First 10 days home with baby
You’ve done it! Nine months have gone by, the anxiety of delivery (whether it be natural or C-section) is done, and your little one is finally here! Your adorable angel, all swaddled up expertly lays by your bedside in the hospital in perfect blissful sleep. As you recover, the nurses help you with those first few days of latching and breastfeeding (especially if you are in a baby friendly hospital). They teach you how to cradle, swaddle, and bathe your little one. Your pediatrician has come in and given your baby all the cursory exams and briefed you as well on the ins and outs of newborn care. By the time you are ready to head home, you feel confident that you have absorbed their teachings with a watchful eye and are ready to tackle newborn care with your hubby.
You bid farewell to the nurses and doctors who helped care for you and your new bundle of joy and happily join your husband and family for baby’s first car ride home. At that moment, as your little one still slumbers, you begin to feel that you’ve got it covered. You get home, carry all your belongings back into the house (which hopefully you left prepared), and set your new baby down in their bassinet for the first time.
And that’s when it happens…
Suddenly your darling opens their eyes and starts to cry… and cry and cry and cry. You hurriedly pick them up, rock them, check their diaper, try to feed them, swaddle them tighter, and do whatever you can to stop the crying. But for some reason, what seemed so easy in the hospital is suddenly not as easy anymore. You are sure you are copying exactly what the nurses taught you but your baby seems fussier and moodier, and in return you begin to get anxious and worried. This is especially true for a lot of first time moms.
I know that is how I felt. The nurses St. Luke’s Medical City in the Fort really tried to equip me with all the knowledge I would need when I left the hospital. I even videotaped the bathing and umbilical cord stump care sequence so I could repeat it at home. I had a list of the newborn care tips our pediatrician Dr. Cricket gave us for almost every situation. However, I was just not prepared for how overwhelming those first few days on our own would be.
I took for granted the fact that while I was in the hospital I knew that the nurse was just a push button away or that if I was worried about anything I could ask the doctor in a second. Now, at home for the first time completely alone with the baby, and still recovering from my emergency C-section, it just seemed like nothing was going as planned.
I think it was that much harder for me because I gave birth three weeks ahead of schedule and was not fully finished preparing our home. That plus I was not anticipating a C-section due to preeclampsia. Because recovery was important for me I was forbidden to climb the stairs for 15 days, which meant we had to camp out in the living room when we first arrived home. My husband and mom had to bring down the bassinet and put up a cot. I slept on the cot and the hubby camped out on the sofa. It was a very turbulent time, but at the same time, it was a wonderful time because we had our darling Isabella home with us. We just had to do our best to learn to care for her.
Essentially, newborn care is standard for all babies. But, what you have to remember is that all babies are different therefore they won’t necessarily adhere to the norms. Some of the things you need to know when leaving the hospital with your young one include (as graciously explained to us by our pediatrician, Dr. Cricket Chen):
1) Feeding – Breastfeeding is preferred, of course. It is the best food you can give your baby. It is easily digested and will protect baby from respiratory and intestinal infections. The more you let baby suck, the more milk you will produce. The first few days, in particular, are critical to establish milk supply and a routine with your young one. Try to let your infant nurse for 15-20 minutes on each breast. This is usually standard, but again, all babies are different. My baby preferred lengthy feedings on one breast for this session and then a lengthy feeding on the other one the next session. Be sure to burp baby after every feed.
Try to nurse on demand. Our doctor said it was usually every 2-3 hours. I was expecting this, so when my baby slept for five hours straight I began to panic. I knew eating was important for her to thrive so I would try to wake her to feed. This did not go over well. While you should definitely try to wake baby to feed, sometimes your baby will just not want to eat yet. I did everything – I removed all her clothes so we could have skin-to-skin contact, I tickled her cheek, I lightly pinched her foot. Nothing would wake her when she did not want to eat yet. I usually fed every 4-4.5 hours those first ten days and worried incessantly that she was not getting enough. I should have enjoyed that time to rest between feedings while it lasted because she caught up to the two to three hour schedules quickly enough. Try to feed your baby every two to three hours, but also listen to them and follow their cue. They will eat when they are hungry. You can tell they are getting enough if they have 6-8 wet diapers a day (it sounds weird, but keep track! It will help calm your worries).
(Tip: Breastfeeding can be sore and painful these first few days! Sometimes a good nipple cream can do wonders. Lansinoh saved my life those first weeks.)
