Many parents think that the long nights and tiring months filled with worry that lead to the day the baby is born will prepare them for this instant bundle of joy. However, many new mothers are surprised to learn that their baby is not the “average” child they have read about in every possible book about raising children.
Each child has individual characteristics and blooming personalities that make it difficult for new moms to prepare themselves emotionally. Will your baby be a crier, a chipper child, a restless sleeper or an active eater?
Although it is impossible to predict what your baby will be like before he or she is born, you can prepare yourself for any type of bundle of joy with tips and techniques on how to care for your child, bond with your baby and gather supplies you will need.
Stock Up on Supplies
Even though you may be excited about your newest addition to the family, resist the urge to overdo it when it comes to stocking up on supplies for a newborn. Many children grow out of 0-9 months clothing within the first week, leaving parents with a closet full of adorable sleepers and onesies with tags still attached.
Instead, focus your attention on these must-have items:
- Infant Car Seat
- Crib or Bassinet
- Disposable Diapers, Diaper Cream and Wipes
- Air-Controlled Bottles or Breastfeeding Pump
- Blankets, Hooded Towels and Wash Cloths
- Baby Grooming and Medical Set
- Onesies, swaddles and Sleeper Sets in a Variety of Sizes
You also want to equip your home with items that may make your baby more comfortable, such as pacifiers, a swing or carrier, a white noise sound machine or a stroller. As your child grows, investing in a playpen may also help during travel and nap times.
Prepare to Provide Comfort
More importantly, your baby needs an environment that is comforting, says Dr. Deborah Serani, New York-based psychologist and author of “Depression and Your Child: A Guidebook for Parents and Caregivers.”
“Research shows that new parents experience enormous stress when bringing a new baby home due to the changes in lifestyle,” says Serani. “One tried and true way new parents can cope is to aim for comfort over control. This means letting go of generalized parenting rules or advice that comes from well-meaning others regarding how to do things.”
One surefire way to find your parenting style is to bond with your newborn. New babies expect lots of touching and holding, says Leigh Anne O’Connor, New York-based lactation consultant and mother of three. “When these expectations are met, the whole family copes better and there is less crying, confusion and stress,” she says.
When your baby eats every two to three hours, use this opportunity to provide skin-to-skin contact and form a bond. As he is sleeping – and he will sleep a lot during the first few weeks – stroke his head or hold his hand to provide the comfort he needs.
As your child begins to open his eyes more and follow your face and voice, use this opportunity to make eye contact, sing silly songs and make faces so he can familiarize himself with you and your interactions with each other.
Establish Routine with Some Flexibility
While trying to feed, change, nurture and bond with your child, it may seem useless to establish any type of schedule or structure in the household right away, but it is necessary. Although, know that routine will likely develop slowly with a new child in the home. “Try not to rush it or force it,” recommends Serani. “If so, new parents are likely to move through feelings reminiscent of a classic grief reaction, such as shock, denial, anger, guilt, acceptance and adjustment.”
According to Serani, the cycle of feelings can vary, especially when coping with a newborn’s sleep schedule. Common feelings may include the following:
- Oh my God, I can’t believe my baby won’t sleep through the night. (shock)
- How come I can’t get my baby to sleep through the night? (denial)
- Grrr. I’m so frustrated that my baby won’t sleep through the night. (anger)
- I must be doing something wrong since she’s not sleeping during the night. (guilt)
- Okay, well, maybe my baby won’t ever sleep through the night. (acceptance)
- You know what? In time, I know my baby will sleep through the night. (adjustment)
Bonding with your baby involves getting to know what to expect as a sleep schedule. Although each child is different, according to Jenn Kelner, certified child sleep consultant and owner of BabyZzz in Toronto, Canada, a baby’s sleep schedule will be very unorganized until around six weeks of age. “Your child’s biological sleep rhythms don’t exist yet, so there are not patterns as to when and how long your baby will sleep,” she says.
Although many newborns sleep 15-18 hours a day in two-four hour stretches, says Kelner, it is common for parents to feel sleep-deprived themselves. Kelner suggests parents take care of themselves, which means napping while your child is napping, and understand that this, too, shall pass.
“The first few weeks home from the hospital is a wonderful chance to hold, cuddle and bond with your baby,” says Kelner. “It’s important to respond to your child’s needs and try to get as much rest as possible.”
Guest blog by Barbara Williams of Find a Babysitter
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