Being a parent can be fun, gratifying and occasionally exhausting. Trust your instincts and remember to take it one day at a time.
Tips for Parents, Partners and Siblings
- Sleep when your baby sleeps, night or day.
- Don’t worry about housework; it can wait.
- Do something for yourself every day.
- Ask for help when you need it and accept help from others when it comes (e.g. help with such things as laundry, housework and shopping).
- Make time for your partner.
- Join an infant/parent group and meet other parents for support.
- Join a breastfeeding support group.
- Carry your baby in a front baby carrier/sling, so that you can still get things done.
New Parenting Partner
- Don’t be afraid to hold your newborn.
- Talk to your partner and keep the lines of communication open.
- Help out around the house with laundry or grocery shopping.
- Help your partner recover. Get up with the baby in the middle of the night if possible.
- Give your partner a massage.
- Ask for help when you need it.
Helping siblings to adjust
- Try to keep your child’s routines and activities similar to before the baby was born (e.g. bedtime).
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings. This lets your child know you understand.
Feeling exhausted, irritable or overwhelmed? Postpartum blues are extremely common among new parents, particularly a few days after delivery. However, if your symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, it could be postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can affect new parents and their parenting partners; it can develop anytime during your baby’s first year. If you think you or your partner may have postpartum depression, talk to someone you trust and consult your healthcare provider.
Caring for Your Baby
What is jaundice?
Jaundice is very common in newborns. It causes the baby’s skin and whites of the eyes to turn a yellow colour. Most jaundice is not harmful and usually occurs during the first 3 to 5 days of life. However, some babies could develop serious complications. Fortunately, this can be prevented. For details, consult the Jaundice information available at www.EOHU.ca/breastfeeding. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned.
Feeding Your Baby
Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your growing baby. Breast milk contains most of the nutrients your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. You can start to introduce solid foods at around 6 months; however, breastfeeding can continue up to 2 years and beyond. In addition to offering many health benefits, breast milk is convenient and is available anytime, anywhere and always at the right temperature.
The first few weeks can be challenging for some new parents and their infants as both are learning to breastfeed at the same time.
During the early weeks, allow your baby to feed on demand with at least 8 effective feeds per day. It’s important to know that the amount of milk your body produces will increase in response to your baby nursing at your breast. In other words, the more you breastfeed, the more milk your body produces. If you’re experiencing challenges with breastfeeding, get help now. Make sure to keep stimulating your breasts to maintain your milk supply, expressing a minimum of 8 times per day and once during the night.
Breastfeeding is a learned skill. Seek out support from other breastfeeding parents or consult our resources for Breastfeeding Help. You can also find information on breastfeeding at www.EOHU.ca/breastfeeding or by calling your Public Health Nurse.
If you have made an informed decision not to breastfeed, help and information is available for you. Please discuss it with your healthcare provider or your Public Health Nurse.
Don’t give your baby honey (even if it’s pasteurized or cooked) before 1 year of age, because it can cause a serious illness called botulism. Corn syrup is also inappropriate for infants.
Signs that your baby is feeding enough
- For the first 2 to 3 days, he has 1 or 2 large or several small bowel movements that are sticky and dark green (almost black).
- For the first 3 days, he has 1 or 2 wet diapers per day.
- By the fourth day, he has 2 or more bowel movements in 24 hours. The bowel movements are becoming more and more yellow in colour.
- By the fifth day, he has 6 wet diapers. This is harder to notice in disposable diapers.
- He has at least 8 effective feeds in 24 hours.
- He has no signs or symptoms of dehydration.
Get help if:
- Your baby is very sleepy and hard to wake for feedings.
- Your nipples are sore and don’t start to get better.
- Your baby still has dark green (almost black) bowel movements at 4 days of age.
- You have fever, chills, flu-like symptoms or a red painful area on your breast. If you have these symptoms, nurse often, apply warm wet towels and get lots of rest. If you don’t feel better after 6 to 8 hours, call your healthcare provider.
What you eat is also important!
