Your emotions will be put through the ringer too this month, thanks to fluctuating hormones and scant sleep — and you might feel weepy, overwhelmed, irritable and anxious as a result. These feelings are normal and usually go away within a few weeks after birth. But sometimes the feelings of depression linger and turn into something more serious, which is why it’s important to recognize the signs of postpartum depression (PPD). The AAP recommends that pediatricians screen for PPD at the 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6-month visits, although many still don’t. If yours doesn’t (and especially if you think you’re suffering from depression), ask to be screened. Depression isn’t something you should just “suffer through,” and you definitely shouldn’t be ashamed to get the help that you — and your baby — need.
Despite what movies might have you believe, newborns don’t emerge from the womb picture-perfect — it often takes a few weeks or months for your baby to turn into the angelic-looking cherub you might have been expecting. From a flattened nose (you try squeezing through a birth canal and see if your nose comes out cute as a button!) to a cone-shaped head (especially prominent if you were pushing for a long time), your child is beautiful as she is, and your newborn baby’s appearance will change quickly over the following weeks. You can ask your doctor about any features that might concern you.
There are more baby milestones, too: Kate starts using her play mat and napping in her bassinet fairly regularly. Some infant acne breaks out on her cheeks, then quickly clears up. Finally, at five and a half weeks, Kate smiles — she crinkles her eyes while moving her mouth!
16. Let him be. Many first-time dads hesitate to get involved for fear of doing something wrong and incurring the wrath of Mom. “Moms need to allow their husbands to make mistakes without criticizing them,” says Armin Brott, author of The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year (Abbeville Press).
That said, breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally — and there are plenty of feeding tricks to master and issues to solve in these first few weeks, from the breastfeeding latch to mastitis and other common breastfeeding problems. Need more help? Check these breastfeeding 101s along with some bottle-feeding basics.
After prying my eyes away from my sleeping daughter, the first thing I do is take a shower. It’s not easy, considering my c-section incision. The doctor said I could get it wet, but I’m leery. I also don’t want water hitting my sore, engorged breasts, so washing my hair is awkward if not nearly impossible.
4. Try a warm compress if your breasts are engorged or you have blocked ducts. A heating pad or a warm, wet washcloth works, but a flax pillow (often sold with natural beauty products) is even better. “Heat it in the microwave, and conform it to your breast,” says Laura Kriska, a mom in Brooklyn, New York.
Speaking of dirty diapers, you can expect a whole lot from your newborn’s bowel movements in the first few weeks. First poops are usually black and sticky — that’s the meconium that filled your baby’s intestines while in utero. That will transition after a day or two to greenish yellow stools, and a few days a later to “regular” baby poops. Prolific poop — at least five diapers a day for breastfed babies, sometimes more — is normal during the first month. Your baby’s poop should look mustard yellow, green or brown, and it’ll be pasty or seedy.
More Health 101s This Month:Umbilical cord healing: Whether your baby came into this world via a vaginal birth, C-section, or speedy side-of-the-road delivery, all newborns have one thing in common: a stumpy, shriveled umbilical cord where the belly button should be.
The umbilical cord stump should fall off within the first few weeks of your little one’s life; until then, make sure to keep it clean and dry. Give your pediatrician a call if you notice foul-smelling discharge or the site still looks open and raw two weeks after the cord has fallen off.
Umbilical hernia: You might notice odd-looking bulges and bumps on your babe’s belly when she cries or moves in certain ways. What you’re likely seeing is an umbilical hernia — and don’t worry, it’s not dangerous.
When your baby was receiving nutrients through her umbilical cord (back when she was still inside of you), a thick bundle of blood vessels entered her body through the middle of her abdomen — creating a small circular hole in her stomach muscles.
Often, that gap remains for a short time after birth, causing the intestines to bulge out when your child strains. Small umbilical hernias usually resolve themselves within a few months, larger ones in a couple of years.
In fact, most doctors won’t recommend surgery for a hernia until age 6 or 7 years old.Circumcision care: If you chose to get your baby boy circumcised, you might be wondering just what is normal when it comes to his penis.
Like the healing umbilical cord, a newly circumcised penis should be kept clean and dry — that means no baths until your baby’s circumcised penis heals (it’ll take about seven to 10 days). Some oozing and even occasional bleeding around the surgical site is totally normal; in fact, it’s part of the body’s natural healing process.
Month 1: Baby Milestones
Here are some baby development milestones you can expect your child to hit during month 1.
