From the right way to burp to chatting with baby and troubleshooting tears, our crib notes cover everything your class instructor left out—and then some. Bonus: it’s all vetted by doctors, psychologists, and sleep experts who also go by the title of mom.
Your newborn might clock a whopping 18 to 20 hours of zzz’s a day, says Payal Adhikari, MD, a pediatrician with Child & Adolescent Health Associates in Chicago. So if you feel like that little swaddled burrito is only awake to eat or fuss in those first few weeks, don’t fret—it’s totally normal.
Some newborns go through 10 plus diapers a day. As their poop color changes (from brown to green to yellow and back again—it happens) you’ll be super tempted to send pics to your pediatrician. Do it if it makes you feel better—you won’t be the first to say “Is this normal?”
3. Feeding can feel anything but natural.
Whether you’re giving baby breast milk or formula (both are great—here’s the actual difference between them), feeding can feel like it requires a Ph.D. Babies feed best when their moms are comfortable, so take a minute to position yourself first in a chair with a Boppy or nursing pillow on your lap, says Dr. Adhikari, before having someone hand you baby.
There are two ways to get a good burp: either over your shoulder, or in a seated position on your lap. The gist: halfway between, and after feeding, you’ll want to pat all over baby’s back with firm pressure to get a burp out. (It’s fine to give a good, solid pat!) Switch positions every 90 seconds or so until you get a burp. (If you’re going on five minutes and baby hasn’t burped, it’s ok to call it quits.)
It can take up to three weeks for baby’s umbilical stump to fall off, and you’ll want to stick with sponge baths until it’s gone. It’s a good idea to keep the bathroom comfortably warm, and use your elbow (more sensitive than your hand!) to test the water temp. Start by cleaning baby’s face with a soft washcloth and gentle soap, then move down her body. Don’t forget to wash behind her ears (dry skin can accumulate) and in between her delicious rolls.
6. Newborn skin is probably more sensitive than you think.
Newborn skin isn’t just sensitive—it’s super permeable as well, which means it’s easier for toxic chemicals to pass through that protective layer we’re all born with. When it comes to getting dressed, kiddos are safest in organic cotton that’s GOTS-certified—meaning the clothing is 95 percent organic and free of toxic dyes or finishes. Organic cotton also washes better, keeping its shape and softness, so it’s a win-win for your baby.
Clueless about what to dress a newborn baby in? Aside from something that’s soft and snuggle ready, you’ll want to look for a few things: 1) a kimono-style top (so that you can protect that little belly button as it heals) 2) fold-over mitts and footies to prevent scratches and keep their fingers and toes warm, and 3) an adjustable hat! (Some babies have funny-shaped heads those first few days—a hat you can make bigger or smaller keeps them warm and cozy as they grow.)
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8. They’re great at letting you know they’re hungry, tired, or uncomfortable.
Babies don't hide their emotions—most fuss when they’re uncomfortable. But a good rule of thumb is to dress baby in one more layer than you have on. So if you’re hanging out around the house in shorts and a t-shirt, put baby in long sleeves and pants. At night, you can dress baby in a footed romper under the swaddle, and keep the house at a comfortable 70 degrees.
9. You can troubleshoot their tears.
Fussy baby? Dr. Adhikari suggests running through this checklist when the tears are rolling:
Step 1: Check to see if baby is hungry, seems overly tired (look out for sleepy cues like rubbing her eyes—then encourage a nap!) or needs a diaper change.
Step 2: Swaddle baby.
Step 3: Make a shushing sound or turn on white noise.
Step 4: Rock or swing baby.
If baby cries for more than three hours a day, on more than three days a week, for more than three weeks in a row, that’s considered colic. Doctors don’t know what causes colic, but rest assured that the majority of babies grow out of it by three to four months. In the meantime, know that you can always step away for a few minutes to gather yourself—we recommend a hot shower. It’s tough to listen to, but crying doesn’t harm baby.
Go all in on the baby talk—speaking in parentese (aka: talking to baby slowly with exaggerated tones, pitches, and vowels) actually sends cascades of electrical and chemical signals from baby’s brain all the way down his body and can boost language development, says Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D., author of Talking with Your Baby: Family as the First School and a child development psychologist at Syracuse University.