As I am embarking in this new journey, there is nothing more representative than a newborn baby for the love and joy one can feel towards another human being. One of the toughest journeys but most rewarding of all. My baby is now almost 9 months old and whilst we wanted a baby right from the beginning, my husband and I are just settling in the parenthood roles. Our relationship has been one of the strongest and yet, having a baby puts challenges on the presence one can have, on the relationship, availability, connection, sleep and nerves.
Being there with the baby, for her and nothing else, helps read the cues faster and respond to her needs immediately. The aim of this article is to cumulate the knowledge from the first 3 months of baby’s life, found out with lots of white nights researching books, apps, friends with babies, parents and also including priceless information from wisdom of several midwives; in retrospective, I wish someone would have all laid it nicely for me, though each baby is different so you never know if it works until you try. Take what works for you and your little one, forget the rest.
Not to be taken by surprise, in the first 2 weeks after birth, the prolactin hormone plays drama on you and everything may seem difficult, without solution or light at the end of the tunnel; baby blues are something normal and once the hormones stabilize life will almost get back on track. Make sure you have time for yourself, get plenty of fresh air and ask family or friends not to overload you with visits; equally explain your partner what you are going through and try to get enough sleep, at the same time with the baby. The first month the baby sleeps quite a bit, so you may wish to enjoy that time and rest as much as possible for the next months to come.
Whether it’s from mother, grandma, aunt or midwife it’s important that you are supported. The most up to date are midwives in my view, if the service exists in your country, they see tens of babies, do workshops and can teach anything from bathing, diaper changing, putting to sleep, maneuvering the baby to massage, pelvic floor reeducation and coaching for the emotional state of the mom. They can have Brazelton knowledge, they can provide scarf carrying courses, yoga, please see the next link in French for possibilities of services: https://sagesfemmesgeneve.ch/rechercher.html
These are obviously debated topics; schools of thought that I have found refer to ‘’on demand or by schedule’’; my adopted view is to respond to babies needs when she wants, somewhat in the middle; after 8 weeks, if you watch carefully, you will understand your baby does have a rhythm and a schedule (you may even wish to take written observations). In our case, a strict schedule (Gina Ford – Contented little baby book -The Secret to Calm and Confident Parenting) didn’t work as our sleepy baby would not let himself be woken up for feeding at a certain hour; also any deviation (going out, having guests, eating 5 minutes longer, not falling asleep) would completely through off the schedule.
Her nose should be at the height of the breast and she should take a full breast in her mouth. You can encourage by asking for imitation of the open mouth or by teasing with the nipple until she opens. Try immediately after birth to feed, that start the lactation process. Anything between 20 minutes and 1 hour of feeding is good. With time your baby masters the skills and 10 minutes of active sucking are just perfect; by active you should see the mandibula moving and hear the swallowing of the milk. Let the baby finish the breast, before offering a new one, in other words, let her suck until she leaves the booby by herself. Drink at least 2 liters of water during the day and one at night (for baby waking up every 3 hours for breastfeeding and you drinking a big full glass each time) to ensure your supply doesn’t empty. To encourage your milk production check on beer without alcohol, oatmeal, different teas like fennel or even eating the vegetable itself. Make sure your back is straight and relaxed so that muscles around breast don’t have to work other than for supporting the milk production. For this reason, wear a bra that holds well throughout the day/night, not pressing on the breast but holding it up. In addition, where possible, use breastfeeding pillows to ensure appropriate height of baby mouth to the nipple. If in doubt, do invest for a session with a breastfeeding adviser, it will change your life.
Note also the different breastfeeding positions, especially during the night. https://www.babycenter.com/0_positions-and-tips-for-making-breastfeeding-work_8784.bc
One thing happened to me, I have developed rocks/stones under my breasts and had no idea what they were. After researching and asking my facebook group (Breastfeeding Mamas in Switzerland) I have learned that I have some blocked ducts and needed to do a few things: massage the rocks, put warm water before the breastfeeding (warm bottle or pillow or towel) to make the milk more liquid and flow, and cold afterwards (ice) to prevent from getting stuck again, arrange baby to suck with the chin towards the rocks. For me the rocks went away in couple of days, but if it gets red or feverish, please go see a doctor as it may turn into mastitis.
