Caring for your newborn baby - The first three weeks

By Nola Moulton, RN BN IBCLC MSN/MA(c) on March 07, 2007
Here are some common questions parents have in the first three weeks after they bring their baby home from hospital:

Our baby's umbilical cord looks sore. What should we do?

The umbilical cord will dry up and heal, much like a cut with a scab. It is normal for the area to look 'sore' or red in the first few days. Fold the waist of your baby's diaper away from the area to let it dry. You don't need to apply rubbing alcohol or any ointments; actually, this may slow the healing process. If the scab has not fallen off in about 10 days or if there is a bad smell, talk to your health care provider.

Sometimes my baby seems to be looking right at me. How much can he really see?

Newborn babies see very well at close range (between 31 and 46 centimeters or 12 and 18 inches). Their favourite things to look at are your face and the faces of other family members. They also enjoy looking at objects that have black and white patterns. Newborn babies cannot see soft colours yet. Hold your baby close when you feed him; this gives him the best view of his favourite thing - you!

My baby's hands and feet feel so cold. Does this mean I am not dressing her warmly enough?

Cool hands and feet are normal for a newborn in the first few weeks of her life. Her blood flows first to her brain and other organs, and last to her hands and feet. When you are concerned about your baby's warmth, just feel the back of her neck with your hand. If this area is warm, then she is, too.

We have been told different things about how and where our baby should sleep. What should we do?

Put your newborn baby on his back to sleep. This helps to protect your baby against SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).Where your baby sleeps can make a difference to how much sleep you get. If you keep your baby in your room within arm's reach, you may get more sleep. Newborn babies tend to sleep better when they are close to their mothers.

When my baby daughter cries, I usually pick her up, cuddle her and talk to her. My partner says I am spoiling her. Is this true?

No, you are not spoiling your baby. You are responding to her request for help. Your baby cries to let you know that she needs something. It is her most important way of communicating to you. By responding to your baby with comforting actions, you are teaching her that she can depend on you. She will learn to trust you and she will feel safe.

Our two-week-old baby suddenly wants to breastfeed all the time. I don't think I have enough milk. What can I do?

Babies go through growth spurts regularly in the first year of life. This usually means that they feed more often for a couple of days, and then return to their previous feeding pattern. Your body will increase the amount of breast milk to meet your baby's needs. Talk to your health care provider or local breast-feeding support group for more.

Our baby is one week old and still has her days and nights mixed up. She breast-feeds a lot during the night and sleeps lots during the day. What can we do to get her turned around?

This is a normal pattern for newborns, who breastfeed more often at night, when the milk-producing hormones are at their best. That means that a baby who feeds through the night helps her mother to produce an abundant supply of milk. Keep in mind that your baby has no idea of time as we know it. She lives by what her body tells her she needs. If you can take a nap with her at least once during the day, you will feel more rested and better prepared for the nights.

My baby's nose sometimes gets stuffed up. What can I do to help him clear the mucous?

One thing you can try is to make your baby sneeze by gently tickling under his nose. You could also use a tissue that has been twisted into a wick shape and try to 'tease' the mucous out.Don't use cotton-tipped swabs; the cotton tip may come off and get lodged in your baby's nose.

How long should my newborn daughter feed at each breast?

Let her drink for as long as it takes her to complete a feeding. This can vary from feeding to feeding. She will take only one breast at some feeds and both breasts at others. Watch your baby and not the clock. When you know that your baby has a good latch, your nipples are not painful and you can hear her swallowing, then she will get what she needs and will often fall asleep when she is finished feeding. When you have questions about what's happening with breast-feeding, contact your health care provider or local breastfeeding support group for information.

Our son had a clear complexion when he was born. Now he is five days old and it looks like he has acne on his face and his body. What's happening?

Newborns can develop what is called a 'newborn rash' which can look like acne. You will see raised red areas that may have a whitehead or pimple in the center. The rash will often appear on the face, head and body. This rash can look very sore but is common in many babies. There is no treatment needed; it usually goes away within hours or a few days. If the rash continues for more than a few days, and if it gets worse instead of better, talk to your health care provider.

My baby is almost three weeks old. I feel overwhelmed all the time and cry often. I know that I should be very happy but I don't feel that way. I don't know what to do. Am I going crazy?

You are not going crazy, but you do need to talk to someone about how you feel. Many women have unexpected feelings about the life changes that come with being a mother, such as confusion, sadness, irritability and anxiety. These feelings may begin soon after birth or months later. You may be experiencing postpartum depression, and you can't deal with it on your own. Call your health care provider or local counseling services for help.

Nola Moulton is a registered nurse who has worked in maternal/child care since 1988. She lives in Yellowknife, NWT.

By Nola Moulton, RN BN IBCLC MSN/MA(c)| March 07, 2007

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