You’ll also experience heavy bleeding called lochia that will require you to wear sanitary pads until it tapers off — usually after two to four weeks. Contractions called after-pains that help the uterus shrink back to normal size also kick in after childbirth. Know, too, that it will take several months (or longer) to shed the baby weight entirely (and many new moms hold onto a few extra pounds after baby) — so don’t even think about it now, and be sure to talk to your doctor before attempting any kind of exercise.
1. Women who seek help have a higher success rate. “Think of ways to ensure success before you even give birth,” suggests Stacey Brosnan, a lactation consultant in New York City. Talk with friends who had a good nursing experience, ask baby’s pediatrician for a lactation consultant’s number, or attend a La Leche League (nursing support group) meeting (see laleche.org to find one).
25. Reconnect. To keep yourself from feeling detached from the world, Jacqueline Kelly, a mom in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, suggests: “Get outside on your own, even for five minutes.”
Welcome to your new life as a parent! You’ve made it through many weeks of pregnancy and then childbirth — and you now have a bundle of joy to show for it. That also means you may have a host of postpartum symptoms to show for it, too — from hemorrhoids, incontinence and vaginal soreness (especially if you had a perineal tear or episiotomy during delivery), to constipation, backache and sore nipples (especially if you’re breastfeeding). As your body recovers and your newborn settles into a routine, you will start to feel human again. In the meantime, try to put your aches, pains, fatigue and worries aside and enjoy this wonderful time with your new baby. Gaze into her eyes, stroke her soft skin, smell her sweet scent and know that life will never be the same again — for good reason.
27. If you’re on your own, “stick to places likely to welcome a baby, such as story hour at a library or bookstore,” suggests Christin Gauss, a mom in Fishers, Indiana.
3. Prepare. At home, you’ll want to drop everything to feed the baby the moment she cries for you. But Heather O’Donnell, a mom in New York City, suggests taking care of yourself first. “Get a glass of water and a book or magazine to read.” And, because breastfeeding can take a while, she says, “pee first!”
21. “Forget about housework for the first couple of months,” says Alison Mackonochie, author of 100 Tips for a Happy Baby (Barron’s). “Concentrate on getting to know your baby. If anyone has anything to say about the dust piling up or the unwashed dishes, smile and hand them a duster or the dish detergent!”
Worried about that swollen scrotum on your baby boy or those swollen labia on your little girl? It’s perfectly normal and temporary. They’re due to hormones of yours still circulating in your newborn’s body. They’ll be down to baby proportions before you know it. Those same hormones are also responsible for any milky discharge leaking from the nipples (a possibility for both boy and girl babies) and vaginal discharge (which can sometimes be tinged with blood). As with the swelling, the discharge should go away within a week or two.
Every couple feels like a pair of walking zombies during their first month at home with baby (and often for much longer than that). Both of you are going through an emotional time, so share as much of the experience and work as possible. Although sex likely isn’t part of the picture this month, it will eventually get back to normal. In the meantime, give each other a massage, go on a walk, or have a quiet meal together, and show your love and appreciation through cuddling, hugging, kissing and kind words.
Those first few weeks with your new baby can be magical, but they can also be hard. Learning how to feed your baby, help her sleep and understand her constant needs can keep you on your toes — or asleep on your feet. But if something is troubling you today, don’t worry too much. You might be surprised how different some parts of your baby’s life can be from one week to the next at this stage.
29. Stash a spare. Holland Brown, a mom in Long Beach, California, always keeps a change of adult clothes in her diaper bag. “You don’t want to get stuck walking around with an adorable baby but mustard-colored poop all over you.”
By about week 6, the number of poopy diapers may level off, and your baby might even skip a day or two between BMs.
Todd and I take our first walk with Kate in a sling. But it keeps bumping my belly, and I’m constantly reaching in to make sure she’s breathing and isn’t cold. If the point of the sling is to have your hands free, it doesn’t seem to be working. Todd says he feels very protective, like he wants a 10-foot ring around his family that no one can penetrate.
Newborn babies sleep a lot — just not all at one time. Expect your baby to sleep about 14 to 17 hours a day or more, waking frequently for feedings. It can be up to 19 or 20 or under 14, though the National Sleep Foundation says newborns need 14 to 17 hours. The “average” newborn sleeps about 16.5 hours between daytime and nighttime snoozing, though there’s a wide range of what’s normal. Breastfed babies typically need to eat every two to three hours, and formula-fed babies (or those who take a combo of breast milk and formula) usually eat every three to four hours.
