BABYLAND — Having a new baby in the house is wonderful. It goes so fast. Before a parent can turn around, it seems the youngster is walking, talking and learning all the words to the Phineas and Ferb theme song.
In those few, fast and furious weeks after a new baby comes home from the hospital, life seems to speed up and slow down all at once. For many parents, those weeks are a chance to get to know the little life they’ve been watching grow in utero for nine months. It can also be a stressful time, a time of little sleep and a time to be overwhelmed with the process of taking care of a newborn.
The following is advice from two nurses who work with newborns. Both women also have children of their own, and know what it’s like to deal with stress both on a medical level and a personal one.
Elizabeth Starr, Labor and Delivery Nurse
Mother to a two-year-old girl
“Being a labor and delivery nurse is so thrilling. I love being able to share in such an awesome experience with so many families. It is truly the start of an amazing journey. I think the biggest piece of advice that I tell to first time parents (and to second and third time parents) is that when they get home with their new little baby, Mom's only job is to rest on the couch or bed with that baby and nurse, sleep, cuddle, and just love on her baby.
“Dad's job is to bring her water whenever she is nursing, bring healthy snacks/meals and make sure that visitors don't overstay their welcome. The first days and weeks at home are crucial for establishing a nursing relationship and a huge time of recovery for Mom! I tell couples to convey to well intentioned family and friends that if they want to come visit, they need to bring a meal and clean something when they visit. Mom is not to be a 'host' when someone comes by.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps. Babies usually have their nights and days backwards for the first several weeks. It is important for Mom (and Dad if he can) to take naps with the baby during the day. It’s OK that baby is waking frequently to eat at night. Keeping your baby close to you (in a bassinet next to the bed, co-sleeper attached to the bed, etc) will help everyone get more sleep. When your baby is close it is so much easier to be able to get to her quickly, nurse, maybe change a diaper and put her right back to bed.
“And the biggest motto everyone should have is 'Surrender'. There are going to be times when you feel like you are not doing enough, when the baby is crying and you just don't know what to do, when the house is a mess and you haven't showered in a day. Just surrender. Babies are only babies for such a short amount of time. Relish in the newness of life and don't stress about the housework.”
Stacy McEwan, Pediatric Nurse
Mother of a three-year-old boy and one-year-old girl
“Most of my thoughts about newborns are more related to being a mom and not so much about being a nurse. Two big things come to mind. Do your best to get sleep in the little moments you can. If your baby cries a lot and you have done all you can, put them in their crib and step away. Please try not to feel bad about it either, it is much better than shaking your baby. I see too many babies with serious injuries due to shaking.
When it comes to sickness and newborns, it’s hard to tell just what might be going on. With my own babies, I rarely check their temperature, but a baby's temperature being too high or too low can be disconcerting in a very young baby. If your baby has a fever over 101.5 the doctors will probably do testing to make sure it isn't something serious. Most of the time it is just a cold, but it is hard to know with a young baby."
*Editor’s note: the advice from healthcare professionals cited in this article is based on their own personal opinions and experience and is not necessarily the views held by the medical community at large.