My Top Five Baby Tips
By Michael S. Carpenter
Having a baby is a momentous, life-changing experience. And like all such defining points in a life, one that you're never quite prepared for. No matter how many books you read, or opinions you seek out, when the time actually arrives, you find yourself blinded by the enormity of the task. And in the early days when you bring your newborn home from the hospital, the task is made all the harder by the sudden upheaval in your day-to-day experience. Nowhere is this more so than in your sleep routine. You find yourself thinking, "Why didn't anyone mention this?"
Having gone through it myself, I want to share the top five things I wish I knew then. This is a list put together from living it, and dealing with the frustration and elation that comes with parenthood. Hopefully it will provide help to anyone caught in a similar situation.
Tip Number One: A Feeding Pillow
Looking back now, it can be hard to appreciate how much of an impact a pillow can bring; but I clearly recall what an impact it made upon us in the first few months. We had decided to breastfeed (and express milk to allow me to feed our daughter when my wife went back to work). At first, simply holding a newborn for what turned out to be several hours a day was simply exhausting. Plus it was difficult for mother and baby to get comfortable. Any difficulty in latching on is only exacerbated by poor posturing. Bed and sofa pillows were tried in different combinations, but they slid, didn't allowed good placement, and were generally an unruly pile. When the feeding pillow arrived, it was a Godsend. It could be used anywhere - bed or couch, and helped place the baby's head and mouth at just the right height and angle for improved latching on. Plus it allowed for different positions, such as baby in front, baby under arm, etc. When my time came to feed the baby bottles of expressed milk, I could see what an advantage it was. So much so, it's my No. 1 tip.
Tip Number Two: Breastfeed
Breastfeeding is far and away the best option for feeding a newborn - it's cheap, easy and doesn't require any premixing. It's also nutritionally far better than any formula. If you want the best start for your child, breast is best. Many first-time mothers make half-hearted attempts, then give up. Perseverence is the key, and having able assistance from experienced health care professionals to help you out in the beginning. My wife experienced great frustration at first, fearful the baby wasn't going to get enough nourishment. But with the aid of a few kindly midwives, they were able to show her how to get the baby to latch on properly, and within a few days the milk came in. The premilk (or colostrum) is so nutritious that very little is needed until the regular milk supply starts. Breast milk is all a baby needs for around six months, until you can start to wean. My wife also tells me the bonding experience between a feeding infant an a mother is a powerful one. Worries about how it will affect your figure, or that the husband may be put off should come a distant second to providing for your child. Only a tiny percentage of new mothers are physically unable to breastfeed, and certainly for them, formula is vital; but putting it off for cosmetic or other reasons should be considered versus what's best for the baby.
Tip Number Three: The Two-Hour Rule
Simply put, a newborn infant cannot stay awake longer than two hours, max. After being awake for 90 minutes, start soothing and calming the baby down. A tired adult will become lethargic and sleepy; a tired baby will often become frantic and overactive. We suffered with our daughter staying up until 11pm, then crying for an hour or more before finally falling asleep. This is due to being overtired. Finally around 6-8 months, we started putting her to bed at 6:30pm. During the day we would put her down for two naps, and started keeping the two-hour rule. She would still cry, but not the spine-jolting wails of before. And she stated sleeping for longer and longer periods during the night. By 10 months she'd wake up around 11pm for a feed, but then sleep until 6:30 or 7am. She was calmer during the day, and slept much better during her naps. While it's tempting to keep the baby up and play, or go along with Grandma asking for one more hour with her grandchild, you have to stay firm. Don't keep the baby up longer than two hours, and you'll be the envy of all your friends.
Tip Number Four: The Crying Peak
A new baby cries for various reasons - hungry, discomfort, angry, attention, etc. Eventually you'll learn to distinguish what the various cries are for. Babies cry a lot, and sometimes for what seems to be no good reason. And while a child will use tears for many years to come, the crying peaks at around six weeks to two months. It may seems in the early days that the wailing will never stop, but if you can hold on, eventually it will taper off. Don't expect that a three-month old will not cry at all, but often just knowing that it shouldn't get any worse can be enough to encourage you to carry on.
Tip Number Five: Your Breaking Point
As mentioned above, babies cry often. And as a parent, your brain is hardwired to respond to the sound of a crying infant. Eventually, after several weeks of sleep-deprivation, an endless parade of diapers, and the complete loss of yourself in servitude to an unappreciative little screamer, you'll find yourself at the breaking point. No matter how much you love your child, the moment will come when you realize you can't take any more. This is completely normal. The important thing is to deflect your frustration away from the child. Scream, cry, punch the wall, go outside and stand in the rain - do whatever you have to do. But it's vital you remember that the baby is unaware of your feelings, and is only doing what it's supposed to do. You're the adult, and you need to act like one, even when it feels like your mind is caving in. Work off your feelings and don't do anything you'll regret later. If you accept that as a new parent, you'll be forced to your breaking point, you can preplan how you'll respond to it, and hopefully when it happens, you can vent in a way that allows you and your baby to carry on together.
About the Author
Michael S. Carpenter writes about babies and children, among other things. His websites include:
http://www.kidviduk.com - Children's DVDs & toys in the UK
http://www.babiesnotincluded.com - Everything for new and expectant parents
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