Kate’s grasping things now — fingers, my shirt — while she nurses. I’m starting to relax while I feed her, gazing at her adorable little profile. I like that I’m the only one who sees her from that angle. A friend who had a baby a few months ago says that in a month I’ll be able to breastfeed while typing and talking on the phone. I can’t imagine it! Positioning seems all-important now.
Babies eat a lot during those first few weeks — at least eight to 12 times (or more) in a 24-hour period. Chalk it up to her tiny tummy size and the incredible growth, both physical and mental, that she’s undergoing these first weeks and months. Since your breasts and baby don’t come with a built-in meter, it can be difficult to gauge if and when your baby’s had enough to eat. But there are a few clues: If your baby seems happy, her weight gain is appropriate for her age, and she’s making enough dirty diapers (eight to 12 on any given day), she’s probably getting enough.
30. Finally, embrace the chaos. “Keep your plans simple and be prepared to abandon them at any time,” says Margi Weeks, a mom in Tarrytown, New York.
22. Accept help from anyone who is nice — or naive — enough to offer. “If a neighbor wants to hold the baby while you shower, say yes!” says Jeanne Anzalone, a mom in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.
18. Divvy up duties. Mark DiStefano, a dad in Los Angeles, took over the cleaning and grocery shopping. “I also took Ben for a bit each afternoon so my wife could have a little time to herself.”
Your husband, who helped you through your pregnancy, may seem at a loss now that baby’s here. It’s up to you, Mom, to hand the baby over and let Dad figure things out, just like you’re doing.
13. Warm things up. Alexandra Komisaruk, a mom in Los Angeles, found that diaper changes triggered a meltdown. “I made warm wipes using paper towels and a pumpable thermos of warm water,” she says. You can also buy an electric wipe warmer for a sensitive baby.
We leave Kate with my folks and go out for sushi — my first since I became pregnant. It’s bizarre but liberating to be out alone with my husband, if only for an hour. Of course, all we talk about is Kate.
My new plan is to get Kate to nap in her bassinet. Swaddling her helps some — at one point she even naps for an hour and a half, which feels like a miracle. But then nights turn hard again. Why is it that when you have a little victory on one front, something goes wrong on another? As Kate bawls at 3 a.m., we dare to look up “colic” in our baby book. But she doesn’t cry in any kind of pattern. We pace the floor holding her, then try running water in the bathroom. Finally Todd rocks her back and forth on his arm with her head in his hand, like he saw the nurses do in the hospital. It seems to help.
There’s no doubt that newborns cry — it’s how they communicate! Whether you have a calm baby or a fussy one, you’ll start to get used to all the variations of those little whimpers and wails this first month. In fact, crying can be a sign a baby is healthy. If your little one doesn’t cry much, especially when you know she may need something, see your doctor right away.
23. Got lots of people who want to help but don’t know how? “Don’t be afraid to tell people exactly what you need,” says Abby Moskowitz, a Brooklyn mom. It’s one of the few times in your life when you’ll be able to order everyone around!
Then I resume my main job as Mom: feeding Kate. This, too, is not as easy as it sounds. You read that breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt, but at the beginning, it does, even if you’re doing it right. Kate is a natural, but I’m not — I tense up when she opens her mouth and frantically shove the nipple in before she can clamp down in the wrong place. It’s really nerve-racking.
If nothing else, remember that everyone makes it through, and so will you. Soon enough you’ll be rewarded with your baby’s first smile, and that will help make up for all the initial craziness.
Heather Swain is a mother and writer in Brooklyn, New York. Her novel is Luscious Lemon (Downtown Press).
Todd has some work to do, but luckily I have family support. My sister and her husband come over in the afternoon and let me take an amazing 90-minute nap. I need it because my nerves are fraying. Kate cries after nursing and I don’t know what to do. What can I use to comfort her other than milk, burping, and cuddles?
I slip out to run a few errands, but it isn’t as refreshing as I’d hoped. I can’t walk very fast yet, and my chest is tender.
7. Stop obsessing about being tired. There’s only one goal right now: Care for your baby. “You’re not going to get a full night’s sleep, so you can either be tired and angry or just tired,” says Vicki Lansky, author of Getting Your Child to Sleep…and Back to Sleep (Book Peddlers). “Just tired is easier.”
