Tips for New Moms | Feeding and Soothing Your Stinky Newborn
It was 2010, and Kristina was pregnant. With triplets. While living in Argentina.
Ann to the rescue: “I emailed all the fabulous moms I know and asked them to pass along all their best pearls of wisdom for you, the new mom. Take what is useful, disregard what is not, and know that you are not alone!”
So, what was meant to be advice for a first-time mom who was a hemisphere away from her friends and family is now here for you, the mom who is awake at 3:00 AM with your one-week-old baby after having only slept for 45 minutes in the last 12 hours and you think you’re going crazy. Your nipples hurt, your body is still putting itself back together after giving birth, you can’t believe poop of that color and consistency comes out of a human that small, and that umbilical cord stump is freaking you out.
Ann’s advice to Kristina is our advice for all of you: Take what is useful, disregard what is not, and know that you are not alone!
Here’s an understatement: Breastfeeding can be super hard at times.
Don’t get discouraged the first 1 to 5 days when your milk hasn’t come in and it seems like your baby doesn’t have anything to eat. Just put him to your breast whenever he’s showing signs (stirring, rooting, hands in mouth), and it will come.
For the first month or so, expect that there may be days that you feel like you are literally breastfeeding all day. Just submit yourself to it and—if this is your first child (read: there are no other little ones running around)—spend the time watching movies, putting your feet up, relaxing, and drinking a lot of water.
And your nipples. Your poor, poor nipples. It’s hard going from decoration to workhorses basically overnight. Using lanolin or another nipple cream may be a necessity for the first month or more. Add to that the fact that you may find yourself leaking from time to time. So, if you are prone to leaking, make sure to have nursing pads on hand, especially overnight. Some moms barely leak at all and other moms wake up at night soaked.
Introducing the bottle at 4–6 weeks will make it easier for your baby to eventually transition to a bottle (for example, if you need to go back to work). The timing can be tricky: Give a bottle earlier than 4 weeks and your baby may prefer the bottle exclusively; wait until after 6 weeks to introduce the bottle and your baby may be so used to the breast that they refuse it. And of course, even with these guidelines, you may be able to introduce your baby to the bottle at anytime and he’ll take right to it.
Regularly attending a breastfeeding support group with your newborn can be invaluable for some moms. Check if your hospital (or La Leche League) runs one near you and have it at least be the one time you leave the house each week those first few weeks. Hearing what other nursing moms of newborns are going through—plus having access to a certified lactation consultant—can be the real difference between giving up nursing or staying the course. If you can’t get to a support group, KellyMom is one of our favorite online resources for nursing mothers.
Here’s another understatement: Bottle feeding can be super hard at times.
For those moms who are either forced to go straight to bottle feeding, or who make a choice not to nurse, the process of preparing bottles takes planning and math skills you thought you'd never need past 9th grade algebra. Was it one scoop of powder for every 2 ounces of water or two scoops for every 1 ounce? Don’t worry because soon you’ll be measuring and mixing without even thinking about it.
One standard practice that can add an unnecessary amount of time to bottle feeding a baby who has never been nursed is warming up the milk. We’re not sure where this added expectation came from (we’re looking at you, What to Expect), but we’re here to end the charade. Let us save you time and the constant asking for a bowl of warm water at restaurants by sharing with you that babies become used to whatever temperature formula you give them from the get go. If you are going straight to bottle feeding with formula, room temperature straight-from-the-tap H20 mixed with a side of Enfamil is like a glass of Rosé on a hot summer day to many a wee one. In fact, there’s no health or scientific reason why a baby needs a warm bottle, so go ahead and save yourself some time and skip the fancy bottle warmers.
Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, just when you start feeling like you’re getting into something resembling a routine, babies go through growth spurts from time to time, and you’ll experience "cluster feedings". Usually you will realize your baby is cluster feeding after she has needed to be fed for the 9th time in 5 hours and you’re convinced that something’s wrong. It’s totally normal, and every baby goes through it 2–3 times in the first two months. Even though it’s normal, it doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating. If you find yourself in tears while in the midst of a cluster feeding, that’s okay! Many, many moms have been there and have done the same thing.
