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You’ve no doubt been dreaming about your baby for months: what he’ll look like, whether he’ll be laid-back like his dad or a Type A like you. But chances are, if it’s your first child, you don’t know much about taking care of a newborn.
Well, we’ve been there, and we’re here for you, with everything you need to know to care for yourself as well as your baby in those exciting but often frustrating first weeks. Let’s get started!
How to get motherhood off to a great start while you’re still in the hospital.
Have your newborn “room in” with you rather than stay in the hospital nursery, and ask the nurses not to offer him anything in a bottle. Even if the baby doesn’t actually latch on [Watch our How To Breastfeed: Deep Latch Technique video for step-by-step tips], you can squeeze the yellowish colostrum—the precursor to real breast milk that’s packed with immune-boosting nutrients—directly into his mouth. For more information, see The Ultimate Guide To Breastfeeding your one-stop resource for everything you need to know about breastfeeding—from buying that first nursing bra to deciding when to wean.
Stall the Visitors
Family and friends will want to visit as soon as possible, but you may want to keep them at bay for a bit so that you and your partner can spend time alone with your baby. Because a newborn is usually alert and receptive immediately after birth, it’s the perfect time to bond, so look him in the eyes and talk to him. He knows your voice from being in your body and may find it soothing.
Dress Your Baby Right
A cute going-home outfit is irresistible, but remember that babies cannot regulate their body temperature until they’re about 6 months old. So dress your newborn carefully. Generally, he should wear the same amount of clothing as you, indoors or outdoors. Don’t overbundle him—sweating can cause him to become chilled. Layers are a good way to go.
Know How to Use the Car Seat
A few weeks before your due date, visit seatcheck.org or call 866-SEAT-CHECK to locate a certified child passenger safety expert who can make sure the car seat is installed properly in your vehicle. Ask your partner to bring the seat to your hospital room when it’s time to go home. The basics:
1. If your baby has too many clothes on, the harness may not fit properly. If it’s cold out, put your baby in the seat first, buckle him in, then place blankets on top.
2. The harness must be snug against the hips and shoulders.
3. The chest clip should be level with your baby’s armpits.
4. The seat must be installed at a 45-degree angle so that the baby is semi-reclining; his head must not flop forward.
5. Once the seat is installed, push on it—hard. It shouldn’t move more than an inch in any direction.