Your newborn is healthy after being perfectly fed and nurtured while you were pregnant. Now, this beautiful new human being is depending on you to stay healthy. Now is the time when you will question everything about routine baby care – feeding, vaccinations and more – even if you’ve cared for your own younger siblings or were an all-star neighborhood babysitter.
Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn Illinois has helped hundreds of parents welcome home new babies. “Some basic caregiving guidelines can help parents get prepared for the joyful and utterly exhausting experience of bringing Baby home from the hospital.”
In the first few days of life, it’s normal for newborns to lose about 7% of their body fat, simply from the stress and change of leaving an environment of perfect temperature and constant nutrition. For a 7 lb baby, that’s almost a half of a pound! Because Baby’s stomach is so tiny, they’ll need to eat small amounts frequently. Some babies will want to nurse or have a bottle every two to three hours and others may want to eat more frequently. Let your baby guide feeding times and amounts, and understand that sometimes they may eat a great deal and sometimes a lot less.
It’s important to watch for signs your baby is hungry. Some babies announce their hunger with strong cries while others will give more subtle hints such as smacking their lips, or rooting; pursing their lips and turning their head toward the breast, chest or bottle, or putting their hands in their mouth. Dr. Alzein says, “Watch for those signs of hunger and start feeding before Baby begins full-blown crying. The sooner you begin each feeding, the more pleasant the feeding experience will be.”
Feeding times are wonderful opportunities to bond with your baby, even when Mom is breastfeeding. Dad can bring the Baby to Mom and help get any support settled. Dad can also change the baby’s diaper after the feeding and of course, can burp Baby in the middle and at the end of feedings.
“Many parents think that getting their baby on a schedule as soon as possible is the right thing to do. However, be aware that Baby’s eating patterns will change quickly and constantly and that set schedule just won’t work, especially in the few first months,” says Dr. Alzein. “Your newborn will not necessarily eat the same amount of food every day or at the same time of day. Within weeks, you’ll notice growth spurts when Baby will need feeding more frequently.”
“Remember to trust your instincts and let your baby guide you,” he says. “Parents often worry that Baby is eating too little or too much, but babies usually know just how much they need.”
• steady weight gain
• contentment after feeding
• by the fifth day after birth, at least six wet diapers and three or more bowel movements each day.
Dr. Alzein notes, “Don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician if you are concerned that Baby doesn’t seem to be putting on weight, or if Baby just doesn’t seem interested in eating. They will be happy to answer all your questions and make a thorough examination to identify any problems quickly.”
Attend All Regular Doctor Checkups and Adhere to Vaccination Schedules
The most important way to keep your newborn healthy is to make sure to schedule and keep every wellness and annual appointment and ensure your baby is up to date on their vaccinations. The majority of vaccinations occur during the first two years of a child’s life. This includes protection against RSV, measles, polio, mumps, smallpox, rubella, and hepatitis, life-threatening diseases that are now uncommon or nearly eradicated. However, not every vaccine is administered during the infant and toddler stages.
As soon as your baby is old enough, get them protected with the COVID-19 vaccine. “Especially during the winter months, when children become infected, there will be a rise in serious illness, sometimes requiring hospitalization and intensive care, especially in unvaccinated children. There is also a rise in MIS-C, a severe, life-threatening complication of COVID-19 that can cause long-term paralysis,” says Dr. Alzein. “A vaccine also makes sense just to prevent your child from being quarantined, missing school and other activities, requiring a caregiver 24/7 and causing serious disruption to your family’s schedule.”
How Often Should Baby’s Diaper Be Changed?
Newborns poop and pee a lot. Stool is very irritating to bare, delicate skin and can cause open sores much faster than parents can imagine. As soon as Baby finishes a bowel movement, their diaper should be changed. Even with super-absorbent diapers, pee can cause diaper rash, leading to open sores. Urine in a diaper can also cause urinary tract infections in baby girls. Even if Baby hasn’t pooped, diapers should be changed every 2-3 hours. If you’re using cloth diapers, change them more frequently to prevent your baby for staying wet or messy. The exception is while Baby is sleeping. Unless there is a bowel movement, don’t wake a sleeping baby to change a diaper.
Be Patient With Yourself And With Baby.
When your newborn arrives home, allow plenty of time for feeding, bathing and diapering, about twice the amount of time you think it will take – and relax. “While routine care may sometimes feel overwhelming, these are also important bonding moments,” says Dr. Alzein. “During feeding and diapering especially, you and your Baby can make eye contact, have skin-to-skin contact and communicate both verbally and non-verbally.”
Call Your Pediatrician – Whenever You Need.
Newborns bring a burst of love, joy and excitement to life, but they also bring anxiety and plenty of fatigue as your life changes to fit in this new littler person. Dr. Alzein says, “Even on the best of days, parenting can feel overwhelming. Raising a child to be an independent, physically and mentally healthy person is an ever-evolving learning process. Your pediatrician should have the latest, most reliable and evidence-based research and should be your first line of information and support. Whenever your instincts are telling you something isn’t right, or when you have questions about any of your decisions, call your pediatrician. If you feel you aren’t being heard, change health care providers. Your pediatric practice should be happy to help make every day with your child joyous and confident.”