Australian Doula College

Australian Doula College

by Renee Adair


I’m sure we all agree that one of the trickiest jobs, as a new parent, besides navigating lack of sleep, is to begin to understand your newborn baby’s needs.

As a new parent with reality biting at your heels, you will no doubt experience some mixed feelings and challenges as you transition into the world of parenthood.

Before I go on, I want to flag that there is a monumental amount of information from well-meaning friends, family and experts on how you should care for your baby. And everyone will have an opinion on what’s going on for your baby at any given time.  For the record, I firmly believe that you are the expert and that my main objective here is to purely offer some guidance.

One of the easiest ways to best understand the needs of your newborn is to think about where they have just come from. The womb is a warm, dark, fairly noisy, fluid environment where your baby has not had to work for food or comfort. They have naturally been rocked to sleep, can constantly hear your voice and know your smell. They do not know night from day.

All of sudden they land here. Like a tourist in a new destination, they need a guide. That’s you! Your baby has never felt clothes on its skin, had air in its lungs, been exposed to bright lights nor knows how to put themselves to sleep.

So broken down and simply put, the most basic of a newborn baby’s needs are food, sleep and contact and guidance from you.



The best way to begin to get to know your baby is to hang out with him or her with as little distraction as possible in the first few weeks.  Try not to pass your baby around to much or head to the shopping mall.  Babies don’t do well when overstimulated and when you are out and about in the early few weeks post birth you may miss what your baby is telling you. They are actually good communicators.

Babies do need lots of love, cuddles and skin-to-skin contact but it’s best if that is just with mum and dad for the first few weeks. It helps ease the transition into their new world and you’ll have a much more settled baby.

Keep things basic and simple at the start and try not to get sucked into the void of the 62 billion dollars spent every year by unsuspecting parents across the globe on baby ‘stuff’.   A baby doesn’t need a lot of ‘stuff’ and ‘stuff’ doesn’t make you a better parent.

Whether you breast or bottle-feed look out for and respond to your baby’s ques. Feed on demand and use feeding time to touch, connect, talk to and make eye contact with your baby.

And on the all-illusive need for sleep, remember where your baby came from and that your baby needs to be taught to sleep.

Be prepared to operate on a 24 hour clock with them and get familiar with the universal tired signs of a newborn: – Grizzingly or crying, jerky movements, clenched fists and grimacing.  All babies will display one or all of these signs and they get easier and clearer to spot around two/three weeks.

Follow the same rituals every sleep/bed time around that 24 hour clock and act when you see those signs, trusting your baby is ready for sleep. Babies learn from consistency and repetition, so darken the room and wrap your bub the same way and place them down in the same sleep place every time. You may even like to add some white noise.  These rituals will begin to create a more relaxed baby and a pattern and routine will follow.

Understanding the needs of your newborn or a child at any age can present challenges at times but trust your instincts, rest and stay flexible, be patient, don’t forget to laugh and parent from your heart space and in no time you will be the expert.


You may also like to read:

Unsettled Behaviour in the Newborn Baby

Preparing for a Newborn

How to Stress Less with your Baby