And here’s the advice that will probably make you roll your eyes, but we have to give it because it’s important: It flies by so try to enjoy every moment of feeding your baby in the early days. Even in the middle of the night when your baby is up for her 10:00 PM, 12:00 AM, 1:30 AM, 3:00 AM, 5:30 AM, and 7:00 AM feedings. Seriously, that's how it is at first. But it gets better.
Sleeping Baby and Soothing a Baby
It’s a universal truth: Never wake a sleeping baby.
But that’s when your baby’s already asleep. How can you get your baby to sleep? The good news is that in the early days and weeks, your baby will sleep a lot. Like 20 hours a day for the first week or so and then like 16 hours a day after that for a while. Don't be worried; you don’t need to wake them or stimulate them that early in the game.
Some moms abide by the five S's: swaying, shh-shhing, singing, swaddling, and sucking. These are time-proven ways to soothe a baby (when feeding doesn't seem to get the job done). Sometimes you have to keep trying these until you find a combo that works. For some, swaddling and sshhh-shing baby usually does the trick. With others, it’s singing and a pacifier.
Speaking of swaddling, it can really be key for soothing most newborns. They’ll show you how to do this at the hospital (and if they don’t, ask!), but you can always turn to the internet for some good tutorials on how to swaddle.
If you’re a mom who needs routine—even though “newborn” and “routine” don’t really go hand in hand—focus on getting the baby to be awake at certain hours of the day, and you may find that sleep will follow. For some moms, keeping baby stimulated between 8:00–9:00 AM, 12:00–1:00 PM, and 6:00–7:00 PM worked well because they found their baby then slept for a few hours after each of those times. Getting into this routine of eat-play-sleep and just doing that all day works well for some.
And how do you keep your baby asleep? Some moms swear that swings are awesome for getting and keeping a newborn asleep. Others say that background noise is the way to go (furthermore: a fan or white noise is preferable to music since it’s easier to loop).
Finally, during the first few months, there will be times when the baby just cries...and cries...and cries. Sometimes putting a crying infant down in their crib or swing and giving them a few minutes to have at it can help. Take heart; it may not feel like it when all you hear is screaming, but they will grow out of this phase.
There is so much poop you have to deal with when it comes to newborns. So much! And there are many, many colors and consistencies you get to experience. First you have the crazy tar-like black poop, called meconium. Then in time turns yellowish with a mustard/cottage cheese-like consistency (if breastfed) or brown-tan-green-ish with a peanut butter-like consistency (if formula fed).
Babies poop a lot at first—like six times a day—and then most times it goes to once a day after a few months. But honestly, the regularity of babies’ poop is all over the place, and it’s mostly all normal. Some babies have poop in their diaper every single time they are changed for the first 3 months, and some babies poop once every 2 to 3 days (or further apart!). Your pediatrician and/or lactation consultant can help you figure out what normal means for your baby.
When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, you may find it helps to change her and then feed her. That way when she falls asleep nursing you can put her right down without having to wake them up to change them after. And once you get the hang of it, it may also help to change her diaper without turning on the light (a bright nightlight can help here) so that she’s not stimulated and may fall back to sleep more easily.
As your baby’s umbilical cord stump starts to dry out and gets closer to falling off, it can be stinky. Don’t be alarmed; it’s totally normal. Until the stump falls off, you’ll want to fold the tops of your baby’s diaper down so it doesn't touch the umbilical cord stump. Also, you are not alone if you go to change your baby one day and the stump is gone and you can’t find it. Just assume that it went out with one of the diapers and move on!
For some last, random bits of advice: Keep little stations of wipes, burp cloths, and different toys in each room so you're not running around from room to room. And a lot of moms have found it helpful to have a diaper changing station on each floor of the house.
The early days are hands down the hardest to get through with your baby. Whether you’re a new mom, you’re already a mom of four, or you have newborn triplets...it’s an incredibly trying time for every single mom. This is when your baby needs you the most, and he relies on you more in the early days and months than at any other time of his life. So, when you’re bleary eyed and sore and frustrated and you think you can’t do this mama thing, know that you can. It will get better, and you are not alone!