Welcome to the World, Baby! The Newborn’s Early Months

Newborn babies are a delight, a joy, and a bit of puzzle.  The experience of taking care of an infant is not usually what parents had anticipated. There is of course love, but there is also confusion about what baby needs when, overwhelming exhaustion, and a realization that what baby does most is simply sleep.

Our Hopkins Early Childhood staff discussed a number of issues concerning a baby’s first three months of life.  The information was garnered from the Parent Infant Pathways coursework offered to professionals through the University of Minnesota.  What we talked about provided insight into the needs and behavior of newborns and infants, and we wanted to share this information with you.

Please note:  The following information concerns full term babies only.  Premature babies have a distinctly different and individualized way of entering the world. Therefore they need a different sort of care.  Due to the unique nature of each premature baby’s experience, parents are advised to get information about how to support their baby through their pediatrician.

Parents of newborns tend to see the world in only cloudy focus due to the intensity of the experience they have just begun to go through.  Therefore, in the interest of making the information as “read-able” as possible, we have tried to divide it into easy-to-read sections with bullet points to refer to.

Please remember, being the parent of a newborn is something that involves a huge shift in perspective. The more information you know, the better you can handle some of the challenges that may come up—and the more often you can spend time simply enjoying your baby.

COMFORTING BABY THE FIRST THREE MONTHS

  • In the womb, the baby was within a definite boundary, and in a cramped living space
  • Experiencing complete freedom of movement can be overwhelming to a newborn baby
  • The flexed and curled position that baby was used to in the womb is also comforting the first months of life.  Holding baby so that his arms and legs are curled into himself, while his back is against your chest, is comforting to baby
  • Do not curl baby into this position while wearing baby in a sling.  Babies need to be strong enough to move / hold their head before they can be curled into a sling. There are other, more appropriate, ways to use a sling with a newborn. Get explicit direction on proper method when you choose to wear your newborn with a sling
  • The flexed and curled position helps baby to find his fingers and hands to suck on
  • In the womb, baby sucked on his fist or thumb. This sucking comforted and calmed baby
  • Wrapping a baby in a blanket so that his arms are curled up and his fists are near his mouth can help the baby to continue this comforting habit
  • It can also be comforting when parents place hands over baby’s arms, legs or chest.  This creates a secure feeling for baby
  • In the womb, baby was warm and in a cozy, dark, secure place where his needs were met instantly. During the first months of his life, your comforting and immediate care will help him to make the many adjustments to his new world he is being asked to make

BACK TO SLEEP / IMPORTANCE OF TUMMY TIME DURING PLAY

  • Placing a baby to sleep on his back reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It is highly recommended that baby sleep on his back
  • Tummy time is especially important for baby’s development during the newborn stage
  • Tummy time when baby is awake provides the following advantages: avoids development of flat spots on head, strengthens neck and shoulder muscles, strengthens lower abdomen muscles, helps to develop flexibility, helps to develop balance
  • Newborn babies may not initially enjoy tummy time. Give baby something to look at while on tummy, lay your face next to his, or otherwise entertain him
  • Tummy time for infants helps them to continue their hand-to-mouth habit, which provides comfort
  • When baby is under 6 weeks old: 5 minutes of awake tummy time a day
  • When baby is under 2 months: 15 minutes of awake tummy time a day
  • By the time baby is 4 months: 1.5 hours of awake tummy time a day
  • Limit the use of infant car seats when baby is not in the car

ATTACHMENT AND BONDING

  • Bonding: refers to what can happen during the first moments or days after baby is born
  • Attachment: develops gradually over weeks and months as baby and parent get to know each other and interact
  • Different birth experiences result in vastly different “bonding” experiences.  The inability to hold your baby immediately after birth or spend time with him during the first hours will not affect the attachment you will begin to feel during the first weeks of getting to know your baby
  • Attachment develops at different rates for different parents. Some parents feel an attachment very quickly. Some parents feel it gradually over days or weeks. Both of these patterns of attachment are normal
  • A baby becomes securely attached to a parent when that parent provides sensitive and responsive care. Parents do this by reading baby’s cues and signals consistently
  • A securely attached child trusts that her parent will be there to meet her needs. This child has learned “I have the power to see that my needs are met.”

A newborn baby and parent will come to know each other and delight in each other’s company throughout the first months of life.  Having information about what comforts, soothes, and supports baby while he is adjusting to his new glorious life helps all members of the family feel more secure about the journey they are taking together.

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