When you first started working at your current job, you likely underwent an intensive training program before you felt comfortable in your position. When you become a parent for the first time, you don’t get such a training program. But you likely have many questions about how to take care of your new baby.
Here are some go-to parenting tips to help you feel more comfortable in your new role as mom or dad.
Balancing Work and Parenting
If you are a mother, you’ll need some time to recover after the birth of your child. Also, both mothers and fathers need some time to take care of their new baby and adjust to their role as parents.
Before your baby arrives, check with your employer about their maternity or paternity leave policies. By law, if you’ve worked at your job for at least 12 months, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. Your job may also offer some paid time off. While taking off 12 weeks may not be necessary for your situation, it’s important that you take some time off. You’ll enjoy your time off more if you plan in advance how much leave you’ll take.
If you need to go back to work, it can be difficult to decide who will take care of your baby. A parent or family member might offer to help, but taking care of your baby every day is a huge job. If you choose daycare, choose a daycare that will provide personalized care for your child. Interview staff members beforehand to ensure they offer the best possible care. Provide the daycare with information on your baby’s health and daily routine to help them know how to best care for your baby.
Holding Your Baby
Your baby needs plenty of love and affection to stay healthy and happy.
You may not have held many babies before, but there’s just one important guideline you need to remember: support the baby’s head and neck. Cradle your baby so his or her head rests on your arm or elbow. If you hold your baby upright, put your hand behind his or her head.
Remember never to shake or bounce a new baby, as this could damage the brain. Encourage anyone holding your baby to wash their hands in order to minimize the spread of infection.
Whether you choose to nurse or use formula (or both), you’ll want to feed your newborn every two to three hours. Watch for signs of hunger, such as crying, opening his or her mouth, and moving his or her head from side to side. Also, be aware that crying doesn’t always indicate hunger; as you get to know your baby better, you can better recognize what he or she needs.
After each feeding (and sometimes in between) you’ll need to burp your baby. Babies swallow air as they drink and get air bubbles trapped in their stomach. Lay your baby against you and pat him or her on the back. Make sure you keep a burp cloth on your shoulder to protect your clothes from stains.
When your baby sleeps, lay him or her on the back, away from excessive bedding or stuffed animals.
A newborn will sleep about 16 hours during a 24-hour period. But, newborns need constant nourishment, so they usually wake up every 2–4 hours during the night. At three months, your baby may begin sleeping through the night, but many babies won’t until they’re much older.
Babies dirty their diapers about 10 times a day, so there is a lot of diaper changing in your future. But don’t worry; it’s not as hard as it seems. Just make sure to change the diaper regularly and wipe each time. To avoid diaper rash, provide your baby with dye-free diapers. If he or she does develop diaper rash, apply diaper ointment.
You’ll want to decide whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. Experts say that neither is more environmentally friendly. While disposable diapers generate more waste, cloth diapers require washing and thus cause you to use more electricity. Disposable diapers might be better at preventing diaper rash, since they keep the baby’s bottom drier. Also note that many daycares prefer disposable diapers.
Your baby needs to stay clean, but he or she doesn’t need bathing as frequently as adults do. At first, you should give your baby a sponge bath about three times a week. Lather baby shampoo on your baby’s head and use a gentle soap and a wet washcloth to wash your baby’s body.
After your baby’s umbilical cord falls off and the belly button heals (after about one to four weeks), you can begin washing your baby in a tub. Wash your baby in a small tub using warm water. Don’t use hot water, and never leave your baby alone in the tub.
Take a Deep Breath
Parenting is hard work. Every baby is different, and there will be many parenting techniques you’ll learn on your own that work best for your baby. Make sure to keep a close eye on your baby’s growth, development, and health. When you can’t be with your baby, choose a caring daycare center with staff dedicated to the well-being of your baby.