Having a baby is life-altering. You’ve planned and prepared for the last nine months, and everything is in place and waiting for your new arrival. What no-one can prepare you for is what it actually is to be a parent for the first time. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, extremes of joy and celebration one moment, and bone-crushing tiredness and self-doubt the next.
Reality sets in once you finally have your bundle of joy in your arms, and it’s just you, your baby and your partner. You both suddenly realise that you’re responsible for this little life, and that they’re going to be totally dependent on you for a long while yet.
Add to this the worries that you may have about whether your baby is getting enough milk, how on earth you bathe a baby without ten pairs of hands, and how you and your partner will ever get enough sleep, and it’s a recipe for a lot of fretting and unnecessary worries.
This article will hopefully set your mind at rest about some of the common worries that new parents have, and that not-so-new parents wish they’d known about years ago.
- Your Baby May Look a Little Different Than You Imagined!
When babies are first born, they’re kind of, well…funny looking! They don’t look like those perfect, pink and powdered cherubs you see on TV. They have a tough journey down the birth canal, and their heads often come out a little misshapen – that’s why babies don’t have fully formed skulls like we do- the plates of bone and the soft areas between them allow the baby’s head to absorb the pressures of birth without injury. Their heads will soon regain normal shape again.
They may be born covered all over with a coat of downy hair called lanugo, which will also disappear. Babies are also often born covered in a sort of greyish, greasy substance. This is called vernix, and it’s made by the baby’s oil glands to protect their skin from the amniotic fluid. This is easily cleaned away, but can be a shock for new parents on seeing their baby for the first time!
- Don’t be Afraid of Handling Their Soft Spot
As I mentioned before, babies are born with soft spots between their skull plates. These are called the fontanelles, and they will eventually disappear as your baby grows.
It can be a bit worrying to know that the only thing protecting your baby’s brain in these soft spots is a membrane and a layer of skin, but it’s nothing to worry about. The membrane is tough, and brushing your baby’s hair or stroking their head isn’t going to damage it.
The soft spot may seem to pulsate slightly when you look at it, but it’s just because it’s covering the blood vessels over the brain, and nothing to freak out over.
- The Cord Will Fall Off Faster if You Keep it Dry
Lots of new parents are unsure about how to deal with the stump of umbilical cord that remains in their baby’s belly button. Eventually it will dry up and fall off – usually within two weeks – but until then it can be disconcerting to see this painful-looking stump of shrivelled tissue sticking out of your baby!
The cord doesn’t hurt the baby, and if it’s kept dry, it falls off faster. That doesn’t mean you should panic if you get it wet while bathing your baby – just pat it dry carefully. It’s also not unusual for it to bleed a little, just like a scab.
- Crying – What is Your Baby Trying to Tell You?
Crying is your baby’s only means of communicating for a while, and you will soon learn to distinguish the different cries that make up your baby’s ‘language’.
When you’re first home from the hospital and it’s just you and your partner, a baby who won’t stop crying can drive you both frantic with worry. The most common reasons for crying are usually:
- Too hot or too cold
- Wet or dirty diaper
- Wind or colic
Colic can often strike in the early evening, and can make your baby cry constantly for hours. You can usually tell if it’s colicky abdominal pain that’s causing the crying, as your baby will draw their legs up towards their stomach and often arch backwards too.
Prolonged bouts of colic can be physically and emotionally exhausting for you and your partner. There is nothing worse than hearing your baby cry and be powerless to stop it. Take solace from the fact that it doesn’t last forever – your baby will eventually grow out of bouts of wind or colic. Until that time, you need to rest when you can. Resting while your baby sleeps is the best way, even if it means taking lots of small daytime naps.
How Can I Get Some Quality Rest Time?
One thing you should consider getting is a video baby monitor. That way, you can keep checking on your baby while they sleep without disturbing them by constantly going in and out of their room.
It will help you make the most of your precious rest time while your baby is sleeping, as you won’t have to keep jumping up and rushing in to your baby’s bedroom every time they make a noise over a traditional audio monitor.
The new technology of video baby monitors lets you both listen and see what your baby is doing without having to leave your comfy bed or easy chair, making it far easier for you to get that quality rest time.
- Make the Most of It
The newborn stage doesn’t last long. It may seem to last a lifetime whilst you’re in the midst of dirty diapers and sleep deprivation, but in reality, it’s fleeting. Try to take time just to enjoy your baby at this stage, before your tiny newborn grows into the next stage of babyhood.
Take lots of photos and videos of you, your partner and your baby together – this magical stage goes a lot quicker than you think, and once it’s gone, you can never get it back. Now is the time to start building a photo and video diary of your baby’s journey through life.