It’s normal to be worried but don’t panic, okay?
Between all the books, the internet, social media, your friends and family and your birthing class, you’ve probably come up with a laundry list of things to worry about, as soon to be new parents. Epidural or not? Natural childbirth at home or in a hospital? Midwife or doctor? Bottle or breast? These ARE important decisions but there is plenty of independent information and resources available to help you make them.
What I’m talking about here are the little worries that get caught in your brain at two in the morning, as you consider this momentous change in your life. Things like whether or not the baby’s poop is the right color and consistency. Things like if the umbilical cord stub is supposed to look like that or not? Should we bathe the baby in the first few days, or should we wait? Things like that.
So here’s my first bit of advice: trust your gut. People around you wish you well but sometimes even the best advice can be more than you need. It’s not always easy to trust your gut when you’re in a haze of feedings and sleeplessness, but it’s always your first and best option.
Here are five other common new parent worries that you shouldn’t worry about:
Worry #1: Holding the baby all the time will spoil them.
I remember a grandmother saying this to her daughter, in the hospital: “Don’t pick him up every time he cries, he’ll never learn.” Learn? He’s five minutes old! This is one of those things where your instincts telling you to pick up your crying baby are right on the money. You cannot spoil a newborn by holding them too much. In fact, studies have shown that the more contact that newborn has with you, particularly in the early days, the more secure they feel and the more relaxed they will be when it’s time to start setting up things like sleep routines (not for a long while, trust me!)
Worry #2: The baby is breastfeeding for different amounts of time than the book said they would!
The kind of information you find in baby books are guidelines and only that. Most books will tell you that a baby will feed for about twenty – thirty minutes at each breast, every couple of hours. If your baby is feeding for fifteen minutes every three and a half hours, it’s not a reason to panic. Are they gaining weight (four to five oz a week at first)? Are they producing tears when they cry? Are they producing six to eight wet diapers a day and several with stools (24 hours)? They are fine. The amount of time a baby spends at the breast is not an indicator of how much milk they are getting, so take a deep breath and check their diaper!
Worry #3: Germs!
Yes, it’s true that newborns have not built up immunity to disease and should be kept away from people with communicable illnesses and out of crowds who might want to touch them, in general. It’s why babywearing is such a good way to get about with your little one at first. They love the close contact and you can control who touches them. But there’s no need to get crazy about it, becoming a recluse in your own home or forcing visitors into a hazmat suit because you’re afraid of germs. Germs are a reality of life and as your newborn gets bigger and stronger, they’ll be more able to fight off any germs they do come into contact with. Being overprotective and overcautious could actually leave them vulnerable to diseases later in life, as they won’t have developed the necessary immunity that comes when they get a few colds and fevers.
Worry #4: Hurting the baby
I hear this one a lot from new dads in particular: the baby is so tiny and parents equate tiny with fragile as glass! Yes, their necks need support and no, you don’t want to poke the fontanelle (soft spot) on the top of their heads, but babies are more resilient than most people think. You can dress them and move their arms and legs without feeling like you are handling a piece of priceless crystal. The key with babies is to remember that they’re not in full control of their own movements: sometimes they look like bobble head dolls, as their neck muscles strengthen and they gain some movement control. That is until they bop you on the nose with their hard heads! Keep them safe from falls and bangs but don’t worry about struggling to get their sweater on: there will be bigger struggles than that in the years to come.
Worry #5: Crying
Babies cry for every reason under the sun: hunger, wet diaper, over stimulation, fatigue, gas, boredom. You name it, they’ll cry about it. For a very good reason: they can’t speak. This is their way of letting you know something is up with them. It’s normal for babies to cry and it takes very little time before you learn how to console them and stop the crying. Now, if your newborn is crying without stop for hours on end, check with your doctor or postpartum doula about the possibility of their having colic, but for the most part, it’s just a reality of life that babies cry.
These and a dozen other thoughts will come to you in those first days after you bring your newborn baby home. It’s why having a postpartum doula on your team can be essential: someone you can ask about all the little things that are worrying you, someone who can show you what you need or want to know, someone you can trust. If you are interested in what a postpartum doula can do to help you through those early days, give us a call!