Contrary to what movies and television will have you believe, newborn babies sleep a lot. It may not seem that way, especially when you’re a few days in and feeling the effects of sleep deprivation, but a typical new baby will sleep for around 16 hours per day. However, this will be in short stints that last from two to four hours.
It also takes some time for babies to fall into a regular sleep pattern. Don’t expect your baby to sleep all the way through the night until around the six-month mark. Before then, you can expect them to wake every few hours.
Alternate with your partner in keeping baby company to help ease the effects of fatigue during this time. Working as a team will help ensure that you both get the chance to rest and recover. Develop a routine that works best for both of you.
When you do put your baby down to sleep, remember to:
- Always place them on their back to reduce the risk of SIDs
- Don’t use blankets, quilts, pillows or stuffed animals in the crib or bassinet
- Alternate your baby’s head position to avoid developing a flat spot.
Keeping your bub’s bassinet or crib in your bedroom with you during the first six months can be helpful in developing your routine and quickly tend to your baby’s needs.
As mentioned, your baby will need to feed frequently during these first weeks. In fact, you should expect to feed your baby every couple of hours whether you’re breastfeeding. During this time, your baby should steadily gain weight.
Look for the signs of a hungry baby, such as stirring, sucking noises or head bobbing.
Your new baby will likely require a nappy change approximately 10 times per day.
You can use a changing table or changing mat. Either way, make sure you keep one hand on your baby at all times. A few other general tips include:
- Wash your hands before and after changing your baby
- Make sure you have everything you need at the ready
- For boys: be careful when removing a dirty diaper -- exposure to the air can cause him to urinate
- For girls: clean from front to back to avoid urinary tract infections
- Make sure your baby is clean and dry before putting a new nappy on.
Newborn babies generally don’t develop nappy rash; however, their skin is sensitive in those first few weeks. Still, it’s important to keep your baby clean and dry to avoid any irritation.
Change your baby’s nappy as soon as possible after noticing it’s time for a change to avoid nappy rash. It’s also a good idea to have some nappy-free time during the day to let their skin breathe.
If your baby does develop nappy rash, warm baths and a nappy cream can help. If it doesn’t clear up in a few days, or the irritation looks like it’s getting worse, contact your doctor.
One of the most rewarding aspects of caring for your new bub will be the time spent bonding. It’s also one of the most important. While enjoyable and relaxing for you, it’s also an important aspect in your baby’s emotional growth. It will help them feel safe and loved, which can encourage their physical growth as well.
Physical closeness is a big part of bonding with your baby. You and your partner should continue with skin-to-skin contact while cradling and feeding. Try soothing your baby with gentle stroking or swaddling. Softly whispering, cooing or singing to your baby is another good idea. It can stimulate your baby’s hearing and help you focus on enjoying this time with your baby.
Some babies also benefit from infant massage techniques. There are plenty of guides available online, but friends and parent’s groups can also have suggestions.
Before you leave the hospital
Your doctor will check your baby’s health in the first 24 hours, and again at discharge. This is to ensure your baby is happy, healthy and ready to go home. These check-ups are a great opportunity to gather as much information as possible.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you may be concerned about. Whether speaking to your doctor or one of our friendly and helpful midwives, our maternity staff can help you prepare by providing helpful information, guidance, and useful resources for when you return home.
We want you to leave the hospital feeling confident and ready to start your new adventure.