First days at home with your baby

At birth, babies are abruptly thrust into a new world for which they’re not prepared. Sleeping, eating, diapers, bathing, going out... How do you take care of your baby? And how do you take care of yourself, when you’re having to fight fatigue, feed your baby day and night, restore strength to your perineum, keep your relationship on track...? Between your happiness and your guilt about “not doing enough,” returning home also means learning a new way of life: not as a couple anymore, but as a family.

10 TIPS FOR TAKING CARE
OF YOUR BABY AND YOURSELF

 

 

 

Shhh! The baby’s sleeping...

To ensure healthy development, let your baby follow his or her own sleep cycle, and don’t awaken a baby who’s tossing and turning. 

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Before birth, babies sleep for a large part of the day and generally move at night. So it will take a little time – probably 3 to 6 months, sometimes longer – to adapt to a new schedule and sleep through the night. Up until age 1, your baby will also need to take three naps during the day. A baby’s sleep cycles are short (about 50 minutes during the first two months, and then 70 minutes until age 3), and phases of tossing and turning during sleep are entirely normal. Don’t wake the baby – it may not look like it, but your baby is sleeping!

Tip

If your baby misses the start of a sleep cycle, you’ll have to wait for the next one. Put your baby down in a quiet room, on his or her back, as soon as you see signs of fatigue. The bed should be designed for safety, with sides to prevent the baby from falling, without any pillow or sheet or duvet (an infant sleeping bag sized for your baby is best), and without any plush toys, necklace or pacifier. As for the temperature, 18°C to 20°C is ideal!

Did you know...?

Babies aren’t afraid of the dark!

Their fear develops at about age 2, and it’s important to let your baby sleep in darkness at night. However, the baby’s bedroom can be left illuminated during the day.

Feeding your baby

If you choose to breastfeed your baby, nursing “on demand” will help you meet the baby’s nutritional needs and provide adequate nourishment each day.

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During the first few days, after being fed continuously through the umbilical cord, your baby needs frequent nourishment: 8 to 12 feedings per day on average, although there is no set rule. What’s more important than the number of feedings, the length of feedings or the amount of time between them is whether they’re effective. You’ll know for sure if your baby is consistently putting on weight and producing at least 2 large bowel movements and 5 to 6 truly wet diapers per day. Night-time feeding is important in order to satisfy your baby’s needs and promote milk production if you’re breastfeeding.

Tip

Alternate breasts during a single feeding or from one feeding to the next, to ensure you empty them completely on a regular basis. If you choose bottle feeding, prevent the risk of germs by washing your hands, using a clean bottle and preparing it right before feeding the baby. Pour a few drops of milk on the back of your hand to be sure it’s not too hot.

Did you know...?

Burping isn’t essential!

If you think your baby needs to burp, hold him or her against you upright for several minutes to make burping easier. Hiccuping is normal, and won’t prevent the baby from feeding or sleeping!

Changing your baby

Your baby’s diaper area is painful when it’s red – it needs to be kept dry and well protected.

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A baby’s diaper area receives some rough treatment. Urine, stools, diaper rubbing, maceration from exposure to moisture... nothing is spared! To prevent gluteal erythema, your baby’s diaper should be changed as soon as it’s dirty, generally at every meal – either before or afterward, but before the baby falls asleep. At night, you can protect your child’s skin with cream to prevent the need for diaper changing, but not if the skin is irritated. In that case, use washable cotton diapers or disposable diapers. Leave the baby’s bottom exposed to air as often as possible.

Tip

Clean your baby’s diaper area with soap and water, products that are specially designed for washing infants or olive oil-based oleo-limestone liniment, taking care to remove any excess. Dry by patting the skin instead of rubbing. Be sure that the folds of the groin are clean and thoroughly dry, to prevent any risk of maceration.

Did you know...?

Clean the baby’s diaper area from front to back.

To be sure you don’t carry any contamination from back to front, go over each area only once, using the same item (cotton cloth, tissue, wipe, etc.), and always going from front to back.

Bathing your baby

Daily washing is not only important for an infant’s health, it’s also an opportunity to bond with your baby.

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A baby’s delicate skin can’t yet defend itself against external stress factors, and easily dries out. Washing and bathing provide a way to clean the impurities that can accumulate. It’s also a good time to inspect all the creases in your baby’s skin. Don’t use products for adults, which are too harsh. If necessary, you can clean your baby’s eyes, nose and ears with cotton balls soaked in saline solution. Redness and irritation is often harmless, but if it persists for more than 48 hours, it’s best to check with your doctor.

Tip

It’s not necessary to bathe your infant every day (especially if he or she has dry skin or eczema). Baths in water heated to 37°C are an enjoyable experience. Remove your baby from the bath before the water cools. Use a dry towel, heated if the temperature is cold, to dry your baby, starting at the head. Don’t overlook skin creases (neck, armpit, groin).

Did you know...?

Is your baby peeling? Don’t panic!

All newborns have flaky skin. You can moisturize the skin with an appropriate product, but sweet almond oil is not recommended because of possible allergies.

Going out with your baby

If your baby is healthy, he or she can go out with you once you return home, so long as you take a few precautions.

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There’s no reason not to take your baby out for some fresh air, unless pollution is bad or the weather is extreme. Your needs and desires should determine when your baby goes out. In winter, an infant should be wrapped up well. If your baby’s head is cold, or if your baby turns blue around the mouth, wrap him or her up as best you can and get inside quickly. In the summer, the biggest dangers to your baby are sun and dehydration. Moist skin and red spots on the face mean your baby is overheated. If that’s the case, offer your baby a breast if you are nursing, or a bottle of water otherwise, and apply a damp cloth to his or her head.

