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New baby basics

You can never fully prepare to become a mom or dad for the first time. Whether you're giving birth or not, life will change as you go on a roller coaster of emotions. 

Watch this video about Early Days with Your Baby  to get practical advice on caring for your baby.

For more information on your first days at home read:

  • If you gave birth at a hospital: A Public Health Nurse will call 24-48 hours after to check in with you.

  • If you are receiving care from a midwife after delivery: A Public Health Nurse will contact you 6-8 weeks after.

  • If you haven't been contacted have questions before then, find your local health unit and give them a call

Sometimes, caring for a newborn baby can be a little scary at first. Your baby might seem small and helpless, making you feel like you might break them. But don't worry; babies aren't as fragile as they look. In no time, you'll be taking care of your baby with confidence.

Soon after birth is a good time to make an immunization appointment. Your baby will need their first round of vaccines at 2 months, so why not schedule it now? Learn more about immunizations and find out why it's the best way to protect your baby against many serious diseases. 

Babies don't need to have a bath every day as long as you take care to keep them clean and dry. However, a daily bath can be a nice way to build a bedtime routine. Giving a bath can be tricky, but a health professional can show you how to do while you're in hospital. Take a minute to read bath time safety information and never leave your baby in the bath alone.

 

You can expect to be changing diapers 10-15 times each day in the beginning. Follow these tips to make things go well and to avoid diaper rashes as much as possible. Make diaper time a fun time to talk, laugh and play with your baby. Always keep one hand on the baby and never turn your back while they are on the changing table.

 

You may not think that tooth brushing is something you need to worry about with a newborn – after all, babies have no teeth! But getting oral hygiene off to a good start from the very beginning is very important. Wipe a wet washcloth over your baby's gums every day to get them used to having their mouths clean. When the first teeth appear, it's time to start brushing by using these handy brushing tips.

Babies need to spend times on their stomachs or sides when they're awake. We call this "tummy time" and it helps develop strong muscles, gets them ready to learn how to roll over, and prevents their head from getting flat spots, a condition called plagiocephaly.

Use these tips to make tummy time a success:

  • Put baby on their tummy while you're carrying them or holding them in your lap.

  • Always do tummy time on a firm, safe surface such as a blanket on the floor.

  • Never leave your baby alone during tummy time.

  • Try and have tummy time for a few minutes several times each day (maybe add it to your routine after a diaper change)

  • Make tummy time fun: show your baby toys or pictures, make funny faces, etc.

  • If your baby doesn't like tummy time, wait until they are rested and happy. Try to make it as fun as possible.

  • Remember to always put your baby to sleep on their back.

Learn more about tummy time and plagiocephaly.

Children learn new skills quickly. That's why it's important to be two steps ahead when thinking about safety. As your child is learning to crawl, you should be preparing your home to be safe for them as though they can already walk.

Get down to your child's level and look for hazards. For example, try pushing against furniture to see if it's stable enough to support your child's weight as they pull themselves up to standing. Some of the most common causes of injury you should look out for are:

  • Falls. Example: Is there any furniture that your child could climb on then fall off of?

  • Burns/scalds. Example: Is there anything that your child could climb on in the kitchen that would let them reach the stove?

  • Poisoning. Example: Are all household cleaners stored and well out of reach? 

If an accident does happen, it's good to be prepared ahead of time. Learn basic first aid for common injuries on the HealthLink BC website.

For information on safe food handling to prevent food poisoning, visit the food safety at home webpage.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a great decision, but it isn't always easy to do. Visit the breastfeeding page in infant to 18 months to learn about the following: 

  • Learning to breastfeed

  • Some things you might not know about breastfeeding

  • Benefits of breastfeeding 

  • Breastfeeding in the first 3 weeks

  • Helpful videos from Healthy Families BC

Newborn jaundice and biliary atresia

In the first days after birth, a newborn may have  jaundice. Jaundice is a condition where the baby's skin and the whites of their eyes look yellow. Newborn jaundice is common and in most healthy babies is not serious and does not need treatment. If your baby is jaundiced, make sure your baby is feeding well, at least every 3 hours. If your baby is sleepy during feeds try unwrapping, and feeding skin to skin.

Signs of Jaundice

To check your baby for jaundice:

  • Hold your baby in natural light, for example near a window

  • Look to see if the white part of your baby's eyes looks yellow

  • Gently press your fingertip on your baby's forehead, nose, chest, arms and legs. If these areas look yellow or orange when you pull your finger away then there is jaundice

When to Get Help for Jaundice

Call your health care provider if:

  • You see jaundice in the legs, palms of hands or soles of feet

  • Your baby is not waking to feed, not feeding at least 8 times in 24 hours, or latching is painful

  • At 4 days of age, your baby is having less than 2–3 stools each day

  • Your baby's jaundice lasts longer than 3 weeks

Learn more about newborn jaundice

Biliary atresia is a rare but serious liver disease that begins to affect newborns in the first month of life. It is the most common reason why children need a liver transplant. It is life-threatening if it is not treated.

Signs of Biliary Atresia

  • If your baby has jaundice for longer than two weeks AND

  • Has pale yellow, pale green, chalk white, or clay coloured stools

 

Sleep and crying

Newborns frequently wake up often and haven't yet figured out that night time is for sleeping. But as your baby gets older, they will start sleeping for longer periods during the night.

How much should your baby sleep? There is no right answer. Each baby has its own needs. Some newborns only need nine hours of sleep in day, while others will need as much as 20 hours. Most fall somewhere in between. It's important, though, that each baby gets the most possible sleep that is right for them. Not only will it help their development, but it will give you a chance to get a much-needed break.

Have realistic expectations. Your baby is unique and their needs are always changing. Young babies will wake frequently to feed and cuddle. Most newborn babies feed at least eight times in 24 hours and may have periods of cluster feeding.

Learn how to create a safe sleeping environment for your baby. It will help them to sleep better and reduce the risk of  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Follow these tips to help your baby get the best possible sleep as safely as possible:

  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep. If they roll over on their own, that's okay.

  • Use an approved crib or bassinet with a firm sleep surface. Don't use any pillows or bumper pads.

  • Share a room with the baby, if possible. (But don't share your bed.)

  • Never expose your baby to second-hand smoke.

  • Breastfeed your baby.

  • Keep baby warm, but not hot. A light blanket is usually enough.

To get more information:

All babies cry. It's the way they communicate. But sometimes you've tended to all their needs and your baby still won't stop crying. If it's been a long day after a poor night's sleep, this can be very challenging but it doesn't mean you're doing something wrong. Many babies will go through a Period of Purple Crying – a time where they regularly cry and can't be soothed. Unfortunately, it's developmentally normal and there is nothing you can do to stop it. It will just have to run its course.

Coping with Crying

Here are some ways to help you cope when the crying seems like it will never end:

  • Try these soothing techniques

  • Ask family or friends to come help you. (Never ask anyone to help if you know or suspect they have a problem controlling their anger.)

  • If you have a partner who is available, take turns giving each other breaks that let you leave the home.

  • Work your frustrations out through intense exercise like running in place or hitting a pillow against the wall.

If you feel like shaking or hitting your baby, put the baby down in a safe place (like the crib) and go to another room. Plug your ears or play loud music, if needed. Call another trusted adult for help. Don't pick the baby up again until you are calm.

Remember, it may seem as if the baby has been crying forever, but the truth is you are in a temporary situation. This stage will not last forever. You will get through it.

Learn more about the Period of Purple Crying and get tips on how to cope.


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