Congratulations! You just delivered a very beautiful baby. Welcome to your 4th trimester, which (I can officially say this!) is going to be full of ups and downs, to be honest. You’re going to feel all kinds of emotions, happiness, exhaustion, anger, anxiety. But let me tell you nothing beats the feeling of seeing your little one smiling in her sleep or wrapping her teeny tiny hand around your finger.
It is obvious that mothers, especially first-time mums, will feel extremely nervous and anxious after their delivery, thinking about how to take care of your little one, what to do and what not do. But, have patience, my friend! We at 1happykiddo are here to help you in any way we can, and try to make your life a little easy by informing you about what’s to come and how to take care of your newborn.
Newborns right after their birth are completely dependent on you, be it for feeding, bathing, and even sleeping – you or someone who’s there to help you will have to do everything for your baby. You will have to make sure that your baby is being fed on demand, she needs to burp after every feed, her nappies are changed regularly, enough tummy time should be given to your newborn, bathing her and taking care of her umbilical cord is necessary.
You need to make sure that you have already shopped for all essential items to take care of your baby like her clothes, lotions, diapers, changing sheet, socks, mittens and hat. But post-delivery, it’s not only the child who should be taken care of but the mother too. In India, following the traditions of Ayurveda, which dates back to 5000 years, mothers and the newborn in India are cared for differently than maybe the rest of the world.
Feeding your Newborn Baby
After you deliver, the first thing the nurse will do is hand over the baby to you to breastfeed. Remember that each body is different and every baby is different. Some mothers start leaking breast milk even before they deliver, and some will after, and some babies will easily start breastfeeding, and some babies will have a hard time latching.
Before you start breastfeeding, you need to learn how to latch your baby properly. Without a proper latch, the breastfeeding journey for you will become painful. You need first to get comfortable and adopt a breastfeeding position that is comfortable for you and your baby. Then, try to latch your baby by brushing your nipple on to her upper lips and let her take a mouthful of the nipple and the areola.
In India, new mums have their mothers or mothers-in-law to help them out. I remember during my delivery and post-delivery, I had my mother by my side like a rock, which made taking care of my baby a little bit easier than it would’ve been.
Another thing, I would like to talk to you about is what if your baby doesn’t latch? In a country, especially like India, new mums are discouraged or made feel bad if their baby fails to latch. If your baby isn’t able to latch even after you got help from the nurses or a lactation consultant or because of any medical reasons, remember that it is alright. You can still feed her your breast milk through a cup, or a spoon or bottle-feed your baby.
If you’re planning to formula feed your baby, then first get in a comfortable position with your baby in your lap, so that she’s somewhat upright while supporting her neck and her body is in line. Brush her lips with the teat of the bottle to initiate her sucking reflex, and tip the bottle horizontally. Make sure that the teat is full of milk; otherwise, your baby will swallow air during feeding. Look out for signs to see if she’s full, like her slowing down or pausing while sucking, to remove the bottle.
Remember that your baby solely depends on your breast milk or the formula for the first 6 months of life. She doesn’t need water, or any other liquids or solids. I have heard elders in the house suggesting new mums offer water to their babies because the baby might be ‘thirsty’, but DON’T, babies get a sufficient amount of water through breast milk and formula.
Some of our parents might even suggest starting a semi-solid diet after the baby turns 3 months old, but again, don’t. Try to talk to them about the harm this can cause if they keep insisting or let them talk to your pediatrician, but make sure only to offer your breast milk or formula to your newborn.
Burping your Newborn Baby
Our previous generations, meaning our parents and grandparents weren’t much aware of the term ‘burping a newborn’. I mean when I gave birth, none of the elders talked to me about the importance of burping my baby. I came to know its importance and necessity by the nurses in the hospital and friends who recently became parents.
But, if you’re reading this before your delivery or even after your delivery, let me tell you that burping your baby is necessary to relieve them of the extra air they swallowed while feeding.
The nurse at the hospital told me to burp my baby after every feed, and that’s what I did till he became more mobile, after which he burps on his own. But experts also suggest that you don’t have to burp your baby after every feed if she seems content or asleep during or after a feed. But, to be on the safer side, try to burp your baby after each feed.
While feeding your newborn, if she seems very uneasy, or squirmy, or crying, then pause and burp her first and then resume feeding. Bottle-fed babies are especially prone to swallowing air while feeding, so you can buy an anti-colic bottle which reduces the amount of air from getting trapped in the baby’s tummy.
There are three ways you can burp your baby:
|On your chest:||On your lap:||Facedown across your lap:|
|Place her on your chest while supporting her back and let her rest her head on your shoulder, and gently pat or rub her back.||Position her to sit on your lap while supporting her chest with your palm and your fingers gently supporting her chin and jaw. Lean your baby a little forward and gently pat or rub her back with the other hand.||Lay your baby across your lap on your knees with her chest facing downwards. Support her chin and jaw with your hand and make sure to keep her head slightly higher than the rest of the body and gently pat or rub on her back.|
Bathing your Newborn Baby
In India, after your delivery, for the baby’s first bath which will be done on the next day (because bathing your baby right after delivery puts the newborn at risk of their temperature dropping), usually an ayah or a dai will be there to bathe your baby. If you have no complications post-delivery, you’ll be asked in to watch to learn how to bathe your baby.
