Saturday, 24 May 2014

Parenting with newborns

I've wanted to do a small parenting blog post for a while, but I've been very apprehensive to on the grounds that I am no expert - I am only a parent, and I've only been a parent for the past two months. But as it's all still fresh in my mind, I thought I would share my experiences with you, and tell you more about my routine with my 8-week old son, Rhys.

This is my little boy! He was born on the 2nd April, and ever since then, life has definitely changed! He was very small, weighing at 5 pounds 8, but I had to be induced at 38 weeks as I hadn't been feeling any movements during my pregnancy, which the midwives were concerned about. 
I had a difficult pregnancy as I was at the hospital a lot due to not feeling movement, which did cause a lot of stress and anxiety over whether or not I would give birth to a healthy baby. I equally had a difficult labour (I was in labour for three days with only cocodamol as pain relief), and an even more difficult delivery (after finally being given an epidural, I then had to go through an episiotomy, and forceps, due to the umbilical cord being around his neck. The stitches for the episiotomy absolutely killed. I really didn't want to stay on the postnatal ward after giving birth, as there was a newborn who just would not stop crying so I wasn't actually getting any rest, and I didn't want that baby to wake up mine with his screams. I remember coming home the day after giving birth, and I live in a flat with six flights of stairs and no lift. Let me tell you, trying to climb up even one flight of stairs with a crotch full of stitches is absolute agony, I have never been in so much pain in my life. I was literally on the floor, crying in pain by the second flight. I don't know about you, but I felt quite cheated - not one person ever said to me that I would be in pain after giving birth, and naively, I expected you'd be able to hop off the bed and walk around just fine! 
Nevertheless, I persevered and finally managed to get to my house. I was then still in so much pain that I didn't leave for the next six days, and when I did, I was literally shuffling like a penguin as I still couldn't really walk properly. I felt absolutely horrible, but what upset more than the murdering pain in my sensitive lady parts, was the fact that I was literally too sore, too tired, and in too much pain, to even look after my own child. For the first two weeks after he was born, my mum was doing the night feeds, doing the nappy changes, and bathing him, as I couldn't get to the floor. 

After the initial two weeks, I was then able to do a little more with him. The stitches felt fine and I was able to walk without being in great discomfort. I was able to bend down to bathe him and change his nappies, which may sound ridiculous, but I couldn't wait to be able to do them, as all I wanted was to look after my child. 

From here, I'm just going to give you some how-to's on looking after your baby.

Bathing your baby
As for his first bath, my mum showed me how to do those. It's got to be at a lukewarm temperature as babies are very sensitive to heat and you must be careful not to burn them, so it has to be below human body temperature (37 degrees), but is best at lukewarm. We also use lavender scented baby bath for him, and if he has a bath like this and a big feed just before bed, he sleeps for around four to five hours, which is lovely! While your baby is in the bath (we also use a baby bath support seat for him, they were £6 from Tesco), use a baby bath sponge to soak up the warm water, and squeeze it over his body to keep him warm. Also, don't make the bath too high for them, it only needs to be a shallow bath when they're so shallow and you don't want them to be in danger of drowning. As another pointer, you won't be in need of baby shampoo until they grow a full head of hair.
Make sure you get the warm sponge all over his body, and then when you think he is clean, pick him up out of the water and transfer him into a baby towel, and wrap it around him to keep him warm still, as he won't appreciate being cold! Then, lay him onto a changing mat, and rub in some baby lotion to his body. Rub it between your hands to make it warm first before applying it to him. Then apply some sudocrem to his sensitive areas to prevent nappy rash, and put him in a fresh nappy and baby gro.

Feeding your baby
Hopefully, you'll already have bought bottles, and a steriliser while you were pregnant. If no one has told you how to use them, now is the time to read the instruction manual! I just have a standard Avent steriliser. All you need to do is wash out the bottles in hot soapy water (using washing up liquid) by using a bottle brush to scrub out the insides. Formula milk can be quite greasy so it's important to clean the bottles thoroughly. I just use my fingers to clean the grease from the bottle teats. Then you just need to put the bottles upside down with the lids off, into the bottle carousel that came with the steriliser. Then you put the carousel into the steriliser, add 90mls of water, put on the top of the steriliser, put on the lid, and turn the steriliser on. Mine takes 10 minutes.
To make up feeds, you take your bottles out of the steriliser, and add sterile boiling water. You need to wait for it to cool right down before giving it to your baby. You also need to wait until you feed him to add the milk formula, as you can't make up the feeds beforehand anymore as bacteria can breed in it. As for measurements, it's generally 1 level scoop per ounce of sterile water (1 level scoop for every 30mls), but check the back of the milk formula before you listen to me. This is how we make his feeds using SMA. 
It's a good idea to wind your baby after every 30mls. Some parents will tap their baby's back until a burp comes out. I rub his back as a more gentle alternative - as equally I don't want to hit him too hard unintentionally.
As for general advice, I do all his bottles before we go to bed (he has six bottles), and fill them up to 7 ounces each. Then I know he will have enough feeds to last him overnight and throughout the next day. Obviously if your baby is younger he won't need feeds that big yet. This is just what works best for me, as I then don't have to try to clean his bottles while he's particularly awake and grumpy in the mornings. You need to find a routine that works best for you.

