You’re home from the hospital with your baby and settling into a new normal. You’re probably tired, establishing new routines for your family, and wondering when you’ll be able to take a nice, long shower again.
This period of adjustment can be stressful. We checked in with veteran pediatrician Dr. Jaime Edelstein, MD and his colleague Dr. Ernest Erdmann, MD of Gables Pediatrics to get their take on some of the most important things to remember after bringing your new baby home.
Attend All Well Visits with Your Pediatrician
Ensuring that your baby is receiving adequate nutrition is crucial for the rapid brain and physical development happening after she is born. Edelstein stresses that babies need to gain 1 ounce per day for at least the first 4 months, so attending all of your baby’s well visits with her pediatrician is important for tracking this. If your baby isn’t gaining enough weight, your pediatrician can help you rule out common culprits, like breastfeeding problems, food allergies, and GERD. Keeping up with these visits also helps you ensure that your baby is on track with vaccinations.
Monitor Your Mood
Hormonal changes, along with getting less sleep and adjusting to a new lifestyle often lead to “baby blues”, a change in mood marked by sadness and tearfulness. Baby blues are common and usually resolve with time. But when the blues feel overwhelmingly intense and affect your ability to function, bond with your baby, or care for your baby, it’s important to rule out postpartum depression (PPD). Each year PPD affects an average of 15% of women in the U.S.
As a pediatrician seeing parents and their new babies frequently, Edelstein keeps an eye out for PPD. “It’s important for pediatricians to observe the mother and how she interacts with her baby, as well as how the parents interact with each other. Family dynamics can offer clues to how things are going.” Edelstein also encourages fathers or other caregivers to look out for mothers’ wellbeing and seek guidance if they’re worried about PPD.
Support for Siblings
A new baby is an adjustment for the entire family. New babies are entirely dependent on their parents, so it’s natural for siblings to feel confused and upset while they get used to sharing parents’ attention. “The birth of a sibling is a sudden change,” Edelstein says. A few of his recommendations for easing the transition are:
- Refrain from telling an older sibling you can’t do something for or with them because you’re doing something for the baby.
- Instead, he says, involve the older child. Even if the older sibling is just 2 years old, you can ask him to help by bringing you a burp cloth or a clean diaper.
- Spend time alone with older siblings. This can be hard, especially for breastfeeding moms, but parents and other family members (like grandparents) taking turns spending one-on-one time can help.
Instill Good Sleep Habits
Erdmann stresses the importance of introducing good sleep habits very early on. Distinguishing between night and day, and knowing how to fall asleep and back asleep when they wake up are all things your baby needs to learn. Although sleep training isn’t recommended until 4-6 months, you can start instilling good sleep habits from day one.
Watch Out for Developmental Red Flags
“Today there is more awareness of developmental problems and how to help children who have them,” says Edelstein. Edrmann adds that early intervention is crucial, so spotting red flags and consulting with your pediatrician is important. Our BabySparks program offers comprehensive information about milestones and typical age ranges for achieving them, which can help you spot red flags.
Parenting a new baby can be both joyful and stressful. Paying attention to these key areas can help you get through the transition with less stress and more joy!