Life with newborns

Advice for parents with newborns

Thoughts on life with a newborn from some familiar faces. What a typical day’s like, what’s to love, the challenging stuff, and musings in hindsight, from those who’ve been there.

Newborn early experiences and attachment

As parents we want the very best for our children, for them to grow up to be (amongst other things) competent and confident learners and communicators. This might seem an age away from the little baby in your arms, but in fact babies actually start learning right from birth. To do this they need a couple of key things – positive experiences and a secure attachment to someone, so their brains connect in a good way. At birth, a baby’s nerve cells in their brain are present but they’re not connected up, only about 15% are. The other 85% have yet to happen – and they are modified by the sorts of experiences a baby has.

Newborn communication

Baby's newborn hand inside of mothers hand.

Babies already come with a way of communicating, and it’s the responsibility of the adult to figure out what these cues they are giving you actually mean, what the baby then is signaling it needs from the adult and then…the adult needs to provide it. Quite a tall order for a new relationship! Take the time to learn to read your newborn’s cues as you establish that vital communication link between you and your baby. Before you know it, you’ll have one cry differentiated from another and when someone says “isn’t the baby hungry?” you’ll be able to say “no, I can tell from her cues she’s telling me she is actually tired and wants to go to bed”…

The importance of the first years

Newborn babies tiny feet

It’s only in recent years that we’ve truly come to understand the importance of the first three years for brain development. It’s during this time that the brain is hard-wired and the foundation laid down for how a person will feel, think and behave for the rest of their life.

While that may sound overwhelming, it’s all pretty simple. Forget flash cards, gimmicks and expensive toys, the most important thing a child needs is at least one adult who loves and cares for them. They need someone to respond to their needs, have fun with them and provide them safe opportunities to explore the world.

This attachment teaches children how to form relationships and enables them to reach their full potential. It creates a template for how they will get on with others and the types of relationships they will form throughout their lifetime.

Sadly, not getting the care and attention they need in the early years impacts on a child’s IQ and puts them at greater risk of developing emotional disorders, learning problems and behavioural issues.

Newborn sleeping

Newborn baby swaddled in bed.

It’s said that the first three months of life are like the fourth trimester of pregnancy, so simulating a womb-like experience will help your new baby settle off to sleep. They need to feel safe and secure and connected to you, and feed and sleep at will.

A newborn will sleep for 16-20 hours in a 24 hour period … although definitely not in one stretch! In the first three months, babies rarely sleep for more than four hours at a time despite how much their sleep-deprived parents will it! This is because they have tiny tummies and need to feed often.

Why Breastfeed?

Newborn baby breastfeeding

Breast milk is the perfect food for babies. It’s easily digestible and provides everything your baby needs for the first six months of life including important antibodies which help fight infection. It also helps protect babies against middle ear infections, gastroenteritis, asthma and eczema. And there are benefits for mums too. Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis later in life – and breastfeeding helps mother and baby to get to know each other and build a loving relationship. If that’s not enough, it’s also free, instant and environmentally friendly!

Getting baby on the breast

Close up image of baby latching onto breast to feed.

Although natural, breastfeeding is a learned art. To be successful you have to take the time to master it and surround yourself with friends and whanau who support your decision to breastfeed. Research tells us that the people who have the most impact on our breastfeeding success are our partners and mothers so make sure you’ve got them onside.

Establishing breastfeeding

close up image of newborn baby breastfeeding.

Once you have baby on the breast, you’ll have questions like ‘How often?’, ‘How much?’ and ‘How do I know if I’m getting it right?’

Surviving the first six weeks

new family pictured together holding baby on couch.

The first few weeks with a new baby can be overwhelming. You may feel like you’re in survival mode, just coping with the relentless cycle of feeding, changing and tending to your baby’s many needs. There’s no routine, everything’s unpredictable and your hormones are raging. It can be all-consuming – and very, very exhausting.