Bringing your new baby home and spending those early weeks getting to know one another can be just one of the most special times in your life. The anticipation and the journey of the labour and your baby’s birth are just the beginning and that newborn period is a unique experience for every family.
Here we look at two of the most important aspects of newborn care, feeding and sleeping, all part of nurturing your newborn as he adapts to life with you outside the womb, and begins his own journey through babyhood, toddlerhood and beyond.
A newborn baby will need to breastfeed frequently in his early weeks, and not to any fixed schedule, if he is to get all the milk he needs to grow and develop. His tummy is not much bigger than a marble at birth, and your breasts produce only a couple of teaspoons of colostrum (early milk) for the first few days. At this stage most babies will need to feed between 8-12 times in 24 hours, and sleepy babies may need to be encouraged to ensure they get what they need and start to build up a good milk supply. The more your baby feeds the more milk you will make, and the less baby feeds the less milk you will make. Feeding your baby regularly during the day, and when he wakes at night, and not making him wait for a feed, should help your milk supply regulate to his needs in the early days and weeks.
Some babies will need to take only one breast to feed well, others will take both. Feeding patterns vary, but what is important is that breastfeeding is comfortable for mum, and baby gains weight appropriately.
Getting your feeding technique right is the key. Not all mums and babies find it comes naturally, and the right help in the early days can make all the difference. Ask your midwife how you can access any extra help needed in the very first days.
When he isn’t feeding your newborn will pretty much sleep the day away (and hopefully some of the night!). The average is 16 hours sleep a day in total, and the length of naps will vary from half an hour to four or five hours at a stretch.
It is normal for a newborn baby to be very easy to settle once his tummy is full so you may not have too much trouble settling him at first. Many babies need a little help adapting to life outside the womb, and will benefit from being swaddled in a cotton sheet or special swaddle blanket. This helps give baby the secure feeling of the confines of the womb, and can help a restless baby to settle and sleep.
Keep baby close by in the early weeks, day and night. A Moses basket or small crib is ideal-something that can be brought downstairs in the morning and taken up again when you go to bed at night. Babies should sleep on their backs, feet to foot in the cot, and not allowed to get too hot.
Don’t be afraid to get your baby off to sleep with a cuddle if he needs it-but gradually try to leave him to settle himself once he’s relaxed-it’s the road to good sleeping habits.
Vicki Scott – Philips AVENT baby feeding & Wellbeing advisor
Vicki is a Registered Midwife, Nursery Nurse and breastfeeding consultant.
She started her career as a professional nanny, and went on to work on the Delivery Suite of a busy London Hospital after qualifying as a midwife. Time spent maternity nursing increased Vicki’s knowledge about and passion for caring for newborns-and their mothers.
Building on her experience, Vicki launched the consultancy service babyconfidence in 2002, and New Baby Company in 2010 which advise new mothers through from late pregnancy to the first year and beyond through classes, courses and consultations.
She became a mother herself in 2005 and had her second daughter in August 2010.
Vicki has worked closely with Philips AVENT since 2006, as their baby feeding and wellbeing advisor.