Essential skills for every brand-new parent
Used to be, a new mom spent several days in the hospital after giving birth learning how to take care of her baby. But today, many mothers go home exhausted 48 hours after delivery. “The teaching that used to take place during those longer hospital stays isn’t getting done, and mothers are too tired to read the discharge instructions the hospital gives them,” says Suzanne Corrigan, M.D., clinical associate professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “If it’s just you, your husband and the baby at home, you need all the help you can get.”
As a new mom, you can circumvent this trend by asking for help, both at the hospital and at home, and by reading up before you are discharged, starting with this baby-care primer.
But don’t get so anxious and bogged down in the practical details of caring for your newborn that you don’t savor the special moments that happen every day. Relax and enjoy your time together. Remember, in a decade or so, this same cuddly bundle may slap a “Do Not Enter!” sign on her bedroom door.
How to calm a crying baby
Before long, you’ll be able to distinguish your baby’s hunger cry from her fatigue cry. In the meantime, first make sure she’s not wet, hungry, or overly hot or cold. Then try these methods of soothing her:
- Nurse her.
- Rock, sway or walk with the baby in your arms or in a sling or front carrier.
- Stroke her head or tummy, or give her a gentle full-body massage. Patting her back may release a trapped burp.
- Take her outside for a short time. Fresh air and new distractions often do the trick.
- Swaddle her snugly in a “security blanket.”
- Sing or talk to her.
- Remember that too much stimulation can overwhelm your baby and make her cry more. Lower your voice, move more slowly, stop whatever hasn’t been working and simply cuddle your baby in a dimly lit room.
- You can see more about soothing a baby with this video from Dr. Harvey Karp. It has step-by-steps directions for soothing a baby.
How to care for the cord stump
The indigo-blue dye that is used to paint your baby’s umbilical cord stump helps prevents infection, but it also keeps the cord from detaching as quickly as it used to — in most cases it takes two to three weeks. As a result, you’ll spend more time cleaning the area than your mother did in her day. Don’t let this fact scare you off. “Everybody’s afraid of the cord stump,” says Corrigan, “but it has no pain endings. It’s basically dead tissue, like a scab that needs to fall off.
Until that happens, keep your baby’s umbilical cord stump dry and stick to sponge baths. Also, use newborn diapers with a specially designed cutout, or simply fold the diaper below the stump. Cleaning the area with alcohol at every diaper change also will help dry up the stump. Pull the skin away from the base and clean all the way around it using a Q-tip, rather than a cotton ball, for easier access and more precision.