Dru Campbell, head midwife and lactation consultant (IBCLC) at HealthBay Polyclinic, says that there are a lot of normal newborn behaviours that can come as a shock to new parents. She shares her wisdom to help you get ready for what's to come...
It can feel relentless
It may come as a complete surprise, no matter how many books you've read, that babies require 24/7 care. This might sound obvious, but in reality it can feel as if the care required is constant, with very little break. It's common that your baby will want to be held frequently and might cry if placed in his/her cot or bassinet. Touch, comfort and responding to your baby's needs is very important for your baby's development. Baby-wearing is a wonderful way for you and your husband to provide reassurance to your little one. You can never spoil a newborn baby!
How to prepare for it: Looking after a newborn is tiring; making sure you are also taking care of yourself is crucial. Ensure you are adequately hydrated, eating nutritious food and rest when you can. Ask for as much help from family and friends as possible. Hours of work goes into caring for a newborn baby so you need to be supported and looked after! It is absolutely normal to crave a break from time to time. Ask a trusted family member or friend to care for your baby so that you can have some time to yourself. Sometimes this may be something as simple as having a shower or going to a café for a cup of tea. It is also important to be aware of the signs of postnatal illness and know how to get help if needed. If you are experiencing any feelings of depression or anxiety, seek help as soon as possible. Postnatal illness is a treatable condition and it is important to receive support and guidance from qualified healthcare professionals.
Tip: 'Out Of The Blues' is a wonderfully supportive Facebook group and website run by UAE mums who have suffered with postnatal illness themselves. Outoftheblues.support
Babies eat a lot
Another big surprise might be how frequently babies feed in the first three months of life. Babies, whether they are breast or formula fed, tend to feed between 8-12 times in 24 hours. Be prepared for interrupted sleep as your prolactin level (milk-making hormone) is optimal between 1AM and 5AM, and the night feeds are important in establishing your milk supply. It's generally recommended that babies are fed on demand once they are back to their original birth weight (babies tend to lose 5-10% of their body weight in the first 5-7 days after birth, and while they are gaining it back it's usually advised to feed them at least every three hours). Routines are not recommended at this very early stage as babies do not yet have the brain capacity to know exact timings of when to feed and be directed to sleep.
How to prepare for it: attending an antenatal course that includes information about breastfeeding or a breastfeeding-specific workshop is the best way you can prepare yourself. Reading about the correct way of positioning your baby, as well as the importance of optimal attachment, will help you learn the principles of breastfeeding; knowledge of what is normal and when to ask for help is crucial to a successful breastfeeding journey. Attending a breastfeeding support group while pregnant (look up the La Leche League in the UAE) will also enable you to meet other mums and listen to their experiences and stories.
Tip: Check out the group 'Breastfeeding Q&A UAE' on Facebook, for a wealth of resources, information and support, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
It might not be meant to hurt that much
Breastfeeding can be tender in the first few weeks, but it should not be extremely painful. If you are experiencing any concerns, it is important to see a midwife or lactation consultant (ensure your lactation consultant is IBCLC trained) as soon as possible. If your baby is latching (attaching to the breast) optimally, breastfeeding should be comfortable. Sometimes the discomfort can be due to positioning, a suboptimal latch or a mechanical reason such as a tongue tie.
How to prepare for it: as well as attending a breastfeeding workshop while you are pregnant, to kick off your breastfeeding journey in the best way it is recommended that you have at least one hour of uninterrupted skin to skin contact with your baby at birth, which is something you can ask for on your birth plan. This will help your baby to regulate his/her temperature, heart and respiratory rate, but will also assist your hormones to commence lactation.
Tip: Lanolin-based nipple cream and even chilled cabbage leaves can help to soothe sore breasts if you are suffering
You'll be changing more nappies than you ever thought possible
It is incredible how many nappies will require changing in the first three months of life. Usually babies will pass urine once in the first 24 hours, twice in the next 24 hours, three times in the next 24 hours and so on. By day six, your baby should be passing at least six wet nappies in 24 hours. Some of these will feel heavy. On day one to two your baby will be passing a substance called meconium (which is very black in colour), on day three to four the stools will be changing to a green/brown colour and then by day five they should be changing into a yellow, mustard type colour. Monitoring your baby's urine and stool output is crucial to ensuring your baby is well hydrated and obtaining the milk he/she needs.
How to prepare for it: aside from stocking up on nappies, it's important to buy a changing table or to identify a nappy changing space at the right height and angle so that it will enable you to be comfortable while changing your little one. You can also set up a mobile or picture wall nearby to distract your baby and keep them occupied while you clean up. If you have a boy, you may also want to fashion a 'pee pee teepee' to catch any wayward spraying while the nappy is being changed.
Tip: You can buy soft changing mat covers to reduce the chill of most plastic changing pads and thereby reduce the risk of a crying baby. You may also want to consider reusable nappies - check out Egg & Soldiers in Times Square Centre for a comprehensive range.
There will be gas
Newborn babies tend to experience quite a lot of 'wind' or 'gas', although some babies have trapped wind more frequently than others. Wind is often at its worst between 3-8 weeks of life. If your baby suffers with excess wind it's a good idea to burp them after, and sometimes between, every feed. To burp your baby, place him or her upright with their neck supported and rub their back gently up towards their head. Also try to ensure they are slightly elevated during and after feeds.
How to prepare for it: sometimes reducing dairy and so-called wind-producing foods from your diet can help if you are breastfeeding. You don't need to cut whole foods out, but reducing them can assist.
Tip: Consider taking a baby massage class to find out about massages to ease baby's wind, or look it up on YouTube.
See it from your baby's perspective
When a baby is still inside the womb, they're in a regulated environment that is warm and soft, where the sounds are muffled. Your baby will be able to hear and feel your heart beat and he/she will be receiving nutrients through the umbilical cord. When a baby is born they are experiencing the outside environment for the very first time, which includes different temperatures, sounds and they now need to suckle to obtain nutrients. This adjustment to life outside the uterus is sometimes known as the fourth trimester of pregnancy. It is a period of around three months where your baby will be adapting to the outside world.
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