Feed your baby on demand, rather than by the clock, though. After a month, you may be able to spread out feedings a little more. This can take some getting used to for new parents, especially if you factor in the time it takes to feed the baby and then help her get back to sleep. Then repeat and repeat some more. If you are breastfeeding, try to pump some breast milk so your partner or a friend can take a shift occasionally. One good strategy that you’ve heard a zillion times by now: Try your best to sleep when she sleeps. It will make a difference, even if you just get a cat nap.
9. The old adage “Sleep when your baby sleeps” really is the best advice. “Take naps together and go to bed early,” says Sarah Clark, a mom in Washington, D.C.
6. If you want baby to eventually take a bottle, introduce it after breastfeeding is established but before the 3-month mark. Many experts say 6 to 8 weeks is good, but “we started each of our kids on one bottle a day at 3 weeks,” says Jill Sizemore, a mom in Pendleton, Indiana.
You may think your itty-bitty baby can’t do much of anything, let alone play…but you’re in for a happy surprise. Even the newest newbie can bond with the most special person in their world — you. While you’re enjoying this one-on-one time, she’ll learn how to identify you by sight and sound at the same time you’re helping her to develop motor and cognitive skills.
26. Enlist backup. Make your first journey to a big, public place with a veteran mom. “Having my sister with me for support kept me from becoming flustered the first time I went shopping with my newborn,” says Suzanne Zook, a mom in Denver.
15. Soak to soothe. If all else fails — and baby’s umbilical cord stub has fallen off — try a warm bath together. “You’ll relax, too, and a relaxed mommy can calm a baby,” says Emily Franklin, a Boston mom.
Though it’s been exhausting and sometimes upsetting, I wouldn’t call these first six weeks horrible. Even when I feel nauseous from lack of sleep or sob for an hour along with my baby, all I have to do is look at her and feel that unbelievable love, and it’s somehow worth every minute.
The first six weeks with a newborn are a series of ups and downs for any parent — major ups and major downs! It’s intense, and then it’s over, and you remember it as a blur. Luckily, I wrote a lot down, and reading through my notes has given me a clearer picture of what those bleary-eyed first days (and nights) were like. I hope my recollections will help prepare moms-to-be, and hopefully help new moms feel a little less lost.
It seems like time to institute a bedtime ritual, starting with putting Kate in pajamas to signify that it’s night. And one night, though probably not because of the pajamas, she sleeps from 11:30 p.m. until 4:30 a.m.
Though your baby may have weighed in at 7 pounds at birth, don’t be surprised if she drops some weight (about 5 to 10 percent). The reason for the decrease: normal post-delivery fluid loss. Your newborn’s weight should stop dropping by the time she’s 5 days old. By around 10 to 14 days (and sometimes sooner), she’ll regain and surpass her birth weight. Check in with your doctor if you’re breastfeeding and can’t tell if your baby is getting enough milk.
More mommy milestones: I figure out how to use a front carrier and go for a walk that way. I breastfeed in public for the first time, at the new-mothers’ group. We go out to eat with friends, and Kate sleeps in the stroller, allowing us plenty of adult conversation. And I have my first freak-out one afternoon, when I think she’s choking. But she’s crying furiously while coughing — so obviously she’s fine, and the incident passes.
It’s a girl! It’s a boy! (Or maybe it’s even both, if you’ve had twins). Your newborn baby has arrived, and your life has forever changed.
All of the following activities cater to your one-month-old baby’s blurry vision (newborns are only able to see as far as their own arm’s length) and stimulate her social, visual and emotional development as well as listening skills. Choose a time when your baby isn’t hungry, tired or sporting a wet diaper, and stop if she keeps turning her head away (newborns can easily get overstimulated).
My dad arrives. He seems a little stunned to realize he’s actually a grandfather!
19. Remember that Dad wants to do some fun stuff, too. “I used to take my shirt off and put the baby on my chest while we napped,” say Bob Vonnegut, a dad in Islamorada, Florida. “I loved the rhythm of our hearts beating together.”
We finally get up the guts to give Kate her first tub bath. It takes all of a minute; we’re paranoid about her getting cold. When we dry her off, her hair looks all sweet and curly. Then we lay her on the changing table, and she stares at her mobile. She’s definitely more aware of her surroundings.
I feel like I’m the one who needs to be mothered. And fortunately, my mom arrives that night with plans to stay for two weeks. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see her.
Everybody gets through the first few weeks with baby, and so will you. Here’s how one mom made it.
