Our little daughter Alice is born on December, 24th, 2012 and now we have spent one full month with our firth born child, a lot of changes in our lives!
A new person in the house
Returning home from the hospital is the real start of our family. Now alone with this little being, we try our best to behave correctly with Alice. But the life of new parents is full of uncertainty. Internet is a great help to find answers, but still, a lot of practical information is missing or hard to find. How are you sure your baby has red buttocks? How do you know if a baby is hungry? How to be sure your baby is latching correctly on the boob?
We learnt in a few days so many things about a child. For instance, how to calm her with our little finger, she can suckle it to endure the pain and this way we can also check if she is suffering from pain or hunger.
A small being completely dependent
For several months the newborn child is entirely dependent on her parents. Not even able to move, any change in her environment could generate fear and stress. A newborn has no thinking process, so crying is a reflex generated by a stimuli, a disturbing situation. As soon as she feels cold, hot, hungry or experiences pain, she would start crying. But she would stop as soon as the disturbance is removed or replaced (making babies suckle your finger is a good way to distract them from pain). All of a sudden, she could scream as if she was going to die because I touched her with my (very) cold hands, but I just had to removed them to see her gesticulating arms and legs, as if nothing happened…
Providing food is the most critical point during the first weeks, especially for a new mum. How can we know if we are feeding the baby adequately? Is she eating often enough? Do we need to weigh her on a regular basis? This is even more complicated when the baby is drinking breast milk exclusively, it becomes very hard to know how much she drank, and every breastfeeding mom will question her milk production. Leeloo and me were deeply convinced by the huge virtue of breastfeeding, but it wasn’t simple, so be prepared. We were so depressed when Alice seemed not to eat enough, but these fears were not justified (they rarely are), and the benefits for the baby are immense.
Nowadays, the rule for breastfeeding a newborn is “on demand”, as her nutritional needs may vary from day to day, as her stomach is very small and depending on her growth, she may need to eat twice as more one day than the day before, so you can not really plan. One day Alice suckled every hour up to 12 times per day, and some other day she would be satisfied with 6 or 7 times. Moreover the milk changes depending on your alimentation, this is a nice thing for the baby as it teaches him different tastes exist and prevent allergies, but the change in taste could also make the baby drink more or less milk.
Alice required to drink milk usually 8 or 10 times a day. During the night, we tried to fed her at 9pm, then she would wake up at midnight, 3am and 6am, but some nights she managed to sleep up to 2am, and then was hungry again at 5am.
Nights in a newborn world
A baby will distinguish night from day between three and six months. To help him, it is a good idea to clearly mark the difference between the day and the night from the very beginning.
So, at night, we would only use soft lights and talk quietly, with as little noise as possible. But during the day, shutters were opened, the light was on and we made noise. We didn’t make her sleep in a separate room, isolated from noise and daylight. Furthermore, as a baby is used to noise, being surrounded by strange and loud noises in utero, silence is far more frightening for a newborn child than the vacuum cleaner.
When can we go out with a baby?
Babies have a very immature immune system. Hopefully, they get some antibodies thanks to breast milk, but they remain very fragile. Alice was born on December 24th, deep into winter, and it was freezing cold outside. As a consequence, we prevented any unnecessary outing. During all January 2013, she only went out twice, once to see the pediatrician and another time to take a radiography of her hips. Things would have likely been very different if Alice had been born in June or July, but being a Christmas baby, she stayed in the warmth of her home!
This did not prevent us to present Alice to family and friends, and a lot of them where eager to meet this new little person. Meeting with adults is not problematic as long as they wash their hands thoroughly. And if one friend as an airborne contagious disease, such as the influenza, you can buy a mask at the pharmacy.
One should be warned, though, that a one month old baby is not very excited to meet anyone, or anything for that matter, as babies could not really differentiate you from, err…, almost anything! As a matter of fact during the first month, babies don’t really see, they hardly distinguish forms close enough and with very strong contrast only.
Cleaning a newborn child
Alice’s skin is very sensitive and fragile, she needs to have her diaper changed as soon as she dirties it. Each time, we had to take special care of her umbilical cord, until it falls and we cared for her nostril then, for some days. We also cleaned her eyes, ears, and especially her buttocks, in permanent contact with poo.
Be prepared, during the first month of a baby you keep talking about pee and poo, 24 hours a day! Because poo and pee are some of the few signs from which you can guess if your baby is fine. A correctly fed baby should pee six times per day. At first, babies poop several times per day, then the number of poos should reduce to one or two per day, or even one every few days, in some extreme cases. The stools of a breastfed newborn are vivid brown-yellow and somehow granular, it does not smell very strong and is pretty soft, but not liquid.
Do baby have to bathe every day?
Most babies enjoy bathing; in a 38 ⁰C water, 100 ⁰F (not more!), they feel like in the belly of their mum again. But there is no need to wash a baby every day, as her skin is very delicate and washing it too often is more damaging to her skin than the opposite. Still, extra care must be taken to clean her genitals, especially for a young girl and urinary infection risks. Hair must also be regularly clean to prevent some irritation of the scalp. We bathed Alice every two days, but if she was especially dirty, mandatory bath!
It is less and less rare to have up to 4 generations united. Alice is lucky to have two great-grand-mothers! New parents can find comfort and advice from their own parents and grands. But in the last 60 years a lot of new knowledge has been found on newborns. Of course, the basics are still the same, and common sense is always the most important, but many common thinking are not considered harmless anymore. For example, a baby is not especially vulnerable to coldness, a common room temperature of 19/20⁰C (about 68⁰F) and adequate pajamas are all she needs. It can be as dangerous for a baby to be too hot than too cold.
Another example is the old saying that a baby can get bad habits really quick and that we shouldn’t sleep/cuddle/respond to her every needs too much. But several studies show that a baby is not able to have elaborated thinking, thus there is no cause and effect for her, she is either under a stress or not. And she will not have deeper thoughts until she is 2 years old.
If you think you should let your baby cry during the night to make her sleep through the night, think twice, a baby needs comfort and food during the night, and moreover letting her cry out could lead to stress and development disorders! A baby has very short sleeping cycles, only 40 minutes, and during the first month her stomach is so small it could only contain enough food for 2 or 3 hours, so physiologically speaking a baby is not supposed to sleep through the night until 3 or 4 months (even though some do). Moreover night is a stressful time for a baby, used to noise and movements, so it is fundamental to be present when she wakes up to show her the environment is safe and sound, this can help her build up confidence and sleep calmly.
Recovering from a delivery
Being pregnant is not a illness and delivery not an accident, still both are traumatic changes on the mother’s body. Pregnancy stretches ligaments and muscles a lot to host the fetus. But as soon as the baby is out, this missing corner stone mixes up everything in the mum’s belly. As a consequence, it is very important for the new mother, to recover and prevent any dangerous prolapse (organs falling down) by waiting calmly for her muscles and ligaments to gain back their elasticity and strength. The new mother should lay down as long as possible and avoid any unnecessary physical effort during the first 6 weeks postpartum. But this is not as easy as it seems when there is a little baby in needs! Hopefully, the father and relatives are of a great help in those times. That’s why we would like to thank Philippe and Claude for the precious help they provided us during three weeks in January!