Newborn Tips and Tricks for New ParentsThis post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for more details.
Bringing a newborn home from the hospital is such a special time, but once reality hits it becomes a daunting task. What’s a new parent to do?
When our son was born he was in the NICU for 9 days. During that time the NICU nurses taught us valuable newborn tips and tricks.
When we brought our baby home our dear friend (who was a Nursery and Post Partum Nurse) also shared her tips and tricks. I don’t know what we would have done without this information and that’s why I’m excited to share this huge list with you!
Let’s dive right in!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Please consult your physician for more information!
I wish I could tell you that breastfeeding is a breeze. While it may be for some people, it’s hard work for others. That being said, it’s definitely worth it!
Photo Credit: Pinterest pin
As you can see, there are a lot of different positions to hold your baby while breastfeeding. If one position doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to try another one. You may even need to try a different position for each side (e.g cross cradle on left and football on right).
What worked for me:
Going into the hospital, I had every intention of using the football hold. But that all changed when the nurses guided me to try the cross-cradle hold. I tried it once and have used it ever since.
I like this method because it helps you control your baby’s head as you guide him to your breast.
You want your baby to go straight onto your breast for the best latch. Do this by planting his chin into your breast then “roll up” his mouth onto your nipple so that he is in a position where he’s slightly looking up.
Do NOT pull back breast tissue to clear his nose – this will not only make him only be on your nipple but will also make you sore very quickly. If he can’t breathe, he will move his head. If necessary, very minimally push breast tissue away from his nose with your thumb while directing as much nipple AND areola as possible into his mouth.
What worked for me:
As you guide your baby to your breast, try to press down on the top and bottom of your breast. (It may sound funny but picture yourself holding a cheeseburger.) This not only helps your baby feed more easily but breathe easier too since your breast isn’t pushed against his nose.
Before attempting to latch, make sure his mouth is wide open and his tongue is out of the top of his mouth. To accomplish this, pull down his lower jaw by putting gentle pressure on his chin and watch for his tongue to release from his palate. If you don’t do this, again, you will be sore very quickly.
If his latch is not correct, it is better to break suction and re-latch. Always break suction before removing him from your nipple. This will prevent stretching of tender tissues. To break the suction, place your little finger in the corner of his mouth.
Tip #1: You do not want to hear smacking sounds when your baby is feeding. It may sound cute but you’ll have a sore breast when he’s finished feeding.
Tip #2: While in the NICU, I used pillows to prop up my arms. When I got home I learned that the Boppy was fabulous – it made life so much easier!
Tip #3: If you begin to feel pain when breastfeeding (from sharp shooting, to throbbing and itching), you may have a yeast infection. I tried everything possible and this is how I finally cured my yeast infection.
What if my baby falls asleep while nursing.
It’s inevitable that your baby will fall asleep before getting enough food. As much as you’ll want to let him sleep you’ll need to wake him up to ensure he’s gotten enough to eat.
What worked for me:
If you’re feeding using the cross-cradle hold, with the hand that’s holding your breast, keep one finger on his cheek. If he falls asleep or slows down on his eating, gently tap on his cheek to encourage him to start eating again. (Babies like to play tricks on us. Their mouth will be moving while they’re eating but they’re really sleeping. So, if you don’t hear any swallowing noise it’s highly likely that your baby is sleeping.)
If waking him up by tapping his cheek doesn’t work, tickle his feet, touch him on his belly, back, under his arm, or behind his knee. You may even have to take off his clothes. And if all else fails, gently pat his forehead with a wet washcloth. (These things may sound harsh or even make him “mad” but will definitely wake him up to ensure he continues to feed adequately.)
If you’re breastfeeding you’ll need a good pump. Check with your insurance company to see if they’ll cover it for you. If they don’t cover it, like mine, it is well worth the investment. I use and recommend the Medela pumps. (This Medela Starter Pump is very similar to mine!)
It’s important to make sure you use the correct size breastshields with your pump. This will ensure comfort for you and maximum milk output. Consult this size chart or a lactation consultant for more info.
Tip: If your breasts are sore, rub some olive oil on the part of the breastshields that is right up to your breast. It feels so much better than having the plastic rub against your skin.
If your breasts or nipples become tender you can also use Medela’s Hydrogel Pads or rub Lanolin or olive oil on them. If you do use Lanolin you’ll want to wash it off before your next feeding. You do not have to wash off the olive oil as it is absorbed. It is best to wash your hands then gently wipe your nipples off with warm water before feedings. Do not use soap on nipples as it is drying.
Tip #1: The tubes on your pump will likely get a bit of moisture in them. When this happens, once you’re finished pumping, leave your pump running for a few minutes.
