Parenting – The First Weeks
There is something very special and exciting about being alone for the first time with your new baby, but it can also be a worrying time.
This is when you begin to realise that things will never be the same again. You are now responsible for a new life, which may seem a daunting task at first, but you will be surprised how quickly it all seems to fall into place.
In the early weeks there is a great deal to learn about the needs of your new baby. This section gives some basic information to help you get going. And, although today it might seem scary, in a matter of months you will be looking back and wondering what you were worrying about.
Coping with the first few weeks
The first few weeks with a new baby can be hard, but it lasts for a relatively short time and it does get better. Here are a few tips to help you get through this stressful and emotional time.
Following the birth of a new baby, many women feel that they don’t have time to feed themselves. However, a nutritious diet, especially if you are breastfeeding, is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby. Keeping a good supply of nutritious snacks, like fruit, milk and wholemeal bread, which you can eat without cooking is very useful.
Tiredness is one of the biggest problems when coping with a new born baby. Making a few changes in when, how much and what you eat can help to increase your energy level.
Eating small portions of food frequently throughout the day, will help keep your blood sugar level up. Try not to wait until you are so hungry that you sit down and devour a huge meal. Eating a big meal will make you feel tired again as it takes longer and requires more energy to digest
Fatty foods should be kept to a minimum as they also take longer to digest, so try to keep your meals and snacks relatively lean. Include a combination of carbohydrates and protein in each meal as they both have high energy effects.
A simple meditation is a powerful way to relax and unwind during the day. It is calming because it connects your conscious mind to the emotions you are cut off from during the daily activities. Some people who are experienced in meditation find it equal to having a few hours sleep.
Try this beginners meditation:
Make yourself comfortable either by sitting with your legs crossed on the floor, on a couch or lying down.
Close your eyes.
Notice your breathing and observe how it gradually begins to slow down.
When your breath has regulated, focus your attention on the airflow out of your nostrils. Don’t think about the air in your lungs, or how your diaphragm moves, just remain concentrated on the sensation of the air entering and leaving your nostrils.
At various points through the meditation, you may find it hard to concentrate. This is the critical moment of meditation. When your thoughts begin to wander and you get frustrated because you can’t concentrate, let go of the criticism and just go back to focusing on your breathing.
Keep concentrating on your breathing and bring yourself back to it when you think about it.
Eventually you will feel your whole being relax.
If you are constantly busy, you are probably exhausted too. Try to set a few minutes aside to organise your schedule each morning. Prioritise the day’s activities and decide what can be moved to tomorrow. This should help you proceed through the day in a more relaxed state.
Try to delegate some housework to friends and family. During these early weeks any extra help will be badly needed. Ask for someone to bring round dinner or just come over to do some washing up. Sometimes people with their own small babies can be the most help because they understand what it can feel like.
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
A charity run by breastfeeding mothers to give support to other mums. An interesting message board and Mums Corner.
A comprehensive site on breastfeeding. A very supportive site with e-mail addresses to contact for advice, FAQs and recent articles.
You will need: At least six bottles and teats there are different kinds of bottles and teats. Ask your midwife, health visitor, or other mothers if you want advice on what to buy. You may be offered second-hand bottles. Make sure they’re not scratched if they are, you wont be able to sterilise them properly. Always buy new teats.
A supply of baby milk there are lots of different brands of baby milk (also called infant formula) marketed in different ways. Some claim to provide special advantages, or they are labelled first milk or second milk.
Most milks are powdered, but some are ready to feed, so you may well be confused about which milk to use. However, all baby milks marketed in the UK have to comply with rigorous legislation. They all have to contain certain levels of protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins and minerals, although different types of fats and carbohydrates may be used. Ideally, discuss the different brands with your midwife or health visitor and then make your own choice, based on this information. (Mothers who do not want to give their babies any animal products, may choose to give their baby soya-based infant formula. It contains soya instead of milk protein and plant sugars instead of lactose.)
Sometimes a hospital may also recommend a certain brand of milk if your baby was premature and you cant manage to breastfeed.