While my husband, Todd, drove us home from the hospital, I sat in the back and held our newborn daughter’s head straight in her car seat the whole way. It felt weird to be out in the world and responsible for this tiny, floppy-necked being. When we got home, I carried Kate’s seat up the stairs, put it on the floor, sat down, and stared at her.
What to Expect the First Year, 3rd Edition, Heidi Murkoff and Sharon MazelHealthyChildren.org, American Academy of Pediatrics, Newborn Smell & Touch, November 2009HealthyChildren.org, American Academy of Pediatrics, Newborn Reflexes, August 2009HealthyChildren.
org, American Academy of Pediatrics, How Your Newborn Looks, August 2009HealthyChildren.org, American Academy of Pediatrics, Baby’s First Days: Bowel Movements and Urination, August 2009KidsHealth.org, Nemours Foundation, Looking at Your Newborn: What’s Normal, January 2018Sleep.
org, National Sleep Foundation, How Much Sleep Does Your Baby Really Need?
No matter how excited you are to be a mommy, the constant care an infant demands can drain you. Find ways to take care of yourself by lowering your expectations and stealing short breaks.
She seems to make a leap in consciousness, paying much more attention to toys, for instance. She also rolls from her tummy to her back — maybe by accident, but it’s still pretty momentous!
17. Ask Dad to take time off from work — after all the relatives leave. That’s what Thad Calabrese, of Brooklyn, New York, did. “There was more for me to do, and I got some alone time with my son.”
Make sure she isn’t hungry, doesn’t need a diaper change, and hasn’t had something uncomfortable happen, like a thread wrapped around a toe or a scratchy tag bothering her neck. If all that is in check, help her through it the best you can: Rock her, walk her, sing to her or cuddle her. It may take several tries to help her calm down. But if you feel yourself losing patience or are just plain worn out, it’s okay to put her down somewhere safe like her crib for a few minutes. She may even surprise you and drift off to sleep by herself.
If you had a C-section, you’ll also have surgery to recover from. Anesthesia and blood loss can leave you feeling weak the first few days, and your incision may continue to feel sore and sensitive for at least four to six weeks. Cover it with a light dressing, wear loose clothing, and take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or Aleve if the pain lingers (just check with your doctor first). You’ll need to scale back your activity and avoid putting strain on your incision for a while to encourage healing — though as soon as you feel able, try to take short walks around the house to encourage circulation (it can also help to relieve any discomfort you might be feeling from gas and constipation).
But what if she seems to cry all the time? Some babies just cry more than others. Studies show that 80 to 90 percent of babies have daily crying sessions from 15 minutes to an hour that are not easily explained. Sometimes these sessions are predictable — in the evening or after a busy day out of the house, for example. Sometimes they just pop up like an unexpected summer storm.
8. Take shifts. One night it’s Mom’s turn to rock the cranky baby, the next it’s Dad’s turn. Amy Reichardt and her husband, Richard, parents in Denver, worked out a system for the weekends, when Richard was off from work. “I’d be up with the baby at night but got to sleep in. Richard did all the morning care, then got to nap later.”
24. But don’t give other people the small jobs. “Changing a diaper takes two minutes. You’ll need others to do time-consuming work like cooking, sweeping floors, and buying diapers,” says Catherine Park, a Cleveland mom.
It’s been six weeks since our daughter, Clementine, was born. She’s finally sleeping better and going longer between feedings. She’s also becoming more alert when she’s awake. My husband and I, on the other hand, feel like we’ve been hit by a truck. I’m amazed that we’ve muddled through. Here are tips from seasoned parents and baby experts to make your first month easier.
We take Kate to the pediatrician. She was 7 pounds 1 ounce at birth, 6 pounds 8 ounces when we left the hospital, and 6 pounds 14 ounces now. (It’s typical for newborns to lose a few ounces right after birth and then gain them back.) The doctor wants her back at her birth weight in three days, which seems very doable.
Tracy Guth Spangler is a writer in South Orange, New Jersey.
28. “Keep your diaper bag packed,” says Fran Bowen, a mom in Brooklyn. There’s nothing worse than finally getting the baby ready, only to find that you’re not.
Being squished in your uterus and then pushed through the narrow birth canal means your baby’s body will be kind of scrunched up for some time. Her hands are in little fists, and her arms and legs are tucked closely to her body. No worries. Her muscles will relax during the next few weeks.