Nursing parents should maintain a healthy diet as recommended in Canada’s Food Guide. For more information, visit www.UnlockFood.ca or call 1-866-797-0000 to speak to a Registered Dietitian for free.
Holding Your Baby Skin-to-Skin
Skin-to-skin, also known as “kangaroo care”, involves holding your baby naked (in only a diaper) on your bare chest with a cover on top of both of you. It’s the best place for your baby to adjust to life outside your womb. Placing your baby skin-to-skin on you will help him adapt to his new environment as he can smell you, hear you and feel you.
Holding your baby skin-to-skin will also help you and your baby exchange sensory information that stimulates the following behaviours in your baby: rooting, searching for the breast and staying calm. These are important behaviours that can help with breastfeeding success. Skin-to-skin will have additional positive effects for your baby by:
- Indicating to you when he’s ready to feed
- Maintaining his body temperature
- Maintaining his heart rate and respiratory rate
- Maintaining his blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Calming him when in stress or during painful procedures
- Supporting healthy growth and development
Skin-to-skin should be done immediately after the birth of your baby and for as long and often as possible in the first few weeks of life. If you’re separated from your baby due to premature birth or illness, we encourage you to take every opportunity to hold your baby skin-to-skin. This practice will help both you and your baby develop a strong bond, and can help get breastfeeding off to a good start. Holding your baby skin-to-skin can also be done by your partner or another person you’re close to. We encourage EVERY baby to be placed skin-to-skin.
Understanding Your Baby
- Enjoys bright or contrasting colours, even though his range of sight is limited
- May initially be attracted to black and white patterns (e.g. checkerboard, bull’s eye)
- Starts to turn toward you when he hears your voice, at about 7 days old
- Likes soothing, rhythmic sounds, especially music
- Is startled by loud, sharp noises
- Responds to touching, stroking, cuddling and gentle movements
- May enjoy baths
- Likes to be held in different positions, such as on your lap, in your arms or at your shoulders – this will help strengthen his muscles and allow him to see the world in different ways
- Prefers sweet smells
- May recognize the smell of your breast milk
- May not like strong perfumes
- Needs to suck, not just for food but also for comfort
- Has a “rooting reflex” that will gradually disappear (if you stroke your baby’s cheek, he will turn to that side)*
* If your baby doesn’t suck, swallow, or “root” well, call your healthcare provider.
Your baby needs to be changed every time you feed him, or as needed. Use a wet cloth and wipe only from front to back. Babies who are breastfed may have a bowel movement with every diaper change. Bottle-fed babies will have fewer and thicker bowel movements.
If you have made an informed decision to circumcise your son, follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for after-care.
Bath Time/Umbilical Cord
Each day, wash your baby’s face, hands and bottom. Because soap tends to dry the skin, use it mainly on your baby’s bottom. Every other day, until the umbilical cord falls off, you can give your baby a sponge bath or a bath in a baby tub.
Make sure you dry the umbilical cord well after bathing your baby. It will heal best without putting anything on it and should fall off in 7 to 14 days. If it becomes crusty or foul smelling, have your healthcare provider check it for infection.
Why Do Babies Cry?
All babies cry, but for different reasons. Although hunger is the most common reason, here are some others:
- Discomfort: Your baby may be in an uncomfortable position, have a wet diaper, or clothing that pinches.
- Gas pains: Your baby may need to burp.
- Room temperature: Your baby may be too hot or too cold. Dress him as warmly as you dress yourself, plus one more layer.
- Need to suck: Your baby may enjoy a pacifier. If you’re breastfeeding, wait until he’s 4 to 6 weeks old before giving him a pacifier, as it may interfere with breastfeeding.
- Need to be held: Your baby may need to feel safe and secure.
- Over-stimulation: Your baby may need rest or sleep.
Sometimes, healthy babies can cry for hours at a time and can’t be soothed. This is common in the first 5 months of life, starting in the first few weeks and peaking at around 2 months. The good news is that it will end.
No matter how long your baby cries, never use shaking to stop crying. This can cause serious and permanent injury. Remember, the crying will come to an end.
