Postpartum Survival Guide
Your first weeks home with a newborn can be awkward and scary. Here's what to expect and how you can stay sane.
Bathing a newborn can be a challenge. You can do it either 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).
- Supporting her head, start washing Baby from the top down, using a soft cloth and tap water or mild soap specially made for babies.
- Shampoo the scalp first (only once or twice a week), shielding the water from Baby’s eyes.
- 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.
- Moving down, be sure to get in all those nooks and crannies.
- Rinse baby well and pat her dry with a towel.
Calming a crying baby Crying is the only means an infant has to communicate. Your quandary: What is she telling you? Check her out. Is she hungry? Too cold or hot? Is her bedding or clothing tangled? Is her diaper dirty? Are the lights too bright, noises too loud? Is a burping in order? Is she ill? If you’ve run this gauntlet and put things right and she’s still inconsolable:
- Experiment to discover the most comforting way for her to be rocked (side to side, back and forth), spoken to and sung to.
- Pat or rub her back.
- Walk the floor with her.
- Offer a finger, breast or pacifier to suck on.
- Swaddle her.
All babies have their fussy period during the day (for many it’s between 6 and 10 p.m.); at a certain point there is nothing you can do. Although trying to calm a distressed infant can be exasperating, always respond to the cry. “You cannot spoil a young baby by giving him attention; and if you answer his calls for help, he’ll cry less overall,” suggests the AAP.
What to do for yourself To help you get through this period, you owe it to yourself to:
- Get enough sleep. Yeah, right, you’re probably thinking. However, “the way to avoid sleep deprivation,” proposes Schmitt, “is to know the total amount of sleep you need per day and to get that sleep in bits and pieces. When your baby naps, you must also nap.”
- Take breaks. Take a walk, no matter how short; run your own errands to get away. Of course, this involves asking your spouse, other family members or friends for help.
- Get Dad into the picture. Allow him to care for the baby so that you get time alone.
- Accept that progress is incremental. Break projects into smaller tasks.
- Wear a snug-fitting, nonpendulous front baby carrier so you can work while holding Baby. Being close to you is familiar; she’ll love the sounds and sensations and maybe even nap.