Baby's First Year: Weeks 1-4
Taking care of baby, taking care of you
No matter how long you were at the hospital, whether you had an easy or difficult birth, coming home can be tiring and emotional. Your partner, family and friends can help by doing the household tasks, making meals and running errands so you can rest, sleep, hold and feed your baby. They can also make sure you drink at least 10 to 12 glasses of water a day, eat healthy meals, stay in bed or in a comfortable chair much of the day, and feel loved and comforted - so you can recover and adjust to the rhythms and needs of your baby. If you have had an episiotomy or C-section, you will need additional care to be comfortable.
Becoming a mother
Not only are you recovering from birth during these first two weeks, you are also becoming your baby's mother. It is perfectly normal, in these early days, to feel unsure and upset at times as you care for your newborn. The change in your hormone levels can also add to your emotions. You will learn much of what you need to know simply by keeping your baby close, watching and loving him. During the first two weeks after birth, your arms, breasts, voice, scent and motion are your baby's home, just as your womb was during pregnancy.
As your baby's body learns to keep its heartbeat, breathing, appetite and temperature steady, your baby needs your help eating, burping, staying warm, waking and going to sleep. Even though he exists outside your body now, you are still not quite separate people. This feeling of oneness can be a powerful sort of bliss - or it can feel limiting. Experienced mothers know babies grow up and become independent all too soon. They are newborns for just a few weeks, changing and maturing every day. Immersing yourself in his tiny world is okay. The outside world, and the rest of your life, will wait until you both are ready to meet it.
If you've had a C-section
A cesarean section may delay your milk production slightly in the first few days after birth. By the fifth or sixth day, however, as long as nursing is going well and you have the right support, you should produce the same amount of milk as if you'd had a vaginal delivery. If you have had a C-section, be certain to have a visit or two with the UnityPoint Health - Trinity's lactation consultant to ensure breastfeeding your baby gets off to a good start. They can be reached at (309) 779-2692.
Your baby's moods
Your baby is changing and growing every day. You've probably already noticed he has different moods over the course of the day. Sometimes he is quietly awake, his eyes wide open and looking directly at you. These are the times when you can't help but gaze back at him, getting to know this new person in your life.
Newborns go through three awake states, these "quiet alert" moments, then "active alert" times in which they move their arms and legs, and finally the state that needs no description: crying. They also have two sleep states (quiet sleep and active sleep) as well as drowsiness, the time between sleeping and waking. Learning to read your baby's state will help you read his cues and meet his various needs more easily.
Bathing your baby
Your baby does not need to be bathed daily. Two or three times a week is enough. Some parents like to use the bath as part of a bedtime routine. Check water temperature and use soap sparingly.
About 20 percent of newborns develop mild acne, probably in response to hormones passed through the placenta from their mothers just before delivery, or maybe from hormones produced by the baby in response to the stress of birth. If your baby has a few pimples you don't need to do anything with them as they will soon fade.
Ready to stretch your legs?
Your baby is 3 weeks old, and you've already learned so much about caring for him. We hope you continue to take good care of yourself as well. You may wish to do some simple exercises this week, beginning with the Kegel exercises. Gentle stretches and walking will help ease you back into shape. You may wish to venture out to a movie or dinner, or just a walk in the park. (Newborns are usually easy and portable companions, if tucked in a front pack or sling.) Be aware of any signs of fatigue, however, and try not to do too much, too soon. If you are recovering from a C-section, take extra care to rest and allow your body to heal.
A change of scene and fresh air can do wonders to dispel any "baby blues" you may feel from time to time. Feeling down once in a while is common for new mothers. Having a baby, after all, is a huge change in life and can bring on many emotions, including sadness, anger, or anxiety, as well as joy and contentment. If you feel overwhelmed by sadness or worry, or generally down for two weeks without relief, do speak to your doctor.
Can babies be spoiled?
No! A newborn's needs and a newborn's wants are one and the same. Your baby wants and needs warmth, food and the comfort of your arms and voice. Respond readily, gently, and consistently to your baby's signals of need, whether to be fed, held, or comforted, and your child will learn right from the start that he can trust you. The sense that you will be there for him when he needs you will give your baby the confidence to grow toward independence in tiny, age-appropriate steps. In fact, research shows infants whose cries are promptly responded to in the first six months cry less in the second six months.
Safe sleep and tummy time
The risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is highest in the first six months of a baby's life. To reduce the risk of SIDS, be sure to place your baby on her back to sleep; it is wise to continue this practice through your baby's first birthday. Until your baby can roll over front to back, remember to provide enough supervised tummy time each day when your baby is awake. Playing on her tummy allows her to practice the gross motor skills that lead to rolling front to back, crawling and exploring her world.
Young babies who have no consistent experience of being on their tummies may protest when they're only occasionally placed on their tummy. Experts advise starting with 5 to 15 minute periods two or three times a day and gradually trying longer or more frequent periods once your infant begins to enjoy being in this position. Infants who spend regular daily periods on their tummies build up their head, neck and shoulder muscles, all of which prime them to develop some motor skills more quickly.
Feeding on schedule or on cue?
Life with a newborn is unpredictable. Sometimes we attempt to make our days with a new baby more orderly by using a schedule for feedings. Flexibility, however, will serve both you and your baby better when it comes to breastfeeding. Your baby's need to nurse and to suck varies throughout the day as well as from day to day, depending on whether he is in the middle of a growth spurt. Nurse him whenever he signals a desire to nurse. Crying, rooting, or sucking on his hand are all cues to nurse. Rather than using a schedule of every four hours or so, learning to watch his cues, rather than the clock, will strengthen your mothering skills in ways that reach far beyond breastfeeding.
Your postpartum visit
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend women have a postpartum care visit four to six weeks after giving birth. These visits are important as a general health follow-up and as an opportunity to address any ongoing concerns that may have come up during pregnancy. If you haven't made an appointment yet, please do to ensure your continued good health.