How to Prepare for a Baby: A Guide for New Parents

As your due date approaches, and you get more and more excited to meet your new baby, you may find there are some things about parenting you don’t know yet. Feeding, soothing, and caring for your baby, all the while still caring for yourself, can be a difficult load to manage. Below is a guide on how to prepare for a baby to help you feel ready when they get here.

Preparing for Feeding Your Baby

One of your first challenges as a new parent is feeding your baby. If you choose to do so, breastfeeding is a very natural process and provides so many benefits for mom and baby.  The AAP recommends breastfeeding through at least your baby’s first year of life. That said, you might find yourself needing some support and guidance along the way.

Taking a breastfeeding class can be helpful to familiarize yourself with different feeding positions, baby’s latch, and how to be assured baby is getting enough. We also have lactation specialists at The Youth Clinic who can help with feeding or answer any lactation questions you may have.

Even if you plan to fully breastfeed your baby, having a pump can be very helpful. If you will be caring for your baby full time, a hand pump might be sufficient. If you plan to go back to work, a personal double electric pump will be essential. You can also rent hospital-grade pumps. Many insurance companies will cover the cost of the pump so check the details of your plan and which pump is covered.

Babies generally eat every 2-3 hours but plan to feed your baby on demand if they want to eat more frequently. In the first few days, you may need to wake your baby to eat. If you plan to feed your baby formula or expressed breast milk from the bottle, here are some things to keep in mind.  When a baby is bottle feeding, they might start out with eating only a 1/2 oz at each feed but typically increase to 2 oz by 2 weeks of life. If you are unsure if your baby is eating enough, talk with your baby’s provider. Weight gain is the best way to tell your baby is getting adequate milk.  

Understanding Your Baby’s Sleep Needs

Newborns sleep a lot, up to 17 hours a day. On the first day of life, babies typically are very sleepy, and it may be hard to wake them to eat. After mom’s milk comes in or when they are bottle feeding regularly, most babies are on a cycle that includes eating, sleeping, and some awake time. Because newborns need to eat so much, anticipate being up with your baby at least every 3 hours at night to feed. After your baby is gaining weight well and above birth weight, they might have a little longer stretches of sleep.

Although new babies do not have many self-soothing skills to put themselves to sleep, establishing healthy sleep habits can help them be better sleepers in the coming months. If you feed your baby then have a brief routine of song, books, or rocking, this can help them learn to fall asleep without eating. If your baby falls asleep in our arms, lay them down so they learn to sleep in a safe sleeping environment. Ideally, you’ll eventually lay your baby down to sleep while they’re awake but drowsy and have them fall asleep in their crib or bassinet on their own.

It is recommended that your baby sleeps in your room in their own sleep space for the first 6-12 months. We would recommend a bassinet, pack-and-play, or crib. We do not recommend products such as Doc-a-Tot, rock-and-play, or swings. An acceptable sleep surface is flat, has a firm mattress, breathable sides, and is separate from your bed.

Learning to Care for Your Baby

Taking care of a new baby can be intimidating at first because they seem so fragile. But as you and your baby get used to each other it will become much easier. Support your baby’s head when picking them up, and do not leave them unattended on a surface that they can roll or wiggle off of, such as a couch or changing table. It can be a learning process to figure out how best to soothe your baby. Potential ideas are sucking, swaddling, white noise, or gentle rocking.

Wash your hands after changing diapers and before feeding to keep your baby healthy. Some experts recommend avoiding crowded areas and minimizing visitors as your baby’s immune system is not fully mature. Encourage visitors even with a mild cold to stay away, and have any visitors wash their hands prior to touching your baby.

Call your newborn’s provider if:

  • They are not feeding well
  • Are having any problems with their breathing
  • Are extra fussy and you cannot calm them
  • They have a temp greater than 100.4
  • They are not having at least 4 wet diapers after day 4 of life

Remembering Self-Care

It is difficult to prepare yourself for the sleep deprivation and general stress of becoming a new parent. Still, it’s important to care for yourself so that you can also care for your new baby. When you are sleep deprived, a simple task can become difficult and it can become more difficult to manage stressful situations such as soothing your baby or figuring out breastfeeding.

Planning with your partner or support people can be helpful. Think about how you and your partner are going to divide parenting duties. Are you going to break it into different tasks? Are you going to take shifts at night? If mom is working on breastfeeding, can partner take a shift during the day so mom can nap? 

Don’t be afraid to tap into friends and family for support. Is it beneficial to have grandparents come and help? Can you identify a support that you can call up if you are having a bad day to come and give you a break? Try to be specific about what you need for help. Do you need a load of laundry done? Someone to hold the baby so you have some time to yourself? Would a meal help? 

Be aware of signs of postpartum depression and anxiety. Baby blues are normal and usually consist of tearfulness, worry, or mood swings for the first few weeks postpartum. Postpartum depression and anxiety, however, are more intense and last longer. Symptoms can include withdrawal, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, hopelessness, or feelings of worthlessness. Please discuss any of these symptoms with your provider.

Being Prepared for Your New Baby

Knowing how to prepare for a baby can be exciting and overwhelming all at once. It’s important for new parents to seek help when they need it. There is truth in the saying, it takes a village to raise a child. The Youth Clinic is looking forward to being part of your village!  

Feel free to contact the nurse line, our lactation team, or your provider if you have questions or concerns about your new baby.

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