I have taken it upon myself to compile a list of things you need to know about your baby before he or she arrives in the hopes that you’ll avoid common mistakes and have a great response for that person who will no doubt tell you you’re doing it all wrong (aside from ‘DO ONE’ that is…).
I truly believe this list is more important than anything else ANYONE will tell you in the lead up to your baby arriving, so read it, print it, pin it, memorise it, stick it on your phone and fridge, make your partner read it and his mum, your mum, your sister, your neighbour and that nosey good for nothing on the bus. Basically we ALL need to know this, so spread the good news that YOUR BABY IS NORMAL!
1. Your baby has been born next to your bum hole for a reason
Gross. I know what you’re thinking, ‘excuse me? Did you just talk about my bum hole?’
Yes my friend, yes I did. Your bum hole is covered in bacteria (obviously!), and that bacteria has come from your gut lining. There’s a mixture of good bacteria, and naughty bacteria mixed in with your poo, all of which has been picked up by your stomach contents, from the lining of your gut, on it’s journey to your butt. And as it exits, some of that mixture is left behind, no matter how clean and thorough you think you are.
Now, your foetus and her dark, watery, warm world is completely sterile. There isn’t a single naughty bug or germ in her little universe which is great whilst she is there, but not so great when she leaves, so what better way to be introduced to germs than to pass by and pick up the ones you’ve got sitting around your bum.
As your baby leaves your body, she will undoubtedly pick up the bacteria that had once been lining your gut, and this is her first ever immunisation. Straight away her body will kick into action, creating antibodies against those microbes she has picked up, which are harmless to her, but give her body the chance to practise creating bacteria fighting cells without putting her new little body in danger.
It is by no coincidence or accident that we enter the world between the legs, it is a very cleverly thought out design by Mother Nature to give us an immediate head start in a world riddled in disease and bacteria. C-Section babies don’t have this advantage, but thankfully we don’t tend to give birth in caves anymore and the hospital environment is a clean one, but the baby should be put naked against either mum or dad’s skin immediately after birth with as little contact with hospital staff as possible.
Hospital staff are covered in hospital bacteria, which are VERY resistant to antibodies, so don’t let too many people handle her whilst you’re there.
2. Your baby expects to breastfeed within the first hour
A baby is born with one thing on his mind and that is survival. This all consuming need to survive dictates literally everything your baby does, and is the main concept behind all of the points in this post. Your baby does not think, or behave or do anything on purpose, he is purely surviving and every last movement and sound your baby makes is out of his control. He has absolutely no idea what he’s doing, or why, his body has taken over and is in autopilot and nothing he does is voluntary. Please remember this!!
In order to survive your baby needs food and will go looking for it within the first hour of birth, as long as he is in skin to skin contact with mum. If your baby is wrapped up in a towel and placed in that nice plastic cot by your bed, he will lie there like an angel. Not because he is an angel, but because he thinks he is going to die and he is conserving his energy. Harsh, but sadly very true.
A baby must always ALWAYS be placed in skin to skin immediately after birth (unless of course there is good reason not to such as a medical emergency). Whilst in skin to skin your baby, regardless of your own intentions, will make his way to your breast for his first feed, and even if you plan to bottle feed you might as well allow your baby this one feed because it is more important than you’ll ever realise – trust me.
3. You only produce a teaspoon of milk in the first 24 hours
…and your baby can survive without food for 2 to 3 days!
That’s because having a full tummy is not important in these early days, and the placenta provided enough food and fluid for the baby to survive without anything for 36 to 48 hours. So it is no coincidence that it takes this exact amount of time for the mum’s milk to come in (the bit where you wake up with balloons attached to your chest and fountains of milk spraying in all directions!)
The first two or three days is all about quality, not quantity. Colostrum (your first milk) is packed full of good stuff…so much so that it baffles even the cleverest of people. It’s your baby’s second bout of immunisations, coats your baby’s entire digestive system with a sticky and slimy protective layer which stops any nasties from getting in, but it’s main job is to shift your baby’s first poo!
Acting as a brilliant laxative colostrum sends all that black, gooey minging meconium heading straight for the exit, just in time for mum to have a rest. (Your turn dads!)
4. Your first 24 hours will lull you into a false sense of security
It’s quite important you know this, because it is after this point that some mums who are breastfeeding tend to give up. Because a baby’s tummy is the size of a 20p coin, and colostrum only amounts to a teaspoon, once they’ve eaten then all there is left to do is sleep! All that labouring and feeding for the first time is hard work, and your baby will sleep. For ages. And you will do a fist pump and gloat on Facebook at how well your baby fed and is now sleeping.
24 hours later, you’ve got a snapshot insight into living hell and you’re on the phone to the labour ward telling them they’ve sent you home with the wrong baby.
I’m really sorry but this is normal. It’s not your fault, you haven’t done anything wrong, and your milk is fine. Your baby is trying to survive, again. This time your baby is ensuring you don’t go wandering off too far with all that food you’re carrying around. Constant and relentless feeding patterns are a baby’s way of ensuring you are always close by (an important point to remember) at all times, but more importantly your baby knows that by feeding very regularly (almost hourly around the clock!) she’s putting in a long term order for milk. The more your baby feeds now, the better your supply will be months down the line.
So when your baby wakes up after his long post birth sleep and infrequent feeds and you’re facing endless hours of feeding remember you need this to happen in order to have the best supply possible.
5. Baby’s are meant to feed a lot at night
Are your friends telling you their little ones slept through at 5 weeks and advising you on how best to reach this parenting goal? If so, completely ignore them. Smile, nod and feel sorry for those little babies. Of course some babies genuinely do start sleeping through the night very early, but these babies are not very common and it is not something you should be spending your much needed energy on achieving.
