After all the preparation, anticipation and excitement, you reach the “finish line” and finally your baby is in your arms. There are intense emotions, cuddles to be had and social media posts to be made.
Then the questions set in. You want everything for your child: health, happiness, contentment, joy, success, the list goes on. It can be overwhelming to feel like you are responsible for making all of these things happen. Mix in a few post-partum emotions and you have parental responsibility overload!
So how do you accomplish all of this for every child? The honest answer is no one knows exactly. There are hundreds of books, even more blog posts and other parents with their own advice. And this is exactly the point. There is no one script to meet every baby’s needs.
Try to step back from the big picture and enjoy the everyday events. After birth, your baby needs you. They need skin-to-skin time, you to talk to them, clean diapers, nutrition and sleep. That’s all.
Begin with the basics and as your baby develops, add in a few things each week to help meet their changing emotional, nutritional and developmental needs.
Though baby’s communication doesn’t include words, they are able to communicate a lot of information through movement, sounds and facial expressions. Start watching for clues that tell you what your newborn needs. You will soon be able to identify early signs of hunger, tiredness and an impending diaper explosion.
Meet a need as soon as you recognize it. Know that you can’t spoil a newborn baby. Most experts say spoiling doesn’t happen until months later. It is okay if baby wants to use breastfeeding as a soothing mechanism, or your arms as a pillow. This won’t develop bad habits later.
Meeting babies’ needs early rather than letting them get to the point of starvation or exhaustion can make things easier. A starving baby often feeds poorly because they are so distraught from their hunger.
Early signs of hunger include REM sleep (eyes batting in sleep), being awake, and licking lips. Late signs of hunger include rooting and hand-to-mouth activity. A very late sign is crying.
Let your baby set the pace for breastfeeding. Frequent feedings and lots of cuddles actually help to establish great milk supply and encourage bonding.
Most babies eat between eight and 12 times a day and have just as many dirty diapers in the first few weeks after birth. This can feel like a constant cycle. Use support people to get you through the exhaustion.
You will meet with your baby’s doctor shortly after birth. Bring up any concerns and know there are no silly questions. The well child visits your doctor recommends are set up on a schedule so you have frequent access to your pediatrician after baby is born.
Meeting your baby’s needs does have lasting effects. Talk with your newborn and show them your love through your facial expressions and tone of voice. Studies have shown that meeting your baby’s needs is a great foundation to helping them establish emotional stability, attachment and resiliency later on in life.
When you don’t know what else to do, trust your instincts. Find a strategy that fits your personality, and if you’re worried, talk to your pediatrician.
- The ‘golden hour’: Giving your newborn the best start
- Why well baby checkups are so important
- Newborn screenings: Why do them? What’s the benefit?