Before the baby arrives
Before your baby is born you should try to sort out things you will need after they are born; this will include everything from nappies and clothes to a Moses basket, baby bath and a car seat. Preparing early will allow you to relax nearer the birth ad save you from running errands when you’re heavily pregnant. You will also need to get things prepared for yourself; pack a bag for hospital with spare clothes, nursing bras, breast pads and any toiletries you may need.
Make an effort to keep yourself healthy, as this will improve the health of your unborn child; give up smoking and avoid drinking; smoking and drinking during pregnancy contributes to premature and still birth and low birth weight. Babies that are born to mothers that smoke and drink throughout pregnancy may also develop health conditions in later life. Try to eat lots of healthy foods that are rich in the nutrients that your baby needs to develop fully. Take time out to relax and avoid stressful situations; as well as impacting on your health, this can also distress your baby and may cause miscarriage or premature birth. Avoid doing activities which may put your or your baby’s health as risk; this includes everything from strenuous activity to heavy lifting. Make sure you visit the dentist regularly, as poor dental health can contribute to complications during both pregnancy and childbirth; oral health conditions in the mother have been proven to cause premature birth and stillbirth. Dental care is free for expectant mothers (and for 1 year after the baby is born). If you have any health problems, don’t hesitate to see your doctor.
After the baby arrives
Feeding can be a source of worry for many mothers but your midwife and health visitor can give you all the information and advice you need. Breastfeeding has been consistently proven to be more beneficial for babies than bottle feeding and it can help to establish a stronger bond between mother and baby, but many women don’t feel comfortable with breastfeeding. If you have concerns about how your baby is feeding or questions about feeding techniques, don’t hesitate to discuss this with your midwife or health visitor.
Many babies love bath time, but some take an objection. When bathing your baby, keep a tight hold of them at all times and make sure the water isn’t too hot. Gently wash their whole body using a gentle, perfume free bath cream. At first, when the baby is very small, it may be beneficial to get somebody to help you while you bath your baby.
All babies are different and their sleep patterns reflect this; tiny babies sleep a lot so try and catch up on sleep while they are asleep if you’re tired; keep an ear out for them and make sure they’re not too hot or in a smoky or dusty environment (see the safe sleeping guidelines below). It is up to you when you start sleeping in a different room for your baby, but experts recommend you share the same room for at least 6 months after the baby is born.
Playing and moving
You should try to interact with your baby as early as possible; this includes body contact, eye contact and talking and singing to them. When they are a little bit older, encourage them to start playing with toys and moving about; placing them on their tummies helps them to develop strength in their necks and motor skills which they will use when they start to sit up and crawl. Pay your child lots of attention and introduce them to new people, objects and environments; this will encourage them to learn and develop quickly.
Reducing the risk of cot death and getting your child to sleep safely
Cot death is one of the most frightening risks for parents but following a few simple steps will reduce the risk of a baby being exposed to cot death. A campaign was launched recently to educate and inform parents and carers about steps that will reduce the risk of cot death; the guidelines suggested:
- Put your baby to bed on their back towards the bottom of their Moses basket or cot 9this will prevent them from wriggling under their covers and suffocating)
- Make sure your baby is warm but not too hot; don’t cover their head up and use layers such as sheets and blankets so you can control their temperature
- Don’t use duvets until your baby is at least one- these are often much thicker and bigger than blankets
- Sleep in the same room as your baby for the first 6 months- this allows you to keep a close eye on them
- Don’t sleep with your baby in your arms, especially if you’re on a sofa or a chair (when your asleep you may move and cause your baby to become squashed)
- Don’t allow anyone to smoke near your baby or in any rooms that they may go in
- Remove outer layers of clothes when you come in from the cold
- Don’t sleep with your baby in your bed if you’ve been smoking or drinking
Since the campaign started, cot deaths have decreased by 75 percent.
Getting your child to sleep
A lack of sleep can be really challenging and draining for most new parents. While some babies sleep well right from birth, others struggle to adapt to a routine and spend long periods of the night awake. Below are some tips for encouraging your baby to sleep well:
- Try to teach your baby about the difference between day and night from a very young age; encourage them to stay alert and awake during the day by talking to them, playing with them and opening curtains and windows so they can see the light. At night, encourage them to settle down and relax by cuddling them, dimming the lights and speaking softly to them.
- Establish a routine before bedtime, which may involve bathing, changing into pyjamas, getting snuggled up and having a final feed (this should be around an hour before bedtime so your baby can digest before going to sleep); some parents like to read their babies a story, while some play soothing music or have mobiles and lullaby lights to encourage their babies to drift off to sleep.
- Leave your baby alone when they are settled and content; if you stay in the room they are more likely to stay awake
- Try to leave your baby for a while if they stir or cry in the night; if their cry is different to usual you may wish to respond to them quicker as they may feel ill.
Keeping your baby healthy
Babies are prone to mild illnesses but there are steps you can take to help to reduce the risk of them getting poorly and protect them against accidents.