With all the information overload out there for expecting and new parents, the Let Mommy Sleep team of Baby Nurses (RN/LPN) & Night Nannies created Your First Week Home with Baby: the Ultimate Q&A. Bookmark this article for evidence-based answers to frequently asked questions about postpartum and newborn care.
Your First Week Home with Baby: the Ultimate Q&A about Parent Health
What can I do to help myself heal after giving birth?
An abdominal binder is a postpartum must-have. As Bridgett Miller Dixon, NP also notes, “they’re easy to find at your local drug store or Amazon and are priced at about $20-$30. In addition to helping with pain -particularly after cesarean birth- they help with internal and external healing by adding compression to the abdomen while improving blood circulation and oxygen levels.” Binders also keep c-section stitches covered, protecting the area while it heals.
Some manufacturers of binders may claim that the products help a postpartum tummy go back to its pre-pregnancy shape, but there’s no evidence to support this claim. While an abdominal binder will help support your lower back and keep you comfortable, exercise and diet are the only ways to get stronger abs.
What about mental health?
“Baby blues” or feelings or sadness, irritability, fatigue and tearfulness are normal and typical for about a week after giving birth. It’s important to know that mild depression can also happen to non-birthing parents. If symptoms persist after 2 weeks or progress into feelings that scare you, it’s time to ask your OB for help. You can also contact the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline for help by calling/texting 833-9-HELP4MOMS.
The good news about postpartum anxiety and mood disorders (PMADs) is they are 100% treatable with proper support and medication.
How am I supposed to sleep?
The link between sleep deprivation and postpartum depression has been seen over and over. Sleep is also recommended to help with post-birth healing, increasing milk production and following safe sleep guidelines for baby. But how the heck are you supposed to get real blocks of sleep when your baby is up every 2-3 hours to feed?
Here are 3 ways to get more sleep:
- Swap blocks of time or entire nights with your partner: Each parent is in charge of baby’s feeding, diapering and soothing back to sleep for half the night, ensuring that you each get at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If possible, do 2 nights on and 2 nights off to get the deep, restorative sleep that keeps our immune systems strong. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, simply stay in bed to nurse while your partner does all other care on your “off” night.
- Accept Help – This should be obvious but there’s sometimes a guilt factor in accepting help when caring for our newborns. Now is the time to call on your village to care for baby so you can sleep uninterrupted. If your village is too far away or you don’t have one, you can call services like ours, or ask your pediatrician if they can refer a night nanny.
- Be ready to sleep when it’s time – Take away screens, resist the urge to scroll and practice deep breathing if you find it hard to switch off when it’s time to sleep. A dark room that is always used for sleep can also help you make the transition from awake to asleep.
Your First Week Home with Baby: the Ultimate Q&A about Newborn Feeding
Is my baby eating enough?
Your newborn’s stomach is only between the size of a walnut and an apricot in the first week of life. Remembering this info and fighting the urge to worry if baby is eating enough (unless there is an actual cause for medical concern) is crucial for both breast and bottle-feeding parents. Here’s why:
- If you’re nursing and it seems like baby is always on the breast, that’s perfectly normal! As long as babies are producing wet and soiled diapers, that means they’re getting enough to eat. Remember that skin-to-skin contact is crucial in establishing milk supply too so if it feels like baby is attached to you, that’s not only healthy, it’s helpful!
- Formula feeding parents: don’t let even the tiniest bottle of pre-made formula fool you! Even the 2 ounce bottles the hospital gives away are usually way too big for at least the first week of your newborn’s life. Babies will continue drinking even if they’re full because like adults, their tummies don’t receive the signal to stop until our stomachs hurt. This is why slow, patient feeding, with lots of time to burp is key. Like babies who are fed from the breast, small and frequent feeds are the norm when bottle feeding.
What do I need to know about Infant Weight Loss?
