Caring For Yourself & Your Newborn Postpartum | NextMamas
Some of the most common questions new parents have about caring for a newborn are really the day-to-day, down-and-dirty questions. The basic answer to any parenting questions is to listen to your baby, your pediatrician, and your instincts. Don't hesitate to ask someone what worked for them, but be prepared to find your own way with your baby. Then, use what you need and throw away the rest.
Whether you use cloth diapers, disposables, or a combination, your newborn will usually need at least 8 to 12 diapers per day. Some babies will use more diapers than others, and some less. You will need to have some newborn-sized diapers available, but know that your baby will quickly outgrow them.
Try buying two packages of newborn-sized diapers. Cloth diapers can be more of a chore during the newborn phase and many of the multi-size cloth diaper products don't fit newborns well, so many cloth diapering families choose to either temporarily use disposables or invest in a cloth diaper service for the first few weeks until the baby fits in average size diapers. If people wish to give diapers as gifts, ask for a variety of small sizes—not just newborns. Diapering a newborn is not difficult. Always have clean ones handy and bring everything you
need to one spot before removing the soiled diaper. Ensure the baby is on a safe surface and don't leave the baby unattended—even small babies can roll. For beginners, we recommend stripping the baby entirely. This saves you some laundry in the end. Both boys and girls can spray you, so beware.
Umbilical Cord Care
Hospital staff in labor and delivery and your baby's pediatrician should tell you exactly how to care for the cord, but it's always good to know the basics. The cord needs to be cleaned to prevent infection.
Signs of infection include:
- Foul odor.
- Tenderness in the area around the umbilical cord.
Call your pediatrician right away if any of these symptoms develop. The cord will fall off within a few weeks.
Bathing a Baby
Bathing a baby can be very fun. The key is flexibility. Newborns don't actually get very dirty. And despite advice to the contrary, they do not need baths every day. If they enjoy them, however, you are more than welcome to bathe them daily.
As with every baby task, gathering your equipment prior to start is essential. Once you're ready there are a couple of ways to do it:
- Bathing baby with you in the tub.
- Using a baby tub for the counter/sink1.
- Trying a washcloth and basin bath.
While talking about bathing and keeping a baby clean, it's important to mention that soaps can commonly dry out a baby's skin.1 Some babies are very sensitive to chemicals found in even the most gentle cleanser. Keeping these to a minimum is a good idea, particularly the smaller the baby.
Soothing a Baby
Before you can look at how to soothe a crying baby, it's important that you know why babies cry. Here is a partial listing of what could make a baby cry—some of which might surprise you:
- Having a dirty or wet diaper.
Just like adults, babies can experience emotional situations that leave them unable to cope. While there are cues for most problems prior to crying, crying is the one sure sign that your baby isn't happy or is in need of something.
Figuring out what that something is, however, isn't always easy. Trying the basics like feeding, changing, rocking, etc. might work the majority of the time, but other times it won't. Don't take your baby's crying personally and know that you can't always stop it or prevent it.
How to Cope With Crying
Here are some ideas to try when dealing with a crying baby:
- Hold baby.
- Rock baby.
- Swaddle baby.
- Feed baby.
- Change baby.
- Sing to baby.
- Play white noise (running the vacuum, shower, or hairdryer can work).
- Play music.
- Take a car ride with baby
- Take a walk with baby.
Learning your baby's cues and knowing your limits can be very helpful. There will be days where the crying might get to you. Don't be afraid to let someone else take care of the baby while you take a breather.
If you're feeling really frustrated and you're alone, try setting the baby in a safe place (such as their crib) while you take a moment to yourself in another room. Call a friend and ask for help. Don't be afraid. All parents have these days, and it does not mean that you're a bad parent. It means that you are human.
Physical Changes After Birth
Postpartum bleeding probably comes as the biggest surprise for most women. The bloodshed after the vaginal or cesarean birth of your baby is called lochia. The lochia will start out bright red and contain clots for the first few days. Lochia comes from the healing of the placental site as your uterus shrinks back (involutes) to its pre-pregnancy size, which takes about six weeks. The bleeding will generally become light in flow and lighter in color until it stops completely, which signals that the location where the placenta was located has healed over. Let your lochia be your guide. If you're doing too much, you will generally notice a heavier or darker flow than the day before. The lochia should smell much like a menstrual period. Ask your provider what concerns to look out for, such as foul odor, large clots or bleeding that saturates a pad in an hour, pain, or fever. These can be signs of emergency, so it's very important to call your provider if you experience them. Because your body is healing and at higher risk of infection, you should use pads to catch the flow rather than tampons or menstrual cups. Since the first few days are the heaviest, wear older underwear (or the famous mesh panties provided by the hospital or birth center) to avoid ruining your good clothes. You can also consider using incontinence pads or adult diapers for the first few days. After that, any type of menstrual pad will generally work.
Perineal Care After Birth
Whether you had an episiotomy or not, and regardless of whether you had stitches or not, your perineum will likely be sore following vaginal birth. As your perineum begins to heal, you can help it by doing Kegel exercises. These will help encourage blood flow to the area, helping it heal more quickly. If you did need to have stitches, your doctor or midwife will discuss how to care for them and what your recovery will be like. They may even prescribe some medications to assist in pain relief. The stitches are generally going to dissolve on their own, though you may see bits of the threads come off on the toilet paper.
The following measures will feel good and promote healing:
- Kegel exercises: These exercises can promote healing in addition to
- Sitz bath: A warm hip bath or sitz bath with or without medications or herbs, can promote healing and ease discomfort.
- Air: Try sitting on a pad without underwear at least once a day.
- Warmth: Some providers recommend a heat lamp or a hairdryer on a warm but slow setting for pain relief.
- Cold: You can use ice packs or special pads with cold packs built in.4 These are especially great the first few days when you may be swollen.
- Medications: You can use prescription medications (if prescribed), but many doctors and midwives will recommend over-the-counter pain medications like Mortin (ibuprofen) and witch hazel pads (like Tucks) to help with itching and soreness.
Author: Dr. Iram Gill
Dr. Iram Gill is an MBBS doctor by profession and a Content Writer by passion. She is a mother as well and has observed the health-related challenges faced by mothers and babies. She wants to play her part in increasing access and support for breastfeeding and maternal health problems.