If there is a strong history of allergies in your family, such as eczema, asthma or food allergies (known as atopic disease), and you think you wont manage to breastfeed, seek advice as early as possible from your GP or health visitor. You may be referred to a paediatrician or a doctor who has a special interest in allergies. Infant formula based on cows milk is the better option but, if your baby has an allergic reaction to milk formula, it may be necessary to use non-dairy (soya-based) milk.
If your baby is unable to tolerate cows milk and has an allergic reaction to soya milk, another type of infant formula may be prescribed. Don’t change to non-dairy baby milks without talking to your doctor or health visitor first. Unmodified goats milk or sheep’s milk are not nutritionally suitable for babies under one year of age.
Milk is usually sold cheaply in clinics but can be cheaper still in large supermarkets, so its worth comparing prices.
Washing and sterilising
Your bottles and teats must be washed and sterilised until your baby is at least six months old to protect against infection.
Wash your baby’s bottles and teats thoroughly using washing-up liquid. Usually, salt is no longer recommended for cleaning teats but, if you are advised to use salt, use as little as possible and make sure you rinse it off thoroughly. Make sure you get rid of every trace of milk, squirting water through the teats and using a bottle brush for the bottles. Always rinse in thoroughly in clean water.
There are a number of different ways of sterilising.
You can buy a complete sterilising unit in the shops or use a plastic bucket with a lid.
To make up the solution, follow the instructions that come with the sterilising tablets or liquid.
Immerse your baby’s washed bottles, lids and teats in sterilising solution. Leave them in the solution for the time given in the instructions. If you’re using a bucket, keep everything under the water by putting a plate on top. Make sure there aren’t any air bubbles inside the bottles and don’t add any other unsterilised things to the container later or you will have to start all over again
When you take the bottles and teats out to make up your baby’s feeds, wash your own hands first. Don’t rinse the bottles and teats with tap water because you’ll make them unsterile again. If you want to rinse off the sterilising solution, use boiled, cooled water.
Sterilising by boiling
Put washed equipment into a large pan with a lid. Make sure no air is trapped in the bottles.
Boil for at least ten minutes (teats need just three). Leave everything in the covered pan until needed.
Keep the pan out of the reach of older children.
Keep your pan only for sterilising this equipment.
Teats that are boiled regularly get sticky and need replacing regularly.
There are steam sterilisers specially designed for bottles, which are both quick and efficient.
Microwave steam units
These steam units are designed specifically for sterilising bottles in a microwave oven. If you intend to sterilise bottles in a microwave oven you must use one of these units, otherwise cold spots may occur and could leave part of the bottle unsterilised.
You can warm your baby’s bottle before a feed by standing it in some hot water. Test the temperature of the milk by squirting some on to your wrist. Most babies prefer warm milk, others don’t mind it cold.
Don’t give a baby milk that has been kept warm for more than an hour before a feed germs breed in the warmth. Its dangerous to use a microwave oven to warm a bottle of milk. The milk continues to heat for a time after you take it out of the microwave, although the outside of the bottle may feel cold
Get yourself comfortable so that you can cuddle your baby close as you feed. Give your baby time and let him or her take as much milk as he or she wants. Some babies take some milk and drop off to sleep, then wake up for more. Be patient. At the end of a feed throw away any leftover milk.
As you feed, keep the bottle tilted so that the teat is always full of milk, otherwise your baby will be taking in air.
If the teat flattens while you’re feeding, pull gently on the bottle to release the vacuum. If the teat blocks, start again with another sterile teat.
Teats come in all sorts of shapes and with different hole sizes and with variable flows. You may need to experiment to find the right teat and hole size for your baby. If the hole is too small, your baby will suck and suck without getting enough milk. If it is too big, your baby will get too much too quickly and probably spit or bring the feed back up. A small teat hole can be made larger with a red-hot needle if the teat is made of latex. If it is made of silicone you should not try to enlarge the hole it is more likely to tear, and bits could break off into your baby’s mouth.
Never prop up a bottle and leave your baby to feed alone he or she may choke.
Do not add solids to bottle feeds. Your baby can not digest them and may choke.