- Caring for your new baby
- Bathing your baby
- Will my baby sleep?
- All babies cry
- To swaddle or not
- Car seats and safety
- Who are health visitors and what do they do?
Caring for your new baby
There are many challenges ahead when learning to care for your new baby, the most difficult of all being all the information given to you by other people.
Remember, this is your baby and you will learn what they need and when. There are no set rules, just respond to your baby when they call you and you will soon work out whether they are hungry, need a nappy change, feel uncomfortable or just need you to cuddle them!
The most common questions parents ask are about bathing, changing, sleeping and crying, so here some suggestions and links to other websites for further information.
Bathing your baby
Bathing your baby is a lovely way to spend time together and bond with them. It’s natural to feel a bit worried if you’ve never done it before, though.
Some people find they’re so careful it takes ages to give a bath in the first few weeks. This is completely natural and you’ll get more confident as the weeks go on.
Don’t worry too much if your baby doesn’t like having a bath at first – some babies don’t. They should get used to it and start to enjoy it more after a few weeks.
Whether it’s a bath, a top and tail or a nappy change, try and keep to the same routine each time you do it. This helps your baby learn what’s happening and feel safe.
Talk to them at each step and tell them what you’re doing so they can pick up the routine.
Will my baby sleep?
It is important to remember that sleep is a developmental process, and that sleep needs will change throughout our lifetimes.
Newborn babies may sleep for 18 or so hours a day, but often for only for 2-3 hours at a time. During the first year overall sleep duration falls to around 15 hours, and the majority of sleep becomes concentrated during night-time as the circadian rhythms develop.
It is important to remember that babies operate according to their own internal biological rhythms and they are unaware of what their parents are reading or being told.
New-born babies have very small stomachs, and need to feed often, so they wake at least every 2-3 hours in order to do so, sometimes more often.
Having your baby sleep in a cot in the same room as you until they are 6 months old is a key piece of advice given to new parents. This helps promote feeding, makes it easier to respond to your baby’s needs and reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
All babies cry
All babies cry, and some more than others. Crying is your baby’s way of telling you they need comfort and care.
Sometimes it’s easy to work out what they want, and sometimes it’s not.
The most common reasons for crying are: hunger, a dirty or wet nappy, tiredness, wanting a cuddle, wind, being too hot or too cold, boredom, and overstimulation.
Responding to your baby’s needs promptly helps calm them and make them feel more secure and cry less.
- Soothing a crying baby (NHS UK)
To swaddle or not
Swaddling is a traditional practice of wrapping a baby up gently in a light, breathable blanket to help them feel calm and sleep. They should only have their body wrapped and not their neck or head.
The idea is that being swaddled will help your little one feel snug and secure, like how they felt in your womb. However, there is little research to support these theories and opinion on whether swaddling is a good practice or not is divided.
So, if you’re considering swaddling your baby, make sure you always follow safe swaddling guidelines to protect your little one.
Car seats and safety
It is recommended to buy a car seat before your baby is born if possible. It is important to buy a seat that fits your car and is suitable for a newborn.
You will have to bring your car seat to the hospital on day of discharge to ensure you can drive your newborn home safely. It is a good idea to practice fitting the seat before your baby is born.
Tip: It’s best to try a few in your car before making your decision – try to find a retailer who is willing to help you with this.
Breastfeeding is a journey for you and your baby. It has many benefits for both baby and mother, but can take time before it feels like you have the hang of it!
We recommend you find out as much information as you can before your baby is born. This could be:
- reading books,
- accessing videos / websites,
- speaking to friends and family or
- meeting other new / expectant mothers to ask about their opinions and experience.
This video summarises some of the main benefits of breastmilk.
You can find out more about Human Milk Community Interest Company’s research and information on their website. Human Milk CIC is an independent, non-profit organisation.
Here is a summary of the benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby:
Benefits for Mothers
- Reduces the risk of developing some cancers, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer
- Reduces the risk of hip fractures in later life
- Breastmilk is free and convenient as it’s available at the right temperature at any time
- Breastfeeding is better for the environment
Benefits for Infants
- Reduces the risk of developing many infections due to the immunity factors produced by the mother
- Tummy bugs
- Ear infections
- Urinary infections
- Reduces the risks of obesity and diabetes when they are older
- Breastmilk changes to meet baby’s needs as they grow, and to protect them from germs in their surroundings
Breastmilk is special because it contains many components that cannot be replicated for formula milk. These include hormones (needed for growth and development), antibodies and viral fragments (to help protect against infections), transfer factors and enzymes (to help digest and absorb nutrients), oligosaccharides and bifidus factor (to aid gut health and protect from tummy infections).
You can find out more at any of these websites:
How to Breastfeed
These fantastic videos from Global Health Media Project will tell you about how to hold baby for feeding and how to know they are well latched on:
Your midwife and other maternity staff will help you with feeding your baby once they are born. They will be able to tailor the information and support to suit you and your baby at the time that you need it.
Breastfeeding is a journey, and no two babies are the same! You both need time to get to know each other, and your new baby needs to learn how to breastfeed. There are many things that may be considered, including:
- the type of birth you had,
- any health conditions you have,
- any health issues your baby may have, and
- how old your baby is.
If you, or your baby, need a little more support in the first week after birth, your midwife may develop a feeding plan. This will be discussed with you to ensure your baby does not become unwell, or to support your milk production. This plan will be reviewed every few days and changed as your baby’s feeding improves.
Support and help options
There are lots of places to get help and support with breastfeeding once your baby is born. Many of these options include supporting any new parent, as we know it can be a difficult time regardless of whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, or a bit of both.
You can get information from:
- Your midwife or health visitor
- NHS resources:
- Parent Club
You can get help and advice from:
- Your midwife or health visitor
- Peer support from the Breastfeeding Network: firstname.lastname@example.org
(A peer supporter is a volunteer with breastfeeding experience and training to help new mothers)
- National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 1212
- NCT Breastfeeding support 0300 330 0700
- A specialist clinic via referral from your midwife or health visitor
- Online support group (usually accessed via social media). You can find links here. These groups have become even more active since the coronavirus outbreak meant groups could not meet face to face.