Frequent night waking is a clever little response your baby has been born with, that protects him from all of those night hunting carnivores that place your baby at immediate risk of being eaten. Ok so your three bed semi is unlikely to be crawling with dangerous animals, but he doesn’t know that – remember, his actions are completely out of his control. Waking at night frequently once again ensures you’re always near by, but there’s more to it. You produce the best breastmilk at night. It tastes different, contains different ingredients and is produced faster at night, so if someone told you that you can eat gourmet food all day but the real Michelin star desserts fit for royalty are only served at night I’m pretty sure you’d take advantage.
6. You are a walking talking habitat
You are your baby’s home. Not her crib, nor her nursery or even your house, but you. She lived inside you for 40 weeks and she doesn’t expect that to change just because she is on the outside now. Your body is crawling in good bacteria that she needs to be in contact with constantly, you produce hormones that regulate her different body systems and make her brain grow and your breasts independently adjust their temperature according to where your baby is lying on your body to keep her warm. Have you ever seen baby monkeys? They cling onto their parents, day and night. And which mammal is our closest relative? You got it! If they were strong enough, they would cling onto us every minute of the day – because we are their home.
So observe the fact that your baby is in a deep coma after his feed, until you put him down. He will stir, whine, wriggle and cry almost every time he is put down, and you will think it’s because he is hungry again, and then you’ll think you don’t have enough milk, but you’re wrong. Your baby thinks you’re leaving him on the cave floor all vulnerable and open to being eaten by cave wolves, and he knows he’s going to be completely useless in a fight, so he will cry until you pick him up. This leads nicely to…
7. You absolutely can NOT spoil a baby by picking her up too often
I find myself banging my head off walls when I hear people saying this to new mums, or new mums ignoring their crying babies because they don’t want to spoil them. Ridiculous.
Return to point 2 for an in depth reminder, but if scrolling up is too much hard work then I’ll say it again
YOUR BABY CANNOT CONTROL ANY OF HIS ACTIONS.
Your baby CANNOT
- Manipulate you
- Annoy you
- Become attention seeking
- Make conscious decisions about what he is going to do next
By ignoring a crying baby you are ignoring a desperate cry for help. Imagine you were in the street screaming for help and everyone walked by smiling sympathetically at you, refusing to engage with you in any way just in case it made you feel safe, or secure? Stupid isn’t it?
By ignoring a crying baby you are doing just this. Naïvely believing you are doing nothing wrong when in fact your baby believes he is in danger, or going to starve to death. By picking up a crying baby you are having a conversation with him.
You are telling him that every time he feels sad he needs to communicate his feelings and someone will always be there to listen.
You are telling her that whenever she is lonely she will always have her mum.
You are telling him that each time he is scared there will be someone there to protect him.
Now think about this, hard. If picking your baby up is giving your baby these (and many other) messages, what sort of adult do you think he will turn into?
An insecure one? A closed one who bottles up his feelings? An introverted worrier, suffering anxiety? A child who believes his mum wont listen when he’s scared?
Nope. The complete opposite.
When your baby is born she will want to be held, all the time, because she loves you and you are literally her whole world, so pick her up.
8. Leaving a baby to cry causes physical damage to the brain
This speaks for itself, and it also sparks huge controversy. I wont go miles into detail, because a lot is covered in the last point, but leaving your baby to cry causes massively elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol which causes the brain to break down and can affect your baby for the rest of her life.
It goes against everything we should be doing. Can you imagine a monkey sitting in one tree watching her baby screeching in alarm from the next tree? It would make us question what on Earth she is thinking leaving that poor defenceless thing in an obviously distressed state. So, don’t do that.
9. Crying is not a sign your baby is hungry
Crying is a sign your baby was hungry, and is now just pissed off because your ignored her when she was telling you she was hungry. Babies have subtle ways of telling us they are hungry and it is when these signs are displayed that we should be feeding them.
Look out for
- Stirring in her sleep
- Turning her head towards anything that touches her face
- Shoving her hands in her mouth
In the eyes of your baby, these are really obvious signs she is hungry and if you ignore them (or miss them, because you wasn’t sure what she was doing) then she will cry and become distressed because she thinks you’re going to leave her to starve to death.
10. Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt
No matter what you’ve heard, what you’ve read or what someone has told you, breastfeeding is not a painful experience if it’s done right. If it hurts, then there is something wrong and you might need a bit of help correcting things.
And when I talk about pain, I mean toe curling excruciating pain that brings tears to your eyes. Breastfeeding can twinge in the first days as your nipples adjust to stretching, but by no means should you be recoiling in agony.
In very basic details, always make sure your baby has a very large mouthful of breast (it is breastfeeding not nipple feeding). Your nipple needs to reach the back of the baby’s mouth.
Use your tongue now to feel the roof of your mouth, starting behind your top teeth. It’s hard and there is a rough ridge. If your nipple is rubbed against this, it will hurt. Now move your tongue back a bit more. You can now feel your tongue move up onto the hard palate, the roof of your mouth which is domed and solid. If your nipple is rubbed against this it will hurt. Now move your tongue back further until to reach the soft cushiony, muscular soft palate. This is where you want your nipple to be.
Does that give you some idea of how far back your nipple needs to go? I hope so, because get that right from the start and it’ll never truly hurt. If it is still hurting then you know there is something else that is not quite right and that can be a multitude of things that a health professional can talk through with you. But these issues aren’t common, so don’t get wrapped up in them at the moment, just concentrate on that latch!
I truly hope you’ve learned something from this post that will help make life a little easier when your bundle arrives. By understanding what’s going on with our babies we are in a much better position to parent and nurture them. If you have any advice you want to share let me know in the comments, I will definitely be doing another post like this one soon, as 10 points is definitely not everything we should know!