July 02, 2020
There is no way to truly prepare yourself for the surreal experience of bringing a newborn child home. A new addition to the family upends sleep schedules, but also brings a daily dose of love, joy, and excitement. Every parent experiences uncertainty as they adapt to this new lifestyle, but fortunately, pregnancy provides nine months to prepare (and to pore over baby names).
Before leaving the hospital, your doctor will check to ensure your baby is healthy. They’ll want to make sure that your baby’s breathing and temperature are stable and confirm that the baby can feed properly. Common problems for newborns, such as jaundice, will be investigated before the child is sent home. So, parents can feel pretty confident that if they’re being discharged from the hospital, they have a healthy child who is ready to go home.
While each baby’s needs are unique, one of the best ways to lower stress levels during the first few weeks after birth is to have an idea of what coming—and prepare accordingly.
First and foremost, new parents should ensure they have a pediatrician they trust. Selecting a pediatrician should happen before birth, and it’s important to select one that is convenient: infants should have their first visit with a pediatrician within a few days of being discharged from the hospital. As they get older, some children prefer a pediatrician of the same sex, which is worth considering.
Another big decision (which should also be made prior to birth) is whether to breast or bottle feed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns be breastfed, but this is not always possible for some mothers. A pediatrician can help you make this decision as there are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. Either way, the most important thing is that the baby's nutritional and developmental needs are met.
Get the basics nailed down. A newborn soils their diaper up to 10 times a day— mastering how to change a diaper can ease one of the most frequent sources of stress for new parents. Newborns should be bathed every three days, and have a specific set of bathing needs. Water temperature (a warm, not hot, bath with a waiting dry towel) and extra care is particularly important.
Newborns sleep between 14 and 17 hours per day, so managing their sleep schedule is essential. Few children sleep through the night before they are two or three months old (in some cases even older), so parents need to be prepared to sleep in shifts or otherwise wake at odd hours to feed and tend to their newborn. It is also important that parents not share their bed with a newborn, which puts them at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Finally, new parents should prepare to encounter some common newborn problems. Newborns cry a lot—it’s a primary way they communicate—and decoding their tears can help address their needs. Colds, coughs, and fevers can afflict newborns, and skin concerns, such as diaper rash, are also common. Learning how to identify common ailments can help parents determine when their newborn needs to go to the pediatrician, and what is less serious.
Bringing a new child home can be scary and there’s no surefire way to prepare for everything. It’s okay to be scared, but basic preparations can help parents feel confident they are ready to face the challenge.
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.