2) Bathing – It’s careful sponge baths those first ten days, and until the umbilical cord stump fully heals and falls off. Use a mild cleansing agent and boil water used for bathing in the early months. Don’t use lotions, perfumes, or powder. It’s natural to be a bit scared to bathe your baby initially since they tend to cry a lot in the first few days, but just trust your instincts and by all means, ask for assistance.
3) Cord-care – Clean your baby’s cord stump daily with a Q-tip dipped in 70% alcohol (We were given a bottle when we left the hospital). It will fall off naturally in 12-14 days. Don’t apply powder or use a binder or it won’t dry naturally.
4) Nappy changes – You can never have enough diapers! Cloth will definitely last longer, but in the first few days as you are adjusting to your newborn and life with a baby, it’s perfectly normal to use disposables and will help you keep your sanity too. Don’t use wipes in those early days because you could dry out your baby’s sensitive skin. The best way to clean baby is using cotton balls soaked in warm water. If redness occurs, use a Zinc Oxide (we love Butt Paste) to alleviate.
5) Sunlight – A large percentage of babies (especially Asian babies) are born with jaundice. Our little one had jaundice due to a blood type incompatibility (she inherited her father’s blood type). Whether or not they have jaundice though – sunlight is good for them and will help them absorb vitamins. Try to take them out for 10-15 minutes a day to get some morning sunlight (early though so it is not too harsh – 6:00-6:30am is a good time). You can also do this inside beside a big window.
6) Nail care – I was terrified of cutting Isabella’s nails when she was just a few weeks old. She had mittens on to prevent her from scratching her face. However, studies have shown that babies learn so much through their sense of touch (especially since their other senses are still developing), and wearing mittens for too long can deprive them of sensory perception. If you can stand it and get brave, remove the mittens as soon as possible. For us, it was when she was about to turn one month old. Your baby’s nails are so tiny and fragile; it is quite daunting to cut them. You can usually do this best when they are sound asleep. Use a baby nail cutter and only cut the nail if there is a little hanging over their finger. No need to cut them short or cut at all if they aren’t long. The best thing is to use a baby nail file and file nails down to help prevent scratching. AS my good friend, Dr. Jared Ament said “Your little one may scratch themselves once or twice, but as pediatricians agree it is worth it for what your baby will gain from being to touch you and their surroundings.”
Things to look out for, or reasons to call your pediatrician include:
- Excessive vomiting
- Watery stools
- Poor suck
- Rapid breathing
- Jaundice reaching the soles of the feet
- Less than 6-8 wet nappies (could be a sign of dehydration)
If you can remember all that, you will definitely be good in the first 10 days home. It may seem simple, but it can be quite overwhelming with a new baby. Plus, mommies should also remember to take care of themselves. It is true – you need to sleep when the baby sleeps and remember to eat well and help your body recover. You have just been through quite an ordeal and you deserve some TLC as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for help those first few days home. Grandparents are a godsend at this time! My mother helped fix and clean our home, stock the pantry, and even made all our meals those first two weeks as I recovered and learned how to care for our newborn. It’s quite a hectic time (the first 10 days can definitely leave you frazzled), but it can also be a great bonding time for the whole family as you all get to know the newest loveable member!
List of must-haves for the first ten days home with your newborn:
1) Bags and bags of cotton balls for nappy changes and cotton swabs
2) Lots of pure cotton shirts and pants for baby
3) Lots of diapers (either disposable or cloth)
4) A mild gentle cleanser for baths
5) Lansinoh breast cream (or anything to help soothe you if you experience pain)
6) A breastfeeding pillow (if you are planning to breastfeed). This is a godsend when getting a breastfeeding routine with baby. I loved My Brest Friend.
7) A working breast pump (you may experience excess milk in those first few days as your body tries to establish milk supply. If you do have excess milk, what a shame for it to go to waste. Pump and store just in case if you get engorged)
8) Alcohol (for your hands only and cord care)
9) Breast shields (for any sore days) or lounge bras. I had quite a bit of pain in the first few days and I found wearing a lounge bra helped give me the support I needed. There are great nursing ones from Mamaway.
10) Swaddle me blankets, Woombies, or Sleep Sacks. These will help if you aren’t an instant expert in swaddling. I was not! The Swaddle Me helped me swaddle Isabella, which, in turn, helped her sleep).
August 15, 2011 by Amanda Griffin-Jacob