For more information: Understanding and Coping With Your Child’s Crying.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as “crib death”, is the sudden, unexpected, and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby. SIDS usually occurs during sleep, and is most common between 2 and 4 months of age, with fewer cases after 6 months. However, it can occur at any time during a baby’s first year of life.
We don’t know the cause of SIDS, but research suggests that there may be a combination of factors involved, including genetic, metabolic and environmental factors. Some babies are at greater risk of SIDS, including those that are born prematurely or with low birth weight, male infants, multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) and Aboriginal infants.
Unfortunately, SIDS cannot be predicted or prevented. However, providing a safe sleep environment for your baby can help reduce the risk of SIDS, as well as the risk of accidental deaths such as suffocation. Below are current recommendations for a safe infant sleep environment:
- Place your baby on his back to sleep. While babies should spend some supervised time every day on their tummies (to help develop their neck muscles), at naptime and bedtime they should be put on their back.
- Keep your baby away from tobacco smoke. Make your baby’s room and your house smoke-free, and choose a non-smoking caregiver. Don’t allow anyone to smoke around your baby.
- Place your baby to sleep in your room, in a crib, cradle or bassinet that meets current Canadian safety regulations. Your baby’s mattress should be firm, flat and fit snugly in the frame. Strollers, swings, bouncers and car seats are not intended for sleep.
- Don’t bed-share. Sharing an adult bed, sofa or other soft sleeping surface with your baby increases the risk of SIDS. Your baby is also at risk of becoming trapped, smothered or suffocated.
- Keep soft materials out of your baby’s crib. Don’t use sleep positioners, or place bumper pads, comforters, stuffed animals, pillows or other items in your baby’s crib or bassinet.
- Make sure your baby’s room isn’t too warm. Put your baby in light sleepwear that’s comfortable at room temperature. If a blanket is needed, use only a thin, lightweight and breathable one, or a wearable blanket.
For more information: Sleep Well, Sleep Safe (available at BestStart.org)
Prevent the Flattening of Your Baby’s Head
Because you place your infant on his back to lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), his head may develop a flat spot at the back.
To help avoid this:
- Lay your baby’s head at the head of the crib one day and at the foot of the bed the next day.
- Give your baby lots of supervised tummy time and side lying when he’s awake.
- Change toys and mobiles frequently so that your baby will turn his head more often.
- Change the way you feed, hold or carry your baby.
- Avoid long periods of time in baby seats, swings and car seats.
Helping Your Baby Grow and Discover
Babies make all kinds of sounds. Try imitating your baby’s sounds and facial expressions. Talking to your baby, singing or making sounds will help him learn how to talk.
Familiar songs and rhymes will help to calm your baby. Try this one:
The moon is round, round as can be,
(Trace a circle with your finger around the baby’s face, touching gently.)
Two eyes, a nose, and a mouth,
(Touch under your baby’s eyes, on his nose and on his mouth.)
(Here’s the smile, of course.)
Smoke-Free Homes and Cars
Babies who are exposed to second-hand smoke tend to get more colds, ear infections, bronchitis and asthma. In fact, they are twice as likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Keep your baby’s lungs healthy. Never allow anyone to smoke in your home.
Second-hand smoke in motor vehicles can be up to 27 times more concentrated than in a smoker’s home. That’s why in Ontario, it’s against the law to smoke in motor vehicles with passengers under 16.
If you or someone you know is interested in quitting smoking, visit Tobacco Cessation Programs and Services.
Your Baby’s Health
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- The soft spot on your baby’s head changes.
- The umbilical cord has an odour or discharge.
- There is discharge from your baby’s eyes or ears.
- Your baby’s bowel movements are bloody or green.
- The diaper has been dry for more than 4 hours.
- Your baby has a fever.
- Your baby is vomiting; he could dehydrate quickly.
Signs of dehydration
- Dry mouth
- Sunken eyes or dark shadows under the eyes
- Decrease in urine and urine that’s darker than normal
- Skin that stays compressed when slightly pinched
- Pale skin
- Sunken fontanelle (soft spot on baby’s head)
Trust your gut feeling! If you’re concerned, see your healthcare provider.
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