Life with a newborn can be pretty crazy. Every day is different and each week brings new challenges to overcome, from coping with breastfeeding, to settling your baby into a sleep routine. It can seem never ending! As a midwife and health visitor, my experience is that a few tips on preparation and coping can make all the difference. I have put this together in this ultimate guide to breastfeeding, soothing and sleep.

The ultimate guide to Breastfeeding

  1. Women who seek help with breastfeeding have a higher success rate. Think of ways to ensure breastfeeding success before you even give birth, talk with friends who had a good breastfeeding experience, read everything you can about breastfeeding and find out what support services are available locally to you.
  2. Use hospital resources. Ask if there’s a breastfeeding class or a lactation consultant on staff. Push the midwife-call button each time you’re ready to feed the baby, and ask a midwife or health care assistant to watch you and offer advice.
  3. Prepare. At home, you’ll want to drop everything to feed the baby the moment he/she cries for you. But it’s important to take care of yourself first to get success breastfeeding. Get a glass of water and a book or magazine to read, because breastfeeding can take a while; and visit the bathroom first!
  4. How to relieve breast engorgement.  If your breasts are engorged or you have blocked ducts try a warm compress. A heating pad or a warm, wet washcloth works, but a flax pillow is even better!
  5. Heat helps the milk flow. If your breasts are sore after breastfeeding, try a cold pack. A bag of frozen peas works really well!
  6. If you want baby to eventually take a bottle, introduce it after breastfeeding is established but before the 3-month mark. Many experts say 6 to 8 weeks is the ideal time frame.

Top tips for Sleep

  1. Stop obsessing about being tired. There’s only one goal right now: Care for your baby. You’re not going to get a full night’s sleep, so you can either be tired and angry or just tired. Just tired is easier 🙂
  2. Take shifts. Try to get as much sleep as possible by taking shifts. One night it’s one parents turn to rock the cranky baby, the next it’s the other parent’s turn. You might want to work out a system for the weekends, when your partner is off from work, but then the other takes feeds during the week.
  3. The old adage “Sleep when your baby sleeps” really is the best advice. Take naps together and go to bed early whenever you can to get as much sleep as possible.
  4. What if your infant has trouble sleeping? Do whatever it takes: Nurse or rock baby to sleep; let your newborn fall asleep on your chest or in the car seat. Don’t worry about bad habits yet. It’s about survival initially!

Tips for Soothing a Newborn

  1. The key to soothing fussy infants is to mimic the womb. Swaddling, shushing, and swinging, as well as allowing babies to suck and holding them on their sides, may trigger a calming reflex.
  2. Play tunes. Forget the dubious theory that music makes a baby smarter, and concentrate on the fact that it’s likely to calm him, play whatever works!
  3. Warm things up. Nappy changes can sometimes trigger a meltdown. Make warm wipes using paper towels and a pumpable thermos of warm water. You can also buy an electric wipe warmer for a sensitive baby.
  4. You’ll need other tricks, too. Doing deep knee bends and lunges can help to calm a lot of babies down, in fact any kind of movement is often soothing, so try lots of different techniques.
  5. Soak to soothe. If all else fails try a warm bath together. You’ll relax, too, and a relaxed parent can calm a baby.

Partner Duties

  1. Let them be. Many first-time parents hesitate to get involved with the newborn for fear of doing something wrong and incurring the wrath of the other parent. Allow your partner to make mistakes without criticizing them.
  2. Ask your partner to take time off from work after all the relatives leave. That’s when you’ll need the most support and appreciate your partner being around. There is more for them to do, and they get some alone time with their baby.
  3. Divvy up duties. Divide up household duties. Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of who will be responsible for shopping, cooking, washing and cleaning.
  4. Remember that your partner wants to do some fun stuff, too. Don’t just delegate your partner to the boring tasks or a supporting role, allow them to get involved with fun activities such as bathtime and baby massage.

Staying Sane

  1. First, ignore unwanted or confusing advice. In the end, you’re the parents, so you decide what’s best!
  2. Forget about housework for the first couple of months. Concentrate on getting to know your baby. If anyone has anything to say about the dust piling up or the unwashed dishes, smile and hand them a duster or the washing up liquid!
  3. Accept help from anyone who is nice – or naive – enough to offer. If a neighbor wants to hold the baby while you shower, say yes!
  4. Got lots of people who want to help but don’t know how? Don’t be afraid to tell people exactly what you need, it’s one of the few times in your life when you’ll be able to order everyone around!
  5. But don’t give other people the small jobs. Changing a nappy takes two minutes. You’ll need others to do time-consuming work like cooking, sweeping floors, and doing a load of washing.
  6. Reconnect. To keep yourself from feeling detached from the world, go outside on your own, even for five minute or organize coffee with friends.

Out & About

  1. Enlist backup. Make your first journey to a big, public place with a veteran parent. Having someone with you for support will keep you from becoming flustered the first time you go shopping with your newborn. If you’re on your own, stick to places likely to welcome a baby, such as story hour at a library or a baby class.
  2. Keep your changing bag packed, there’s nothing worse than finally getting the baby ready, only to find that you’re not.
  3. Stash a spare. Always keep a change of adult clothes in you change bag. You don’t want to get stuck walking around with an adorable baby but mustard-coloured poop all over you.
  4. Finally, embrace the chaos. Keep your plans simple and be prepared to abandon them at any time!

If nothing else, remember that everyone makes it through, and so will you. Soon enough you’ll be rewarded with your baby’s first smile, and that will help make up for all the initial craziness.

If you are looking for more newborn advice, read the blog post about feeding your newborn babycombination feeding and colic