What other changes to your body can you expect this month? Breast engorgement usually occurs two to five days after delivery: That’s when your milk comes in, causing your breasts to become rock-hard and tender. Be prepared with a warm washcloth to encourage milk flow, a comfortable bra and cold packs or heating pads that you can apply to your breasts as needed to help manage the pain and discomfort after nursing.
All of your baby’s senses are at work from the moment she’s born, including:
Parent-to-parent advice on feeding, soothing, and more during baby’s first days at home.
Though there are strategies for soothing baby’s cries, including those of colicky infants, sometimes nothing seems to work. A few things the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests: swaddling baby, applying firm pressure to her tummy, changing your diet if you’re nursing in case there’s a food sensitivity or gas, offering a pacifier, holding baby, running a hair dryer or other noise-maker that might remind her of sounds in the womb, etc. The best thing you can do to get through colic is to try to stay calm and take turns with a partner or caregiver in giving your baby attention.
While your focus these days is, naturally, on keeping your baby healthy, that becomes a whole lot harder if you don’t stay healthy yourself. So make your health a priority too. Turn in early for the night, and nap when your baby does — even if it’s just for 15 minutes, you’ll wake up feeling surprisingly refreshed. Keep a supply of easy-to-grab, nutrition-packed foods on hand, like cheese sticks, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit and ready-cut vegetables so you can graze frequently (know that your nutritional needs will be greater if you’re breastfeeding). Finally, practice bottle- or breastfeeding positions to minimize back pain; you might even want to treat yourself to a massage from your partner if you have one or a professional.
While colic usually starts around week 2 or 3 of a baby’s life, it most often peaks in severity around week 6. By month 3 or 4, your baby likely won’t be crying any more than any other baby. So remember, when you think you can’t take much more crying: It’s just a stage!
Month 1: Your Baby’s DevelopmentMore on Your Newborn’s First Month of Life:Baby Week 1Baby Week 2Baby Week 3Baby Week 4What’s Happening
I’m healing nicely, and, shockingly, I’ve lost 20 pounds already. But my hormones are still raging. For instance, I buy Kate a sweater, and when the cashier asks if I need a gift receipt, I say, “No, it’s for my daughter,” and promptly tear up. I also get sad seeing my parents leave — I think the fact that we’re halfway across the country from them will be more palpable now.
Your Baby’s Development Week by WeekSleeping Through the NightHow Much Vitamin D Does My Baby Need?
10. What if your infant has trouble sleeping? Do whatever it takes: Nurse or rock baby to sleep; let your newborn fall asleep on your chest or in the car seat. “Don’t worry about bad habits yet. It’s about survival — yours!” says Jean Farnham, a Los Angeles mom.
Though I’ll find myself saying this many times during Kate’s first year, it seems like we’re finally getting a handle on things. Todd and I are feeling more confident about being parents, and Kate has an obviously emerging personality.
Kate is at her birth weight! All that breastfeeding seems to be doing its job. Now we just need to focus on her sleeping at night. She’s so cute!
Kate finally sleeps in two four-hour stretches, eating at 11 p.m., 3 a.m., and 7 a.m. Keeping track of the times she eats is surprisingly hard in my sleep-deprived haze, and, since she basically eats constantly during the day, it’s hard to tell when one session ends and the next one begins.
More Baby-Care Basics:Burping BabyDiapering Your NewbornBaby’s First BathNail TrimmingDressing BabyCar Seat SafetyMonth 1: Your Baby’s HealthCrying
Part of what I do to pull myself together is attend a new-moms’ group. It’s such a relief to talk to women who know exactly how I feel! As I discuss my “witching hour,” the time of night when Todd goes to bed and I’m frantic to get to sleep, I realize that part of the problem is my dreading what little sleep I’ll get. I resolve to try to relax and take things as they come.
Kate’s umbilical cord stump falls off! Mom and I save it to show to Todd.
If your infant isn’t eating, he’s probably sleeping. Newborns log as many as 16 hours of sleep a day but only in short bursts. The result: You’ll feel on constant alert and more exhausted than you ever thought possible. Even the best of us can come to resent the severe sleep deprivation.
Physically — well, my thighs and ankles are still disgustingly swollen from the IV I had in the hospital. I’m always thirsty. I’m taking Motrin a few times a day for my ab incision, which is still sore. My belly button has already gone from flat to a simple outie — I can’t imagine getting my innie back, but they say it’ll happen!
Babies eat and eat and eat. Although nature has done a pretty good job of providing you and your baby with the right equipment, in the beginning it’s almost guaranteed to be harder than you expected. From sore nipples to tough latch-ons, nursing can seem overwhelming.
