By the Nurses of Let Mommy Sleep
Parents read all kinds of baby books and websites to learn about feeding, safety, getting baby on a schedule and more. The trouble is, your baby didn’t read those books and the first night home from the hospital or birthing center can feel overwhelming! Below are our nurses most helpful hints for your first night home with baby.
Where Should Baby Sleep at Night?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room sharing but not bed sharing. During the day you’ll have plenty of safe places for baby to nap, but at night a co-sleeper is recommended. Co-sleepers are small cribs that attach to your bed or are pushed next to your bed. They’re good places for baby to sleep simply because your baby needs you often through the night. Your newborn will be feeding frequently in the first weeks home because her tummy is only the size of a cherry and then an egg, so co-sleepers allow parents to respond quickly to baby without any fear or safety concerns. Having baby safely nestled next to you is also reassuring for both of you.
What Should My Baby Wear?
Clothing – How do you know if baby is too hot or too cold? The rule of thumb is to dress baby in what you would be comfortable wearing plus one layer. A onesie, one piece zippered sleeper with feet and a cotton swaddle is fine. One thing we know about SIDS prevention is that overheating can be a contributing factor, so ensuring baby is properly dressed allows him to be comfortable and safe.
Swaddle – There’s a reason why you see every single newborn wrapped up like a little burrito! Swaddling helps baby feel secure and comfortable by simulating the womb.
Room temperature – Ideal temperature where baby will be sleeping is 69-71 degrees; the temperatures that hospital nurseries are typically kept. A fan to keep air circulating can also be used.
Unless instructed by your doctor, do not expect or push baby to be on a schedule. It’s perfectly normal for baby’s feeding and sleeping routines to be erratic for the first weeks at home because your baby comes from a place where he received food and sleep “on demand.” This on-demand schedule continues into the newborn phase. Don’t worry about forming any “bad” habits in the first nights or weeks home because by following baby’s lead, you will see a 2 hour, then 3 hour feeding/sleep schedule occur naturally. Full term babies may even start with a 3 hour schedule.
For our twins and higher order multiples, parents might want to get babies on the same feeding schedule to avoid exhaustion from constant feeding of one baby or the other. In this instance, with your physician’s permission, parents can gently wake one baby when the other wakes to feed. The babies catch on very quickly and you’ll find feeding at the same time is the easiest way to get twins and multiples on the same schedule.
It’s perfectly normal for baby’s feeding and sleeping routines to be erratic for the first weeks at home because your baby comes from a place where he received food and sleep “on demand.”
How Much Should My Baby Eat?
The most common reason our Nurses see for babies feeling fussy is overfeeding. It’s difficult for us adults to understand that only an ounce or a few ounces is enough to get baby full but don’t be swayed by even the tiniest bottles you see! For breastfeeding babies simply feed on demand, even if it appears baby is snacking. As long as baby is following a “suck/swallow/breathe” pattern, he is feeding at the rate he needs. The same rule should be followed for formula and bottle fed babies, with the exception that it’s helpful for parents to take lots of breaks when feeding from the bottle. Just like adults, babies may take in more fluid than they need before they realize they are full. This leads to discomfort and gas.
These videos can help for more information on how much milk or formula to give your newborn.
A Word About Breathing
One important thing to know about your first night home is that newborns breathe differently than adults. Babies don’t follow the rhythmic in and out breathing pattern that adults do. Some babies will even stop breathing for up to 7 or 8 seconds. Baby may also breathe rapidly for a short period of time. This is all normal but can be frightening if you’re not prepared for it. These small apnea episodes resolve on their own, but if you’re concerned, you can assess your newborn’s breathing by looking at their abdomen. Your infant’s abdomen rises and falls with each breath. The normal rate is 40-60 breaths per minute in the healthy, full-term infant (counted for a full minute), and will vary depending on whether she or he is sleeping, awake, active, or crying.
There is always more to learn when it comes to safety and wellness in the postpartum and newborn phase. Your primary care physician, pediatrician and hospital education pamphlets are your best sources of help. But while there are many baby experts out there, remember that you will become the real expert on your baby.
BY THE NURSES OF LET MOMMY SLEEP, LAS VEGAS