Tip

Babies can’t support their head just yet! Always be sure your baby’s head is well supported and aligned with the body. In a baby carriage or stroller, comfortably in place on his or her back, your baby will be protected from bad weather. When snugly pressed against you in a baby carrier or sling, your baby will be reassured by contact with your body, and you can keep your hands free.

Did you know...?

Shopping with your baby? Keep it to a minimum!

Shopping centers, public transport and other crowded places are noisy and stressful, and expose your baby to pollution and numerous viruses and bacteria.

Getting organized

Your baby can’t adapt to your schedule, so settle in to your baby’s schedule and just go with it! 

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Childbirth is physically grueling. You’re tired, and your baby barely gives you time to catch your breath. And what are your hormones telling you? One of them, oxytocin, which is secreted during breastfeeding, promotes milk ejection, but also tends to cause sleepiness when feeding is done. If you time your schedule to that of your baby, you’ll enjoy the luxury of having a short nap at the same time, and you’ll reduce your fatigue. You can also use this period to cut down on any non-urgent tasks you normally do.

Tip

Delegate! Your baby is your priority, and you need to set an example for your baby’s sake. Your partner is entitled to paternity leave. Discuss with him how he can help you. Your family and friends can also help with tasks or by watching the baby for a few hours. Consider doing your shopping online and getting home delivery.

Did you know...?

You might be entitled to home help services.

Visit your maternity clinic, your local social services office, a mother-and-child health center or the child benefit office to learn about what you’re entitled to and about home help organizations in your area.

Nursing your baby

Are you breastfeeding your baby? It’s only natural. When your baby is relaxed and in proper position, it’s good for you and for your baby too!

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Nurse your baby while comfortably seated or in side-lying position. Be sure you’re holding the baby properly while nursing, with the baby’s head lined up with the body (ear, shoulder and hip should all be in alignment), and his or her mouth level with the breast. That enables your baby to take the entire nipple in his or her mouth, plus a large part of the areola. Proper breastfeeding position also provides better protection against cracks in the skin, which come from how your baby nurses, not from any treatment.

Tip

Your breasts don’t require any special care, except perhaps a daily shower. Avoid scented products, since your baby will have to breathe in your natural odor! Also avoid alcohol and tobacco. Apart from their negative health effects, they give your milk an unpleasant taste and smell.

Did you know...?

Your milk is an excellent moisturizer!

After nursing, spread a little on your breasts. It’s edible for your baby and non-allergenic, with only a faint odor, and it will keep your nipples moisturized.

Caring for your perineum

Reduce the risk of bladder leakage by restoring strength to your perineum.

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The perineum – the set of muscles that supports your digestive, urinary and genital tracts – is subject to a lot of downward pressure before, during and after childbirth. As a result, it relaxes! To make it strong again, you’ll need to see a professional for perineal reeducation. In the meantime, avoid anything that might cause pressure (prolonged standing, extended car rides, handling of heavy objects, sports, abdominal exercises, constipation, etc.). Don’t forget your medical checkup six to eight weeks after giving birth.

Tip

Use the right position when lifting your baby. Lean forward and bend your knees while trying to keep your back straight, then push downward using your thigh muscles to stand up straight again. In your head, picture yourself making this upward movement, while tightening your perineum and breathing out. Do the same thing when handling heavy objects.

Did you know...?

Stopping the flow: a method to avoid!

Your grandmother’s remedies aren’t always best. When you urinate, stopping and then restarting the flow of urine can lead to a urinary infection or even bladder leakage!

Restoring your figure

After a pregnancy, it takes several months to return to the figure you had before.

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The extra weight and your soft belly can be depressing once you return home. Abdominal exercises are not recommended, and a diet will simply make you more tired. Be patient, and in a few months it will all be gone! For the time being, you need to replenish the store of vitamins, mineral salts and iron that your baby used up during your pregnancy. If you’re nursing, you also need to eat enough to meet your own nutritional needs and those of your baby. However, there’s no need to eat for two! 

Tip

Prepare varied, balanced meals (raw and cooked vegetables, fruit, grains, soup, meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, etc.). Avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar (pastries, pizza, cured meats, etc.), as well as alcohol and tobacco. However, you can still enjoy a drink from time to time, just after nursing. That way, your body will have time to eliminate the alcohol before you nurse your baby again. The same holds true for cigarettes, so long as you refrain from inhaling the smoke too deeply.

Did you know...?

Breastfeeding will help you lose weight!

You’re actually burning the fat that your body has stored for that purpose. So long as you eat a balanced diet without overeating, you should lose your extra weight without much trouble.

Maintaining your relationship

As you go from a two-way to a three-way relationship, team up with your partner to enjoy the arrival of your baby!

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Between your baby, your family, your friends and relatives... moments of intimacy with your partner are rare. However, these special moments between the two of you are necessary to maintain your relationship. Your partner isn’t necessarily feeling the same things you do. He may be finding it difficult to figure out his role as a father. To prevent a crisis that could lead to a separation, take the time to talk about your feelings or concerns. Share tasks so that you become mutually supportive. Your partner will gain more satisfaction as a father by feeling useful. Also, find a sitter to watch the baby so the two of you can go out for an evening to yourselves.

Tip

Your body is bothering you. Your episiotomy is making you embarrassed. Your perineum is relaxed, and nursing increases your production of prolactin (the hormone for lactation), which inhibits your libido. In short, you’re not ready for sex. But you can still be sensual. Try a dash of tenderness, some soft caresses and a little imagination! Talk about it with your partner.

Did you know...?

You won’t become pregnant while you’re nursing IF...

You are fully breastfeeding and your baby gets enough to eat day and night with no more than six hours between feedings, and if your period has not returned since the birth of the baby. Otherwise you’ll need to use a method of contraception!