Health

Tips for first-time parents

You’ve survived 9 months of pregnancy. You’ve made it through the excitement of labor and delivery, and now you’re ready to head home and begin life with your baby. Once home, though, you frantically realize you have no idea what you’re doing!
Brushing up on these tips can help first-time parents feel confident about caring for a newborn in no time.
Getting Help
After the Birth
Consider recruiting help from friends and family to get through this time, which can be very hectic and overwhelming. While in the hospital, use the expertise around you. Many hospitals have feeding specialists or lactation consultants who can help you get started nursing or bottle-feeding. In addition, nurses are a great resource to show you how to hold, burp, change, and care for your baby.
For in-home help, you might want to hire a baby nurse or a responsible neighborhood teenager to help you for a short time after the birth.
In addition, relatives and friends can be a great resource. They may be more than eager to help, and although you may disagree on certain things, don’t dismiss their experience. But if you don’t feel up to having guests or you have other concerns, don’t feel guilty about placing restrictions on visitors.
Handling a
Newborn
If you haven’t spent a lot of time around newborns, their fragility may be intimidating. Here are a few basics to remember:
Wash your hands (or use a hand sanitizer) before handling your newborn. Young babies have not built up a strong immune system yet, so they are susceptible to infection. Make sure that everyone who handles your baby also has clean hands.
Be careful to support your baby’s head and neck. Cradle the head when carrying your baby and support the head when carrying the baby upright or when you lay him or her down.
Be careful not to shake your newborn, whether in play or in frustration. Shaking that is vigorous can cause bleeding in the brain and even death. If you need to wake your infant, don’t do it by shaking — instead, tickle your baby’s feet or blow gently on a cheek.
Make sure your baby is securely fastened into the carrier, stroller or car seat. Limit any activity that would be too rough or bouncy.
Remember that your newborn is not ready for rough play, such as being jiggled on the knee or thrown in the air.
Bonding and
Soothing Techniques
Bonding, probably one of the most pleasurable aspects of infant care, occurs during the sensitive time in the first hours and days after birth when parents make a deep connection with their infant. Physical closeness can promote an emotional connection.
For infants, the attachment contributes to their emotional growth, which also affects their development in other areas, such as physical growth. Another way to think of bonding is “falling in love” with your baby. Children thrive from having a parent or other adult in their life who loves them unconditionally.
Begin bonding by cradling your baby and gently stroking him or her in different patterns. Both you and your partner can also take the opportunity to be “skin-to-skin,” holding your newborn against your own skin while feeding or cradling.
Babies, especially premature babies and those with medical problems, may respond to infant massage. Certain types of massage may enhance bonding and help with infant growth and development. Many books and videos cover infant massage — ask your doctor for recommendations. Be careful, however — babies are not as strong as adults, so massage your baby gently.
Babies usually love vocal sounds, such as talking, babbling, singing and cooing. Your baby will probably also love listening to music. Baby rattles and musical mobiles are other good ways to stimulate your infant’s hearing. If your little one is being fussy, try singing, reciting poetry and nursery rhymes, or reading aloud as you sway or rock your baby gently in a chair.
Diapering Do’s
and Don’ts
You’ll probably decide before you bring your baby home whether you’ll use cloth or disposable diapers. Whichever you use, the baby will soil diapers about 10 times a day, or about 70 times a week.
Before diapering a baby, make sure you have all supplies within reach so you won’t have to leave your baby unattended on the changing table. You’ll need:
• a clean diaper
• a fastener (if cloth is used)
• diaper ointment if the baby has a rash
• a container of warm water
• clean washcloth, diaper wipes, or cotton balls
After each bowel movement or if the diaper is wet, lay your baby on his or her back and remove the dirty diaper. Use the water, cotton balls, and washcloth or the wipes to gently wipe your baby’s genital area clean. When removing a boy’s diaper, do so carefully because exposure to the air may make him urinate.
When wiping a girl, wipe her buttocks from front to back to avoid a urinary tract infection. To prevent or heal a rash, apply ointment. Always remember to wash your hands thoroughly after changing a diaper.
Diaper rash is a common concern. Typically the rash is red and bumpy and will go away in a few days with warm baths, some diaper cream, and a little time out of the diaper. Most rashes occur because the baby’s skin is sensitive and becomes irritated by the wet or poopy diaper.
To prevent or heal
diaper rash
• Change your baby’s diaper frequently, and as soon as possible after bowel movements.
• After cleaning the area with mild soap and water or a wipe, apply a diaper rash or “barrier” cream. Creams with zinc oxide are preferable because they form a barrier against moisture.
• If you use cloth diapers, wash them in dye- and fragrance-free detergents.
• Let the baby go undiapered for part of the day. This gives the skin a chance to air out.
• If the diaper rash continues for more than 3 days or seems to be getting worse, call your doctor — it may be caused by a fungal infection that requires a prescription.

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