With changing times, some hospitals today in India, arrange training sessions for new parents to learn how to feed, massage and bathe, and how to take care of the umbilical cord of the newborn.
Relax, if your hospital doesn’t provide this training session, you can learn it from the ayah or dai in the hospital itself. Remember, your tiny baby can be slippery and squirmy when you bathe her, so make sure to support her shoulders and neck with one hand and gently bathe her with the other hand.
According to traditions, your baby will be first massaged with oil properly; exercising her hands and legs, and then bathing her in lukewarm water. But, doctors recommend that unless her umbilical cord doesn’t dry and fall off on its own, you can sponge bath her 2–3 times a week, and not daily.
The umbilical cord needs to be taken care of properly. There’s nothing harm to bathe our baby in the first few days, but make sure that the stump is dried and doesn’t remain wet. Also, be careful not to tug on it while bathing or changing her, as this can hurt the baby.
Your baby may cry extremely during her bath, but this also varies from babies to babies. Some babies don’t like the sensation of water on them and are still adjusting to it, while some babies would like the process of bathing (my bub comes in the latter group).
Diapering your Newborn Baby
When we were newborns, most of our parents didn’t have diapers for us and relied completely on cloth nappies. But, thanks to the latest advancements, life for us has become extremely easy with diapers, compared to our parents.
Keeping that in mind, there are not just those disposable pant or tape diapers; you can also get your hands on a variety of cloth diapers. The first few days, a newborn will not poop or pee much, so not much diapers will be in use. But, when she starts drinking colostrum or formula, meconium is pushed out of her body.
Meconium is the first poop and is made of mucus, amniotic fluid, and anything else that baby might have ingested inside the womb, which will have tar-like consistency, so don’t get worried if you see one. It just means that her digestive system is working normally, but make sure to clean it off immediately; otherwise, it’ll get painful for the tender skin of the baby if the meconium dries up.
Your newborn’s poo will get lighter and lighter after each day, from greenish-brown to dark yellow or mustard yellow. The poo will also have seedy texture, but don’t get it confused with diarrhea; this is how it supposed to be.
Breastfed babies and Formula-fed babies will be different in terms of smell and texture; breastfed babies’ poop will have a sweet smell, while the formula-fed babies’ poo will be more like an adult – bulky, pasty and smelly. This is because formula milk isn’t easily digested like breast milk by newborn babies. If you notice whitish mucus or red streaks of blood in the poop, then visit your doctor immediately.
Also, if your newborn baby has her umbilical cord still intact, make sure to fold down the waist of your baby’s diaper, so that the diaper doesn’t cover the umbilical cord and put pressure on it.
Sleep routine of your Newborn Baby
For their growing bodies and developing brain, newborn babies need a lot of sleep. Newborn babies need 14-17 hours of sleep, but some babies can sleep for 18 to 19 hours a day. While this may seem a lot of hours for new parents, but I assure you, this doesn’t mean you’re going to get a goodnight’s sleep.
Newborn babies usually don’t sleep more than 3 hours at a stretch because their stomach at this age is the size of a marble, and the breast milk or formula will be easily digested, so she’ll wake again hungry.
Typically living in India has so many benefits, like getting so much help from your family, friends, and sometimes even neighbors. Towards the end of your pregnancy, you might have travelled to your mum’s house, or she might’ve come to stay with you to help you out. So, ask for help when you need it; there’s absolutely no shame in asking for help, especially after a tiring delivery.
So, during this time, if you plan to pump and feed, or formula feed your baby, ask your partner or your mum to help you out during nighttime. This way, you can catch up on a little bit of sleep, and your baby’s hunger is satiated. Rest assured, these sleepless nights won’t go on longer once your baby is 3 months old.
Some parents choose to co-sleep with the baby in their bed, and this makes it easier for mums to breastfeed when their babies cry at night. Right from the start, my little one has been sleeping with me at night and sleeps in the crib during the day.
If you choose this way of sleeping with your baby, then make sure you take proper safety precautions like keeping pillows and blankets away from your baby or make sure not to doze off when you’re breastfeeding in a side-lying position, and be informed about the risk of SIDS.
Caring for your Newborns Umbilical Cord
The umbilical cord of your baby typically falls off within 5 to 15 days after birth. Make sure to let the stump dry and fall off on its own, instead of pulling it.
Even if you’re bathing her, let the umbilical cord air dry for a little while before dressing her. You can wash the stump gently with plain water or with a liquid cleanser that is added to the bathwater. Then, gently pat the area dry with a soft towel. If an ayah or dai or someone else is bathing your baby, then keep an eye on whether any pressure is not applied on the umbilical cord.
