We give you step-by-step instructions on how to hold baby, change a diaper, bathe and feed her, and put her to bed.

1. Holding baby

Picking up a tiny, vulnerable newborn can be intimidating, so the first thing to remember is not to be scared. “Newborn babies are not fragile,” says Janet Fyle, a midwife from the Royal College of Midwives, UK. “You can hold them firmly — they don’t break.” Take care to support her head and neck, though. A newborn has soft joints and little muscle control, meaning her head can flop about.

• Lift her gently and slide one hand under her bottom, cradling her head with the other hand, then raise her gently towards you. Be as smooth as possible so you don’t startle her. Rest her against your chest with her head and back supported against your arms.
• Alternatively, lift her under the arms, supporting the back of her head with your fingers, then turn her so she is cradled in your arms, her head in the crook of your elbow.
• You can also lean her head against your shoulder and hold her bottom in one hand while supporting her upper back with the other.

2. Changing a diaper

Changing clothes and diapers usually happen in tandem, and you’ll soon develop your own routine based on your baby’s pooping and sleeping habits. Just be aware that it’s normal for babies to cry at changing time.

“Newborns don’t really like being undressed,” Byrne says.

Take your time and remember that just getting a hand through an armhole isn’t hurting your baby — despite her bawling. While changing a diaper is pretty straightforward once you’ve done it a few times, what can be hard to fathom is the stuff you find inside the diaper: After the tar-like meconium has all been passed out (around day four or five), your baby might do at least three (probably more!) poops a day, which would turn greenish as she starts digesting milk.

By day five or six, your baby’s poop should be soft and yellow, and they’ll usually stay that way until weaning.

Before you start, gather together everything you will need:
• A clean disposable diaper
• Cotton wool and a bowl of warm water, or wet wipes if you
• Tissue or a towel
• Diaper-rash cream
• A spare change of clothes, in case of accidents.

• Lay your baby on her back on a safe, clean surface like a changing mat or the middle of your bed. Take off her socks or booties.
• Open the diaper, then lift your baby’s legs out of the way (hold her ankles together with one hand and gently raise) and fold the dirty diaper together under her bottom. Boys sometimes pee when cooler air hits them, so hold the diaper over his penis for a moment.
• Soak the cotton wool in the warm water and clean her up — even if it’s just pee. Work from front to back with a girl. Then, pat dry with a tissue or towel. Apply a barrier cream if you are concerned about diaper rash.
• Slide the clean diaper under her bottom, right way around. Bring the front up between her legs and fasten the tabs at each side.
• Wrap all the waste up and dispose of it. Put on her clothes and wash your hands. Voila!

3. First feeds

Newborns need to feed every two to three hours— regardless of whether they take formula or breastmilk. There is no “average” time a feed takes — it can be 10 minutes or up to an hour.

“Your baby might not want to feed much on the first day or so and won’t take much,” MacDonald says. “Her stomach is only about the size of a walnut.”

As newborns tend to swallow air while feeding, it’s important to burp your baby after each feed — and sometimes during the feed if she’s getting irritable. Hold her upright against your chest or sit her across your knee leaning into the palm of one hand, gently patting her back with your free hand in a slight upward-sweeping motion.

• When you feed your baby, her whole body should be facing you.
• Tuck her in close with her neck, back and shoulders all supported.
• Stroke her lips with your nipple to encourage her to open her mouth.
• Make sure she takes a big mouthful of breast — not just the nipple — and that she is “latched on”. You’d know when she is because most of your nipple will be in her mouth. Her jaw will move and you’ll see her ears wiggle as she sucks.
• Drain one breast before moving on to the other.
• For the first few days, you’ll produce a yel lowish fluid called colostrum. “Colostrum is packed with antibodies and rich in protein,” MacDonald notes. “It’s exactly tailored to a newborn’s needs.” About day three, your breastmilk will come through and your breasts will become huge and solid.

You need to know how to sterilise all the equipment and, most importantly, learn to make up the formula correctly. Make sure you have a formula suitable for newborns.

• Pour boiled and cooled water into the bottle to the correct level. Add lukewarm water, if necessary.
• Add the correct number of scoops (details will be on the formula milk tin).
• Seal the bottle and shake to dissolve. Test the temperature on the inside of your wrist. If it is too hot, run the bottle under a tap.

4. Sleeping arrangements

Your newborn will initially sleep for two to four hours at a time, between 16 and 19 hours a day. The safest place for her to sleep for the first six months is in a cot in your room. Newborns should sleep in a smoke-free environment on their back — research has shown this considerably lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or cot death.

Her feet should be at the bottom of the cot, with lightweight cotton blankets tucked in to ensure her head stays uncovered. The air-conditioner in your bedroom should not be set too cold. A fixed bedtime will, in time, help her to learn the difference between night and day.

Some mothers like to put their babies to bed at 7pm to give a sense of routine, even though they could be feeding again two hours later. Others put their baby down only when they go to bed.


Bathing baby

5. Washing baby

Until the cord stump drops off, gently clean it with cotton wool soaked in warm water and pat dry. It’s not necessary to bathe your newborn every day, when the weather is not too hot. “A couple of times a week is fine, but a daily ‘top and tail’ is a good idea,” Atkins says.

• Prepare two bowls of warm water, one for the “top” and one for the “tail”.
• Soak some cotton wool, then wipe her clean, getting into any little folds of skin.
• Pat your baby’s skin dry, then dress her.

• Test that the water is not too cold nor too hot with the inside of your wrist or your elbow.
• Lower her in, legs first, and cradle the rest of her with your arm supporting her shoulders, neck and head. Carefully wipe her with little handfuls of water
• Have a soft, warm towel waiting to wrap her in afterwards.
• When you are washing your baby’s eyes, use a fresh cotton ball on each eye. That way, you won’t accidentally spread any minor infections from one eye to the other.

Photos: iStock

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