Getting your baby to sleep
This part, is the hardest part while your baby is a newborn! My son understood night time pretty quickly. I did start a routine with him pretty early. As soon as I take him up to bed, I will cuddle with him and lay with him for a few minutes to settle him. This makes him feel safe. Then I can transfer him to his cot, and I give him a gentle kiss on his forehead so he is still calm. He understands that this means it's time to sleep, and when it's dark he has no problem with it. However, as he sleeps so well at night, he can then be a little difficult in the mornings. I tend to try to keep him calm, by giving him his dummy, rocking him, singing to him, playing with him, as he likes to be quite active around this time. I can then lay him back down in his cot with the blankets off so he can kick around. I also have a tummy cushion for him for when he wants to lie on his front. These are supposed to help them to hold their heads up and encourage them to start crawling. I bought his tummy time roller cushion for £9.99 from Sainsbury's. I try to get him to occupy himself at this time, so then I can quickly get ready, and sometimes, even have a cup of tea! Also, you can use a Moses Basket for up to three months. Rhys hated it after his first, so we changed it for a cot, and he's much happier in that now.
If he really isn't happy to sleep, you could try to give him a lavender scented baby bath. This always calms Rhys down enough to sleep. Another way of trying to get them to sleep, is rocking them in their pushchair. The movement calms them down as they feel safe when they can hear people are around.
As a word of advice, your baby may well and truly be difficult to get to sleep - but if you are calm, he will be calm.

How to encourage development
As stated above, the tummy time roller cushions you can get encourages holding their heads up and crawling. A cot mobile helps them to focus, and follow moving objects. I also like to get my son to splash around in the water when he has a bath - I'm not really sure what I mean for this to encourage, but he likes doing it! Also, babies see strong patterns the most clearly. My midwife told me that a strong black and white pattern is the best to encourage them to focus. Rhys was focusing well by seven weeks old.

Babies with colic, reflux, or constipation
Rhys was quite a colic-y baby, and still can be now. Colic is restless crying, for no apparent reason, and is stressful for both baby and mother. There's not a lot you can do for colic - but equally, it isn't dangerous for them. Although it's a stressful experience, you need to remember that it isn't hurting them, so equally, isn't that much to stress over. All you can do, is make sure they've got a clean nappy, feed them, wind them, try to distract them, whatever it is that keeps them calm. When nothing is working for Rhys, I give him a bath, as splashing around in the warm water always calms him down. Also, in regards to if you think your child has colic - make sure he is actually taking his feeds. Sometimes the bottle teat can be too big, or he doesn't like the milk, but it's important to rule out that he isn't just hungry.
Reflux is when they bring up their feeds. Luckily for me, Rhys has only done that a handful of times. However, my friends son had reflux, and from what she says, the milk doesn't agree with them. She tried him on anti-reflux and stay-down milk (which unfortunately didn't work for him), and eventually after various hospital trips for him they found that he had an intolerance to the milk, and is now on prescription formula - so if the problem persists with you, definitely consult your GP as they are always there to help.
As for relieving babies with constipation, I have tried nearly every trick in the book! There are a lot of things you can try. You can move your babies legs in a bicycling motion to help relieve trapped wind (sounds crazy, but works for Rhys). You can also try and see if Infacol works. What I'm doing with Rhys, is giving him 30mls of sterile water before every feed so that the formula isn't as heavy. Also regarding feeds, the formula you use can be a cause as to why your baby is constipated. SMA is meant to be the creamiest of the formulas (which also makes babies prefer it), but Aptamil, and Cow and Gate, are supposedly more watery. So if you've tried everything else yet the problem still persists, you could possibly think about switching around his formula. 