Also, there’s a tradition of oil massaging the newborn baby and in and around the umbilical cord. Some dais also tape a coin to the baby’s stump for the belly button to go in. Not only this, I’ve heard elders suggesting to push the belly button inside with the thumb while massaging after the stump has fallen off, but keep in mind your baby’s umbilical cord is very sensitive, and all of these could lead to an infection.
In case, the umbilical cord gets urine or poop in it, just wash it off with plain water and pat gently. After the stump has fallen off, the wound usually takes 7 to 10 days to heal.
You might even see little blood, but that’s considered normal and part of the healing process, but if you notice the area around the belly button to be red, swollen or pus or blood coming out of the belly button, visit your doctor immediately.
Newborn Baby Crying
Take a newborn’s cry as a way of communicating to you, because there’s no other way she can tell you what she feels other than crying out loud (literally).
The first day will be very quiet and sleepy as she is adjusting to the new world and is tired after her birth. When my bub was born and was extremely peaceful the first day, I thought I might be lucky, I’ve got one of those babies who are very easy going, but boy was I mistaken? From the second day, he made sure the whole hospital knew that he’s hungry.
Newborn baby cry for a lot of reason, the primary reason being hunger. Indian parents may suggest giving water or top-up with formula milk even when you have sufficient breast milk, but don’t give it. They don’t need water or water with sugar in it or top-up formula milk (I was told to offer these whenever my baby cried) even when you have sufficient milk or know that her cry is not for hunger. Only after 6 months of age, you can slowly introduce complementary solids and water in their diet.
If you think she’s had enough milk, then check her diaper to see whether it’s soiled. In the case of cloth nappies, she might feel irritating with the wet cloth diaper on for a long time. If not any of these reasons, then try to burp her. It’s a possibility that air bubbles might be trapped in her tummy, which is making her squirmy and uneasy. Burping her will relieve her from colic.
Another reason for her crying can be that she’s tired and is sleepy. As babies don’t know how to sleep on their own, they are dependent on you to make them sleep. If none of the above is the reason, then she might just be longing for you.
They’ve been very cozy inside your womb, and suddenly out in the world being alone is scary for them. You’ll find them more cranky and fussy during late afternoon and evenings, as most babies do. So, just carry her around, or put her on your chest and she’ll calm down within seconds.
Which Essential Items to Buy for your Newborn Baby?
Our Indian tradition restricts us from buying any newborn baby stuff until the baby is born, or it is said that it brings bad luck. If you follow this tradition, then it’s highly unlikely that you can go out in the initial days after the baby is born because your family might also follow the 40 day period of confinement, for the woman who delivered, to recover and rejuvenate. Only after the first 40 days are over, the woman is allowed to go outside the house.
What you can do is make a list of things your baby will need, and pass it on to your husband or another family member and let them buy it. You can also make it easier by window shopping before your delivery and make a list stating the store and items to be purchased from them and give it a family member.
The essential items you’ll need are
- Clothes: Getting hand-me-down clothes in India is very common, especially in a big joint family. If that’s the case with you, then you won’t probably need more; otherwise, buy 5-6 jhablas (cotton tops), cotton onesies if it’s summer. Get 3-4 pairs of socks, mittens, hats, and a sweater if it’s winter.
- Diapers and wet wipes: Get loads of cloth diapers or disposable ones, and wet wipes, you’re going to need them.
- Lotions, soap, and oil: You’ll need good branded lotions, bathing oil, and shampoo for your little one.
- Rubber sheet: Buy a waterproof rubber sheet that you’ll easily get in any baby store. This helps your bed from getting wet if you’re making your newborn wear cloth diapers, or when you’re changing her diaper. You can even buy a rubber sheet in case you’re planning to lay him down on it while bathing him.
- Soft towel: You’ll need 3-4 soft towels if you’re planning to bathe him daily.
- Burp cloths and Muslin cloths: Babies tend to burp a lot in a day, so these will come in handy, and make sure to buy multiples of it, as you’re going to go through many in a day.
- Swaddle sheets: Buy 3 to 4 swaddle sheets in case it’s winter then you need them to wrap your baby for warmth. If the temperature is high, then buy 2 or 3 cotton swaddle sheets.
- Cot, Crib, or a Cradle: Most families in India buy a jhoola, a cotton cradle, to make their baby sleep in it. If you’re not planning on co-sleeping with your baby, then a cot, or a crib, or a cradle is necessary for your room.
All-in-all mama, you need to be very patient during the newborn phase. Your baby needs you the most during this time. So, make sure that you’re happy and taken care of too. Ask your partner to help you with taking care of your baby.
Your mum will mostly take care of your household chores while you recover, but if you don’t have anyone, hire a live-in maid to help you out to cook, clean, and do some household chores.
Remember, happy mother = happy baby. Babies can sense if you’re anxious or agitated. So, try to keep yourself motivated and stay happy. Keep in mind that this is just a phase, and this too shall pass.
Meanwhile, mamas, comment down below if you want to ask us something or share your newborn baby’s story.