Having a baby, especially your first is one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have. It is also one of the most challenging times as you learn how to care for a newborn baby and the realities that come with that such as sleep deprivation, recovering from the birth and shifts in hormones. I wrote the book ‘Survive and Enjoy Your Baby’ as guide to help new parents find their own path to parenthood. It provides safe evidence-based information and options around all the stages and challenges you may face in the first year.
Preparing for your new baby includes getting all the essential nursery equipment. My top 5 essentials are a cot, pram, change table or mat, car restraint (capsule or convertible carseat) and baby bath.
There is no need for a bassinet as they are not covered by mandatory safety standards and in some cases can be unsafe. If you do want a bassinet, look for a simple design with a sturdy frame, good air flow, no padding around the sides, no hood or ribbons and fabric draping around it. As soon as your baby starts to roll, move them into a cot.
There are many other items that you will need or want as your baby gets older such as a highchair, a portable cot for holidays, baby pouch or carrier, play pen or safety gate and many more. Ask friends and family what worked for them and purchase new equipment as it is required.
How do I sleep my baby safely?
The safest place to sleep your baby is in a full-size cot in your bedroom. This should be made up with only a bottom sheet, top sheet and blanket made from natural fibres that breathe. Please don’t use cot bumpers, pillows or quilts as these have been associated with fatal sleep accidents.
Your baby should always be put to sleep on their back. Most newborn babies benefit from being wrapped or swaddled, this helps them to feel contained and secure, like they were inside their mum’s tummy. You can use either a swaddle bag or a muslin or other natural fabric wrap.
How will I feed my baby?
Choosing how to feed your baby is a very personal choice and one that should be made with all the information. The research shows that breast is best however not all mums choose to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. Talk to your health care providers such as your midwife, doctor, or obstetrician. Attending a breastfeeding education class can be helpful in learning more and setting you up for success.
Newborn babies cry a lot more than most new parents think they will. In the early weeks they cry a little more each day until this peaks around 6 weeks of age and then reduces. Just knowing that this is normal and that you are not doing anything wrong is important to know. There are many strategies that can be used to get through these early weeks and running through a list of what could be wrong often helps. Does your baby need a feed, a nappy change, are they too hot or cold, needs a cuddle for comfort, needs to burp or overtired?
Getting out and about with your baby:
It’s important for you and your baby to meet other people and make other connections with close friends and family. In the early days, some planning needs to go into this, learning what you need to pack in your nappy bag, feeding before you go often helps, dressing your baby in extra layers if cold.
Humans crave human interaction. Joining parent groups and mothers’ groups is great but difficult during the pandemic. You could join an online group such as my virtual ‘Survive and Enjoy Your Baby Mothers Group’ it’s a chance to meet other new parents and ask all of your questions.
Baby play and development:
Playing with a young baby is as simple as talking to them and smiling, this is early communication and they will try to interact. You are your baby’s favourite toy to begin with. Babies learn through play; tummy time is excellent for your baby’s gross motor development. This helps to strengthen your babies’ neck and shoulders ready for rolling and later crawling.
As your baby gets older more play opportunities will come but floor play is always the most essential for their development and for reaching their milestones.
My book ‘Survive and Enjoy Your Baby’ has all the information you need for your baby’s first year of life including chapters that go into much greater detail: nursery equipment, caring for your baby, sleep & settling, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, introducing solid foods, play & development, getting out and about, return to work and parents health and wellbeing. The book is available from all good book stores and my online shop.
Belinda Joyce is a midwife, maternal & child health nurse, mother of 4 and author of ‘Survive and Enjoy Your Baby’. She has over 20 years experience helping parents to find their own path to parenthood.
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