Tip #2: If for some reason you need to only pump on one side, you’ll want to remove the tubing and plug up the side of the pump that you’re not using. If you don’t do this you won’t get any milk out of the side you’re pumping. (Just trust me on this!)
Whether bottle or breastfeeding you want to make sure you get all of the extra air out of your baby’s tummy. If you don’t, you’ll have a very fussy baby on your hands.
In addition to burping by patting your baby on the back, you can also run your hand up his back while applying gentle pressure (as if you’re pushing any air bubbles up his spine).
Getting rid of gas.
When our little guy first got gas I thought it was cute…then he started getting fussy and it was not fun.
Tip #1: One of the things that helped were gas drops.
Tip #2: You can also lay your baby on his stomach to help get the gas out (make sure you stay right there beside him though). Another idea is to place him on his side and pat his back.
Tip #3: If your baby is fussy during his nighttime feedings, place his pacifier in his mouth immediately after you’ve finished feeding. Babies love to suck and this will make him think that he’s still feeding and hopefully he’ll fall asleep.
Note: Along with getting gas when feeding, babies also retain air when they cry a lot.
Although you’d probably love to hold your baby all day, you just can’t. It’s good for him to have time by himself (with you keeping a close watch on him, of course).
Tip #1: Our little guy loved his portable swing and rocker. (These are both great because you can easily take them with you when you go to visit friends and family.) Place the swing or rocker by the window so that your baby can “explore” and check things out.
When I first placed my baby in the swing he’d sit in it for a few minutes and then start fussing. I had to learn what worked for him. Turns out that he liked to be warm. When I tucked a blanket around him he’d sit there as happy as a lark.
Note: If your baby falls asleep in his swing or chair, it’s perfectly okay for him to take his nap there. This helps him have versatility to sleep in different places.
Tip #2: You can also place your baby on a blanket on the floor and put a few colorful items around him. (Black and white items are even great for newborns.)
Create the environment you want your baby to have.
Make sure his room is nice and dark. When you come into the room to feed, keep any talking to a minimum and whisper if you do talk.
Do not turn on lights but use nightlights instead. The biggest tip that worked for me was playing classical music. (Not only is it soothing but it’s also great for your baby’s brain development.)
My nurse friend encouraged me to try letting him listen to classical music at night while he slept to keep him from being fussy. I found a radio station that streamed online for free (just google it) and played it on an iPad in his room. Once I knew it worked well for him I bought an alarm clock that also has a radio on it. He continues to listen to classical music all night!
Warning: My nurse friend highly recommends that you not sleep with an infant in your bed. It may be easier to have them right there when you’re ready to feed in the middle of the night, but infants have tragically smothered because they are unable to move themselves away from a sleeping adult’s body.
During the day you don’t want it to be dark so leave your blinds open.
I used a noise machine because I wanted him to be able to sleep through just about anything. I also made sure to make noise as I went about my household chores.
Tip #1: Swaddling is key for a newborn. It not only gives him a sense of security but makes him feel safe and as if he’s back inside your tummy. I highly recommend Aden & Anais swaddle blankets. I love them because they are large and made of muslin. (You can learn how to swaddle a baby here.)
Tip #2: I also recommend baby sleep positioners. Simply place your swaddled baby in the middle of the positioner. This keeps him nice and snug (just like your uterus). These are also great for when your baby gets older and starts moving around a lot.
Tip #3: A few other things to try are placing blankets under your baby’s legs, or when he’s laying on his side roll up a blanket and put it behind his back.
Your baby will be fussy at times. But if he’s overly fussy you definitely need to figure out why. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Is he hungry?
Is he hot/cold?
Does he have a dirty/wet diaper?
Does his tummy hurt or does he have gas?
Tip #1: The pacifier can be your best friend. At first I thought pacifiers were just to keep my baby quiet, but then I learned that babies like to suck because it’s soothing to them.
Tip #2: Try to soothe him by swaddling him and laying him across your legs on his side. Pat him on the back for 5-10 minutes then place him in his crib (or you can pat his back while he’s in the crib).
As you’re patting him on his back, start to get softer and softer so that by the time you’re barely patting him he won’t feel when you remove your hand (and wake up).
Tip #3: If he’s crying in his bed and the pacifier keeps falling out, put breast milk on the pacifier. Hopefully this will keep the pacifier his mouth while lulling him to sleep.
There’s no exact science!
I would compare learning how to take care of a newborn to learning how to dance with a new partner. Early in the process there will be times when you step on each others toes, but you’ll eventually figure it out and it will get smoother!
Each baby and family is different. I wish I could tell you exactly what will or won’t work for your baby, but I can’t. What I can do is encourage you to try these tips and tricks. The majority of them worked for me and made life a lot easier (and I hope they will work for you too)!
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