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Coming home, now what?
The day has finally arrived to bring your sweet newborn home! You have the nursery decorated and well stocked with diapers, wipes, and more adorable tiny clothes than your baby will likely manage to wear before he or she outgrows them. You have read all the parenting books, made a million and one lists and checked them all off, and now you are ready to take care of your darling little baby. So what exactly do you need to do to take care of a newborn? I mean, they just eat, sleep, potty, repeat right?? While this is the basic description of a newborn’s activities, there is more you can do than just change diapers, feed, and burp them!
There are the obvious doctor appointments beginning as early as two or three days after you bring your baby home, immunizations if you are choosing to have your newborn immunized, as well as deciding which formula is best for your newborn if you have chosen not to breastfeed or pump. The care doesn’t end there however. One of the very first things you need to do to take care of your newborn is to take care of yourself. It takes a lot of energy to wake up every couple hours for feedings and diaper changes! Although your sleep is going to be interrupted, be sure that you try to avoid caffeine as it is very easy to end up not being able to fall asleep when it is bedtime and you have the chance to sleep. You want to be sure you are eating a balanced and healthy diet to give yourself the natural energy boost that comes from the nutrients in your food. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats can provide you with all of the vitamins and antioxidants to keep your energy up throughout the day. It is much easier to handle those midnight wake up calls from your infant when you yourself are well nourished and not suffering from being “hangry” or on a caffeine overload!
Interacting with Baby
While your newborn is going to spend quite a bit of time asleep, be sure to communicate with him or her when they are awake. Singing or talking to your infant while you are feeding them, changing their diaper, bathing them, and so on not only helps build the bond between yourself and your newborn but is also a great way to begin the very first stages of teaching them to speak! Maintaining eye contact with them while you are talking to them is another way to help build communication skills. It is often during the first month that you will notice if there are certain songs or a certain type of music your baby finds relaxing as they will fall asleep more easily when they are sung or played. Letting them grip your finger, although at first is somewhat of a reflex for them, helps them develop spatial awareness and strengthen their tiny little hands and arms. Before you know it they will be trying to hold onto other things such as their bottle, pacifier, or even a soft rattle. When your newborn is awake, let them experiment by placing different soft objects in their hands. As they grow, they will quickly notice the difference in textures and learn which items make noise and which ones don’t.
Visitors and Boundaries
Along with the joys of having a newborn come the headaches of EVERYONE wanting to hold him or her! It is important to remember that newborns are fragile and their bodies can become sore very easily with too much passing around from person to person during their first couple weeks. Set some boundaries before you allow visitors, letting them know whether or not you are allowing other people to hold your baby yet. Be aware that while most people will be considerate of your protection, there may be a few who get offended. That is okay. The important thing is that your newborn’s comfort and health come first and not only can their little bodies become sore, the more people who touch and hold them, the more germs they are picking up. While it is important to let your children develop a healthy immune system, newborns are much more susceptible to illness as they have not had any time to develop one yet. This means it is more than okay to limit the amount of germs they are exposed to in a short amount of time! Most likely those who will be visiting during the earliest time of your newborn’s life will be more than okay with a “look but don’t touch” policy.
Establishing a routine as soon as possible once bringing your newborn home will help both of you navigate the demanding feeding schedule of their little tummy. While you may wonder what kind of routine you can set when you are waking up every couple hours, you will be surprised! Things as simple as turning off the lights and establishing a “quiet time” for a little while before you go to bed will start training both your body and your newborn’s to recognize the difference between night and day. Having the blinds open in the day will also help enforce this. Little things like washing and preparing bottles or pumping while your baby is asleep will help you be prepared for the next feeding time.
While it may seem overwhelming because you have just given birth and are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted, taking care of a newborn is a very enjoyable experience! Yes, there is a lot to do and yes, your baby is going to require a lot of attention throughout the day and night at first. However, as the days and weeks go by, you will find yourself marveling at how natural and seamless the transitions have become as you care for your newborn with all of the love and tenderness only a parent can give!