The essentials to know before you bring your newborn home.
1. How to feed your baby
It’s important to have confidence in your feeding method, whether you’ve chosen breast or artifical feeding. If you have chosen to breastfeed, ask the midwife to show you different positions before you leave the hospital. It is a good idea to run any areas of concern such as emptying of the breasts; problems in establishing good rhythmical sucking; wet and dirty nappies; and mastitis, by your midwife. Know how to avail of local support, from Cuidiú to your public health nurse.
2. How to dress and undress your baby
Dress your baby in clothes with wide openings for the neck with snap or zip closures. Newborn’s heads are floppy, so you might find it easiest laying her on a non-slip surface, such as a changing mat. Now is not the time to be messing around with awkward buttons. Also, onesies with built-in mittens are great to protect your baby from sharp fingernails.
Try to keep the wardrobe changes to an absolute minimum. The laundry will pile up fast enough as it is. The time of year will obviously influence your choice of baby clothes. Winter babies will need more layers when outside the house or in very cold weather. Summer babies require less clothing, but care needs to be taken about exposing their delicate skin to sunlight.
3. How to reduce the risk of a cot death
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or cot death as it’s known, is the sudden and unexpected death of a seemingly healthy baby. As the Irish Sudden Infant Death Association (ISIDA) points out, it doesn’t just happen in cots. It may take place in a buggy, bed, car seat or anywhere a baby is resting. No cause of death can be found. While cot deaths are rare, it’s important to know the preventative steps.
These include: keeping your home and car smoke-free; always placing baby on their back to sleep and on their front when awake to play; putting them to sleep with their feet to the foot of a cot at night in your room; ensuring that they don’t get too hot; keeping their head uncovered while asleep; avoiding quilts, duvets, bumper pads, pillows or toys in the cot; not falling asleep in bed with them if they are under three months old, were born prematurely, or had a low birth weight, less than 2.5kg or 5.5lb when born; never falling asleep with them on a sofa or armchair; and calling the doctor quickly if they seem unwell. Room temperature should be between 16 degrees Celsius and 20 degrees Celsius.
Avoid overheating baby and use cotton cellular blankets. To see how warm your baby is, put the palm of your hand on their chest, under their clothing. The ISIDA leaflet Safe Sleep for Your Baby, Reduce the Risk of Cot Death provides lots of advice.
Don’t worry if the heel prick test was not done before discharge. The hospital will arrange a date for the carrying out of the heel prick test on your baby with a midwife or public health nurse if it wasn’t done before your baby was discharged. The New Born Blood Screen, previously known as the PKU, detects rare metabolic disorders. It involves the taking of a small amount of blood from baby’s heel. If any abnormalities are detected, the hospital and your GP will be contacted so that treatment can begin immediately.
5. Look after yourself
Becoming a mum is a huge transition. You need to take care of yourself as well as your new baby. It’s important to eat healthily, stay active and get as much rest as you can.
Do a search on www.hse.ie for your local health centre now so you have their contact details for after your baby is born. The HSE website (www.hse.ie) gives details of health centres that are located in your local area. Also, do a search for local mother and baby groups and breastfeeding support groups while pregnant as you will be busy, once your baby arrives.
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