A new baby is an exciting event, but it also comes with a great deal of uncertainty as you take your little bundle home and have to take care of their every need. Doula Donna Bland has some advice for brand new parents.
Becoming a parent is one of the most exciting and rewarding things anyone can do. After nine months of pregnancy and a short stay in hospital, you get to bring your baby home – but then reality sets in and you realize that you are responsible for everything this little human needs. Knowing what to expect can help you to navigate these early days.
The first 100 days after a baby is born (also known as the newborn stage) is a crucial time for their earliest developmental milestones, particularly brain development. It is also the time when you, as a parent, get to learn about your new role and adjust to the changes in your life. So, what can you expect in these first 100 days?
Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, there are plenty of concerns and questions surrounding this topic. A bottle-fed baby will feed every three to four hours on average, whereas a breastfed baby will feed every two to three hours. This is because breastmilk digests more easily, making babies hungrier more frequently.
It is recommended therefore, that breastfed babies are fed on demand rather than on schedule. This means that a newborn baby will feed between eight and twelve times a day.
Immediately after birth, your baby’s first stool, called meconium, will be dark green (almost black). This is from the amniotic fluid that your baby has been consuming in utero.
After a couple of days, the colour and consistency will change to become more yellow and liquid for breastfed babies and a greenish colour for formula-fed babies. Plenty of wet nappies are important to know that the kidneys are functioning well.
Newborn babies cry for a variety of reasons. Your baby may be hungry or have a dirty nappy, but often they may just want to be held.
Babies also become overstimulated and may need a change in environment. Cuddling, swaddling or gentle swaying may help a fussy baby to settle. Skin-to-skin contact has proven not just to help babies settle, but feed and sleep better.
These days, many parents “wear” their babies in a wrap or a sling. Your baby is comforted by hearing your heartbeat and being near you. This practice leads to a release of oxytocin (the love hormone), creating a happier mom and baby.
The average newborn will sleep around 16 hours a day. This may vary from baby to baby, but sleep is vital for a baby to thrive and develop during the first 100 days of life. Although sleep deprivation is guaranteed for new parents, there are some things you can do to get some much-needed sleep.
- • Sleep when your baby sleeps. Night feeds and broken sleep can make coping exceedingly difficult. Catching up when your baby sleeps will help you survive the early days.
- • If your baby falls asleep easily but struggles to stay asleep, it could be because of the Moro reflex. This is your baby’s startle reflex and can very often cause a baby to wake, even out of a deep sleep. Swaddling can be especially useful in combatting this problem, by extending sleep periods.
- • “Wearing” your baby, (as mentioned before) or co-sleeping can really help in making your baby feel safe and secure, ensuring better sleep. If you are afraid to co-sleep, why not try having your baby in a crib next to your bed where they are still aware of your presence and are accessible for easy feeding?
The first step towards future developmental milestones is for your baby to practice intervals of tummy time. It is recommended that a baby spend a few times a day lasting a few minutes, on their tummies either on a blanket (always supervised) or on mom or dad’s chest.
They don’t always respond positively initially, but if you persevere, your baby will develop the necessary physical skills, well within the recommended three-month milestone guidelines.
There are copious numbers of articles written about colic and reflux. All newborn babies, particularly in the first 100 days after birth, will experience some sort of gastrointestinal issue. The main reason for this is a highly immature gut system trying to cope with its new function of digesting milk.
Breastmilk is more easily digested and therefore tends to create fewer concerns in this area. Formula-fed babies need to be well burped and not overfed to prevent the newborn’s stomach from cramping.
Colic and reflux, of course, do exist and present their own challenges, but remember that most newborn babies will suffer with some gastric disturbance during this stage. Speak to a lactation consultant or your clinic sister for advice on comfort measures for your baby.
The journey into parenthood is a joyous, exciting time that brings many changes to your life. Moms must deal with physical recovery from the birth process, sleep deprivation, feeding concerns and the rollercoaster of emotions caused by hormonal changes. This can lead to postnatal “blues” or even depression, so having good support at this time is imperative.
If you do not have family or friends who can help you through this time, there are support groups available. If you are struggling in a particular area e.g., feeding, there are professionals who can assist you. Reach out to those available to you so that you can enjoy this precious time.
One hundred days may seem like a long time, but it is amazing how quickly that time goes after your baby is born. Being busy with your new routine and the lifestyle changes it brings can make the first couple of months seem like they have gone in the blink of an eye.
Knowing some of what to expect and having a good support system can help you to enjoy your baby during these first 100 days of life.