Five Things You Should Know About Your Newborn

09/11/2014 12:50 EDT | Updated 11/11/2014 05:59 EST
A newborn baby holds his mother's hand at the intensive care unit of the Marie Curie children's hospital, on March 18, 2012, in Bucharest, Romania. Dr. Catalin Cirstoveanu is fighting an exhausting and largely solitary battle against a culture of corruption and indifference toward patient welfare that's deeply embedded in Romania. Last year, some 2,800 Romanian doctors _ discouraged by the antiquated and corrupt health system and low wages _left to work in Western Europe, according to the Council of Medics.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

As a postpartum nurse, and more importantly, as the mother to four children, realization hit me one day while I was working, when parents -- wringing their hands, staring wide-eyed at the six poound newborn in the bassinet next to the hospital bed -- declared in a whimper, "He won't stop crying." As I spoke my oft-repeated, not exactly comforting phrase, "Welcome to parenthood," it dawned on me that just because I now knew what to expect after you've expected, these little beings with the sweet smelling heads and the insistent personalities come into this world with a few rules and regulations that mom and her partner aren't yet aware of.

1. Newborns cry. Sure, it seems logical enough, but surprisingly, many new parents, wrapped up in the warm, fuzzy moments which accompany picking out the colour scheme for the nursery walls and the fantastic name that no other parent has yet bestowed upon a new human, fail to realize that their baby will cry. Some may only cry when they're hungry, wet, or cold. But others will cry because they'd much prefer to be rocked and cuddled for hours, rather than being placed in their bassinettes while the sleep-deprived parents try to recover.

Do I have any advice? Yes. Sleep when your kid sleeps. I give out this advice regularly. However, with the prospect of showing new baby off to every living relative during visiting hours, my advice is very rarely heeded. If your baby could tell you himself or herself, "Sleep now or forever hold your peace," would you listen?

2. Newborns are not born with preferences. They are rocketed, pulled, tugged, or maneuvered into this world with no preconceived notions. Although tired mommies and partners are actively looking for those traits which bind them as a family; just because grandma says that her son did not like his arms to be wrapped snuggly when he was a baby, thus this new baby will also have acquired this characteristic, 12 hour old children have not yet already decided that they are more comfortable with their arms folded up under their heads, like daddy does when he's watching the hockey game on the couch.

Those new babies come into this world with a desire to be wrapped as warmly and tightly as possible, in order to recreate the snug atmosphere of the womb. Your nurse only wants the best for the patients, as mom, dad/other mom/partner, and baby recover from a possibly long, grueling labour and delivery. Arguing with your nurse that you know that your new child has a favourite blanket when he/she is but mere hours old -- especially when that blanket is not considered safe due to thickness, plushness, or heaviness -- is not only preventing staff from giving you the best possible care, but it's just not the case.(Give it a few months, and that blanket may not be leaving your child's side.)

3. All babies have a monstrosity poop, often referred to as the "tar poop," within the first hours after birth. This is actually called meconium, and is the first feces of the newborn infant. This bowel movement does not cause your baby any pain. Your baby is not crying because this has just come out of his/her body. It does not hurt your baby. Your baby is crying because his diaper is full, and you need to change it. Meconium, although worrisome to the new parents, is a good thing. Let's get that out, and make way for the transitional feces related to the ingestion of colostrum and/or formula.

The diaper change itself will be more traumatic to the new parents, as many are convinced there is something very wrong with their infant to have produced such a large, terrifyingly black substance. Often the parents will continue to blame this frighteningly sticky, tarry poop on the fact that their child is fussy. But no. See #1: Babies cry.

4. Although mothers and their newborns are encouraged to do, what is referred to as "skin-to-skin" which is beneficial to both, as it tells mom's body that it has to begin feeding a tiny being, and it familiarizes baby with mom's scent, skin-to-skin is a terrific way for partners and their new babies to bond as well.

Skin-to-skin contact helps to keep baby's temperature within the normal range, especially in those first few hours after birth when the temperature can easily drop. Often partners are uncomfortable with skin-to-skin because other family members will stress that baby "likes mommy better." See #2: Baby does not have a preference in those first few hours after birth, as proven by the fact that the tiny human will try to latch on to anything and anyone when he/she is hungry.

Yes, skin-to-skin between babe and mother is physiologically favourable, especially if babe is having a particularly bumpy start after delivery. But once mom and baby are stable, skin-to-skin can be done by either parent, or anybody for that fact, and your baby will be appreciative. As long as he/she has a warm body to snuggle into, your baby is off to a great start.

5. Although babies cry, at this early stage of the game, there is no need to "let him/her cry it out." Perhaps that parenting ideology can be introduced later on, if that is your plan. However, within those first 24-48 hours following birth, setting your baby in a bassinette so he/she can "cry it out," is not necessary (see #1 and 2: babies need cuddling, closeness, and snug surroundings).

When you pick up your baby to soothe him/her, and he/she reacts appropriately by settling into the crook of your arm for a comfortable sleep, the oft-repeated "Oh he/she is already spoiled" may be uttered by someone in the room. Please ignore that: 24-48 hour old babies will not become "spoiled" because you are fulfilling their needs. And frankly, these needs are pretty easy to satisfy and are pretty minimal when you consider the grand scheme of your child's life.

Being held in those first couple of days after birth is not spoiling your child. Buying your kid a Macbook when he/she is eight years old may be a different issue. And I have my own ideas about that.


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