Just Had a Baby? A Six-Week Survival Guide
Your first weeks home with a new baby can be awkward and scary. Here's what to expect and how to stay sane.
Bathing a newborn can be a challenge. You can either do this by holding her in a big bowl or plastic tub or by wetting a washcloth and washing her on her changing table. Here are some other tips: Baby needs a full bath only about once or twice a week, but she needs to be "topped and tailed" (a Penelope Leach term) every day. This means washing the baby's head, face and bottom.
Make sure she's been fed (but not right before the bath), that the room is warm and that you have everything at the ready (you can't leave her for even a nanosecond to retrieve something you've forgotten).
Shampoo the scalp first (only once or twice a week), shielding the water from Baby's eyes. Supporting her head, start washing Baby from the top down, using soft cloth and tap water or mild baby soap. Moving down, be sure to get in all those nooks and crannies. Be sure to wash her face well. Left around the mouth, milk and spit-up may cause a rash. Wash eyelids and under the chin. Rinse baby well and pat her dry with a towel.
Getting Through the Night
Since their tiny tummies cannot hold much milk, newborns must be fed often, which is one reason they wake so frequently. Still, you can begin the process of getting the whole household on the same schedule.
- Establish a routine early on: Bathe, dress, play and stroll around the block at about the same time every day.
- Place your baby in the crib while drowsy. This way he learns to fall asleep on his own and associates the crib with bedtime.
- Swaddle him. An unswaddled baby's own movements may startle and awaken him. In Your Baby & Child (Knopf, 1984), Penelope Leach writes: "At night you want him so securely wrapped that he will not wake even during the normal periods of light sleep." Keep him face-up to reduce risk of SIDS.
"Keep night feedings as sleepy and brief as possible," Leach also suggests. "When he cries, go to him immediately so he has no time to get into a wakeful misery. Don't play or talk while you feed him." Bring him to bed with you if you want to fall back to sleep quickly.
Newborns often sleep for four hours at a stretch and a total of 16 hours or more a day. As for how quiet the house should be while Baby sleeps, Leach says the following: "A sleeping baby need not mean a hushed household. Ordinary sounds and activities will not disturb him at this early age. However, if everybody creeps about and talks in whispers while he is asleep, there may come a time when he cannot sleep unless they do. It is therefore important to let him sleep through whatever sound level is normal for your household so that he does not come to expect a quietness that will make all your lives misery."