Recreating in the first couple of months and not only the womb environment is critical (can be very useful even years later); babies need to feel held and supported in order to relax and fall asleep. Either by swaddling (https://www.amazon.de/Miracle-Blanket-15799-Swaddle-Blue/dp/B000G0KQWQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1512644968&sr=8-2&keywords=miracle+swaddle) or by using later on a sleeping bag (https://www.amazon.de/Slumbersac-Baby-Ganzjahres-Schlafsack-2-5/dp/B003TTYDES/ref=sr_1_3?s=baby&ie=UTF8&qid=1512645001&sr=1-3&keywords=baby+sleeping+bag) , sometimes putting some big pillows/towels under her feet and up to hips in the crib so that there is not too much space around (take safety precautions), touching the bed with the tip of the head (recreate the womb/placenta) offers sleeping comfort as babies don’t know how to soothe themselves. Creating a routine that signals it’s time to sleep may help tremendously. You may wish to consider: bathing, massage, changing diaper, putting pajamas, making quiet and dimming the lights for dissociating night from day, singing a lullaby, swaddling, rocking a bit, giving a suzette, (but taking it out just before she deeply falls asleep), putting some white noise to imitate womb. Of course ideal would be that they learn how to sleep by themselves and without making associations with rocking, suzette, etc, however there is a fine balance between letting a baby cry for minutes and expect him to find ways to go to sleep without help (which I would never recommend) and offering few associations, whatever works best without creating a lifetime addiction; my view and best advice I have ever got is that everything is a stage, she will likely not want to sleep with you and with a suzette until 15.
Swaddling or putting a towel under feet for restless feet moving may help to relax. Our baby slept in bed with us for the first couple of months and afterwards we slowly moved him in a crib attached to bedside. This is called co-sleeping and to me the best option to soothe overnight, not to be scared of darkness and loneliness, less fears of solitude and abandonment. Babies regulate themselves in frequency with mother’s heart and feeling safe will be the basis for an independent baby later-on. And whilst on safety, a baby that doesn’t cry more than 90 seconds alone and is accompanied with love and compassion throughout his pains (colics) will grow to be a secure attached baby. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secure_attachment
We were lucky not to have colic’s, but growth spurts happen to everyone. The solutions are similar, carry, comfort, use white noise, distractions, warm hands or warm pillows, rub belly clockwise, carry her with the belly in your palm (on the arm), rub her back counterclockwise whilst with the belly on your knees, burp with the belly on the shoulder, suzette to comfort, movement. In case of a clear stomach ache and swallowed air you may ask your pediatrician or pharmacist for some remedy (Calmosine, Flatulex, Espumisan are just few options which I have investigated with other moms); we used Flatulex, which mostly contains a bit of sugar and alleviates pain and stopped it gradually after 8-9 weeks. Again, not fully fond of it, but a good option instead of 1 hour of crying and suffering of your little one.
For stomach aches you may wish to watch what you eat, anything that produces gas to you, will affect your baby too (beans, cabbage, not chewing well, etc). For growth spurts the book ‘’The wonder weeks’’ will help you understand better your baby. https://www.thewonderweeks.com/about-the-wonder-weeks-book/
If you struggle with taking the crying, make sure you put the child in a safe place and take a break to ground, center and be present. Don’t forget, its only a stage.
Clean eyes from exterior to interior with sterile water and some ‘’pansament’’, same for nose but with manually wrapped cotton, umbilical cord with disinfectant, ears with cotton buds for babies (but not necessary at all at the beginning), face with water. For the pampers changing, key is to manage their fear. Babies get in the world with just a few instincts and reflexes, one of which is to protect themselves. Incessant move of hands and feet, crying and not letting you change them is about perceiving you as a threat, as a predator. His body perception and openness to environment can however be worked on: move each foot and each hand individually up, down, flex and extend lateral, flex and close towards belly; repeat few times once a day when baby is relaxed and keep each position for 3 seconds so that the brain registers no danger in the open positions, as well as registers a come back in the safe position
As you can understand by now, babies like wombs, so they like to be carried, wrapped, have environmental noise, be moved. As to the carrying I encourage you wear our baby 😊; use a carrying scarf (check for types of material and lengths) or a ring sling ( https://en.lennylamb.com/shop/by/erp_product_type/ring_slings) or a mei tai new cut (https://www.wermli.de/meitai.html) or an ergo baby (with adapter for infants up to 4 months). They all provide almost the same features, whatever works for you but allowing house chores, socializing, working, walking whilst integrating the baby in a safe welcoming and caring manner. Watch that the baby has the knees above the basin, round back, head leaning on you and supported up to the ear by the textile, arms in front, spine in one line and see few videos on youtube on how to use or go for a little course. Its worth while.
