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When you hold your new baby in your arms for the first time, the joy you feel cannot been described. Soon, however, you might find yourself overwhelmed by anxiety -- how are you going to care for such a tiny human being, especially when he or she is completely dependent on you.
For the mother, the first three months are trying as she tries to cope with the physical changes in her body, even as she takes care of the newborn, who is learning to live outside the mother's womb.
However, with a little planning and care, parents can make these three months special. In this first part of a three part series on newborn care, we talk about feeding and bathing the baby, and the baby's sleeping patterns.
Mothers need to take charge
It's natural for a new mother to be nervous and worried about managing a baby. With the right guidance, however, she soon gains enough confidence to manage independently, says Dr Jyotsna Padalkar, a practising paediatrician who has authored books on baby and child care.
"Traditionally, either the elders in the family or a maid bathes, massages and takes care of the baby. However, I believe the mother must be in charge of the baby's care, though she might need support and help from others," she says.
"Pregnant women and new mothers are bombarded with suggestions and tips. Hear them but don't follow them blindly. Talk to experienced people, read and browse the Internet, but do crosscheck the information with your doctor."
Feeding the baby
Almost every mother has apprehensions about whether her baby is well fed, when to feed her baby, how much and how long to nurse her. Most doctors prescribe on-demand feeding, ie feeding the baby when she wants to be fed, instead of going by the clock. The baby will find a way of telling you she is hungry by crying, so do not worry about the quantity or number of feeds.
Some babies feed well right from the start, others take several days before they begin to catch on, which is perfectly normal, according to Dr Benjamin Spock, in his book, Baby And Child Care. 'When you've fed your baby, hold him. Smile at him and talk with him. This way, you nurture his body, mind and spirit,' he adds.
"If there is enough mother's milk, there is absolutely no need for any kind of top feed for a normal full term baby. It's best to seek the advice of the paediatrician, who can decide if the child needs extra feeds," says Dr Padalkar. "If the mother is unable to feed the child, the newborn can be given milk either using a syringe or with the help of a spoon."
When an infant is to be fed artificial milk, the formula must be made according to the paediatrician's instructions.
The little one's bath is a very enjoyable session for the baby as well as everyone in the family -- but only if it is comfortable for the child. Ideally, it's the mother or the father who should be involved in the massage and bath of the newborn.
Massaging the baby helps him relaxes and stimulates him; it also increases the bonding between the baby and the parents.
Dr Sheila Bhave, consultant in paediatric research at KEM Hospital, Pune, says the baby should be massaged lightly using an oil recommended by your doctor.
"Make sure the temperature of the water is according to the baby's liking and not yours. If the baby is incessantly crying during the bath, it means he is not comfortable. Look at what can be changed to make it more soothing for the baby," says Dr Bhave.
After the bath, it is advisable to use some baby oil or moisturiser to replenish the oil in the baby's skin.
Like most things about babies, their sleeping pattern too, would differ from day to day and from one baby to another.
According to textbooks, a newborn baby should sleep an average of 16 and a half hours a day. But, in all likelihood, your baby will sleep more or less than 16 hours. Let her. Sleeping patterns will evolve only after the child is one year old. However, if the child is sleeping too much without waking up for a proper feed, it is time to check with the paediatrician.
Make sure the temperature in the room is suitable for the baby. It's perfectly okay to start the fan or even the AC if it is too hot. Ensure her head and back have adequate support and she is wearing comfortable clothes with no open strings, pins or huge buttons, says Padalkar.
Shibani Shah, mother of three-year-old Mehul, says she made sure he is used to some sound around when he slept -- the ceiling fan, the opening of cupboards or doors softly, television in the other room, etc. "I had seen parents, who refused to talk in the room where the child slept suffer later when the least bit of sound would awaken their child. I thought the earlier the baby gets used to sounds around him, the better."
Part II: Why does a newborn baby cry?
Part III: What problems do newborn babies face?
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