Now that we’ve talked about how very small, frequent feeds are the norm for newborns, we should note that even with all that eating, it’s actually expected for babies to lose weight in the first few days of life. Babies are born with some extra fluid, so a healthy newborn is expected to lose 7% to 10% of the birth weight.
So if it seems like your baby is eating all the time but losing weight, don’t worry because that weight will come back on within about the first 2 weeks after being born. You can also drop by your pediatrician anytime for a weight check if you want to be sure baby is developing normally or use this newborn weight tool.
I’m breastfeeding…when will my milk come in?
It can take 3-5 days for your milk to come in and these days are usually the hardest because your newborn is waking up and hungry. Common -but not always- reasons for a delay in milk production are c-section, complicated delivery or obesity. Here are tips to help stimulate milk production:
- Have friends and family take care of you, so you can feed the baby. Stress, hunger and sleep deprivation can delay lactation. Friends and family can be overwhelming, but it’s important to have someone whose job is to look after you. They need to be sure you’re eating, drinking and resting. (Not adding more work!)
- No time at the breast is wasted time. Even if it’s just a little bit at a time, breast milk can be transferred to baby drop by drop, even if the baby is primarily getting nutrition from formula.
- Don’t wait until baby is screaming to nurse – Allowing baby to be skin to skin with you before latching can make nursing calm and give your body a chance to get ready for feeding. Non-feeding caregivers should also learn the signs of hunger to be ready to hand baby over!
- Skin to skin – You and your baby are literally a feeding dyad…skin to skin works when increasing milk supply.
- Check your latch– Nursing should never hurt. If it’s painful for you, contact La Leche League, your pediatrician or a lactation counselor who can check baby’s latch.
- Hand express or pump – Pumping both breasts after baby has finished nursing can help stimulate milk.
Your First Week Home with Baby: the Ultimate Q&A about Baby Sleep
Is my newborn sleeping too much?
There is a wide range of “normal” when it comes to infant sleep. Babies don’t develop regular sleep cycles until about 6 months of age. There may be a few long stretches of sleep while baby is still in the sleepy newborn stage but they typically wake up every 2-3 hours because they’re hungry. Babies of healthy weight don’t usually need to be woken up to feed and as long as your pediatrician and hospital discharge directions agree, it’s okay to allow your child to sleep through a feed. They will typically make up for it with cluster feeds later in the day.
Where should my baby sleep?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends room-sharing but not bed-sharing for the first year. This means that your baby is sleeping in the same room as you, but not in the same bed. A flat bassinete next to your bed is an ideal set-up. Baby should be alone (no blankets or stuffed animals), on a flat, firm mattress and flat on their back to adhere to safe sleep recommendations.
What should my baby wear to sleep?
The rule of thumb is that baby should wear what you would be comfortable in, plus 1 layer. For example, a recommended outfit for baby to sleep in would be a onesie, footed pajamas and a snug swaddle. At this age baby’s movements are not always purposeful and the reflexive movements they have can keep them awake. A snug swaddle will help.
We always like to remind parents of what RN Rachelle said in this Mom.com article about baby hats as well: I see hats move a lot while babies are sleeping! Take them off if you’re both going to sleep.
Whoa, this child is LOUD…is it normal for my baby to make this much noise?!
Yes! Grunting and newborn “squawks” are perfectly normal during sleep. Babies typically make these noises because their bodies are getting used to digesting milk or formula…something they never had while in the womb! To put it another way, your baby is having bowel movements for the first time in their life and that can cause them to strain. Of course if you are ever worried about these noises or something doesn’t feel right, contact your pediatrician.
How am I supposed to Swaddle?
There’s a reason every baby looks like a little burrito in the hospital- swaddling is very soothing and comforting to them. Swaddling mimics the feeling of the womb and also keeps babies from waking themselves as their arms and legs experience unintentional reflexes.
Here’s a video of the classic swaddle technique. Remember to use an actual swaddle blanket, which is larger than the towels and baby blankets we typically see for sale. Swaddle blankets also have a bit more stretch in the fabrics to keep babies snug.
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