Guide on how to care for a new-born baby

Mother with a new born

SO you had a baby! Whether through vaginal delivery or cesarean section, a new baby has come into the world – ready to be cared for and educated by their guardians.

Usually, the primary caregivers of newborn babies are their mothers, who are expected to just know how to breastfeed, change, bathe, talk to and play with the new baby, while getting along with the rest of their lives as usual.

Caring for a baby takes skill and practice. No one is born knowing how to bathe, dress, feed, and diaper a baby. Most parents learn these skills as they go along. Don’t worry if you feel awkward and uncertain at first. Before you know it, looking after your baby will seem natural, you will hardly remember that it was something you had to learn.

Mothering is not that automatic and in a lot of cases, mothers do not know how to breastfeed and need to be guided in the correct ways to breastfeed the new baby.

The children that are bottle-fed also have challenges as most of the instructions on the tins act as guides only and are not set in stone. One of the other challenges with bottle feeding is the cleanliness of the bottles; they have to be appropriately cleaned, sterilized and stored correctly.

There are many schools of thought of how to care for a newborn baby, grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters, best friends, former classmates, neighbors and even the woman in the queue at the antenatal clinic all have their own suggestions on the best way to handle a newborn baby.

The most important aspect of raising a newborn is feeding the baby correctly. Those mothers who choose to exclusively breastfeed, their babies are usually told to breastfeed on babies' demand, this essentially means when the baby is awake give them the breast until they remove themselves. If you are unsure of how to breastfeed, it is advisable to speak to your doctor or midwife who will be able to demonstrate in person the correct way to breastfeed.

Should I use cloth nappies or disposable diapers? A question many mothers have asked themselves. At the end of the day, the diaper used should keep the baby's bum dry and not irritate baby's delicate skin. There is even no harm in using a combination of the two: Cloth nappies while at home and on those trips out of the house where changing may be a challenge carry disposable diapers.

Is baby powder (talcum powder) needed? Some children are actually allergic to having baby powder placed in their diapers early in life. If you notice irritated skin, try spending a day without applying powder and see if the irritation continues.

Bathing a newborn baby can seem like a scary venture. For first-time mothers, practicing with a doll may be helpful. If you are lucky enough to have a mother-figure who has had a baby before, let her teach you how to bath the baby in the comfort of your home.

The choice of soap is something else that may present doubt, the best form of soap for a baby is one that is not heavily perfumed and if possible, contains some form of moisturizing oil. By the way, you don't have to bathe your newborn baby every day for the first two months!

How do you play with a newborn baby?  I was once asked. Babies are human beings and like all human beings we crave interaction, even though a newborn cannot say words, facial expressions and body movements usually act as communication.

As human beings we start learning language from birth, that is why it is essential to speak to your child from birth, ask questions, explain what you are doing and where you are going, introduce your baby to people. If you can read to your child every day, using colorful books that have bright pictures and point out the different objects in the pictures, believe me, your child is soaking it all in.

Talking to your child helps the child to look at your lips and by the time the child is four months old, they are usually trying to mimic some of your mouth expressions and sounds. The earlier you speak to your child in proper language, the quicker your child will understand and respond to you.

It may seem complicated and scary, but the most important thing to do while caring for a newborn baby is to enjoy your time with the baby and take as many pictures as possible, they grow fast.

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