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Ever since you traded your birth control for baby-name books, you've probably been daydreaming about life with your mini-me. And while there will be peaceful afternoon strolls and cuddles with a book, recovering from childbirth and learning to read your baby's cues don't happen overnight. "It's a huge gift to yourself to accept that this early period is going to be total chaos," says Vivian Glyck, author of The Tao of Poop: Keeping Your Sanity (and Your Soul) While Raising a Baby (Trumpeter, 2006). "Let go of expectations such as where the baby will sleep or how much you'll get done--and know that eventually order will emerge."
And even if you've never held a newborn before, don't discount your instincts, says Cincinnati pediatrician Amy Guiot, M.D.: "If you think something just doesn't seem right with your baby, call your pediatrician's office--and don't be afraid to call again." But because mother's intuition sometimes needs a boost, we've compiled the 10 most important things you'll need to do to care for your newborn (and yourself!) during this exhilarating, exhausting time.
1. Calm a crying baby
Mothers of difficult-to-console babies are more likely to be depressed, according to a study from Brown University Medical School and the Rhode Island Department of Health, and it's no wonder--those piercing cries can drive even the coolest mom to tears. To calm your baby, first make sure she's not hot or cold (she should be dressed like you), hungry (try nursing or offering a bottle), sick (take her temperature rectally; call the pediatrician if it's above 100.4* F) or wearing a dirty diaper.
Next, wash your pinkie and give it to your baby to suck; it's also OK to offer a pacifier if breastfeeding is going well. Still hear her wailing? Put her in a sling or carrier (visit fitpregnancy.com/buyersguide/carriers for some we like). "When you 'wear' a baby, the closeness and motion make her feel one with mom again," says Vicky York, a lactation consultant and certified postpartum doula in Portland, Ore. Finally, many parents attest to the swaddling, shushing and other soothing techniques illustrated in The Happiest Baby on the Block book or DVD ($14 for the paperback, $26 for the DVD; thehappiestbaby.com).