When your baby is in dreamland, be sure she is sleeping in 100 percent safe conditions: placed on her back on a firm mattress with no pillows, blankets, stuffed animals or crib bumpers, to reduce the risk of SIDS.
12. Play tunes. Forget the dubious theory that music makes a baby smarter, and concentrate on the fact that it’s likely to calm him. “The Baby Einstein tapes saved us,” says Kim Rich, a mom in Anchorage, Alaska.
20. First, ignore unwanted or confusing advice. “In the end, you’re the parents, so you decide what’s best,” says Julie Balis, a mom in Frankfort, Illinois.
Since Todd is now commuting again, he’s trying to get to sleep at a decent hour. I, on the other hand, stay up rocking a crying baby. I feel angry, and yet when he offers to help, I bark at him to go back to sleep. Hormones, hormones. I cry it out with Kate until we both nod off.
But babies are also adorable. She makes little “oh” noises when she sees me or Todd, and we melt.
Baby’s Development Baby’s Health Milestones For Parents Things to Do with Your 1-Month-Old
Babies are messy. I do laundry a lot. Kate’s already had her first explosive diaper, soaking all the way through her clothes. She’s also had her first projectile spit-up, managing to soak her car seat, herself, my pants, and the floor in one spectacular move.
On our first day alone together (Todd’s back at the office), I take Kate to get her picture taken for her birth announcement. I’m so proud to successfully stroll her around by myself! But the feeling of accomplishment dwindles as the week continues. The huge truth of new motherhood hits me: My time is no longer my own. Full-time, relentless baby care is hard to get used to.
This is the time to put laundry, cleaning and other chores on hold as much as you can. Ask your family or friends for help. Order dinner in if you can, or ask a friend to bring you some of hers. Don’t bother keeping up with email. Consult your health care professional or a lactation consultant if you need some help in the feeding department.
The experience of labor and delivery is so physically grueling that the first six to eight weeks postpartum are considered a “recovery period.” You’ll need all the help you can get this month as your body mends and you adjust to life with baby — so try to baby yourself too as much as you can by eating right, getting rest and enlisting support from family, friends and maybe even paid professionals (studies show that doulas and lactation consultants can help moms bond with baby and breastfeed).
Todd works all day, and then he has the nerve to go to sleep at 10 p.m. while I sit with Kate, stewing. Granted, I’d suggested that he doze, but I didn’t think he’d actually take me up on it! He redeems himself by getting Kate back to sleep after the 1 a.m. feeding.
11. “The key to soothing fussy infants is to mimic the womb. Swaddling, shushing, and swinging, as well as allowing babies to suck and holding them on their sides, may trigger a calming reflex,” says Harvey Karp, MD, creator of The Happiest Baby on the Block books, videos, and DVDs.
This is how the mornings go: I feed Kate, who promptly gets the hiccups (she’ll hiccup almost constantly, it seems, throughout her first few weeks). Todd makes me breakfast and holds her while I wolf it down. Then she’s ready to feed AGAIN. When she falls asleep afterward, I’m afraid to put her down because she might wake and want to eat yet AGAIN.
Some parents wonder if their baby has colic. A colicky baby will often have symptoms beyond simply crying: Balled-up fists, tightly closed or wide open eyes, knees pulled up to her chest, flailing limbs, gas and short bouts of held breath are all common. Doctors usually diagnose colic using “the rule of threes”: three hours of crying, three days a week, lasting for at least three weeks. About 1 in 5 newborns has crying spells that are severe enough to be called colic.
You hear about new parents being exhausted, but in the first few days you can run well on adrenaline and mysterious Mommy Hormones. Then, slowly, the lack of sleep starts to not only catch up with you but overtake you and rule your life. On our second night at home we don’t know all that yet, and we’re content to steal sleep when we can. Kate mostly dozes on my chest or Todd’s — we pass her back and forth. When I was pregnant, I thought I’d never want the baby in our bed, but now that I see it allows everyone to stay horizontal, I’m all for it — at least for these first nights.
Right from the first day, your baby has a set of reflexes designed to protect her and ensure she gets the care she needs (even if your parenting instincts haven’t kicked in yet). Some of these early reflexes include the rooting reflex (which helps her locate the breast or bottle for feeding), the sucking reflex (to help her eat), the Palmar reflex (this is the one that makes her grip your finger when you put it in her palm), and the Moro reflex (the jumpy reaction she has when startled). You can try checking your baby for these and other first-year reflexes, but keep in mind that your results may vary and will probably be less reliable than those of the doctor.
