crying.” — Andrea Syms-Brown
More Advice from the Pros
Teach your newborn “night.”“Most newborns will sleep for a single four- to five-hour stretch during a 24-hour period. You need your baby to do that at night. If she wakes while the sun is down, keep lights dim with little conversation. During the day, if she starts to doze into a third hour, gently wake her up. Preserve night sleep. It’s what keeps parents sane.” — Joan Diamond
Let your baby settle himself.“It’s fine to hold your newborn until he drifts off, but if he’s always held, he’ll begin to expect to fall asleep in someone’s arms. Let him settle himself to sleep sometimes. It works best if you introduce this new strategy for his morning nap. Put him down drowsy but awake. If he cries hard, pick him up. But if he makes sounds that are not hard crying, ignore them, and he may fall asleep on his own.” — Marc Weissbluth, M.D., author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Try a dream feed.“Give your baby a meal before you go to bed yourself, around 10:30 or 11 p.m., so that he doesn’t wake you wanting to eat a half-hour after you’ve finally managed to shut your own eyes. You may have to lightly wake him, which is why it’s called a ‘dream feed.’ I recommend a pumped bottle of breast milk rather than nursing him, because it can be less rousing.” — Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Mix your own formula.“The powdered kind is less expensive and more practical than ready-made. You don’t have to worry about keeping it on ice and then heating it up. You just throw bottles filled with water into your diaper bag and mix in the premeasured formula when Baby’s hungry.” — Carole Arsenault
Be a food snob.“When you introduce solids, focus on quality; let your child handle quantity. Your job is to offer food. She decides how much.” — Scott Cohen, M.D., author of Eat Sleep Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby’s First Year
Check his output.“Newborns tend to grunt, strain, and turn red when they poop, but this does not mean they are constipated or in pain. A baby’s constipation is defined by consistency, not frequency. If your baby poops once a week but it’s soft, that can be normal. If he poops more frequently but it’s hard, then that’s constipation.” — Scott Cohen
Don’t overlook a fever.“Fever of 100.4?F or higher in the first eight weeks of life can never be assumed to be benign. We worry about sepsis and meningitis, though the odds of those are very low. Never treat a fever in your newborn without first calling and talking to your pediatrician.” — Andrew Adesman, M.D., author of Baby Facts: The Truth About Your Child’s Health from Newborn Through Preschool
Chatter away.“Talking to your baby is really important. The more language he hears, the earlier he may start speaking. Narrate your day. Tell him about whatever he’s looking at. It’s about following your child’s interests.” — Jenn Berman, Psy.D., author of SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years
Know that babies sound weird.
“Infants often make a noise when they breathe. Parents may fear it’s a cold, but it’s only that their nasal passages are tiny and the blood vessels in their nose get inflamed. I refer to it as a ‘snurggle,’ and it’s totally normal!” — Carole Arsenault
Originally published in the July 2012 issue of American Baby magazine.
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