The first few weeks with a newborn are a steep learning curve for new parents. So if you have just had a baby, here’s what you need to know to get you through those first few weeks. Take it as your 6 week survival guide!
Caring for the umbilical cord
The umbilical cord should fall off in the first week after birth. According to the HSE, the following advice should be taken into account when caring for the cord:
- Wash your hands before and after you touch the cord.
- Clean around the base of the cord if needed with cotton wool and cool boiled water.
- Keep the belly button area dry after you clean it.
- Make sure that the nappy is not covering the cord.
Trimming your baby’s nails
Your baby’s nails will grow quite fast, so it’s a good idea to keep them trimmed or filed.
Try to do this when your newborn is asleep or drowsy. Use special baby nail clippers. Trim toenails straight across to prevent ingrown nails. Your baby’s nails are quite soft, so you can gently nibble the nails off if you prefer not to use clippers or scissors on them.
In between nail trims, cover your baby’s hands with a pair of soft, cotton mittens. This will stop him scratching himself or irritating any dry skin condition he has.
The best and safest position to put your baby down to sleep is on their back with their face upwards.
It is a good idea to change their sleeping position in the cot, as this will encourage your baby to move their head to the left and right as they naturally turn towards the bright side of the room. This will help your baby’s head and neck muscles to develop strength equally on both sides. It will also help to develop the shape of your baby’s head.
Do not smoke or allow anyone to smoke in your home or in your car.
The safest place for your baby to sleep at night is in a cot in your room.
Always place your baby’s feet to the foot of the cot and make sure your baby’s head stays uncovered when asleep.
Ensure that the room your baby sleeps in is not too warm. The ideal temperature is between 16ºC-20ºC (62-68F). If the room feels too warm for you, it is too warm for your baby.
Never fall asleep with your baby on a sofa, or an armchair or in a bed.
Immunisation in the first 6 months
Your baby will receive their first vaccine (the BCG) soon after birth in the maternity hospital or at the health centre.
Your baby needs five visits to your GP to be fully vaccinated and protected against serious diseases by 13 months. Three of these visits take place in their first six months.
You can get more information from www.immunisation.ie
The normal temperature for a newborn baby is around 37˚C but this can differ from child to child. Anything above 38˚C is cause for concern. Trust your instincts and, if your baby is unwell, seek help.
When should I contant my doctor about my baby’s health?
Always contact your doctor if your baby:
- Has a purple or red rash that looks unusual.
- Has a raised or sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on her head.
- Has a fever.
- Appears much paler and sleepier then usual and is hard to wake up.
- Has an unusual, non-stop, high pitched cry or scream.
- Has a fit (convulsion).
- Has difficulty breathing.
- Goes blue around the lips or face.
- Is not feeding normally or refuses to feed.
- Has unusually dry nappies or less than three wet nappies in one day.
- Has diarrhoea at each nappy change.
- Has an accident, such as a fall or a bump on the head.
- Gets an electric shock.
- Is burned or scalded.
- Is bitten by an animal.
You should always call 112 or 999 in a life-threatening emergency, if your baby is seriously ill or injured, and their life is at risk.
6 week survival guide: Top tip for mums
In the first few weeks after the birth, your postnatal health is really important. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps, which will help you catch up on sleep and cope better with your newborn. You also need to keep up your fluid intake if you’re breastfeeding and eat a healthy diet.
Midwife and breastfeeding consultant Clare Boyle answers some questions about breastfeeding in the early days.
How do I know when my baby is hungry and needs to feed?
Your baby will provide you with feeding cues to let you know that he or she is getting hungry. Look for baby bringing the hand to the mouth, opening the mouth as if to latch on, sticking the tongue out, turning the head towards the breast or trying to latch onto your finger, chin or nose! These are all early feeding cues – baby is letting you know that he or she is getting a bit peckish.
Crying is a feeding cue that comes last and is often one you can’t ignore, however if you pick up the early feeding cue your baby probably won’t need to cry.
How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk? Keep an eye on the weight gain.
Monitoring how much weight your baby is gaining is a good indicator of how breastfeeding is going. The problem with this is that it isn’t convenient or that easy to do, as you have to go to your GP or public health nurse to get the baby weighed.
Because of this, here are some methods that you can use at home as form of daily reassurance that all is going well. But it is good to understand what a breastfed baby’s weight gain should be.
1. The baby will be weighed at birth and this weight is the basis from which all the other weights will be measured. The baby will then be weighed at three days old and usually most babies will lose up to 7% of their birth weight -– this is normal and expected as they are pooing and peeing a lot and only taking in small amounts of colostrum. The baby will then be expected to return to birth weight by the second week (14 days).
2. A public health nurse will weigh the baby when she comes to do the home visit after you are discharged from hospital. This is usually around day five to seven, so this will give you an idea that your baby’s weight is moving back to the birth weight.
3. After your baby has regained the birth weight, the weight gain is usually around 5 – 7 ounces a week or about an ounce a day. In grams; 140g – 200g a week or around 20g a day. This weight gain pattern is expected to continue until about three to four months.
The clue is in the poos!
Monitoring your baby’s bowel movements is a convenient and handy way to ensure that baby is getting enough breast milk. As we can’t measure how much a baby is drinking with breastfeeding, it is necessary to have an easy guide to reassure us that baby is getting enough, one way of doing this is to monitor the output – the poos and pees.
In the first few days after the birth the baby will poo a dark green tarry substance called meconium. Usually, the baby will do one or two poos of meconium each day for the first three days.
After the first three days the mature breast milk will be reaching the baby’s intestines and then the baby is expected to poo about three to five times in a 24-hour period and the poos should become a golden yellow colour. The baby should also be having about six to eight wet nappies a day – what the output shows us it that the baby is getting enough in to grow and put on weight and also enough to produce bowel movements and urine.
- Your baby should be feeding at least eight times in a 24-hour period with each feed being at least ten minutes of active sucking.
- Baby should be active and alert.
- Your baby should have periods where he or she is active and alert. In each 24-hour period, there should be several five to 10 minute periods when your baby is awake and alert, these periods are called a ‘quiet alert state,’ and will become more frequent and last longer over the coming weeks.
- Baby should be filling out and growing longer.
- You will start to notice that your baby is growing out of his or her newborn baby clothes.
For more of Clare Boyle’s advice on breastfeeding and infant care, Vist www.breastfeedingconsultant.ie
“These are my three top tips. Sleep when baby does, even if it is just closing your eyes for a short while. Don’t feel under pressure to be supermum, if you feel like staying in your pyjamas all day – then do! Take the help that people offer … your baby won’t miss you at this early stage. If you need a break, even just to grab a coffee and have some alone time, don’t feel guilty about leaving the newborn with your partner or a family member, they’ll be snoring away anyway.”
“I think being prepared before you have your baby helps a lot. I had dinners made and frozen, childcare organised and I also learned to not be afraid to ask for help. Work out a support network if you can. Go to bed when you can, the housework will still be there after. Rest is not easy when you have more than one child, but that’s where asking for help comes into it.”
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