Six Tips for Moms of Newborns
When you’re expecting a baby, you’ll take classes to learn how to change a diaper, how to breast- or bottle-feed, how to give your baby a bath and how to swaddle and soothe them when restless. But, as Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn knows, “No matter how well-prepared new parents are when Baby arrives, it’s not as simple as the classes make it seem. We hear many questions in the first few weeks after the Baby arrives, but some are more common than others. There are six topics we most frequently address.”
1 – How Do I Know I’m Feeding My Newborn Correctly?
In the first few days of life, because of the stress of leaving the womb, an environment with perfect temperature, and constant nutrition, newborns normally lose about 7 percent of their body fat. For a 7 lb baby, that’s about half a pound. Baby’s stomach is tiny, so they’ll need to eat small amounts frequently. Some babies will want to feed every two to three hours and others may want to eat more often. “Let your baby guide feeding times and amounts, and understand that sometimes they may eat a great deal and sometimes a lot less,” says Dr. Alzein.
“We are often asked how to tell when a baby is hungry,” says Dr. Alzein. “Some babies communicate 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. Watch for those signs of readiness and hunger and start feeding before the Baby begins full-blown crying. The sooner you begin each feeding, the more pleasant the feeding experience will be.”
Feedings are a valuable opportunity for everyone to bond with the newest member of your family, even when Mom is breastfeeding. Dad or grandparents can bring Baby to Mom and help get any supports settled, can change a diaper after the feeding, and of course, can burp Baby in the middle and at the end of feedings.
“While establishing a schedule may be your goal, Baby’s eating patterns will change quickly and constantly, making that unlikely for the first two to three 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 the Baby will need feeding more frequently. Parents often worry that Baby is eating too little or too much, but babies usually know just how much they need.”
Baby is eating properly when you see:
- 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, “When parents are concerned that Baby doesn’t seem to be putting on weight, or if Baby just doesn’t seem interested in eating, call your pediatrician as soon as possible. Baby’s physician will be happy to answer all your questions and make a thorough examination to identify any problems quickly.”
2 - How Often Should My Baby’s Diaper Be Changed?
Newborns pee and poop very often. Dr. Alzein says, “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.”
He notes that even with super-absorbent diapers, pee can also cause diaper rash, leading to open sores. In baby girls, urine in a diaper can cause urinary tract infections.
“Even if Baby hasn’t pooped, diapers should be changed every 2-3 hours, more frequently if you’re using cloth diapers. The exception is while the Baby is sleeping. Unless there is a bowel movement, don’t wake a sleeping baby to change a diaper,” says Dr. Alzein.
3 – Is My Baby’s Poop Normal?
Dr. Alzein says, "Your baby’s first few diapers will typically contain a gooey, dark-green, tar-like substance with hardly any smell. This is called meconium and is the first stool expelled by your newborn.” Dr. Alzein says it’s also common to find mucus in baby stool.
“If you breastfeed your baby, the poop may look yellow and runny like mustard. If you feed with formula, the poop may be tan and pasty like peanut butter,” says Dr. Alzein.
“Certain colors of stool can be a sign of a possible health issue but this is very rare,” says Dr. Alzein. “Always check in with your pediatrician if your baby’s stool is any unusual color.”
- Red. Bright red in your baby’s stool can be due to blood, so it’s important for your pediatrician to investigate what might be causing it. “Keep in mind, though, that there are plenty of harmless reasons for red bowel movements,” says Dr. Alzein. “In a newborn baby, a little blood may have been swallowed during delivery. If you’re breastfeeding, it might be that your nipples are bleeding, and blood is mingling with breast milk. But always – always – check with your pediatrician.”
- Black. A tarry black stool could, in some cases, be caused by blood, which may turn from red to black inside the intestines. “Very dark green stool can sometimes appear black,” says Dr. Alzein. Green baby poop—even a dark shade of the color—is usually nothing to worry about. Meconium can also look black, and this isn’t a problem.
- White or gray. “Very pale white or clay-colored stools are very rare, but if you see stool this color, call your pediatrician immediately. It could be a sign of a liver or enzyme condition that needs prompt diagnosis and treatment,” says Dr. Alzein.
4 - Be Firm About Visitors
Yes, everyone wants to see the baby but Dr. Alzein says, “If Mom isn’t up for visitors, say no – for as long as you need. It’s most important for Mom to recover from the stress and fatigue of pregnancy and delivery by getting plenty of rest and to bond with Baby peacefully.”
It’s also vital to lay ground rules for visitors and stick to them firmly. “All visitors should be fully vaccinated, including against the flu and COVID-19. They should all have had a recent pertussis or whooping cough booster. Tell potential visitors to stay home if they have a runny or stuffy nose, have a fever or stomachache or have been exposed to someone who’s sick in the last five days.”
Visitors should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before picking up or holding your baby, and if it’s cold and flu season, ask them to wear a mask when interacting with baby.
5 - Be Patient With Yourself And With Baby.
When you’re planning on feeding your baby, giving them a bath or changing a diaper, relax and allow plenty of time, probably about twice the amount you think it “should” take. “While routine care may sometimes feel overwhelming, these are also important bonding moments,” says Dr. Alzein. “These are times for you and Baby to make eye contact, have skin-to-skin contact and communicate both verbally and non-verbally.”
6 - Call Your Pediatrician - Whenever You Need.
Newborns bring so much joy and happiness to your life – as well as anxiety and plenty of fatigue.
“Even on a very good day, parenting a newborn can be exhausting and frustrating. It’s a constant learning process – for many months. Your pediatrician should be your first line of information and support. Whenever your instincts are telling you something is off or when you have questions about any of your decisions, call your pediatrician. Your pediatric practice helps make these newborn days fun, joyous and confident. If you don’t feel heard or if you are made to feel uncomfortable in any way, change health care providers.” says Dr. Alzein. “Moms of newborns need enthusiastic, patient and compassionate support – and should get it, no questions asked.”