Practical advice for the first few weeks after birth


Becoming a new parent is a challenging time in anybody’s life but it is also exciting, and for all the struggles that parents face in the first number of weeks with a newborn, there is peace of mind knowing that with the right advice you will adapt and you and baby will thrive.

The first bit of advice new parents should take on board is to be realistic. With a new baby, your life is going to be utterly transformed, and that cliché about things never being the same again is suddenly not a cliché anymore. Being realistic also means admitting that you are going to make mistakes, but it is by making mistakes that you improve, so try not to worry too much about getting things wrong at first.

Forewarned is forearmed, as the old saying goes, so parents should be aware of common problems with newborn babies. Problem areas typically encountered in the first number of weeks include:

Disrupted nighttime: Very young babies have to be fed often and that means nighttime feeds. Nonetheless, you can initiate the process of putting a routine in place and over time, everyone will adapt to the schedule. By putting a baby down in the crib once they start to feel drowsy, you will begin to teach them to fall asleep on their own, as they come to associate the crib with sleep time. It is better to keep feeds during the night as brief as possible.

Calming baby down: An infant knows crying as the only way to communicate, so expect lots of tears. The infant may be hungry or tired. They may have a dirty diaper or they may need to be burped. If all the usual suspects have been eliminated and the baby continues to cry, experiment with different ways of comforting them. Rubbing their back or walking around with them in your arms are just two of the options.

Practical tips for new parents include:

Look for help: Over time, you will discover just how resourceful you can be as a new parent, but in those first few weeks, take all the help you can get. In the hospital, ask the relevant experts for their advice. Many hospitals have specialists, such as lactation consultants, who will offer tips on feeding. Nurses are a great source of help and tips on such issues as holding, burping and changing a baby. Do not be embarrassed to ask the simplest of questions: hospital staff have seen and heard it all and will be more than happy to answer your questions.

Relatives and friends often want to help out as best they can, so take their offers of assistance in the spirit that they are meant. For those parents living apart from friends and family, there are resources available for in-house help in the first weeks after a baby is born. Your physician or hospital should have a list of home health agencies and advice on how to obtain a referral.

Related: Baby talk helps infants learn languages

Handling a new baby: A new child seems so fragile and some parents will be uncertain of what to do. As a first step, always be sure to wash your hands before picking up the child. Newborn children do not have a robust immune system in the early stages, so infections are an issue. Ensure that everyone handling the infant also has clean hands. When picking up your baby, support both the head and neck. Do not shake the infant, as vigorous shaking can lead to bleeding on the brain. To wake a baby up, tickle their toes or blow softly on their cheek.

Equipping you and baby: As a first time mother or father, you will never be short of advice if you look online, and there are also some great websites offering parent and infant equipment, such as Skip Hop. Started by a husband and wife team with experience of a newborn, this baby-shopping website offers essentials for parents and babies alike. Parenting has its challenges but it should never be a chore, and with the right type of equipment, raising a newborn does not have to be that. Obvious items on the to-buy list include a crib and crib mattress, approved car safety seat, a plastic infant bathtub and a diaper-changing pad. Some other essentials that you might overlook include:

  • Sling or baby carrier.
  • Mobiles for over the crib.
  • Sun shade for putting over car windows.
  • A bag for diapers.

Armed with practical advice and support from friends, family and professionals, you will be ready for life as a new parent.

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