Because you are the most important person to your baby!
As doulas and educators, our job is to educate our clients so they can simplify and focus on what’s important and let go of the rest. During all the excitement and exhaustion, many new parents are understandably overwhelmed with information about caring for their newborn. It may seem like there are a million things to remember, and they don’t want to get anything wrong.
In the first weeks and months of a baby’s life, it’s helpful to simplify. Delegate or delay any other tasks that you can so parents don’t feel pulled in many directions. Focus on baby in the early months and, little by little, they’ll be able to add in more activities, responsibilities and time to take care of yourself.
In this early stage, there is so much important brain development happening for babies. The infant brain is absorbing experiences and making neural pathways that they will have throughout their life. A newborn’s highest priority is to be in relationship with their caregiver. In fact, their survival depends on it. So, they will be seeking affection, food, interaction, and comfort.
A parent’s brain is also making new connections. This is all brand new, and you can help parents learn as they go. Parents need reassurance to be patient and keep trying! Notice when they’re exhausted, frustrated, and just need a break.
Encourage clients to ask for help and accept offers from friends and family. They don’t have to do this all alone!
The good news is these five points are the most important things your baby needs. You can put everything else on hold — new gadgets, classes, items, and tricks. Take a deep breath and focus on these and they’ll know your baby is getting everything they need.
Safety and Security
Newborns are 100 percent dependent on their parents. Babies need protection. Newborns feel safe and secure when they are in the arms or held close to the body in a loving way. Skin to skin is ideal when possible; the proximity releases calming hormones in caregivers and babies. The calming effects of being held and nurtured maximize your baby’s brain and body development while fostering attachment and bonding. Babies who grow up in homes free of substance use, neglect, and violence, develop emotional health, stronger relationships, and do better in school.
Some parents worry about their first time out with the baby. Plan ahead! They can accept invitations to places they’ll feel comfortable, even if they need to feed the baby or they are crying. Pack a diaper bag thoughtfully and don’t forget an extra change of clothes, a few diapers, snack, water bottle and anything they might need. Sometimes it helps to go with another adult while you manage the car seat, the bag, the baby, and other items you’ll be carrying. Sometimes just a walk or hike outdoors feels wonderful. Invest in a great carrier and have your baby fastened to you as you walk. Physical activity and socializing can be a great way to refresh as a parent and build your confidence going out with the baby.
Newborns need to be fed at least 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. They require constant caloric intake and proper nutrition to support their rapid growth and brain development. If a parent has any concerns about feedings or baby’s weight gain, don’t hesitate to meet with a lactation consultant or contact your healthcare provider.
Breastmilk is the best food for a newborn. Made up of the perfect proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, and immune boosting minerals; babies will get the perfect nutrition from breastmilk. American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a minimum of 12 months of breastfeeding, while slowly introducing solids as your baby shows signs of being ready, usually around 6 months old.
Newborns need frequent diaper changes to keep their delicate skin clean and dry. When bathing a newborn, use a mild soap and moisturize the skin with gentle baby oil or lotion. Bath time can be a time of making eye contact, listening to quiet music in a calm environment of gentle loving care. Afterward, use a mild oil to rub baby’s skin and give a massage. Playing soothing music (for both baby and parent) and using a gentle oil (apricot, almond, or coconut oils work) will help set the scene for a relaxing time to bond and touch your baby.
Newborns love gentle touch, rocking, cuddling and comfort. When your baby is skin to skin on your chest, she can regulate her breathing and temperature, which allow her to sleep for longer periods of time. Giving infant massage, holding her, dressing her, changing her diaper and wearing her in a carrier are ways to comfort and engage in early “play” together. When newborns are held skin to skin, they often cry less and feed more easily. Carriers of all kinds make it easier for parents to hold their baby while they’re walking, cleaning, resting, or eating. Infant massage has been shown to help relax babies, calm fussiness or discomfort, and provide an important time for parents to gently touch and get to know their babies. You can find videos, classes, and books to help guide you in learning about infant massage. Start with gentle touch and see what your baby likes!
Bonding and Connection
A newborn knows your voice and loves to hear it! Since week 18 or 20 of pregnancy, babies have been able to hear and by the time of birth, a baby already prefers familiar voices. Talking, telling stories and singing to newborns promotes interaction, while calming and comforting him. Reading to babies early helps expose them to different rhythms and tones of their home language. Popular infant books are Goodnight Moon, Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you See? and Guess How Much I Love You. So, let babies hear voices! They’re learning language.
Babies loves faces, too! Newborns can see as far as 12 inches from their own faces at birth, the perfect distance to gaze at faces while being held. When a baby sees a familiar face, the stress hormone (cortisol) drops and the love hormone (oxytocin) rise. They thrive because of attentive, gentle, loving caregiving.
Babies truly need you. By responding to your baby’s early cues for food, comfort and connection, you can reduce crying and upset. It is impossible to spoil your baby!
Enhancing Brain Development in Infants and Young Children: Strategies for Caregivers and Educators Illustrated Edition
by Doris Bergen (Author), Lena Lee (Author), Cynthia DiCarlo (Author), Gail Burnett (Author), Sandra J. Stone (Foreword)
Active Baby, Healthy Brain: 135 Fun Exercises and Activities to Maximize Your Child’s Brain Development from Birth Through Age 5 1/2 by Margaret Sassé (Author), Georges McKail (Illustrator), Frances Page Glascoe PhD (Foreword)
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel (Author), Tina Payne Bryson (Author)
Brain Rules for Baby (Updated and Expanded): How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five by John Medina (Author)
About the Author
Abby Bordner, CLD, CPD, CLE®, ICCE started her career in reproductive health care. She began at Planned Parenthood in Portland, OR where she was trained as a health counselor for contraception and HIV/AIDS and went on to work as the assistant to a busy Ob/Gyn doctor for several years. She had her first child in 1999 when she began her interest in birth work. Shortly after, she pursued her labor doula certification, became a childbirth educator, then a lactation educator, and lastly a postpartum doula with CAPPA. She teaches a variety of educational workshops and trainings for professionals, including a level two prenatal yoga teacher training. Her passion is providing group training that includes education, self-reflection, sharing, and playing together. She has two children and lives in Santa Fe, NM.