As any other mother, I wanted to stimulate my baby in the best possible way adapted to the age; here are just few ideas I came across, in the order that I have discovered them and somewhat connected to baby span of attention: feet and arms movement (bending and flexing), massaging, reading, singing, showing and discovering colors (from birth onwards if she is awake), touch skin with different textures, playing different types of music, cuddling, naming body parts, bring hand to body parts, bicycle, lift in sitting and arrange on sides (under your supervision), lift by armpits and do airplane, do the horse, walk feet for 5 steps, reinforce guttural noises, house discovery, discovering animals and imitating their sounds, finger play, people watch, exterior discovery, bells, wooden rattle (from 2nd months onwards), watching clouds, outside time, lying down in a spot with interesting items, painting, yes space, play silks, blue sky speculation – imagine how the world might be, baby sensory, kanga class; google each item or check Janet Lansbury blog for some hints. It is said that the baby first impressions are collected from the first 3 months of life, so without overstimulating I encourage you to try a few things, see what she enjoys.
Bathing and massaging are for me and my baby a ritual. Everything has to be in slow motion with emphasis on sensorial aspect, feeling the relaxation and pleasure to receive and give, loads of presence and fun at the same time.
To bathe you may wish to use a bathtub adapter/ reducer for the first couple of months: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Infant-Comfort-Height-Bath/dp/B01MQNKPZC/ref=lp_166737011_1_15_s_it?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1512655956&sr=1-15 ; this, as with everything else, will give the baby some security. Always hold your arm under her head and with the palm wrapped around the far away arm. Depending on the country, bathing can be daily or every 2-3 days; in any case, if your baby is enjoying the bath time, even just allowing some warm water (37 degrees) without soap can serve for the evening ritual and the well-deserved relaxation.
Massaging requires a bit of technique. Guidance may differ in different parts of the world. What was important to me is that babies at birth believe they are still one entity with the mother. They also believe their body is part of the outside world and it takes couple of months to identify hands and feet and start associating those as being theirs. Massage can help and have used pure almond oil as mostly recommended b pediatricians and midwives. Start from feet, massage one foot from hip down to the sole and back; wrap hands around feet to send brain signal that he has a full foot not just a spot; spend some time on the sole for few points like in reflexo-therapy, this helps with stomach aches; slide then over the belly to reach the other foot (this shows the baby that the feet are connected to the belly);
Then massage belly from neck to lower abdomen, illustrating baby the direction of the food ingestion and then doing clockwise circles on the belly to enable good intestine flow. Massage the arms and then the back also from neck down and all the way to the soles. The facial should cover eyebrows, zone under the eye, temples, above and below the lip and the beautiful big cheeks in circles. If baby has atopic skin, the pediatre recommends waiting as it will naturally go away, but if you need to, you could use creams for atopic skin like Aderm or Atoderm.
For better holding the head, always support and massage spine from bottom up to the neck, lifting up the energy. You may also move gently the hips like in a belly dance if the body feels rigid, this will loosen it up.
As to the Parenting style, authoritative is highly regarded as the most effective. https://my.vanderbilt.edu/developmentalpsychologyblog/2013/12/types-of-parenting-styles-and-how-to-identify-yours/ . I have inspired my way from different sources and some elements of RIE parenting are also very useful. Resources of Infant Educarers (RIE) are widely explained in Janet Lansbury blog and books http://www.janetlansbury.com/2013/12/rie-parenting-basics-9-ways-to-put-respect-into-action/, as well as by her mentor Magda Gerber. Some of the ideas here are really awesome, some require more thought, but one very important feature is to always explain your baby everything that you are doing, as if she were an adult. Tell her that you are picking her up or putting her down, describe the diaper change and the massage, this way baby feels respected and attempts to easier understand what’s going to happen; if in doubt of what sometimes the crying means do ask the baby and allow some time for response. You will understand her much better. I have also used a very supportive facebook group, RIE and Attachment Parenting Harmony
3 months down the road and we are pretty stable, discovering new things and definitely enjoying those wonderful toothless smiles and facial expressions first thing in the morning. All worthwhile the effort. If ever an advice doesn’t seem right, trust your instinct and ask for a second opinion. Your baby and you are the most important. Life in couple or freedom to do what you want doesn’t end here, it just begins. When respecting baby’s feeding and napping times, you should be able to have a normal life and discover activities that you had long forgotten to enjoy. Remember there is no dissociation between your time, time for your partner and time for the baby, its one time together if you integrate them well
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