Having a child is the most exciting time in the lives of parents, especially if this is your first child. Your new bundle of joy is so full of surprises and delight, yet at the same time requiring so much time and attention; with the constant changes of nappies, feeding, burping, bathing and soothing. It is a relentlessly demanding job.
There is no one set way of how to bring up children, every child is different; every new child has their own temperament and their own personality from the very day they are born. For new parents, the biggest fear is whether they are doing the right things, are they looking after the baby’s health and well-being the way they should be looked after. We have produced some guidelines for new parents on how to care for your baby.
Bonding and Settling Babies
During the first few hours and days of the life of the baby, it is very important to develop a deep connection with your baby. Skin-to-skin touch is extremely important in developing this bond. Your baby cannot see you at this point but they can sense you through smell and touch. The more contact you have with them, the more easily they will recognise you and find you soothing.
Children who develop close bonding with their parents or caregiver tend to thrive in their emotional and physical growth. Through this close bond, babies feel loved and wanted. This is one of the most important points in the baby’s life, one that builds resilience in children and helps them through life’s adversities, see here for more information.
Holding your baby during feed times; cradling your baby, stroking them and singing softly are all ways in developing their awareness of you. Massaging your baby in soft gentle strokes is a good way of bonding. Babies love to be held and touched. Making soothing sounds will reassure your baby that they are safe and in good care.
This early bonding will help your baby to settle down in the later months, their recognition of you through touch and your soothing voice will help them feel safe, settling them down quickly.
How to Handle a Newborn
Newborns can seem very small, fragile and tender. You may feel overwhelmed in holding your baby or too scared to dress them or change their nappy. You will need to remember babies need a soft and gentle touch; however, their bodies are flexible enough to withstand gentle manoeuvring during a change of clothing or nappy. Here are a few tips for you to handle your baby in a safe way.
Wash your hands before handling your baby – your newborn’s immune system is still developing, in order to prevent the risk of infection, sanitise your hands before handling your baby.
Support your baby’s head and neck – your baby’s neck muscles are not strong enough to handle the weight of their head. It is, therefore, very important for you to support your baby’s neck in the cradle of your palm as you hold your baby or lay them down. You will note that as your baby gets older their necks will start to bob in all directions, this is the process babies use to strengthen their neck muscles ready to hold their head upright.
Securely fasten your baby in pushchairs and car seats – It is very important for you to ensure that your baby is securely fastened in their pushchairs or car seats to prevent unnecessary falls.
Don’t shake your baby or throw your baby up in the air – your baby is not strong enough to be shaken or thrown and caught in the air. Handle your baby gently. As they grow and develop, their bones will become denser and their muscles stronger to withstand gentle wriggling and joyful shaking.
Swaddling Your Baby
Swaddling is an age-old practice of gently wrapping a baby’s body, neck down, in a light blanket. Swaddling the baby like this helps to keep their arms close to their body, keeping them warm as well as feeling snug, secure and safe, tucked up as they were in the womb.
Babies could be swaddled up to the age of two months, thereafter, it is advised not to swaddle as the babies can roll over at that age, increasing the risk of Sudden Infant Death (SID). By the age of two months, they become used to freer movement and do not get startled as much with loud noises or sudden movements.
Putting your Baby to Sleep
Babies generally sleep up to 16 hours a day; their sleep period lasts between 2 – 4 hours. Having a bath before sleeping time increases the duration of the sleep period. Babies rarely sleep through the night, needing feeding every 2 -4 hours. By the age of 3 months, most babies develop a sleeping routine.
Newborns tend not to have a concept of night and day; they could sleep through the day and be wide awake at night. They need to be socialised into the day-night pattern by keeping the lights dimmed at night and noise level to a minimum. Over time they will learn that they will not be played with, cuddled or sung to in the middle of the night until daybreak. This will help them to settle down into a night routine.
You may feel overwhelmed in the first few days about your parenting practice but within the first few weeks, as you and your baby bond and get to know each other you will find that handling your baby, settling them down and loving them is second nature to you.