In other news, we have her one-month appointment. Kate is 9 pounds 6 ounces and 23 inches long. The doctor says to expect a week-six growth spurt and warns me that Kate will constantly want to nurse (as though she doesn’t already!). Feeding her whenever she’s hungry is exactly what I should do (it’s nice to have my natural instinct justified). He also shows me how to position her for tummy time. She pulls her head right up and holds it there. We’re so proud!
It’s often hard to decipher exactly what baby wants in the first murky weeks. You’ll learn, of course, by trial and error.
Kate’s birth certificate comes in the mail, so we joke that she’s “official.”
5. Heat helps the milk flow, but if your breasts are sore after nursing, try a cold pack. Amy Hooker, a San Diego mom, says, “A bag of frozen peas worked really well for me.”
Vision. Her puffy eyes may match yours. But unlike yours, your brand new baby’s eyes are swollen from delivery, and perhaps the protective antibiotic eye ointment administered right after birth. Her vision is a little blurry — but she’s able to see your face and other close-up objects.
Just be sure to hold them 8 to 12 inches in front of her, which is her range of vision. You may also notice that her eyes sometimes cross. That’s because the muscles that control eye movement aren’t yet fully developed and is nothing to worry about.
Hearing. While her hearing isn’t completely developed, your child is already familiar with your voice and other sounds that she heard often in the womb.Taste. Her sense of taste is highly developed, and she can differentiate between sweet and bitter — with a preference towards the sweet stuff (breast milk and formula fit the bill perfectly).
Smell. Soon after her arrival, she’ll recognize your scent.Touch. This sense is the most developed at birth. Through touch, your baby learns the softness of your face, that nothing is more rewarding than a cuddle, and that she’s loved by those who care for her.
Nights are still the hardest time for everyone. One night, as Kate screams, Todd groggily pats me on the arm. I hiss, “That’s not helping me!” and start to cry. He gets up and moves to the couch, complaining that I push him away. I later apologize for hurting his feelings. Crazy how my relationship with Kate can so complicate my relationship with my husband.
2. Use hospital resources. Kira Sexton, a Brooklyn, New York, mom, says, “I learned everything I could about breastfeeding before I left the hospital.” Ask if there’s a nursing class or a lactation consultant on staff. Push the nurse-call button each time you’re ready to feed the baby, and ask a nurse to spot you and offer advice.
Most babies will be able to:Lift head briefly during supervised tummy timeFocus on a faceBring hands to faceSuck wellHalf of babies will be able to:Respond to a loud noise in some waySome babies will be able to:Lift head 45 degrees when on tummyVocalize in ways other than cryingSmile in response to a smileMonth 1: For Parents
Get silly. Infants are hard-wired to be fascinated by human faces since it ensures they can quickly zero in on and bond with those who care for them — so and make a few silly expressions at her (sticking your tongue out is a perennial fave).
Here’s the best part: She may even try to copy you — even tiny infants can imitate facial expressions!Converse. Hold your baby close to your face, supporting that wobbly head and neck, and tell her a story, ask questions, or sing.
The gentle back-and-forth of your “conversation” is what cements baby’s trust, since it conveys that you’re interested in her and can be counted on to respond to her. Mimicking her sounds encourages her to coo and gurgle all the more.
Play ball! Shake a bright-colored (not pastel; babies this young see high-contrast patterns and colors better) ball or rattle next to her and she’ll turn her head to find it. This earliest version of “hide and seek” strengthens neck muscles — plus it’s adorable!Take a walk.
Strap your baby into a carrier or stroller and head outside together. Describe the sights you see along the way — people, cars, dogs, houses. The fresh air and movement will benefit you both, plus the activity helps raise your energy levels.
Here’s something to help ease your mind: Life for your baby is pretty simple right now. All that really matters to her is eating every couple of hours, sleeping safely and frequently, having a clean diaper and getting lots of love. That’s it. But for you as a new mother and all that involves, life may feel considerably more complicated. So focus on just those essentials — your baby’s basic needs. They’ll be plenty to keep you busy as you slowly get the hang of things.
14. You’ll need other tricks, too. “Doing deep knee bends and lunges while holding my daughter calmed her down,” says Emily Earle, a mom in Brooklyn, New York. “And the upside was, I got my legs back in shape!”