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Your Newborn Baby
The first week home with a new baby is an amazing experience. As one new father put it, "It's comparable to ocean sailing under full gale conditions." After one particularly harrowing day, this father wrote the following account:
"I've had it. For the last ten days, it seems, I've done much, if not most, of the child care in this house with the notable exception of breast-feeding. My wife's episiotomy became badly infected so she is laid up in bed and requires a good deal of care. She needs her meals brought to her and lots of TLC. Our new son needs his bath, burping, changing, clean laundry, and love. Between the two of them I am going out of my gourd. But how can you get mad at a twoweek-old baby and a sick wife?"
"The days and nights have become a succession of washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, trips to the A & P, cooking, bringing the baby to my wife for a feeding, feeding my wife, feeding me, getting up, going to bed, and starting all over again. My ulcer is back, so I cook bland food, which is driving my wife crazy. Tonight she burst into tears at the presentation of more white food. I looked down at the tray and started to laugh. She started to laugh too, and for a few moments at least we shared the ridiculous mess of our lives."
Not all fathers have it quite so bad. But even when things go smoothly, you can feel during that first week that a revolution has occurred in your life. The important thing to keep in mind is that the shock of the first week doesn't last. By the time it's over, you'll have begun to master the skills and information on the following pages and startedto adapt to changes in your life. It helps to have a relative or friend assist with household chores during the first week or month. But before you invite someone to stay, make sure you and your wife basically like and trust this person. Before you hire a baby nurse, realize that some baby nurses only care for the baby and do not do household chores.
It also helps to keep things as simple as possible during the first week. Don't invite too much company over. And when company comes, don't feel you have to clean up thoroughly or entertain lavishly. Most people understand what you're going through and will be happy just to meet the new baby.
Rooting and Sucking
Babies are born with a rooting reflex.
Instinctively babies turn toward the direction of a touch made on one of their cheeks. They will search or "root" for the object that made the touch. If you are trying to feed a baby a bottle, you can put this instinct to work. Just touch the bottle's nipple to the baby's cheek nearest you. A hungry baby will turn toward the nipple with an open mouth.
They are born with a sucking reflex, too.
Babies are born with the ability to suck liquids from a nipple. Some babies can do this instantly while others need a little practice. Babies like to suck, even when they are not hungry, which is why sucking on a pacifier can be soothing to fussy babies. If you use pacifiers, use the safe, orthodontic pacifiers that do not fall apart and that do not distort a baby's mouth.
Advice for Feeding a Newborn
Breast or bottle?
Offer your opinions, and be willing to discuss the matter, but leave the choice up to the mother and support her choice. If she can't decide, suggest a consultation with your pediatrician. Breast-feeding creates intimacy between the baby and mother as well as passing on the mother's immunities to the baby, but it is a demanding process and you can't be of much help, though you can feed the baby bottles of expressed breast milk. If and when you and your wife choose to bottle feed exclusively, you can help more.
How to help a nursing mother.
Do whatever you can make sure your wife has a comfortable rocking chair, run out for breast cream, borrow a breast pump, cook supper, whatever. You can also give your child a bottle of water between feedings to help the baby lengthen the period between feedings and to give yourself a chance to be intimate with your baby, too. You can offer to burp the baby when breastfeeding is over. To do so, put the baby comfortably against your shoulder, and rub or pat the baby's back.
Babies are born with amazing skills that they perform reflexively.
Infants can grasp your finger and hold on tight.
Brief head control.
Infants lying facedown on a crib mattress can lift and turn their heads to breathe, a nifty survival skill.
Infants react to sudden physical sensations and loud noises by throwing their arms and legs out, almost as if they were pushing the noise away and shouting, "Get out of here!"
If you hold your infant with feet touching a surface, your baby will take a few steps. Babies know how to walk, but they can't hold themselves up. It takes about a year for them to get the strength to do that. So if you try this, make sure you support your baby's head and body. Reflexive walking disappears after a few months.
Tips for Handling Infants
Babies' heads wobble on their necks, so hold them in a way that supports both the head and neck. Their backs are weak, so you need to support them there, too. Their skin is sensitive, so handle them gently with warm hands. Babies seem to like it when you lift them up and hold them close to your chest where they can hear your heartbeat. They need, and love, to be cuddled. Wear washable shirts, or put a towel over your shoulder to guard against spit-ups.