How to cope as a new parent
I just want to start this by saying that being a new parent, and having a newborn, can be incredibly stressful, and when it is really stressful, it's okay to cry! When Rhys cries persistently for hours on end, I find it incredibly stressful when I've tried everything and don't know what else to do! So I end up crying too, but that's okay - as it's a form of emotional release. You do need to stay as calm for as long as you can though, because generally, if you are calm, he will be calm. It shows him there is nothing really to worry about. Just make sure that he's in a clean nappy, has had a feed, is warm enough (or equally, isn't too hot), has been winded, and just make him as comfortable as you can. Also remember that you are suffering from lack of sleep so that can make you even more stressed. When your baby is comfortable and you feel like you really aren't coping, it's okay to step out of the room and leave him to cry by himself. Go and make yourself a cup of tea, calm down, and try again when you feel ready to! Just make sure you check on him every five minutes for peace of mind that he is actually okay. With Rhys, if he really isn't settling, I leave him for 20 minutes to cry (also to make sure he's really hungry). This gives me time to calm down with a cup of tea, and make him another feed. Then, after the 20 minutes of crying, I pick him up, give him a cuddle, a feed, and then his dummy, and he falls asleep fairly quickly after that.
Also, if you're a single parent, as I am, it can be really stressful without someone to share the night feeds, someone to help with the laundry, or even someone to just hold him while he's screaming just so you can take a pee break! In all honesty, it does get easier. After a while, you stop wishing there was someone else to help you, and you accept it instead of resenting it. As for simple things like taking a bath for myself, I can't really do that anymore - I don't like to leave him in his cot if I can't get to him quickly. Generally, I take him in the bath with me. I put him in the bath and keep him occupied by constantly squeezing a sponge of warm water over his belly so he doesn't get cold and unhappy, while I wash my hair in the sink quickly (yes, I do have to do this - we all have different things that work for us!), and then I get into the end of the bath and squeeze the sponge over myself quickly. Then if he's still happy in the water, I can moisturise and get dressed again quickly before picking him up out of the water, before drying, moisturising, and dressing him, too.

Essentials for your baby
Its good to shop for as much as you can from this list at car boot sales, and second hand stores. You really don't need to spend a lot on unnecessary items so this is just a basic list of what you will actually need. Of course, you can equally spend more if you want to. Just make sure you get the bottles, teats, and steriliser either new, or unused. I picked up my steriliser and bottles (still wrapped in the cellophane) for £4 from my local car boot sale. There are always parents trying to get rid of the stuff they didn't use for thier children, and are always willing to sell it cheap. I also want to mention that your midwife centre is generally a SureStart children's centre, and people drop off their children's old clothing items, blankets, and cot sheets here as donations for expecting parents. These donations were really helpful for me as I managed to pick up a lot of things for Rhys, without having to spend money I didn't have. Also, you can collect Bounty packs from your hospital (you can get three packs), and also Emma's Diary packs (Google Emma's Diary, and you can sign up for three free pack samples by signing up to the website, which you literally fill in your name and email. You can then print screen the vouchers that will appear on screen, and take them into Argos or Boots to claim the packs. These are filled with useful free samples, of nappies, wipes, nappy creams, mini Johnson's baby products, stretch mark creams, Ovaltine sachets (good for the sleepless nights!), Bran flakes (these help with digestion), and also Persil washing tablets and a Persil branded baby towel, which I'm still using for Rhys. I've used everything I was given from the packs. The picture above are all the free samples I claimed from the packs, so it's well worth doing! Anyway, here is your essentials list!
A Moses basket or cot
A pushchair
A rain cover and a sunshade
A car seat for when you leave the hospital
Bottles and teats
A steriliser
Baby towels
A baby bath support
A lot of muslin cloths
Sleep suits for moderate temperature
Baby vests and jogging bottoms for hot days
A coat or some kind of jacket for when it's really cold outside (also use blankets and a rain cover over the pushchair if it's particularly cold)
A pot of formula milk (even if you are planning on breast feeding, it's good to have this just in case)
Stock up on baby bath, nappies, baby lotion, sudocrem
A suitable changing bag for you to carry his things in when you're out

What to carry in changing bags 
First off, practical, reputable, fashionable changing bags can be bought from a huge range of brands. I like to use Babymel, in my opinion they are the absolute best. They're really well made, have a lot of different compartments to carry yours and your child's things, have a bottle pocket on the side, and come with a changing mat. Pink Lining bags also come with a bottle holder, and changing mat - these are the 'Yummy Mummy' bags. Cath Kidston also have really practical and large changing bags, which also come with a bottle holder, and changing mat. 
Things that you should carry in them are as follows:
Nappies, wipes, and a small pot of nappy cream
An appropriate size plastic container to contain however much powder milk you need
An appropriate amount of his bottles of sterile water for however many feeds you will need
A spare baby gro
A muslin cloth
Don't forget to pack your own personal things, 
Your purse
A spare top
A small hair brush and makeup bag if you like
Hand sanitiser 
Breath mints

So, this is just my way of parenting - I don't really feel it's appropriate to call it a guide as it's just how I do things, which may or may not work for you. But if you think something I've suggested here might work for you, definitely try it - I wouldn't encourage you to if they didn't work. Anyway, my son is now waking up for a feed, so I'm going to wrap this up here. I hope this has helped you, if there is anything you want to ask me about please feel free to leave a comment and I'll get back to you!

Sammii-Jane x

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